Well folks, the NBA All-Star game is less than a month away, and later this week the NBA will be announcing the starters for this annual exhibition, hosted in the Lakers' (and Clippers', I guess) home town of Los Angeles, California. As such, I figured now is as good a team as any to discuss people's picks for the All-Star Game - who we chose, and why we chose them; as well as thoughts and opinions on the All-Star Game (and All-Star Weekend) in general.
For those who don't know, the All-Star Weekend consists of a Skills Challenge (essentially a dribble-and-shoot course), three-point shootout, dunk contest, Celebrity Game, Rookie-Sophomore game to show off the young talent of the League, and the main event, the Sunday NBA All-Star Game.
Dunk Contest participants are already well-known, and barring a Shannon Brown-esque choke job from Blake Grifffin, the winner is also known. As for the rest of the events, contestants are still a mystery.
The Dunk Contest has been a farce throughout recent years, and this year, although sure to have far more exciting dunks than last year; isn't truly entertaining due to the fact that there is a clear, blatantly obvious favourite in forward Blake Griffin. Nonetheless, it shall be interesting to say what Blake is capable of coming up with, one hopes it shall be something special; although a display like the one against the Knicks shown below would suffice.
Interesting note: Blake is already in the Dunk Contest, a lock for the Rookie-Sophomore Game, and a potential (maybe even probable due to the game being in LA) All-Star; and with the dagger threes he's been hitting recently should be in the Three-Point Contest (couldn't hurt, right?); making him probably the first in NBA History to compete in all four in the same year. Hell, with his ability to run the break, why not put him in the Skills Challenge and have him in 5 events? Put him in HORSE, too, while you're at it. He's Blake freaking Griffin.
As for the three-point shootout, it's a mildly entertaining event, but often features a majority of unknowns, and is not truly an indicator of three-point prowess, as game-shooting and contest-shooting are entirely different due to the rapid succession of shots, without defensive influence and often in a hurry. This is clearly evidenced by obvious deadly scorers such as Daequan Cook winning the contest in seasons passed.
The Celebrity game is a joke, known for some laughs but nothing much else, so we won't go into it much here (although if you're really bored, feel free to talk about it in the comments).
The Skills Challenge is perhaps the least well-known event of All-Star Saturday Night, but is indeed an interesting challenge. It often features some of the League's best young guards putting their handling, passing and shooting talents in a timed test against each other. Derrick Rose won last year and if he competes again this year, I don't doubt he'll win again - particularly with his improved jumper.
The Rookie-Sophomore game will certainly be interesting, with the John Wall and Blake Griffin - led class of 2010 taking on the Tyreke Evans and Steph Curry - led class of 2009. Really, neither of these teams will be as talented as some of the teams of years past, namely due to lack of depth, but this is always an interesting matchup to watch; and Blake Griffin will doubtless have fun playing against a woefully undersized sophomore frontline which last year consisted solely of DeJuan Blair.
As for the meat of the event, All-Star Sunday, which I created this thread to discuss (it is a bit early to discuss All-Star weekend itself, after all - I just wanted to discuss picks), whilst the starting lineups are pretty much known at this point with voting having already closed (although official announcements won't be for another week), perhaps the most fan interest in the All-Star Game comes from discussing the teams - who deserved to be in and who didn't; why the casual fans are stupid (voting in Allen Iverson last year is a good start) and why the coaches are morons. And, most importantly, why the Chinese Government needs to block the NBA.com All-Star voting page from being accessible in China.
Me personally, I don't for a second think the All-Star Game is a list of the 'best' players in the League, nor is it a recognition of the greats - I believe that's the role of the far-less touted, but slightly more qualified (journalists instead of random fans) All-NBA teams, though even they are wont to screw up at times. I believe the All-Star game should be an exhibition of the League's most entertaining players to watch - the kings of the highlight play, those who have the fans jumping out of their seats. I don't believe in any of this crap about putting players in due to long-past accomplishments or barring players due to their teams having a losing record.
As far as I'm concerned, the All-Star Game is a show, a spectacle derived purely for entertainment, and not a way of 'rewarding' or 'recognising' players for their skill. The East and West rosters in my opinion should simply consist of the 12 players from each Conference that are more likely to have the fans visually amazed, and nothing more. No hobbled Tim Duncans, no keeping Monta Ellis out for his team's losing record. And, perhaps more controversially, I do not believe Kevin Love should even have strong contention for the All-Star team. Whilst he is simply a superlative rebounder and even a skilled offensive player, he does not possess sick handles or amazing athleticism, the attributes most required for a show like the All-Star Game to go on. There's a glut of forwards in the West, and as far as I'm concerned both Blake Griffin and Lamar Odom's games are far more suited for the party than Kevin Love's boxing-out and fundamentals; even though I would place Love above both of them in All-NBA Team voting.
Also, I actually do believe in adhering to positions, instead of starting lineups with 5 perimeter players, or putting Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant together in the forward spots. I also show substantial preference to young players over veterans, both for the sake of promoting the image of young up-and-comers in the League, and also for the increased athleticism attached to youth - not to mention many veterans would prefer to rest instead of playing in the All-Star Game with its attached wear-and-tear.
Enough with the lollygagging, my All-Star picks, based on the criteria above, are as follows:
Notes: Yes, I know, I know, I broke my own rule by putting in LMA and LO as the West's reserve frontcourt, but the adage truly does apply that nobody else deserves it. Pau Gasol's played like crap for too long (though he has shown improvement recently), and his jumper-and-hook filled game isn't as exciting as either Lamar or LaMarcus; and there's no true Center deserving. Not to mention, both Lamar and LaMarcus need to be All-Stars, Lamar for being the most consistent big man and perhaps the most crucial player on the Los Angeles Lakers for the season; and LaMarcus for transitioning to first option and holding together an injury-decimated Portland Squad. Also, having 4 Lakers on the squad is definitely pushing it, and I feel Lamar is more deserving than Pau whilst the West needs a true Center (hence Andrew) on their roster. Also, I know many will take issue with the lack of a Dallas player on there, especially with Dirk's contributions to the team, but he is getting older and his game simply isn't All-Star style, in my opinion. While I'd put Dirk (just) over Kevin Love as the Power Forward on the All-NBA First Team, I don't see him in the All-Star Game. As for starting Carmelo over Durant, I just believe Carmelo has more moves and more athleticism than Durant, who's mainly a shooter - the athleticism factor is also why I started Westbrook over Paul. Of course, putting in Kobe over Ellis is counter-intuitive to that, but Kobe's the best player in the game right now, and even without his athleticism being what it once was he has enough moves to dazzle, particularly if it's a close game.
Notes: The starting lineup is pretty obvious, and even as much as I hate LeBron I have to admit he's one of the best at producing highlights in the League, particularly in meaningless games. The reserves got a bit tougher, with a lack of depth in the East becoming obvious. Al Horford was picked due to lack of choice, as was Joe Johnson. Rondo I feel is unquestionably deserving, as he's been perhaps the best facilitator in the game this season, and his speed is amazing. Wallace always plays in a fun style to watch, Chris Bosh is obviously the second-best power forward in the conference, and Josh Smith's style ensures him entry. John Wall is a bit more controversial, but his playstyle is quite simply entertaining. I was very close to putting in Stephen Jackson over him, but Wall's youth won out for me.
Prediction: The starting frontlines battle it out to the point of being even, LeBron has the slight edge at small forward, as Kobe does at guard, and the East has the advantage at Point Guard. However, the West has a far superior bench that will keep this one close, and if it's close at the end we can trust Kobe to bring it home for a win in his own building.
BONUS: All-NBA Teams
As I said, I believe the All-NBA Teams and All-Star teams are entirely different, or at least should be. I think that the All-Star Team should be a compilation of the League's most entertaining players, whilst the All-NBA teams of the League's best at that very moment (meaning those reputation-based additions are undeserving). As such, here are my picks for the season so far:
C: Dwight Howard
PF: Amare Stoudemire
SF: LeBron James
SG: Kobe Bryant
PG: Derrick Rose
C: Chris Bosh
PF: Dirk Nowitzki
SF: Kevin Durant
SG: Dwayne Wade
PG: Chris Paul
C: Andrew Bynum
PF: Kevin Love
SF: Carmelo Anthony
SG: Monta Ellis
PG: Deron Williams
*Note: Once again, I made an exception to my positional rule and put Bosh as Center of the All-NBA Second Team, as there was no deserving True Center.
Now what do you guys think?