All-Star Starters Officially AnnouncedTNT 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.
posted by David Friedman @ 1:00 AM