The following is an All-Star Picks column. You’ve seen this article before, on Grantland, SBNation, Bleacher Report, or just about any other entity that contains opinions on basketball. It is something of a write (BLOG PUN!) of passage.
The difference between this All-Star Picks column and all of the other ones you’ve probably already read because I’ve waited a while to post this but come on I have a full-time job so cut me some slack… is that these are my picks. They are my opinions. Which makes them special. Infallible. Correct.
Eastern Conference All-Star Starting Line-Up
Backcourt: Kyrie Irving (Cleveland) & John Wall (Washington)
Perhaps the only positive aspect of the Eastern Conference being so awful is that we are bound to see a lot of young, first-time All Stars on their team. John Wall, point guard extraordinaire for the overachieving Washington Wizards, should be their poster child. Wall has been playing out of his mind this season, with career high numbers in virtually every single category, both offensive and defensive. He’s 16th in the league in points per game, fourth in both assists and steals per game, and doing it all efficiently, with a 20.5 PER. A year after returning from a knee injury, Wall has been showing why he was the Number 1 overall pick.
Joining Wall in the backcourt should be another Number 1 overall pick, Kyrie Irving. Irving may not be setting career bests, but is still extraordinary in his consistency. He’s averaging 21 points, 6 assists and 3 rebounds per game, on a Cleveland Cavaliers team that has spent most of the season as, at best, emaciated. Sure, some people think being an all-star is defined by playing on a good team, but that might even change for Irving now that the Cavs have picked up another former All-Star in Luol Deng. Unfortunately, one of these two are bound to miss out on a starting spot, seeing as we already know the general consensus of NBA fans are going to vote for Dwyane Wade. Whatever.
Frontcourt: Carmelo Anthony (New York), Paul George (Indiana) & Lebron James (Miami)
I know that I’m not really going out on a limb here, but I am pretty sure that these three are actually a lock for the Eastern Conference’s starting frontcourt. Seriously, you people aren’t still voting for Chris Bosh, right? Right? RIGHT???
I feel that these are such obvious choices, that it’s hard for me to feel motivated enough to write an explanation on why I chose them. Lebron James is pretty good. Like, hovering around a never-before-seen 60-40-80 season good. Carmelo Anthony is single-handedly keeping the Knicks afloat (“afloat” may be a strong word choice), while retaining his perennial spot in the Scoring Title conversation. I guess I could conceive of a scenario where somebody is just waking up from a year and a half long coma, and doesn’t know how awesome Paul George is, but come on. George is leading the Indiana Pacers atop the NBA, with stats that any fan can appreciate. For the layman, there are his 23.2 points per game. For my fellow nerds, there’s his 10th best 22.8 PER coupled with a 93.5 defensive rating. The point is he’s good. Vote for him. Or not. Whatever, he’ll be an All-Star.
Western Conference All-Star Starting Line-Up
Backcourt: Stephen Curry (Golden State) & Damian Lillard (Portland)
Similar to what I was saying about the Eastern Conferences abysmal play being good for the All-Star Game, I think the Western Conference’s rash of injuries could be beneficial. Now, I know that sounds stupid and mean and just generally horrible, but hear me out. Do we really want to see the corpse of Kobe Bryant attempt to stay relevant by forcing it in a glorified exhibition game?
We’ve reached the point where it’s ludicrous that the name “Steph Curry” cannot correctly be followed up with “All-Star”. Curry is in the midst of the worst shooting performance of his career, which still equates to a 52.9% effective field goal percentage. He has also adjusted to his slump, which has led to a vast increase in his assist numbers. His assists per game are up to 9.2, while his assist percentage is almost 10% higher than last year at 40.9%. Starting next to him should be the sophomore sensation, and defending Rookie of the Year, Damian Lillard. But it won’t be. Judging by the latest returns from the fan vote, Jeremy Lin will be the starting point guard (James Harden, Tony Parker and the injured trio of Kobe Bryant, Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul are also ahead of Lillard). That’s ridiculous. It would literally make more sense for the NBA to just have me pick the teams.
Frontcourt: Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City), Blake Griffin (Los Angeles) & Kevin Love (Minnesota)
I’m not going to tell you why Kevin Durant should be an All-Star. I won’t demean you like that. Just watch this highlight reel of him dropping 54 against Golden State. I feel the same way about Blake Griffin, but I know some of you are hard-headed and might need some more convincing. Blake is putting up 22.5 points per game on 52.3% shooting. He’s also grabbing 10.2 rebounds with a defensive rebounding percentage of 23.5%. Beyond the number, Blake has continued to evolve his game away from the rim, and has even shown improved handles.
Last, but not least, is Kevin Love. Earlier this season, I declared Kevin Love my choice for MVP. While that was in November, a time where you could say anything without retribution, I still stand by the sentiment. Yes, Lebron is Lebron. And sure, Kevin Durant has been playing out of his mind without Russell Westbrook. But Kevin Love is, in the purest sense of the phrase, the most valuable player to his team. The Minnesota Timberwolves are bad. They’re bad even with Kevin Love. But without him, there is no way they would be in the Western Conference playoff picture. For his part, Love currently ranks fourth in the NBA in points per game, second in rebounds, and fourth in PER. Most importantly, he has 7.8 win shares, with 5.7 attributed to his offense and 2.1 from his defense. While you may not agree this is enough for an MVP, it’s undeniable that it’s enough for a starting spot in New Orleans.