Thursday, February 2, 2012
Making All-Star Game selections
ESPN.com and the TrueHoop Network
|According to our experts, Wade and Rose should start packing their bags for Orlando.|
What, the All-Star Game already? Yes, it's coming at the end of the month. Here's who our crew thinks deserve the starting nods:
1. Who should start at guard for the East in the All-Star Game?
Myles Brown, A Wolf Among Wolves: Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade. Since he's more of a distributor, it's tempting to give Rajon Rondo the nod, but splitting up the most explosive backcourt in All-Star history would be even more of a crime than benching the reigning MVP. Rose continues to lead Chicago beyond expectations and injuries have slowed Wade a bit, yet not enough to keep us from wanting more.
Danny Chau, Hardwood Paroxysm:
Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade. When in doubt, go with the incumbents. Rose, with all of his staggeringly explosive talent, has made all the right incremental improvements to his game, and the Bulls' record reflects it. And last I checked, Wade is still better than the other options at guard.
Brett Koremenos, Hoopspeak: Derrick Rose is a lock for one spot and the second choice seems split between two players. If you penalize Dwyane Wade for missing a long stretch due to injuries, than Kyrie Irving is a no-brainer. But even without the injury factoring in, how can you leave out a guy with Irving's numbers (18.1 points per game on 51/41/82 shooting topped off with 4.9 assists per game?)
Bret LaGree, Hoopinion: Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade. If any one of Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, Kyrie Irving or Brandon Jennings was having an MVP-caliber start to the season instead of just a 20-odd really good games, I could support bumping Wade due to the games he's missed. They're not, Wade's back in the lineup, and I'll stick with the incumbent.
Chris Palmer, ESPN The Magazine: Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade. Rose is the best point guard in the East by a sizable margin, and even if he wasn't no one else has come close to matching his play this season. And there might be an even bigger gap between Wade and the East's second-best 2-guard.
2. Who should start at guard for the West in the All-Star Game?
Brown: Ricky Rubio and Kobe Bryant. If this truly is a game to reward the fans and showcase the league's top talent, then let Ricky run. Sure, Chris Paul is better, but Rubio's assists are tops in practically any metric or highlight reel. More importantly, he has only one nationally televised game all season and fans without League Pass deserve an extended look. Does anyone doubt the assist record would be in jeopardy? (Oh, right. Insert Kobe quip here.)
Chau: Chris Paul and Kobe Bryant. Kobe has subdued Father Time and his myriad physical ailments and Paul is approaching divinity with his recent offensive onslaught. There is no question here. If nothing else, we get a glimpse of what David Stern took away from us.
Koremenos: As much as I want to type "Steve Nash," this is too obvious; Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul. The only debate on this one is how much play the whole "they could have been teammates" angle will get during All-Star Weekend coverage.
LaGree: Russell Westbrook and Kobe Bryant. Westbrook has an established level of play close enough to Chris Paul's that I don't feel entirely inconsistent giving him the nod on the basis of Paul having missed a few games.
Palmer: Chris Paul and Kobe Bryant. Why Paul? Can you remember the last time the Clippers had the second-best record in the conference at this point in a season? Bryant's heroics are the only reason the Lakers even have a shot at the playoffs. And it just wouldn't be right if Kobe wasn't starting the All-Star Game.
3. Who should start at forward for the East in the All-Star Game?
Brown: LeBron James and Chris Bosh. As the best player alive, LeBron's spot is cemented on this list for practically the next decade. However, his less heralded teammate also deserves recognition. Bosh helped the Heat weather a potential storm during Wade's injury with the aggressive and dependable play we've been looking for. Besides, it's either him or a Knick, right?
Chau: LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. LeBron is having one of the best seasons ever and Melo is playing in New York. It will be weird seeing the two wearing the same team jerseys and not squaring off against one another. I'm sure we'll survive, though.
Koremenos: The guy opposite LeBron James in the All-Star Game should be his regular-season teammate, Chris Bosh. Although Ryan Anderson, Greg Monroe and Andrea Bargnani all rank ahead of him in PER, none of those have been the complete player Bosh has been this season, and Bargnani (perhaps his most serious threat) has missed a significant chunk of time with an injury. As for Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks' team issues cost him a shot.
LaGree: LeBron James and Chris Bosh. I would love to make a case for Ryan Anderson or cheat and slide Greg Monroe into a forward spot, but if I'm going to play by the rules and be intellectually honest, the Heat are going to dominate the Eastern Conference starting lineup.
Palmer: LeBron James and Chris Bosh. James is the front-runner for yet another MVP and is far and away the game's best player. Bosh kicked his game up to another level while Wade nursed a sore ankle and as a result is playing some of the best basketball of his career. So, yes I am saying Miami's Big Three should all start in Orlando.
4. Who should start at forward for the West in the All-Star Game?
Brown: Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin. Durant is the game's most exciting scorer and Blake Griffin doesn't impress him. Let's give them some time to get to know each other. Kevin Love may be better and LaMarcus Aldridge certainly deserves a look, but again, this is an exhibition for the fans. Post moves and 3-pointers are appreciated, but we're tuning in to watch Blake make someone cry.
Chau: Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin. For at least the next five years.
What a dogfight this position is in the West. Look at the names fighting for these two spots: Durant, Griffin, Millsap, Aldridge and Love. Having to choose, the nod goes to Durant, who ranks second in PER and plays for the team with the best record in the league, and Love, who has been an absolute beast and is perhaps one of the most complete offensive threats in the league right now.
LaGree: Kevin Durant and Kevin Love. The easiest decision in the bunch. LaMarcus Aldridge may have a long future as a Western Conference All-Star reserve.
Palmer: Kevin Durant and Kevin Love. Durant is nearly averaging 27 for a team with the league's best record. Besides, the next-best small forward in the conference is Rudy Gay. K-Love's 25.5 points and 13.6 rebounds hasn't been done in over 20 years. Reward the man. Blake Griffin's dunks will be just as exciting coming off the bench.
5. Who should be the starting centers in the All-Star Game?
Brown: Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum. Somehow both the logical and ironic choices. They're in by default, by fate, and by the time this game is over, hopefully they'll never be mentioned in the same sentence again.
Chau: Dwight Howard and Marc Gasol. Dwight's closest competition is too distant to matter. Bynum will surely make it in the West, which means that the Western starting lineup could consist of four L.A. players and Kevin Durant. Still, I'll stick up for Marc Gasol, who has been outstanding lately.
Koremenos: As much as it pains me to select Howard given what he is doing to that franchise in Orlando right now, he's so far ahead of everyone else in the East it'd be crazy to suggest an alternate. In the West, as much as I'd love to see Marcin Gortat get some much needed recognition for being, well, really good, Andrew Bynum edges him out.
LaGree: Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum. Not that they don't both deserve the honor, but it would be a shame if they only met on the court once this season.
Palmer: Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum. Bynum's 16 and 12 are career bests and he's legitimately become the game's second-best center. And I realize that the currently eighth-seeded Lakers would have two starters, but he's earned it. As far as Howard starting, you got a better idea?