My NBA 2009 All-Star Picks!

January 22, 2009 in Indiana Pacers, NBA by pacejmiller

allstarI’m not going to bother about starters and reserves.  It’s not a popularity contest.  These are just the 12 people from each conference that I think deserve to be playing in Phoenix in the 58th NBA All-Star Game.  (NB: only people on the ballot are considered and there will be at least 2 guards, 2 forwards and 1 center on each team)

Let me know what you think.  Who are your picks?

Eastern Conference

lebron1. Lebron James – the biggest no-brainer in the league.  Lebron’s stats have dipped a little this year (27.8ppg, 7.2rpg, 6.8apg), but he’s arguably never been better (career highs in both FG% and FT%), on pace to break the record for the best PER (Player Efficiency Rating) ever (and yes, that includes MJ).  The Cavs have also been killing it.  The real question is whether Lebron can win back-to-back All-Star MVP.

2. Dwayne Wade – arguably the second biggest no-brainer.  Since he torched the Olympics, D-Wade’s been back at superstar level.  He’s leading the league in scoring (28.9ppg) and dishing out a fair share of assists (7.4apg) – and the Heat, while not title contenders, are at least no longer the joke they were last year.

3. Dwight Howard – at the time of this post, Orlando actually has the best record in the league.  All this talk about the Cavs, the Celts and the Lakers, but this is the team that’s playing the best ball at the moment – and the biggest reason is this freak in the middle..  He has clearly established himself as the best Center in the league, averaging 20.2ppg and leading the league in rebounds (14.1 rpg) and blocks (3.21 bpg).  Plus he has freed up the outside for Orlando’s shooters to light it up.

4. Devin Harris – arguably the break-out player of the season.  He’s been injured a little bit, but when he’s been on the floor and at his best the Nets have been dangerous.  After torching the league earlier on in the season, his stats have been more down to earth lately, but still remain at an impressive 21.8ppg and 6.4apg.  And no one will argue that he is the main reason the Nets have been doing much better than expected.

granger215. Danny Granger – the reason why Devin Harris is only arguably the break-out player of this season.  Yes, the Pacers are second-last in the East at the moment, but it’s not his fault.  He’s been averaging a ridiculous 26.2ppg (4th in the NBA) and doing everything else pretty well too.  The scary thing is, he will only get better.

6. Kevin Garnett – if you just look at stats alone, you can probably argue that KG doesn’t deserve to make it (16.1ppg, 9.2rpg).  But the Celtics are still near the top of the league and he’s still KG.  Plus he’s shooting well and still has one of the better PERs in the league (19th and best on the team).

7. Chris Bosh – he started the season in dominant style, but things have cooled off significantly for Chris Bosh.  The Raptors have also not been doing as well as expected.  Nevertheless, he’s still averaging an impressive 23.3ppg and 9.9apg whilst shooting almost 50% from the floor.

8. Joe Johnson – the Hawks have been surprisingly decent and Johnson’s been leading the way as their most consistent player.  He’s also putting up very impressive numbers: 22ppg, 4.5rpg and 6apg.

9. Michael Redd – he’s missed a large chunk of the season, but since he’s been back, he’s been playing like an All-Star.  When you consider the lack of stand-out players in the East, Redd deserves to be there.

10. Paul Pierce – he is still the Celtics’ go-to-guy and leading scorer.  19.1ppg, 5.7apg and 3.7apg is still a pretty impressive stat-line despite it not being his best.

11. Vince Carter – a lot of the Nets’ success has been attributed to Devin Harris, but Vince is still quietly putting up his numbers (21.5ppg, 5rpg and 4.7apg).  He may not be as explosive as he once was, but he’s still one of the top players in the East.

12. Rashard Lewis – it came down to him and Antawn Jamison, and Jamison’s on the cellar-dwelling Wizards.    Lewis, on the other hand, has been a quiet achiever this season on the league-leading Magic behind Dwight Howard, averaging 19.1ppg and 5.9rpg.

PS: I really struggled to fill the last few spots.  The number of East stars who clearly deserve to make it are fewer than I had imagined.

PPS: why is Stephon Marbury on the ballot?  I think fans should just vote him in for the fun of it.  Throw in Jamaal Tinsley while they’re at it.

Western Conference

chris-paul1. Chris Paul – the most obvious choice in the West.  The team might not be living up to lofty expectations, but Paul is performing like a true superstar, averaging 21.2ppg, 11apg and a league leading 2.72spg.  5.5rpg for a 6-foot guard is also not too shabby.  The Hornets will go as high as he can take them.

2. Kobe Bryant – he’ll always be on the All-Star team.  Kobe hasn’t had that many eye-popping games this season, but he hasn’t had to.  Still averaging 26.8ppg (3rd in league), 5.7rpg and 5.2apg on the top team in the West.

3. Brandon Roy – undoubtedly an All-Star this season.  He’s elevated his game to a whole new level and is the clear star on a team with a bunch of future stars.  Averaging a healthy 22.3ppg, 4.7rpg and 5.2apg)

4. Tim Duncan – just when you thought Duncan was in decline, he puts together a very impressive first half of the season.  When both Parker and Ginobili went down early, few thought the Spurs would be able to stay afloat, but Duncan made sure of it.  The future Hall-of-Famer is averaging 20.4ppg, 10.2rpg, 3.5apg and 1.83bpg this season.

5. Dirk Nowitzki – he started off a little slow but Dirk seems to have found his rhythm.  He’s averaging an impressive 26ppg, 8.5rpg, and is 9th in the league in PER.  Still, the Mavs might actually miss the playoffs this season.

6. Amare Stoudemire – he hasn’t been all that happy not being the sole focus in Phoenix and the team’s record hasn’t been all that terrific, but Stoudemire’s still putting up his numbers (21.3ppg and 8.1rpg) and has been the most consistent player on the team.

7. Yao Ming – Yao’s been up and down this season, but at least he has been relatively healthy, unlike T-MAC.  He leads the Rockets in scoring (19.9ppg), rebounds (9.6rpg) and blocks (1.69).  And when given the right matchup, he can still be extremely dominant.

jefferson8. Al Jefferson – this one is slightly controversial because of the Wolves’ record, but they’ve been doing susprisingly well as of late.  Plus, no one seems to complain when players from losing teams in the East make the team.  Jefferson’s been a dominant force this season, averaging 22.2ppg, 10.6rpg and 1.63bpg.  He should be given a chance.

9. Chauncey Billups – while Carmelo Anthony leads the team in scoring, Billups has been the difference on the team this season.  Looking at the Iverson trade now, you can almost say the Nuggets got a steal.  He’s averaging 18.9ppg and 6.8apg and keeping the Nuggets in the hunt for a top 4 finish in the West.

10. Pau Gasol – a lot of the focus has been shifted off Gasol this season and onto the youngsters on the Lakers’ squad, such as Andrew Bynum.  But if you look at his stats (17.5ppg, 9.2rpg) and the Lakers’ record, you’ll remember why he is the true difference-maker on this team.

11. Shaquille O’Neal – Shaq’s having his best season in what seems like decades, and he’s had a couple of very good games.  You can still argue over whether it was a bad move to trade for him, but you can’t deny his performance this season – 17.8ppg, 9.1rpg, 1.58bpg and 13th in the league in PER.

12. Tony Parker – he’s missed some games, but he’s still one of the best point guards in the league, and will be crucial to the Spurs’ success this season.  20.4ppg and 6.7apg while shooting at almost 50% is not bad either.

Other candidates: Carmelo Anthony (top scorer in Denver), OJ Mayo (leads all rookies in scoring), Steve Nash (numbers still impressive), David West (second scorer on Hornets), Jason Terry (highest scoring 6th man), Kevin Durant (star player on worst team), Kevin Martin (if only he played more games).

PS: the West is a lot harder to decide in filling up those last few spots because of the number of players putting up decent numbers.  I went with gut instinct on some of these, but I may change my mind later.

Slam Dunk Contest

rudy-gayNow that the contestants have been announced, I thought I would add my 2 cents on it.  The 4 contestants are defending champ Dwight Howard, former champ Nate Robinson, high flyer Rudy Gay and fan choice Rudy Fernandez.

Last year’s contest was interesting, but in my opinion still lacked the intense atmosphere of the old days (and I don’t think they’ll ever get it back).  Unless something really inventive is thrown out there (and it’s getting harder and harder to do), I think this year’s contest will be a slight bore.

It’s hard to see Howard out-doing his stunts from last year, so I rule him out.  If he can actually make his dunks, Nate Robinson could be a dark horse, but I’m not counting on him making his dunks.  I haven’t seen enough of Fernandez yet to be convinced he has the repertoire to pull it off (most of his dunks in games are alley-oops).  So by default, I’m going to say a Gay victory.