Our beloved Celtics got a lot of love from the fans throughout the 2011 NBA All-Star voting process, but not quite enough to land spots in the Eastern Conference starting lineup. KG and Rondo placed third amongst Eastern Conference votes for their respective positions, while Ray and The Truth came in fourth. Shaq remains popular at 38 years of age, as only Dwight Howard received more votes amongst Eastern Conference centers. Joining Howard in the starting lineup will be LeBron James, Amare Stoudemire, Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose.
Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony and Yao Ming were chosen to represent the West. Due to Yao’s health situation, of course, the league will select a replacement center.
With the starters set in stone, the pressure is on the coaches to select the seven most deserving reserves in each conference. Naturally, this sparks many debates. Quite frankly, there are a lot of deserving players in the midst of All-Star caliber seasons, but like any other year, certain guys will be snubbed.
Everybody has their own opinion on the matter. Here’s who I think should be selected to fill out this year’s All-Star rosters:
Ray Allen (BOS) Ray is having the most efficient year of his career, as the 15th-year vet is posting career highs in field goal percentage (50.4%) and three-point percentage (45.4%) while putting up just over 17 points per contest. The man may be getting up there in age, but his game hasn’t shown many signs of slowing down over the past few years.
Chris Bosh (MIA) After a slow start, Chris Bosh has regained form and put together a productive first half to help lead Miami to the second-best record in the East. The four-time All-Star forward is averaging 18.6 points and 8.2 rebounds per game this season, shooting at a respectable 50% clip.
Kevin Garnett (BOS) The Big Ticket is back, folks. He may not be putting up MVP-caliber numbers anymore, but 15 and nine ain’t too shabby and his impact is unquestioned. Garnett continues to anchor Boston’s defense and provide a lift in any way his team needs. He’s not what he once was from an athletic standpoint, but you’d still be hard-pressed to find a handful of more valuable big men in the league.
Danny Granger (IND) Granger doesn’t have a whole lot of help in Indiana, but he is doing whatever he can to help push his team into that eighth seed. The one-time All-Star forward is putting up over 21 points and five rebounds per game in his sixth NBA season, and he has been especially hot throughout the past month. Indiana is struggling, but their shortcomings have a lot more to do with the cast around Granger than anything else.
Al Horford (ATL) Since coming into the league in 2007, Horford has improved each year. This season is no different, as he has finally started showing confidence in his offensive game. Averaging 16 points and just under 10 rebounds a night, Horford is the best pick for the East’s backup five-man.
Paul Pierce (BOS) The Truth. The captain. The 2008 NBA Finals MVP has been named to the Eastern Conference All-Star team in eight of the last nine years, and there’s no way you can leave him off this season’s squad in the midst of his most efficient year of his career. So far this season, Pierce has posted career highs in field goal percentage (51.4%), three-point percentage (42.2%) and free throw percentage (85%) to go along with over 19 points, five rebounds and three helpers per contest.
Rajon Rondo (BOS) “The engine that makes the Celtics go” officially burst on the scene of stardom last year, but there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that Rondo will make the team for the second straight year. So far this season, the fifth-year floor general has posted career highs in assists (12.7 -leads league), steals (2.4 – 2nd in league) and field goal percentage (52.2%).
- Joe Johnson (ATL) is an All-Star player who I expect to be there next year, but he has just not been himself this season. New head coach Larry Drew decided to tinker with Atlanta’s offensive attack by cutting down on isolation (where Johnson clearly thrives) and implementing a motion offense. That adjustment period, in addition to an elbow injury that required surgery, has really hurt Johnson’s production. He has been having a stellar month of January as he regains form and gets himself acclimated to the team’s new schemes, but he has had more downs than ups thus far.
- Andrew Bogut’s Bucks have had a very disappointing season, as they entered the season as a projected mid-seeded playoff team, but have began the season at an underwhelming 17-26 clip. Bogut is doing all he can to help the team stay afloat and land one of the last two spots in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, as he has held a double-double average and led the league in blocks through the first three months of the season. Unfortunately, team record is a factor in All-Star selections (sometimes unfairly), and Al Horford is having a career year on a winning team.
- Raymond Felton (NY) has undoubtedly had the best year of his career, as he is currently holding career highs in scoring (17.3 PPG), assists (8.8 APG), steals (1.9 SPG) and free throw percentage (87.4%) to go along with accepting co-captain responsibilities with Amare Stoudemire. However, his offensive output has been up and down, and while his numbers are impressive, anybody’s numbers will skyrocket in a 38 MPG role in a Mike D’Antoni offense. Felton has had a nice year, but not quite as nice as the box scores say.
Disqualification by Injury: Joakim Noah (21 games missed), Carlos Boozer (18 games missed)
* Assuming Pau Gasol gets the nod to replace Yao Ming as the Western Conference starting center.
Manu Ginobili (SA) There are a lot of outstanding guards in the Western Conference that deserve to be in this game, leaving the coaches with a lot of extremely tough decisions when they finalize the roster. Ginobili is playing as well as anybody not named Chris, Deron or Kobe, and with team record playing a strong role annually, you’ve got to give the Spurs some love on this roster. Ginobili is putting up approximately 19 points, four rebounds and five assists per contest on the best team in the league this season (39-7), and if you’ve watched Spurs basketball over the last few months, you’d realize that the team is running a lot more through Ginobili than they have over the last two or three years. Other guys are putting up sexier individual numbers, but as we’ve come to learn about Ginobili over the course of his nine-year career, the most important stat is winning percentage. No guard can touch Manu’s .848 mark this year.
Blake Griffin (LAC) This kid is an absolute freak of nature. At just 21 years of age, Griffin is posting per-game averages that rival that of Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett in their prime (22.6 PPG,12.8 RPG, 3.5 APG, 52% FG). I don’t care if he’s a rookie, he is one of the most productive and electrifying players the league has to offer, and he’s just getting started. There’s no way Griffin is kept off of this roster.
Kevin Love (MIN) There has been a lot of debate over the last few weeks about Love’s All-Star chances. Few argue that he deserves to be there, but some believe that he might get the short end of the stick amongst the extremely stacked group of Western Conference forwards. I’m not buying it. Sure, there are a lot of big time front line players out West, but how many of them are consistently producing over 20 points and 15 rebounds a night? One, and his name is Kevin “Moses 2.0″ Love. It’s not his fault that David Kahn runs the team. It would be a travesty if Love is kept out of the big game.
Steve Nash (PHO) Every year, we all expect Steve Nash to drop production a little bit, but he just won’t. Even without Amare Stoudemire, his longtime pick n’ roll partner in crime, Nash continues to put up similar numbers he did when he won back-to-back MVP awards. At age 36, Nash is producing 17.3 points and 11 assists per game (2nd in league) on typically ultra-efficient shooting clips of 53.2% from the field (1st in league among guards), 41.7% from beyond the arc and 91.8% from the line. Unfortunately for Nash, his supporting cast isn’t much to write home about, but he is still undoubtedly one of the top point guards in the game.
Dirk Nowitzki (DAL) A knee sprain has slowed the 2006-07 MVP as of late, but there isn’t any doubt in anyone’s mind that Dirk belongs on the short list of worthy candidates for the award once again. If Dirk’s consistent 23-point, seven-rebound production doesn’t do it for you, take a look at Dallas’ record without him in the lineup (2-7). With him in the lineup? 28-8. As usual, Dirk is a shoe-in.
Russell Westbrook (OKC) He’s still got some things to work on, but Russell Westbrook joined team USA and picked up right where he left off in the first round of the playoffs last season, and he hasn’t looked back since. Through 45 games this season, the third-year do-it-all guard has posted career highs in scoring (22.4 PPG), assists (8.4 APG), rebounding (5 RPG), steals (2 SPG), field goal percentage (43.6%), free throw percentage (85.8%) and minutes per game (36.1). On top of all that, Westbrook has truly established himself as one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA. He has arrived.
Deron Williams (UTA) Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo and Derrick Rose are having spectacular years in their own right, but when discussing the top point guard in the game, Deron Williams is still one of the first names brought up, if not the first. The Jazz have struggled over the past couple of weeks, dropping six straight games and losing by double digits three times, but don’t let that erase their 16-4 start to the season. Williams has done whatever he can to get the team back on track, averaging a career high 21.9 PPG to go along with 9.4 APG.
- Western Conference Guards: Let’s face it, it’s a crapshoot. Nobody knows who is going to get picked, and quite frankly it’s too neck-and-neck to stress over. Kobe Bryant, Monta Ellis, Manu Ginobili, Kevin Martin, Steve Nash, Tony Parker, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Deron Williams… yikes. A few guys are going to get their feelings hurt. It’s not that they don’t deserve to be an All-Star as much as a guy that got selected ahead of them, there just simply aren’t enough guard spots to go around. I wouldn’t be mad to see any of these guys in the game, but they can’t all be there.
- Tim Duncan: It’s tough to imagine an All-Star game without Tim Duncan, but this might be the year that “The Big Fundamental” gets to kick back, relax and watch All-Star Weekend like the rest of us. Look, Duncan will produce when the time comes, but 13 points and nine rebounds per game might not be enough to get him in over the young guns that are filling the stat sheet every night. Much like Kevin Garnett, Duncan’s impact goes far beyond the stat sheet, but the West is too stacked. Sorry, Timmy.
Disqualification by Injury: Yao Ming (out for season), Brandon Roy (recovering from knee surgery).
The official 2011 All-Star reserves will be revealed on TNT next Thursday night.