Thursday, February 23, 2012

Choosing the 2012 All-Star Rosters

With just three days to go until the big event, here are my picks for the 2012 NBA All-Star Game:


Derrick Rose
Dwyane Wade
Dwight Howard
LeBron James
Chris Bosh

Tyson Chandler
Andre Iguodala
Luol Deng
Paul Pierce
Deron Williams
Greg Monroe
Josh Smith

Comments: The worth of the starters should be apparent. Wade is by far the best shooting guard in the East, even after missing several games. The same goes for Rose at his position. Howard, distracted a bit by his eventual disposition via trade, is still leaps better than other centers. James is the league's best player, and this season he plays with his back to the basket. Bosh is not the dominant force he was in Toronto, but his versatile face-up game leads the East among power forwards, and he always finds a way to stick his long neck into the right spot on defense.

Chandler has continued his awesome defensive play from Dallas, and also leads the league in field-goal percentage. He edges Roy Hibbert as a backup center, though this means Indiana will not have an All-Star representative (Danny Granger, putatively the Pacers' star, averages under 40% from the field [although curiously, he ranks near the top of the league in adjusted +/- ]). Rajon Rondo has played well, but missed too many games (including two games recently lost to suspension after a silly outburst against a referee); the same goes for Andrea Bargnani. Pierce has been the Celtics' best player; witness how they rose after Pierce recovered from an early-season heel injury. Carmelo Anthony, chosen as a starter in fan voting, has played poorly (the Knicks lost two-thirds of their games with him, before he ducked out due to injury and Jeremy Lin took over as starting point guard) and does not deserve to be near this list. Iguodala has led his team to the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference with excellent two-way play, while Deng has played similarly and gutted through a damaging wrist injury. Deron Williams is still the East's second-best point guard, though he has looked languorous at times in New Jersey. Monroe has dazzled for a poor Detroit team, though one wishes he could throw his body around more viciously in the paint (he averages only 0.6 blocks and his adjusted +/- is negative 11). Smith has played too many seasons without an All-Star berth, and is delivering terrifying numbers at both ends of the court this year. If only he could fix his free-throw form!

Key "snubs" from my East team include Rondo, Hibbert, Kyrie Irving, Milwaukee guard Brandon Jennings, and Atlanta's Joe Johnson. But Johnson's stats are sorry, and Jennings has not exceeded Williams.


Chris Paul
Kobe Bryant
Andrew Bynum
Kevin Love
Kevin Durant

Blake Griffin
Russell Westbrook
Steve Nash
Marc Gasol
Paul Millsap
LaMarcus Aldridge
Tony Parker

Comments: The starters are, again, hard to quarrel with, I think. Bryant shoots too much, but his production through a wrist injury has stretched the Lakers to wins that they (featuring World Peace, Ebanks, Fisher, and Blake as four of their top ten players) didn't deserve. Paul has transformed the Clippers into a serious team, and Bynum is the meanest center west of Florida; he ranks 19th in the league in adjusted +/- among players who have clocked at least 800 minutes. Blake Griffin dunks and moves like a tiger, but he hardly tries on defense; Kevin Love's all-around offensive game deserves a starting spot. And what else can one say about Durant? This sequence from the end of the Lakers-Thunder first half tonight is telling:

Three point guards off the bench may be a lot (and I had a hard time excluding a fourth backup point, Kyle Lowry), but Westbrook is a terror on both ends for the league's co-title favorite, Nash is in SSOL form, and Parker has maintained the Spurs' perennial excellence while Manu Ginobili has missed 25 of 34 games due to injury, leading a team of nobodies (well, and Tim Duncan) to the West's second-best record. LaMarcus Aldridge's excellence is undeniable this season, and Marc Gasol narrowly edges Marcin Gortat as the backup center. (Should Phoenix really get two players on the team?)

James Harden, Kevin Martin, Lowry, Rudy Gay, Pau Gasol, and Gortat were worthy of consideration, but in the end I take Millsap for the final spot, after he has led Utah to respectability in a putative rebuilding year. And his stats are boss. This leaves the Western team with only one small forward, but Durant can go all day, and Kobe Bryant could try to defend LeBron James in a pinch with Westbrook at the shooting guard position.

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