The Should-Be All-Stars
There won't be much mystery when TNT announces the starters for the NBA All-Star Game in Las Vegas tonight at 7 p.m. The only marginally intriguing vote is whether Gilbert Arenas was able to catch Vince Carter at Eastern Conference guard or Allen Iverson was able to catch Tracy McGrady at Western Conference guard.
But for the most part, we know that the West will look like this: Yao Ming at center, Kobe Bryant and either Iverson or McGrady at guard and Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan at the forwards.
In the East, Shaquille O'Neal will be the starting center - even though he has played just five games - LeBron James and Chris Bosh will be the forwards and Dwyane Wade and Carter or Arenas (thanks to Iverson's demands out of Philadelphia) will be the starting guards.
Nothing really exciting there, but in this space, we'll go over the should-be starters and reserves. There will only be some subtle changes on this list. With the exception of the starting centers on both sides, every other player previously listed will earn a spot on this list. I've eliminated players who won't be available for the game or have missed significant time because of injuries (i.e. Yao, Shaq, Paul Pierce, Michael Redd, etc.). The beauty of the NBA all-star game is that every team doesn't have to be represented, like MLB. Can you imagine if we had to pick somebody from the Philadelphia 76ers? Or the Boston Celtics?
But here it is: The should-be all-stars.
Western Conference Starters
F Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas - This is a no-brainer here. He's the best player on the team with the best record. He might be the first Euro MVP. Easy pick.
F Kevin Garnett, Minnesota - If you didn't think that Garnett could dance, you were fooled - until he moonwalked in circles after tossing that basketball at Antonio McDyess last week. Impressive footwork, rivaled only by his game. Garnett is the reason the Timberwolves are in playoff position and no matter what Glen Taylor thinks - I hated to see Dwane Casey get fired after doing an amazing job with a lousy squad - this team shouldn't be nearly as competitive as it has been.
C Tim Duncan, San Antonio - Yao playing at an MVP level, but again, since he won't be able to return from his broken leg in time for the all-star game, he can't make this list. That leaves Duncan, who has been listed as a forward his whole career even though he is truly a center. His numbers have improved from last season and the Spurs remain an elite team because of him.
G Steve Nash, Phoenix - Gilbert Arenas likes to complain of getting snubbed, but what about Nash? The guy is the two-time MVP going for three in a row and he has never been voted to an all-star game. Does that make any sense? I know he doesn't dunk, but . . .
G Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers - Bryant doesn't get much mention in the MVP debate, but somebody has to get credit for the Lakers having the fourth-best record in the NBA with a starting lineup that includes a second-round pick at small forward (Luke Walton), an undrafted free agent at point guard (Smush Parker), a 19-year-old center (Andrew Bynum) and a jump-shooting power forward (Brian Cook). Can you think of many other players who can turn THAT unit into a playoff contender?
Western Conference Reserves
F Carmelo Anthony, Denver. F Carlos Boozer, Utah. F Josh Howard, Dallas. G Allen Iverson, Denver. F Shawn Marion, Phoenix. G Tracy McGrady, Houston. C Amare Stoudemire, Phoenix.
Player I hated to snub:
Marcus Camby, Denver. He has been awesome again this season and he has been the rock for them, but should three Denver Nuggets really be on this team? They aren't in first place. It doesn't seem right, especially when I already had to leave off Tony Parker, Zach Randolph, Deron Williams, Baron Davis and Ray Allen.
Eastern Conference starters
F Chris Bosh, Toronto - I debated putting Jermaine O'Neal in this spot, since he's leading the league in blocks, but Bosh is averaging 22 points, a career-high 11 rebounds and Toronto is in first place in the Titantic Division.
F LeBron James, Cleveland - The Cavaliers have been a bit of a disappointment, and although he isn't playing at the same level as last season, what Eastern Conference forward is playing better than James?
C Dwight Howard, Orlando - What is an All-Star Game without Shaquille O'Neal? He's the biggest star in the league. If anything, he'll keep things entertaining that weekend in Vegas. I can just see him watching the slam dunk contest, sporting a pinstriped suit and top hat, cracking jokes. But oh well, you've got to play to get here on the list of the should-bes. The Magic wouldn't be in the race with Washington without Howard. Shaquille O'Neal doesn't want to give up his spot to the young fella, but Howard is the best center in Florida right now.
G Gilbert Arenas, Washington - Nobody in the Eastern Conference is playing better than Agent Zero, Captain Quirk, Mr. Hibachi, or as one of the readers on this blog dubbed him, Grillbert. He has blown up in a major way this season. Will the fans finally show him some love?
G Dwyane Wade, Miami - The Heat has been horrible this season. If the season ended today, Miami wouldn't even be a playoff team. Yet somehow, Wade gets mentioned in the MVP discussion. Why? Because the Heat might not have 10 wins without him.
Eastern Conference Reserves
Chauncey Billups, Detroit. Caron Butler, Washington. Vince Carter, New Jersey. Richard Hamilton, Detroit. Jason Kidd, New Jersey. Emeka Okafor, Charlotte. Jermaine O'Neal, Indiana.
Player I hated to snub: Joe Johnson, Atlanta. Johnson really is on an island in Atlanta, but one of the most unappreciated, solid players in the league is putting up some awesome numbers this season. I also had a hard time leaving off Ben Gordon and/or Luol Deng, but the East has too many guards and wings as it is. It was tough.
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