Who should be All-Star starters?

Originally Published: January 24, 2014
ESPN.com

The fans have spoken and selected this year's All-Star Game starters. Did they make the right picks? Our 5-on-5 crew weighs in on the East and West rosters.


1. Who most deserves to be an East All-Star starter but isn't?


Brad Doolittle, ESPN Insider: Kyle Lowry. I'd take him over Kyrie Irving. Lowry has long been one of the league's unsung players, and he's having his best season yet. It doesn't hurt that the Raptors have taken off since the Rudy Gay trade, with Lowry taking on more responsibility.

James Herbert, Hardwood Paroxysm: Roy Hibbert, the best defender on the planet. He's anchored the league's most suffocating defensive team in years. Carmelo Anthony, who beat out Hibbert for a frontcourt spot, has been great offensively, but Hibbert has been much more impactful. Maybe the NBA shouldn't have taken the center position off the ballot.

Ethan Sherwood Strauss, TrueHoop: Roy Hibbert. What's with our apathy toward defense? It's half the game, Hibbert's the best at it, and he loses out to a nondefense guy like Carmelo Anthony? It seems like terrifying the league into shooting 41.6 percent at the rim should gain you more renown than that. You can rationalize, "They don't play defense in All-Star Games anyway," but frankly, the game would be more interesting if players actually attempted some resistance.

Michael Wallace, ESPN.com: Roy Hibbert. Getting away from the "center" distinction within the All-Star voting process was a mistake, in my opinion. But I digress. Hibbert is the most impactful, two-way center in the East this season and anchors the conference's best team. He's also arguably the Defensive Player of the Year through the midway point. Under the old system, he'd likely be a starter.

Brian Windhorst, ESPN.com: Roy Hibbert. He's the best center in the conference right now, even though talking "positions" is considered old-school now, I know. Hibbert is the central reason the Pacers have the best defense, which is why they have the best record. It's not a compelling case, but the All-Star Game rewards excellence for the first half of the season and the Pacers should be rewarded with three All-Stars along with Frank Vogel as coach.


2. Who least deserves to be an East All-Star starter?


Doolittle: Dwyane Wade. It's been by design, I think, but Wade has not been playing at an elite level this season. A handful of guards in the East have been better this season, including Irving, Lowry and John Wall.

Herbert: Kyrie Irving. His game is perfect for the All-Star setting, so I can't be mad at fans for picking him. Irving is having a down season by his standards, though, and he's on a terrible team. If we're looking at this year's production and considering defense, Kyle Lowry and John Wall are more deserving.

Strauss: Kyrie Irving. He's talented and he's rounding into form after a rough start, but he hasn't been better than John Wall this season, and Irving's team has been a disaster. Instead of making snide comments about his defense, I'll note that Irving isn't the worst All-Star pick in the world and I have a degree of sympathy for his situation. Dion Waiters as a backcourt mate? Anthony Bennett as the chosen pick-and-roll help? No wonder Irving had a slow start this season.

Wallace: Dwyane Wade. It's tough to say Wade doesn't deserve to start, because the whole premise of selecting All-Star starters is that the fans vote for the players they most want to see. But the fact is, Wade has missed more than a quarter of the Heat's games through the first half of the season because of knee issues. While others, such as John Wall and DeMar DeRozan, may have played their way into consideration, Wade is here largely on reputation this time.

Windhorst: Kyrie Irving. He was picked partially out of default because of the injuries suffered by Derrick Rose and Rajon Rondo. Irving is certainly an All-Star, but his team has underperformed and, frankly, he's underperformed as a leader for much of this season. If you had to sub a starter, I'd probably go with John Wall because he's been more the epitome of a lead guard than Irving to this point, even as I acknowledge that Irving is the more talented player.


3. Who most deserves to be a West All-Star starter but isn't?


Doolittle: Chris Paul. It's tempting to say Anthony Davis or DeMarcus Cousins should be there instead of Blake Griffin, but they all have comparable bottom-line value and the Clippers are much better than the Pelicans or Kings. So I'll go with Paul even though he's hurt. Paul may still make a run at the MVP trophy once he gets back.

Herbert: LaMarcus Aldridge, and this isn't just because he dropped 44 the night the starters were announced. Aldridge is having a career year as Portland has become an elite team, upping his rebounding numbers and serving as the Dirk-like focal point of the league's deadliest offense.

Strauss: Chris Paul. I know he's currently hurt, but no guard has been better this season. The prototypical PG had been averaging a career high in assists per minute before the injury. Paul somehow, some way, wrings offense out of a roster that lacks frontcourt shooting. He remains a basketball genius and deserves to be honored as such.

Wallace: James Harden. The same theory from my Wade explanation applies here with Kobe. Even the Black Mamba himself acknowledged that he would prefer to sit out amid his knee rehabilitation and allow some of the younger, more deserving stars shine in New Orleans. Harden is the best shooting guard in the league right now and would provide an amazing one-two punch in the West starting backcourt alongside Stephen Curry. Harden's scoring and general basketball wizardry are a perfect fit for this game.

Windhorst: Chris Paul. Despite his injury, I think most people generally recognize that he's the best point guard in the game, and he's clearly one of the best leaders in the game. Aldridge has been the best power forward this season and isn't starting, but he hasn't established himself as the best power forward in the game. The best player at his position should be a starter in the All-Star Game but, again, this seems to be an out-of-date idea since there are no centers who will be starting. So I guess I'm behind the times.


4. Who least deserves to be a West All-Star starter?


Doolittle: Um, Kobe. Even he knows it, and has been telling anyone who will listen. The fans obviously didn't heed his words but, hey, they love the guy.

Herbert: Kobe Bryant, duh. The man asked fans not to vote for him. It's not worth getting worked up about fans picking injured superstars, but Bryant doesn't want to play even if he's back in the Lakers' lineup before the festivities.

Strauss: Kobe Bryant. Even though the East is dreck and the West is stacked, it's the West that has the ridiculous All-Star pick. Kobe has played in six games this season, and he wasn't even good in those games. If fan voting produces results like this, maybe we shouldn't have fan voting.

Wallace: Kobe Bryant. While the folks in Houston may believe Dwight Howard was jobbed, I have absolutely no issue with Kevin Love getting the nod as a first-time starter. Love's spot is deservedly secure. But Kobe's is the one that should be re-examined. He has played in six games this season. He'd rather sit out and watch the younger stars. He appreciates the nod from fans, but is clearly ready to pass the torch -- at least when it comes to starting in All-Star Games.

Windhorst: Kevin Love. The obvious answer here is Kobe because he has played two weeks all season, but I understand giving the spot to him as an honorarium. This is a tradition, in fact. As for Love, ideally you should have at least played in a playoff game to qualify to start the All-Star Game. I don't feel that strongly about this one -- I had no complaints when LeBron started before making the playoffs in his second season. But when it comes to "deserves," it's debatable that Love has been one of the best two players at his position in his conference so far.


5. Name a player who might not make the All-Star team, but should.


Doolittle: Isaiah Thomas. You don't hear much about him, but he's a dynamic offensive player. He's averaging 21 points and seven assists since he became a starter, and the Thomas-Cousins-Gay trio has become one of the most effective in the league.

Herbert: Kyle Lowry, arguably the best point guard in the East. His relatively low profile and the fact he might split the Raptors vote with DeMar DeRozan means Lowry could end up missing the cut. That'd be a shame, he's been a monster.

Strauss: Serge Ibaka. He's the rare rim protector who stretches the floor on the other side with his shooting. He's also the best defensive player on the best defense out West. Ibaka has cut down on heedless lunging, and he's playing smarter D than ever before. He's allowing a mere 42.8 percent shooting at the rim.

Wallace: Paul Millsap. Had an inkling to go with Kyle Lowry or Anthony Davis. But there's no way Davis gets overlooked when reserves are selected next week, considering the game will be played in New Orleans, right? RIGHT? Lowry has done a remarkable job guiding Toronto into position for a top-four playoff seed. But Millsap is the kind of low-maintenance, high-hustle player often underappreciated on the glitz and glamour stage of All-Star Weekend. Here's hoping the coaches do him justice and vote him in.

Windhorst: DeMar DeRozan. The stat guys will probably howl at this one because he's a low-percentage shooter who doesn't rank in the top 60 of PER. But he has led a terrific turnaround in Toronto after the Rudy Gay trade and stepped up to be the leader on a team that is currently winning its division. Look, everything in the East has to be passed through the underachievement and injury filter. After doing so, DeRozan and the Raptors deserve some recognition. But probably won't get it.

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