Mid-November All-Star picks
What does it mean to be three weeks into a six-month season? In the NBA, it means All-Star voting, of course.
The ballots came out Nov. 18, so in following the league’s example, here are the players as of Nov. 21 who most deserve to represent their respective conferences this February in Los Angeles.
Eastern Conference Starters
Rajon Rondo, Boston, Guard: Any point guard who averages 14.3 assists and leads a 9-4 Boston Celtics team deserves to start in the All-Star Game. He leads the NBA in assists per game and is tied for third in steals per game (2.5).
Dwyane Wade, Miami, Guard: The offensive punch behind Miami’s trio, Wade is 12th in the NBA in scoring (22.9) while also averaging 5.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game.
LeBron James, Miami, Forward: He is 14th in the NBA in steals per game (1.85), ninth in points per game (23.4), and seventh in assists per game (8.8). He is also averaging 5.3 rebounds for Miami.
Kevin Garnett, Boston, Forward: He is tied for 15th in the NBA in rebounds per game (9.3) and averaging 15.4 points as well. His return to health has sparked the Celtic’s defense and is a major reason Boston leads the Eastern Conference.
Dwight Howard, Orlando, Center: Twelve games into the season, Howard’s rebounding numbers have been down slightly. He’s averaging just 11.1 rebounds per game, sixth in the NBA, but is also averaging 2.7 blocks and 21.4 points. No other center in the NBA even comes close to those numbers.
Eastern Conference Reserves
Derrick Rose, Chicago, Guard: If it weren’t for Rondo, Rose would get the start. He’s having a career year, posting 25.2 points and 8.5 assists per game — both career highs.
John Wall, Washington, Guard: The only rookie on the list, Wall has exceeded most expectations. Through his first eight NBA games, Wall has averaged 18.1 points, 9.8 assists (tied for third in the NBA), and 3.25 steals (first in the NBA).
Paul Pierce, Boston, Forward: If any team deserves three All Stars in the East, it is Boston. His scoring average (20.5) is better than last season, and he’s also chipping in 5.2 rebounds for the Celtics.
Josh Smith, Atlanta, Forward: He leads the NBA with three blocks per game while also leading Atlanta in rebounding (9.3). His 16.3 points per game aren’t bad either.
Joakim Noah, Chicago, Center: Noah is finally coming into his own. Second in the NBA in rebounding (13.3 per game), he also is posting 14.9 points — both career highs.
Andrew Bogut, Milwaukee, Center: Bogut seems to be recovering nicely from last season’s terrible arm injury. He’s tied for fourth in the NBA in blocks per game (2.67), tied for seventh in rebounds per game (10.9), and is also averaging 11.6 points for the 5-8 Bucks.
Joe Johnson, Atlanta, Guard: The Hawks have played well enough to warrant two All Stars, and Johnson is a solid pick. He is averaging 18.5 points and five assists for the fourth-place Hawks.
Notable snubs: Ray Allen, Chris Bosh, Danny Granger, Al Horford, Andre Iguodala, Amar’e Stoudemire, Gerald Wallace, Mo Williams.
Western Conference Starters
Deron Williams, Utah, Guard: Williams is tied for third in the NBA in assists per game (9.8) and is averaging 21.6 points as well for the surprising Utah Jazz. Narrowly edges out New Orleans’ Chris Paul for the start due to scoring numbers.
Kobe Bryant, LA Lakers, Guard: The Lakers are 12-2 and have the NBA’s best offense early. That can be traced directly back to Bryant, who is third in the NBA in scoring (25.6 points per game) but also averaging 5.3 rebounds and 4.7 assists as well.
Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City, Forward: The NBA’s leading scorer at 28 points per game, he has kept the Thunder in the mix in an über-competitive Western Conference.
Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas, Forward: The big German has Dallas at 8-4 while posting numbers (24.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per game) congruent with his career averages.
Pau Gasol, LA Lakers, Center: He’s not really a center but has played there while Andrew Bynum recovers from surgery. It seems to suit him, with career highs of 12.1 rebounds per game (third in the NBA) and 22.8 points per game.
Western Conference Reserves
Chris Paul, New Orleans, Guard: He has taken a ragtag group and whipped them into an 11-1 team in the West. He averages 17.8 points per game while ranking second in the NBA in both assists per game (10.5) and steals per game (3.0).
Monta Ellis, Golden State, Guard: As unexpected as any team in the NBA, Golden State sits at 7-6 and in a tie for eighth place in the West, and Ellis has been the primary reason. He scored 46 points against the Rockets on Oct. 27 while shooting 18 of 24 from the field. On the year, he is second in the NBA in scoring (25.9 points) and fifth in steals (2.38).
Lamar Odom, LA Lakers, Forward: With Gasol at center, Odom has gotten to start and is making the most of it. He is putting up just 14.9 points per game but is ninth in the NBA in rebounds per game (10.6) and seventh in the league in field-goal percentage (.577).
Paul Millsap, Utah, Forward: Finally getting his chance with Carlos Boozer in Chicago, Millsap has shone bright for Utah. He posted a career-high 46 points in a big win against Miami, and his per-game stats of 20.4 points and 9.1 rebounds are very respectable. He also ranks eighth in the NBA in field-goal percentage (.573).
Emeka Okafor, New Orleans, Center: Okafor is a huge reason for the Hornets’ improved defense. His numbers are modest (10.8 points, 9.4 rebounds), but he is eighth in the league in blocks per game (2.25), and deserves the spot as much as any center in the West.
Manu Ginobili, San Antonio, Guard: The way the Spurs have been playing, there is no way they cannot have a representative at the All-Star Game. Ginobili is putting up 20 points, 4.5 assists, and three rebounds per game to help pace the red-hot Spurs and the new, dynamic offense at the Alamo that has them at 11-1.
Carmelo Anthony, Denver, Forward: The trade rumors don’t seem to have been too much of a distraction for Anthony. He’s averaging 24.4 points per game (tied for fifth in the NBA) and recently posted 20 points and a career-high 22 rebounds against the Phoenix Suns.
Notable snubs: Michael Beasley, Stephen Curry, Tim Duncan, Rudy Gay, Blake Griffin, Kevin Love, Steve Nash, Tony Parker, Luis Scola, Russell Westbrook.
By: Eric Lorenz
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