Friday, February 4, 2011

NBA All-Star Game: Showcase Of The Best Players Or Just The Best Teams?

I’ll be the first to admit that I wouldn’t want to be a coach voting for the NBA All-Star reserves.

Every year there are always questionable selections and discussions regarding players who were left behind. 2011 is no different as the full rosters were revealed to the public with a mix of puzzlement and exhilaration.

Sounds of joy and enthusiasm should be running rampant throughout the country with rookie Blake Griffin being chosen. By far the most exciting and most-talked-about star this season, not having the 21-year-old power forward on the team would have been a travesty. I commend all the NBA coaches for not holding him back due to his inexperience, they did the right thing by adding the first year star.

Sadly though, that appears to be the only positive selection in comparison to the other 23 players that will be joining him in Los Angeles.

The biggest problem with the collection of this year’s All-Stars is the basis of their addition. Is the compilation of these squads based upon what they have done this season or due to franchises they play for?

The best teams should be properly represented in the game, which usually occurs in past competitions and will happen in 2011 as well. Yet, this game is about playing the best players in the league, not the best players who play on the best teams.

Pau Gasol was only selected once to the All-Star game during his seven year tenure with the Memphis Grizzlies. After the Los Angeles Lakers acquired the Spanish big man during the 2007-08 season, he’s been on the All-Star team each year since despite there being no outstanding spike in his statistics.

The big three from Boston (Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen) are having lower than average stats for 2011 in comparison to their previous seasons in the NBA. Yet, they were all chosen to be in the showcase game.

San Antonio Spurs Center, Tim Duncan, is having his lowest output in scoring, rebounds, and minutes played this year. Although there are drops across the board, he will also be playing for the West. His teammate, Manu Ginobili, will also be joining him at the big game, despite not being the big time statistical player most All-Stars should be.

With season averages of eighteen points and eight rebounds per game, Miami Heat’s Chris Bosh is having his worst statistical year since his sophomore campaign. That still did not stop the coaches from voting him as a representative for the Eastern Conference.

In no way am I against the selections of players like Gasol, Bosh, Pierce and Duncan; I understand that they are top players in the NBA and are deserving of being involved in the game. My main concern centers upon this thought: would these choices still remain if they were playing for a team with a mediocre or losing record?

Along with the questionable selection process, there are also the issues surrounding those who star on mediocre, losing teams with impressive credentials this season. There are standouts with better stat sheets than some who were chosen for the game, but because they aren’t on a winning team, they were overlooked.

Here are a few of those players and reasons why they should be deserving of a spot on either side:

Kevin Love – F/C – Minnesota Timberwolves

This player not being chosen is, in my opinion, the biggest shock of all. It’s flabbergasting because he currently leads the NBA in rebounds.

It’s not just the board work that makes Kevin Love so dangerous, it’s the expansion of his range and improvement of his scoring consistency. With a 44 percent three-point percentage and just over 20 points per game this season, he is now a threat the defense must plan for in order to beat the Timberwolves.

Therein lies the problem as to why the former UCLA Bruin was most likely not picked. Minnesota currently has a losing record and are no where near playoff contention this season.

It’s a shame that this big man got looked over by Gasol and Duncan, even though he posts a better free throw percentage, rebounding and scoring average per game than both guys.

Danny Granger – F – Indianapolis

There is only one other player besides Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony that can fuse a complete, offensive game with the size and versatility to play three positions.

Pacers franchise star Danny Granger can beat a defender numerous ways. He is efficient free throw shooter (85% from the line), can score at will from anywhere (21 ppg), and knock down shots from behind the arc (38% from three).

So why is this all around forward, who averages more minutes and points per game than Bosh and Garnett, not participating All Star weekend? Indiana is currently 19-27, good for ninth place in the Eastern Conference and are on the outside looking in at the playoffs.

With three selections for Miami and four for Boston, Granger deserves to be on this roster over either Bosh or Garnett at the forward position.

Monta Ellis – G – Golden State Warriors

It’s easy to assume I’m a homer for Monta Ellis to make the All-Star team (being that I’m from the Bay Area), but I prefer to let others discuss why he is so deserving before I add my own personal thoughts.

Yahoo Sports also created a piece on Ellis as the biggest All-Star snub. wrote a piece on Ellis’ unlikely hope to become an All-Star.

Ok, that will pretty much prove my argument, but I would like to add who would be the player left off if he were put on. Westbook and Ginobili are great players, but Ellis has a better field goal percentage, more points, steals, and minutes played per game than both guards.

Playing for Golden State will give anyone a poor opportunity to make the team; the last Warrior to be named an All-Star was Latrell Sprewell in 1997.

Raymond Felton – G – New York Knicks

Much of the credit for the New York Knicks’ big turnaround is aimed at 2011 Eastern Conference All-Star starter Amar’e Stoudemire, but a reserve spot on the team should have also gone to his teammate Raymond Felton.

Even though his team is currently a playoff contender, the league was content on leaving the former North Carolina Tar Heel off the roster. He is currently fifth in the NBA in steals and sixth in assists per game. Along with free throw percentage and the minutes per game categories, he ranks higher in all four categories than Allen and Pierce.

In no way is this looking down on them, but a roster spot for Felton makes more sense than having over half of the Eastern Conference bench filled with Celtics.

*Side Note: Kevin Love is now replacing injured C Yao Ming on the 2011 Western Conference All-Star team.*

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