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|Which All-Stars will get the starting nods in a crowded Eastern Conference frontcourt? Let's debate ...|
All-Star Game starters, as picked by the fans, will be announced Thursday. But our panel casts its votes for who should be in the starting lineups for the East and West:
Dan Feldman, PistonPowered: Rajon Rondo. Kyrie Irving is the flavor of the month, and he's probably having a better season. But I judge All-Star selections based on which player I'd prefer in a game today. That's still Rondo.
Brett Koremenos, HoopSpeak: Kyrie Irving. Cleveland has been terrible this season, but that doesn't take away from the fact that Irving has been nothing short of phenomenal. He absolutely deserves his first All-Star berth of many this year.
Danny Nowell, Portland Roundball Soc.: Irving is the lone bright spot on an otherwise dismal Cleveland team, whose all-around offensive game and no-longer-abysmal defense give him the edge over Rajon Rondo's market-inflated value.
Michael Wallace, ESPN.com: Rondo. With Derrick Rose working his way back from injury and Deron Williams remarkably inconsistent, Rondo is clearly the East's best point man this season.
Nubyjas Wilborn, HawksHoop: Rondo. His 11.4 assists a night is amazing, especially on a team that doesn't score many points. Celtics' run for titles may be over, but Rondo is tough.
Feldman: Dwyane Wade. As Derrick Rose gets healthy and Wade ages, Rose probably will pass Wade as the East's best guard sooner than later. For now, though, Wade holds the title by a good margin. Unfortunately, that says as much about the conference's guards (especially the shooting guards) as it does about the up-and-down Wade.
Koremenos: Wade. It's hard to leave Rondo off the team, but Wade has been his usual self for Miami this season. Even though he's slowing down some, he's still sporting a 22.82 player efficiency rating for the best team in the Eastern Conference.
Nowell: Wade. Old Wade is still Some Wade, and that's enough to be the presumptive title favorite's second most important player.
Wallace: Wade. Has he lost a step? Yes. But that hasn't knocked him off the pace as the best shooting guard in the East. Wade's shooting and efficiency are at the highest of his career.
Wilborn: Wade. I'd love to give this to someone else, but nobody in the East has stepped up. Wade is still giving 20 points and four assists, which are very good but not great. Sadly, nobody else is close.
Feldman: LeBron James. Best player in the NBA -- period.
Koremenos: James. Does this even need explanation? He's putting up historical great numbers so routinely that it's almost boring. Dude's the best player in the game, 'nuff said.
Nowell: James. LeBron is still, along with the small forward starting for the West, the easiest All-Star call to make.
Wallace: James. You know you're having a good run when another All-Star starting spot won't even rank among the top five accomplishments from the past 12 months. But that's the life of King James.
Wilborn: James. Durant is the best offensive player; James is the best all-around player. Twenty-six points, seven assists and eight boards a night. He's the best thing going today.
Feldman: Carmelo Anthony. At times during his career, Anthony's gaudy scoring averages have been fairly empty, a product of high usage and high minutes. But he's scoring more and more efficiently than ever. It almost makes me forget how little he does besides score.
Koremenos: Anthony. He has been the catalyst for the surprising Knicks so far this season. Not only has he been scoring more efficiently than in the past since moving primarily to the 4, but his willingness to move the ball out of double-teams has helped New York make massive strides in its offensive efficiency.
Nowell: Anthony. You've heard enough about the Knicks, I'd hazard, but Melo's season so far has given some of even his staunchest doubters reason to reconsider.
Wallace: Anthony. The MVP discussions regarding Anthony are overstated, but he's having one of his most productive seasons on both ends. He's a lock, although Paul George is creeping on his heels.
Wilborn: Anthony. Remember when people were questioning whether Melo was still a top-10 player? Oh, you forgot? Well, he didn't. Melo is lighting it up with 29 a night and keeping the Knicks in contention.
Feldman: Tyson Chandler. Add 28 missed shots to Chandler's total, and he still leads all NBA starters in effective field goal percentage. He's super-efficient offensively, because he offensively rebounds well and doesn't take many shots other than the high-percentage looks he gets near the rim. Even if his defense has slipped a little, Chandler is still a very good defender.
Koremenos: Chandler. It's hard to articulate his worth to the Knicks in such a small space. But his threatening rolls to the rim on offense open up the floor for his teammates while on the other end, his mobility, effort and leadership cover up for a lot of subpar defending.
Nowell: Chandler. Until Dwight Howard recovers fully and reclaims the mantle, Chandler has a legitimate claim to the league's center throne. A claim that my final starter is well positioned to dispute, but a viable claim.
Wallace: Joakim Noah. Chris Bosh, Kevin Garnett and Josh Smith are viable options. But the Bulls are where they are right now without Derrick Rose in large part because of Noah's relentless play.
Wilborn: Chandler. He's already an elite defender, and this season he has added more offensive touch to his game. Chandler is a walking double-double for a very good Knicks team. I'll take him over Bosh and KG.
|The West is jam-packed with star power. Which ones will crack the All-Star Game starting lineup?|
Dan Feldman, PistonPowered: Chris Paul. Why was there ever a debate about the NBA's best point guard? It has been Paul for years. In fact, he'll retire the best point guard since Magic Johnson.
Brett Koremenos, HoopSpeak: Paul is the best point guard on the planet right now and a legitimate MVP candidate. This is about an absolute no-brainer.
Danny Nowell, Portland Roundball Soc.: Paul. The game's best point guard is running perhaps the game's best team. Not too much to scrutinize here.
Michael Wallace, ESPN.com: Paul. The player with the most realistic shot at stealing an MVP trophy away from LeBron James this season.
Nubyjas Wilborn, HawksHoop: Paul. He's averaging close to 10 dimes a night. He's also shooting a shade under 50 percent and hitting 90 percent of his free throws. Paul is the best PG in the game for a great team.
Feldman: Kobe Bryant. James Harden is the best player whom I don't have starting, and Tony Parker might be second. But the Lakers' poor season has masked the fact that Kobe is scoring better by both volume and efficiency than he has in years.
Koremenos: Harden. Houston is the surprise team in the West thanks largely to its preseason acquisition of Harden. The bearded menace is averaging 26.5 ppg and 5.3 apg for the league's eighth-best offense and has the Rockets in position to avoid the playoff bubble for the first time in nearly a half-decade.
Nowell: Bryant. First thoughts here went to Harden or Russell Westbrook, but Kobe submitting perhaps his best offensive season yet is enough to get him the nod. In weal or woe, being Kobe counts for something when rationing out All-Star starting spots.
Wallace: Bryant. The Black Mamba is defying his age by leading the league in total minutes and scoring. He remains as lethal as they come in the league.
Wilborn: Bryant is dropping 29.8 a night, that's 4.3 over his career average after 16 years. Bryant is an all-time great and is playing better than ever.
Feldman: Kevin Durant. Best player in the Western Conference -- question mark. Durant is having the type of season that usually belongs to the league's best player, but so is Chris Paul. I'm still partial to LeBron for MVP, but if there were a conference MVP as in baseball, Durant-Paul would be one of the all-time great races.
Koremenos: Bryant. This might be a little bit of a reach, but Bryant has filled in at the 3 for stretches for an underachieving L.A. team while putting up some of the best numbers of his career. He may not technically be deserving of a "frontcourt" spot, but if the All-Star Game wants the most deserving players in the West's starting lineup, he should be there.
Nowell: Durant. Kid Backpack has long been incredible, but he is now historically so, with improved defense, rebounding and distributive skills to match his somehow-still-improving shooting.
Wallace: Durant. The improvements he has made to his overall game could make him a champion after falling short last season.
Wilborn: Kevin Durant. There isn't a smoother scorer in the game. Durant gets his buckets is the most fluid manner I've seen. The fact that he's scoring 28 a night is one thing, but he's doing it while shooting over 50 percent.
Feldman: Blake Griffin. Griffin and Tim Duncan are neck and neck. Per Synergy, Duncan allows 0.96 points per defensive play (301st in the NBA) and Griffin allows 0.69 (10th). I'm not saying Griffin defends better than Duncan, but if a reasonable case can at least be made that he does, I'm picking Griffin as a better overall player.
Koremenos: Kevin Durant. Thanks to his improved playmaking, the Thunder have been able to weather the loss of Harden and make themselves legitimate Finals contenders. And despite some fierce competition from Paul and James, Durant is a real threat to nab his first MVP.
Nowell: Tim Duncan. So many superlatives already have been heaped on Duncan this season, but his efficacy at his age further cements his status as an all-time great.
Wallace: David Lee. The popular pick is clearly Blake Griffin. But dive into the numbers a bit and measure the impact. Lee clearly comes out on top.
Wilborn: Blake Griffin. He's still a monster dunker, but now he has improved his post-up game. Griffin is scoring less but has increased his efficiency. Most important, the Clippers are playing exceptional basketball.
Feldman: Marc Gasol. The Grizzlies rank second in defensive rating. Gasol, one of only nine players averaging a block and a steal per game, probably has something to do with that. Career highs in free throw percentage (88.5) and assist percentage (18.1) have prettied Gasol's offensive game, even though his quality on that end is a tad down.
Koremenos: Tim Duncan. The old Spurs won't go quietly into their good night thanks to Duncan still being a frontcourt stalwart. After falling out of the top 10 last season, San Antonio sits fourth in the defensive efficiency rankings because Duncan continues to be a force to be reckoned with on that end of the floor despite nearing 40. Couple that with his highest PER since the 2008-09 season, and Duncan is hardly a nostalgic pick for this team.
Nowell: Marc Gasol. No other big combines the passing savvy, scoring versatility and defensive orchestration that Gasol does. That he does it on a team starved for offensive innovation and leaning on his defense means I give him this nod.
Wallace: Duncan. It's not 1999. But you can't tell by Duncan's turn-back-the-clock performances. Dwight Howard is more popular. Duncan is more productive.
Wilborn: Tim Duncan. I know people expect to see Dwight Howard here. However, he can't stay healthy, and why not give the steady veteran Duncan one more All-Star start? The Spurs are winning, and Duncan is still doing work.