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Friday, January 23, 2009

All-Star Starters Officially Announced

TNT devoted a one hour pregame special to announcing this year's All-Star starters. Here is the list:

2009 East All-Star Starters:

G: Dwyane Wade
G: Allen Iverson
C: Dwight Howard
F: LeBron James
F: Kevin Garnett

2009 West All-Star Starters:

G: Kobe Bryant
G: Chris Paul
C: Yao Ming
F: Tim Duncan
F: Amare Stoudemire

Charles Barkley is on a leave of absence from TNT because of his well documented legal problem, so Gary Payton sat in his chair literally and figuratively, channeling the zany spirit that Barkley usually provides. Payton declared that neither Tim Duncan nor Kevin Garnett should be All-Star starters this year, nominating instead Al Jefferson and Chris Bosh respectively. Payton argued that being an All-Star should be about an individual player's production in the first half of the season, not how well or how poorly his team is doing. Kenny Smith was flabbergasted that a future Hall of Famer who played on a championship team would not put more of an emphasis on winning.

Chris Webber said that he agreed with Smith in terms of Duncan and Garnett being starters but that he disagreed with Smith a little bit on the issue of how much individual statistics should matter. Webber apparently still has not recovered from 1997, when Webber said that Tom Gugliotta made the All-Star team and Webber did not; Gugliotta averaged 19.2 ppg, 8.1 rpg and 3.9 apg over the course of that season for a Minnesota team that went 40-42, while Webber averaged 18.5 ppg, 9.5 rpg and 4.2 apg for a Washington team that went 44-38. Of course, there are two rather obvious problems with Webber's story: (1) He and Gugliotta played in different conferences at the time and thus were not battling for the same All-Star slots; (2) Webber made the All-Star team in 1997--and that was Webber's first trip to the midseason classic, so one would think it would stick out in his mind! What happened to "there's nothing like the first time"?

Bosh is averaging more points and rebounds than Garnett but Bosh is also averaging six more minutes per game. Garnett has the edge in field goal percentage and blocked shots. Really, though, this is not about the numbers; Garnett anchors Boston's defense in a way that does not show up in his individual statistics. I don't have a problem with Garnett getting the starting nod over Bosh.

There was a consensus that Allen Iverson should not be starting and I tend to agree with that but I understand why the voting turned out the way that it did; two of the other leading candidates--Devin Harris and Jameer Nelson--are playing at an All-Star level for the first time in their careers. The voting starts so early in the season that it is tough for relatively unknown players to break through.

Webber suggested that perhaps Shaquille O'Neal should have gotten the starting nod over Yao. Interestingly, when the TNT guys interviewed Yao he admitted that he still feels awkward about starting ahead of O'Neal in All-Star Games, mentioning that it felt strange to do so in L.A. in 2004 (when O'Neal was still a Laker) and it will feel strange to so in Phoenix this year now that O'Neal is a Sun. Yao graciously--if inaccurately--called O'Neal the greatest center of all-time. There have been years when O'Neal should have started over Yao but this is really not an issue this time: Yao is more productive and, even more significantly, he plays every game while O'Neal only plays in about 75% of the games.

Smith said that Carmelo Anthony should have been named a starter over Stoudemire but I disagree. Stoudemire is a more productive and dominant player, plus he has been healthy all season while Anthony has been out of the lineup.

There is an annual debate about whether or not the fans should be permitted to vote for the All-Star starters. My position on this issue, as I wrote last year around this time, is simple:

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.

This year we came relatively close to having some starters who don't even belong in the game this season, namely Yi Jianlian in the East and Tracy McGrady and Bruce Bowen in the West, but late surges enabled Garnett, Paul and Stoudemire to claim those spots. As long as the fans vote for players who actually deserve to make the team everything is cool because the coaches will vote for the remaining seven players on each roster. Bosh will certainly--and deservedly--make the team but Jefferson will probably miss the cut because there are so many good forwards in the West who are playing for winning teams.

Next week we will find out who the coaches select to be the seven reserves in each conference. They are supposed to choose two guards, two forwards, one center and two wild cards but the problem is that in some years one position is much more stacked with All-Star level talent than the others. The TNT analysts announced their choices:

2009 East All-Star Reserves (analyst choices--not official):

Kenny Smith: Devin Harris, Joe Johnson, Danny Granger, Paul Pierce, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Ray Allen, Michael Redd

Chris Webber: Harris, Johnson, Granger, Pierce, Redd, Rashard Lewis, Chris Bosh

Gary Payton: Harris, Johnson, Granger, Pierce, Bosh, Jameer Nelson, Hedo Turkoglu

The first thing that you should notice right off the bat is that Smith is the only one who adhered to the selection requirements by picking a center. He pointed this out to the others and Webber denied that this is a rule; Payton said that Bosh can slide over to center. Webber used to be teammates with Turkoglu and he calls him the Turkish Michael Jordan, so it is interesting that he went with Lewis over him.

My choices most resemble Smith's: Granger and Pierce at forward, Harris and Johnson at guard and Ilgauskas at center. There are many players worthy of being wild cards but this year I'd take Vince Carter and Mo Williams.

2009 West All-Star Reserves (analyst choices--not official):

Kenny Smith: Tony Parker, Chauncey Billups, Dirk Nowitzki, Shaquille O'Neal, Brandon Roy, David West, Pau Gasol

Chris Webber: Parker, Billups, Nowitzki, O'Neal, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Al Jefferson

Gary Payton: Parker, Billups, Nowitzki, O'Neal, Roy, Jefferson, Paul Millsap

My ballot would look exactly like Smith's. I find it a little odd that in one segment of the show Smith said that Anthony should be the starter over Stoudemire but in this segment he left Anthony off of the roster.

Isn't it interesting that just three years removed from winning two MVPs--and in his first year not playing in Mike D'Antoni's uptempo system--Steve Nash is no longer even considered an All-Star, let alone an elite, top five player? I've said it all along and I'll say it again: 10 or 15 years from now, anyone who objectively looks back at this era of NBA basketball is going to be astonished that Steve Nash won his MVPs over Shaquille O'Neal (who should have won in 2005) and Kobe Bryant (who should have won in 2006). Nash has been an outstanding point guard but that page in the record book is just going to look silly to anyone who is being objective and is not caught up in side issues, bias or other distractions.

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posted by David Friedman @ 1:00 AM

12 comments

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12 Comments:

At Friday, January 23, 2009 9:32:00 AM, Blogger madnice said...

Interestingly enough NBATV last night showed the game when Malone went for 61 vs the Bucks which was the game after AC was announced a starter over Karl. Hot Rod said it was the biggest farce ever.

Did you ever comment on Kalbs book indicating that Oneal is the best player ever? I know you dont think so but since this is brought up in your post Im asking.

Ive always stated that Nash never should have been MVP and is not a HOFamer. His career obviously took off when he got up with DAntoni. I dont think Nash is better than KJ or Tim Hardaway and they will never get in. Im sure Nash will and thats a disgrace.

 
At Friday, January 23, 2009 9:34:00 AM, Blogger madnice said...

I watched the AllStar show and I understand Paytons point but I cant but Al Jefferson in front of Duncan. Now Kenny said the Celts would not be 36-9 or whatever with Bosh....but no one checked him and asked him what would Toronto be with KG.

 
At Friday, January 23, 2009 9:58:00 AM, Blogger Joel said...

My reserves would be as follows:

EAST

Center: Chris Bosh (with Jermaine O'Neal often injured Bosh plays the 5 a lot)

Forwards: Danny Granger and Paul Pierce

Guards: Devin Harris and Ray Allen

Wildcards: Joe Johnson and Jameer Nelson

WEST

Center: Shaquille O'Neal

Forwards: Dirk Nowitzki and Pau Gasol

Guards: Brandon Roy and Chauncey Billups

Wildcards: Tony Parker and Al Jefferson

 
At Friday, January 23, 2009 3:05:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Madnice:

It used to be an almost annual "tradition" that someone who thought that he had been "snubbed"--either from the starting lineup or from the All-Star Game roster period--would go off in his next game and put up big numbers. Mark Aguirre dropped a career-high 49 points on Dr. J in 1985 right after Aguirre did not make the All-Star team. The Malone game is a good example, too, and there have been other, less celebrated examples, too. In a similar vein, Isiah tore up Stockton after Isiah did not make the Dream Team and then the next time they played Malone took a vicious cheap shot that opened up a huge gash above Isiah's eye.

I've written about the Kalb book from time to time here in the comments section to various posts but I don't think that I have actually done a full post or article about it. I'd take Wilt, Russell and Kareem over Shaq for sure just among centers, so Shaq is not even the best all-time at his position, let alone the greatest player of all-time. Shaq is in the group of four active players who I consider to be "Pantheon-worthy" (my Pantheon only includes retired players)--Shaq, Duncan, Kobe and LeBron.

I thought that Nash was underrated as a Mav and then he became overrated as a Sun. He has been worthy of being a perennial All-Star and All-NBA player but he should not have won either of his MVPs.

 
At Friday, January 23, 2009 3:07:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Madnice:

Jefferson is a very good player but I can't take him over Duncan. Ironically, stellar defender Payton does not seem to be considering the fact that Duncan has a much larger defensive impact than Jefferson does.

 
At Friday, January 23, 2009 3:11:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Joel:

Allen and Nelson are certainly having All-Star caliber seasons. As always, there are more players who are having All-Star caliber years than there are spots on the roster. Last year, Allen made the All-Star team as an injury replacement and then came close to winning the All-Star MVP.

Jefferson is also having an All-Star caliber season. He has better individual numbers than West, so this goes back to the whole debate about taking players from winning teams versus taking players from losing teams. In addition to putting up his numbers for a winning team, West also has a better skill set than Jefferson in my opinion--more shooting range, better passer.

 
At Friday, January 23, 2009 7:33:00 PM, Blogger Joel said...

David,

My picks tend to favour winning teams but there are usually a couple players I think are deserving despite mediocre records, and Jefferson is one of them. I don't see him as someone who puts up numbers just because his team needs him to without making an impact. He would probably make my team ahead of someone like Stoudemire if I had to choose between the two.

As for West vs Jefferson, I think it's close when you compare skill sets. Jefferson is an excellent rebounder and has an arsenal of low-post moves and shots that very few players can match. West is a better passer, defender, and shooter as you say, and can also create his shot off the bounce a bit better (although that is a function of him being a more of a face-up player while Jefferson is a back-to-the-basket player). I guess the deciding factor for me was that Jefferson has been more consistent this season, in my opinion. West's rebounding in particular hasn't been up to his usual standards.

 
At Saturday, January 24, 2009 3:07:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Joel:

Amare vs. Jefferson is moot because Amare has already been voted in as a starter.

As for Jefferson vs. West, I've explained why I would take West but you made a solid case for Jefferson. You are right that West's rebounding has been a bit down this season. That said, in a matchup that is this close I would use the record of their teams as the tiebreaker. If Jefferson were clearly a superior player then I would take him regardless of how sorry his team is, but this is a close enough call that I think that team success should be a factor.

 
At Saturday, January 24, 2009 2:10:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

reggie

shaq has played great ball he should make team this year but yao is better right now so he shouldnt start he plays 80 percent of games not every game but shaq havveing a bounce back year.

carmelo belong so does pau gasol amare has had a so so year not better than them 2 this year.


devin harris vince carter jameer nelson should make team.

 
At Monday, January 26, 2009 9:11:00 AM, Blogger madnice said...

david....i dont remember any of your post about his book. once i saw he had oneal number one i wasnt going to buy it. i may eventually buy it just to see the other opinions of players and writers in the book. those 3 are definitely better than oneal and i dont see anything that oneal does that akeem didnt do. or even duncan. i know hes a power forward, but everything duncan does resembles a dominant center.

 
At Monday, January 26, 2009 5:02:00 PM, Anonymous B-Ball Knowledge said...

East Reserves:
C - Bosh
F - Granger, Pierce, Rashard Lewis
G - Devin Harris, Ray Allen, Andre Iguodala

I like Big Z, but he will have missed 40% of the season due to injury by the break. Cleveland doesn't need another representative that bad.

AI part 2 has been playing "balls to the wall" for the last 2 months. The early portion of his season looked like a post-big contract snorefest, but he never stopped playing good to very good defence. His scoring has now caught up to his defensive prowess, and he deserves a nod....Plus, who wouldn't want to see a line-up of Wade, Iguodala, James, Garnett and Howard for about 5 gravity defying minutes in sometimes boring mid-portion of that game?

West Reserves:
C - Diesel, Nene
F - Dirk, Pau
G - Brandon Roy, Tony Parker, Billups

Shaq is my favourite b-ball player, but if he's an All-Star then so is Nene. Their impact has been similar, and Nene's squad is 3.5 games better.

Al Jefferson could get a nod, and there would be no issue there. Kevin Durant deserves a mention, only because he's been playing exceptionally well for a crappy team. Young stars in the NBA deserve some shine, just so they don't get lost in the shuffle.

BTW.....expect the rookie team to stomp a mudhole in the sophomore squad this year. Not to be too negative about the 2007 draft, but other than Durant, his teammate Jeff Green and Al Horford, who can name 5 more players from that draft without checking the NBA.com draft results?

 
At Monday, January 26, 2009 5:34:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

B-Ball Knowledge:

Those are solid choices; the point is that every season there are more players having All-Star caliber seasons than there are slots available, because after making the obvious 10 or so initial choices there are probably about 25 players who are pretty close to being equally worthy of filling in slots 11-24.

Regarding Shaq vs. Nene, the Suns are just 2-5 without Shaq, who is averaging more points and rebounds than Nene while shooting nearly as well from the field.

Normally I would agree with you about not taking a player who has missed/will miss as many games as Z but the team is supposed to have a second center and Z is the second best center in the East. Bosh is a forward. Perhaps I should have included him in my reserves at that spot; the more I think about it, he will probably be a coaches' selection and he deserves that honor, though the guys I chose also deserve it, too.

Durant has been playing at or near All-Star level since being switched to his natural position but I can't take him over Dirk, Pau or West, who are key forwards for teams in the playoff hunt.

No matter what the rosters look like, the Sophs almost always pound the Rookies. The experience factor is very important. It will be interesting to see what happens this year, because you are right that there are a lot of big name rookies this season.

 

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