Garbhan Madigan discusses who he wants to see as the fourteen All-Star reserves on All-Star Sunday night.
It’s the most frequent fight in the NBA. Who should we put on the All-Star teams? The flawed starters system has already been explained on Pundit Arena, but that’s the very least of our problems.
Don’t even get me started on how the players don’t really care about playing in the game and are only there to boost their own brands.
I’m going to cut out the crap for this one. The players either deserve it or they don’t. Most websites at this time of year are going to bore you to death about legacies and how many teams a player has made in the past.
Here, this writer is going to give you the seven best players in each conference who on this year’s statistics deserve to play in New York.
In previous years this writer has personally rewarded players who were on winning teams, only abandoning that principle if the alternative player on a poor team is having an astronomical year.
Please understand however, that I will not be putting players with mediocre lines into the squads because they are on top ranked teams.
Hopefully I can strike the delicate balance. With the reserves, I am going to split them into two point guards, two wing players and three forward/centres. This is the most even split and actually works this year.
The real announcement will be made on TNT tonight before the Nuggets visit Memphis to play the Grizzlies.
Eastern Conference real line-up:
Kyle Lowry, John Wall, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Pau Gasol.
This writer has a problem with this one already. Four of the spots are well picked by the fans to give them credit. The All-Star weekend is being held in New York and Carmelo Anthony is a “superstar” player, but there is no way he should be in the All-Star game, nevermind as a starter.
Of course the fans were going to vote him in as a starter with it being in his home stadium of MSG, but it doesn’t mean it’s right. Melo is putting up 24 points and 6.7 rebounds with his percentage statistics down across the board.
That’s fine, however, the Knicks are currently 8-37, tied for last place in the Conference. We have laughed all season that we didn’t know who any of the players on the Philly 76ers are, but they have the same horrific record that the Knicks have.
Even if one “doesn’t reward winning”, such a paltry figure can’t merit an All-Star appearance.
Garbhan’s Eastern Conference reserves:
G Kyrie Irving – Cleveland Cavaliers
G Jeff Teague – Atlanta Hawks
SG/SF Jimmy Butler – Chicago Bulls
SG/SF Kyle Korver – Atlanta Hawks
F/C Paul Millsap – Atlanta Hawks
F/C Al Horford – Atlanta Hawks
F/C Chris Bosh – Miami Heat
OK… I mainly awarded winning.
FOUR Atlanta Hawks?
It’s best this writer addresses the unsexy pick of several other Atlanta Hawks. They have an Eastern Conference-leading 37-8 record, which is a wonderful turnaround from last season where they had a 38-44 record, enough for the eight seed in the East.
This is a wonderful testament to Coach Budenholzer (from the Spurs coaching tree) and his staff as they sit easily as the top seed in the East with a 6.5 game lead over the Washington Wizards. Unless they capitulate, it’s hard to see them falling below the fourth seed at the very worst.
Picking so many Hawks will be unattractive as they don’t play the star-studded basketball we associate with All-Stars. In a similar manner to the Spurs, they play beautiful team basketball where the individuals find the best shot, not for the best individual.
Despite that, Teague is averaging 17 points and 7.5 assists while Millsap has 17 points and eight rebounds a night. While he is the better player, it’s a travesty that John Wall received ten times more votes from the public to be a starter than Teague.
Originally when writing this piece, Al Horford was omitted from the list. This writer was all in on either Nic Vucevic (18 PPG, 11.1 RPG) or Greg Munroe (15PPG, 10RPG) getting a spot ahead of the Florida alum.
Then this writer looked at their records – Orlando are 15-33 and Detroit are only slightly better at 17-29. While those two have been excellent and are probably having all around career years, their numbers and/or dominance isn’t sufficient to excuse the team records.
The third frontcourt reserve is the toughest spot to fill on the East’s roster – by far. The top candidates all have obvious faults.
Horford’s per-game numbers (15.1 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.4 BPG) don’t blow you away because he’s one of many key pieces in the Hawks’ balanced approach; even though he has a case as Atlanta’s most important player, he doesn’t lead his team in points, rebounds or assists.
Nonetheless, for staying healthy as a key cog on the best team in the conference, one must give him the nod.
Despite all of this, the Hawks’ most deadly weapon is arguably Kyle Korver – (that’s a sentence this writer never thought he would say.)
Korver has been among the game’s best pure shooters for quite a while, but he is now in an offence that maximises his best skill, on a team filled with players who look for him at every turn. That approach has put Korver’s name in contention for an All-Star reserve slot and accentuated his beautiful shot.
The 40-50-90 club is one of the most exclusive clubs in all of sports. Only six players in the history of the league have ever joined the club and all six are legends.
Korver’s season is so good, he is looking to join an even more exclusive club – the 50-50-90 club. Here, Steve Kerr stands alone as the only player to ever to have taken more than 100 shots in a season with those percentages.
In 33 minutes a night, through 44 NBA games this season, Korver has a 51.6-52.1-92.3 line – truly historic and enough to push Dwayne Wade out for an All-Star spot.
In a similar way to the Detroit Pistons of the early 2000s, the Hawks don’t have traditional superstar numbers, but they have beaten all the superstar-laden teams and finally deserve the merit of four All-Stars.
In looking to the non-Hawks; as one of the NBA’s most electrifying young guards, Irving took home the All-Star MVP last season and was expected to make a big jump this year alongside LeBron James and Kevin Love on the Cleveland Cavaliers.
While that has not exactly been the case, Irving remains one of the better scorers in his position, and his creativity with the ball is second to none. This season he’s trying on defence, and he’s finding the right times of late to snatch the reins of the offence.
P.S: As this is being written, Kyrie just exploded with a historic “double-nickle” – scoring 55 points in a five-point win without LeBron James against the Portland Trailblazers. That should cement his place in New York.
Butler has always been a solid athlete and superb defender, but now he has the offence to go with it, making him a complete player and All-Star-calibre talent.
Players who make a huge jump on a big market team are always favourites to make the All-Star squad and Butler’s Bulls are 29-16 and in first place in the Central Division.
He averages a cool 20.5/3.3/6.0. Those are Dwayne Wade sort of numbers and Butler should be a definite to make the squad.
A sign of how good Butler’s season has been is that he received even more All-Star votes than his backcourt mate (and superstar) Derrick Rose and is a shoe-in for Most Improved Player come June.
The Miami Heat are still in the process of finding their identity without LeBron James. Despite that fact, Bosh has averaged 21.3 points and 7.7 rebounds to keep an average Heat team above water.
While this writer had doubts about his ability to revert to being a number one option for a play-off team he has been largely consistent and is hitting over 39 percent of his shots from 3-point range – proof of the remarkable versatility in his game.
But who misses out?
DeMar DeRozan – Toronto Raptors
DeRozen missed a total of twenty one games and while his play has continued to be solid, giving 18.3/4/2.5, he just hasn’t played enough for consideration. No one else for the Raptors has really done enough to merit consideration despite their third seed record.
Bradley Beal/Marcin Gortat – Washington Wizards
In reality the Wizards deserve a second All-Star. They are the second best team in the East this year, but similar to DeRozen, Beal just hasn’t played enough to qualify for a nod.
On the other hand, Gortat has not done enough, even in the usual absence of Nene this season. 12 points and eight rebounds a game just is not prolific enough (Plus Gortat’s ugly, tough game wouldn’t fit in with the free flowing All-Star game either).
Getting at least seven points a game from eight different players with a superstar orchestrator like John Wall means the Wizards are robbed of another spot.
Nic Vucevic – Orlando Magic
His play has been excellent this season, joint leading the league in double-doubles while also creating a strong highlight reel of post play excellence.
His emphatic dunk on All-Star starter Pau Gasol sticks out more than the others. Looking at traditional stats, the big Montenegrin is again averaging a double-double this year.
His 18.8 points is easily a career high (previous best 14.2) while the 11 rebounds a night matches his career high.
If pure centres still had a designated All-Star place, he might have a real shot here. He’s a top ten player in the three statistical categories that are most important, while being his team’s most influential player. All of this means he should get in right? A 15-33 record thus far just can’t justify an All-Star.
Dwayne Wade – Miami Heat
Even missing his usual quarter of the Heat’s games, Wade has been effective and motivated after LeBron’s departure. This writer couldn’t justify giving the Heat two All-Stars with a 20-25 record.
So there, you have it; four from the Atlanta Hawks, a Chicago Bull, a Cleveland Cavalier and one from the Miami Heat.
Come back soon for part II, which will focus on the Western Conference.
Garbh Madigan, Pundit Arena
Featured image By AchimH (http://www.flickr.com/photos/achimh/3201653864/) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
Read More About: Al Horford, atlanta hawks, carmelo anthony, chicago bulls, Chris Bosh, Jeff Teague, Jimmy Butler, john wall, Kyle Korver, kyle lowry, Kyrie Irving, Lebron James, NBA All Star, pau gasol, Paul Millisap