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Friday, January 25, 2008

All-Star Starters Announced, All-Star Reserves Debated

The NBA All-Star starters were officially announced during TNT's one hour pregame show on Thursday. In case you missed it, leading vote getter Kevin Garnett, LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade and Jason Kidd will start for the East, while Carmelo Anthony, Tim Duncan, Yao Ming, Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson will start for the West. It is difficult to see how anyone could have a serious objection about the East choices. In the West, I'd give the nod to Dirk Nowitzki over Anthony and I'd take Chris Paul over Iverson. Some people get all worked up about who the fans pick but starting in the All-Star Game is largely a ceremonial honor; if you look in the NBA Register, no indication is given about whether a player started an All-Star Game or was selected as a reserve. The only problem that could arise with fan voting is if a player who does not even deserve to make the team gets selected but I honestly cannot ever remember that happening. Over the years, we've seen Dan Issel get a starting nod over Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and A.C. Green get more votes than Karl Malone, but Issel and Green were worthy All-Stars and Abdul-Jabbar and Malone still made the team as reserves. Basketball fans deserve the right to choose who will start in what is, after all, an exhibition game, and they have not abused this opportunity, unlike fans in some other sports in years past who stuffed the ballot box for hometown favorites who did not belong in the All-Star Game.

Selecting the seven All-Star reserves--a task assigned to the coaches, who cannot vote for anyone from their own teams--in each conference is never easy because there are never enough spots for all of the deserving candidates. Another problem is that two forwards, two guards, one center and two wild cards are supposed to be chosen but in some years one position is more stacked than another. TNT commentators Magic Johnson, Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley offered their choices during the telecast (the coaches' selections will be revealed next Thursday during another one hour TNT pregame show). We'll look at the Eastern Conference first. As usual, Barkley did not exactly adhere to the guidelines, picking "nobody" as his center; his other choices were Caron Butler, Chris Bosh, Chauncey Billups, Hedo Turkoglu, Ray Allen and Antawn Jamison. Magic and Kenny also disregarded the requirement to choose a center, though they did at least designate seven players. Smith was under the weather and did not appear on the set, while Johnson said that Bosh was his center. They each agreed with Barkley about Butler, Bosh and Billups and they both picked Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. Joe Johnson and Antawn Jamision completed Magic's choices, while Kenny went for Ray Allen and Shaq. Butler, Bosh, Billups and Pierce are no-brainers in my opinion. Admittedly, there is not a lot to choose from at center after Howard but I would take Zydrunas Ilgauskas, a player who rebounds, can score inside or outside and who maximizes his height and length to compensate for his lack of explosiveness. Richard Hamilton and Antawn Jamison complete my ballot. Ray Allen is putting up his worst scoring and shooting numbers in years; the decline in scoring is part of being on a balanced, winning team but the decline in shooting percentage is worrisome. Michael Redd and Joe Johnson are putting up numbers for sub-.500 teams; they are quality players but their numbers aren't great enough to warrant taking them over players who are getting it done for winning teams.

In the West, Magic, Kenny and Barkley agree on Steve Nash, Chris Paul and Brandon Roy. Barkley then chose Tyson Chandler, David West, Marcus Camby and Stephen Jackson. Magic and Kenny agreed on Dirk Nowitzki and Amare Stoudemire, but Magic selected Chris Kaman and Baron Davis/Stephen Jackson (he couldn't choose between them) while Kenny liked Andrew Bynum and Carlos Boozer. In my opinion, Nash, Paul, Roy, Nowitzki, Boozer and Stoudemire are easy choices. What to do with that final wild card spot is vexing: there are many worthy candidates. After much deliberation, I am going with Baron Davis. In no particular order, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, Deron Williams, Marcus Camby, Chris Kaman, David West and Josh Howard are having All-Star caliber years as well--and you could add Tracy McGrady to that list if he had not missed so many games due to injury.

It will be interesting to see what the coaches decide; they certainly do not have an easy task in front of them.

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posted by David Friedman @ 6:18 AM

8 comments

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8 Comments:

At Friday, January 25, 2008 10:49:00 AM, Blogger madnice said...

The AllStar Game has become so unwatchable. Why dont they expand the roster to 15? There are more teams and its been 12 players since the 60s when there were 14 teams. Very stupid and doesnt make any sense. David Stern...expand the allstar rosters. The game will still be unwatchable but at least it gives a chance for more players to make the team.

 
At Friday, January 25, 2008 11:59:00 AM, Blogger Wild Yams said...

For the first time in a long time I actually think the East might have a solidly better team than the West. They definitely have a better starting 5. For years and years now it's always looked like on paper anyway that the West was the far superior team, but that's not the case this year. Even though the West is still the more dominant conference top to bottom, the East definitely has some stars. However, no way should Shaq be on the All Star team just cause it would be absurd to have two All Stars from a team that hasn't even won 20% of its games and that may have the worst record in the league at the break (1 game ahead of Minnesota for that "honor").

There are two players I can think of who have ever been in the All Star game due to fan voting that maybe shouldn't have been there: Kobe Bryant in his 2nd season and Yao Ming in his rookie year. While Kobe did actually play to a level that had him in the running for the MVP in the 1998 All Star game, at the time he wasn't even starting for the Lakers, and really was just voted there because of all the hype that surrounded him at the time (due largely to one big scoring game he had earlier in the year in a lopsided loss to the Bulls which came to be later labeled, incorrectly IMO, as a Kobe vs MJ matchup). Yao Ming, on the other hand, got off to a very slow start in his rookie year and only finished the season with totals of 13.5 ppg and 8.2 rpg, but was selected to the All Star game due to the Chinese voters online. Unlike Kobe in his first All Star game though, Yao really looked like he didn't belong there, only scoring 2 points and collecting 2 rebounds in 17 minutes.

 
At Friday, January 25, 2008 4:15:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Madnice:

I think that you have two different, contradictory complaints. You don't make it clear why you feel that the All-Star Game is unwatchable but whatever the reason is I don't think that adding more players is the solution.

One problem with adding more players is that it is already hard to get enough minutes for 12 players. Shuffling more guys in and out of the game could make play ragged (or more ragged, if that is one of your complaints). The question is whether or not players would want the honor of being selected even if some of them would play only a little or not at all. Even though the number of teams in the league has expanded, the active roster size has not. Yes, teams have 15 players, but three are inactive each game. I guess the NBA could have three "inactive" All-Stars for each side but that seems like a dubious honor to receive.

 
At Friday, January 25, 2008 4:28:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Wild Yams:

Until I know the complete composition of the rosters it is hard to say for sure which side has the better team. We also don't know how the minutes will be distributed or if anyone will get hurt before the game. That said, three of the top five MVP candidates (at least in my reckoning) are starting for the East, so that is pretty strong indeed.

Yao did not "deserve" to start ahead of Shaq in 2003 but I don't think that having him on the team was completely unreasonable. What other center in the West that year was markedly better than Yao? In any case, he certainly did not turn into a player who got one fluky All-Star trip and never returned.

It could possibly be said that Kobe made the All-Star game a year "early" but even in 1998 he at least had "quasi" All-Star numbers while playing for a talented team that was winning a lot of games.

My point about the fan voting is that the fans have never collectively put a total stiff in the game just because he plays for the hometown team. The instances you cite may be cases of guys who were borderline at the time but each of them were also promising players who quickly blossomed into All-NBA level performers.

 
At Saturday, January 26, 2008 5:21:00 AM, Anonymous jn said...

I'm all in favour of fan voting, but you can't seriously claim that AC Green is not the posterboy for total stiff that gets one fluky call-up just because he's starting for the world champs.

I mean, he wasn't a stiff at all, quite a nice player actually, but nowhere near allstar status.

I'm not sure if it happened the same year the Sonics hired staff to mail in votes for Dale Ellis.

 
At Saturday, January 26, 2008 5:31:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

JN:

Green averaged 12.9 ppg and 8.7 rpg in his All-Star season (1989-90). For comparison sake, the one year that Oakley made the All-Star Game (1993-94), he averaged 11.8 ppg and 11.8 rpg. Neither player is an all-time great but I don't have a problem with one All-Star slot occasionally going to a guy who does the dirty work on the boards and defensively for a winning team, whether he is selected by the fans or by the coaches. Even if we say that the fans blew it regarding Green, that is one instance in decades of voting; it's not like the coaches get every selection right, either.

My point is that starting an All-Star Game is largely a ceremonial honor; the most important thing is that as many deserving players as possible are ultimately selected, so unless the fans select a starter who simply does not belong in the game at all I don't have a problem with it.

 
At Sunday, January 27, 2008 3:35:00 AM, Blogger madnice said...

Im not trying to make a correlation between the game being unwatchable and the number of players on a roster. It doesnt make sense to only have 12 players. A coach should be able to find a way do play all players and then when its winning time play the best players.

The game is unwatchable because its just alleyoops and three pointers. No one cares about the game. Plus its on at 8pm on a cable network, which is very stupid as well. There is no flow to the game. Look at the 86,87,88 or any of those games and youll see what I mean. Very enjoyable games and the conferences hated each other. I dont see that now.

 
At Sunday, January 27, 2008 12:37:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Madnice:

I wouldn't say that the game is "unwatchable" now but I agree that it was more entertaining in the 1980s; I attribute that to Magic and Isiah, who set the tone for their respective teams by finding the balance between entertainment and competition and who kept the game fast paced without being sloppy.

There are 240 available minutes in a game (5 players X 48 minutes). With the 12 man roster, that works out to 20 minutes per player. Of course, the top players will play more and there may be some guys who are banged up who only make token appearances. If you bump that to 15 players then each guy will only play 16 minutes on average--a little more than one quarter. Factor in that some guys will play 30 minutes and that leaves little if any time for some players. It just does not work to have 15 players--the active roster during the regular season is 12 and usually only 8 players receive significant minutes.

Adding more players and shuffling them in and out will result in even less "flow."

 

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