This Sunday is the NBA All-Star game, and while most selections were pretty agreed upon, a few were a bit puzzling. Here are the players who, in my opinion, do not deserve spots:
Zach Randolph: Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies are a great team this year, one of the top teams in the West, but that’s it. They’re a great team. They are a collection of players who all contribute equally to the team’s success, so to single out one player as their ‘all-star’ doesn’t do justice to the rest of the players who contribute just as much. Randolph is averaging 15 points per game and 11 rebounds per game. While I concede those are great numbers, especially the rebounding, in a star-studded conference such as the West, 15 and 11 aren’t enough to merit an All-Star selection. Some teams just don’t have All-Stars, and the Grizzlies are one of them. In this case, credit should be awarded to Coach Lionel Hollins for assembling such a flawless play style, rather than to one individual player.
David Lee: Golden State Warriors
Golden State has vastly exceeded most preseason expectations. They are currently second, behind the also surprising Los Angeles Clippers. While some of the credit should go to Lee — who is having a fantastic season, averaging 19 points per game and 10 rebounds per game — I can’t accept that he has been selected as the player to represent the Warriors in Houston. Golden State has gained the image as a run-and-gun, three-point shooting offensive powerhouse. While they have been trying to establish more of a post presence with Lee and the recent acquisition of Andrew Bogut, they are still a perimeter-oriented team. When opposing teams play against the Warriors, they don’t plan for a post-oriented offense — they plan for shooters. So, I am baffled by the decision to have Lee represent the Warriors in the All-Star game when he doesn’t even embody who they are as a team.
Kyrie Irving: Cleveland Cavaliers
Kyrie Irving is one of the top young point guards in the league and is having an inspiring season, averaging 24 points per game and leading the Cavs at only 20 years old. That being said, he is not an All-Star. An All-Star should be a player who leads his team to victory, and the Cavs, to put it bluntly, suck. They are 16-36 this season and 12th place in the Eastern Conference, which in recent history has been by far the most inferior conference. People argue that Irving has no supporting cast, and that you can’t expect much with the roster that he has to work with. While that is true, I believe that you cannot have an All-Star from a bad team. All-Star selections have historically been used to reward the better teams with more selections, so the selection of Irving takes a spot on the team away from another player who may be equally deserving and on a better team.
Luol Deng: Chicago Bulls
Without Derrick Rose, many wrote off the Bulls this season because they would be missing their MVP point guard. However, Chicago currently sits in 4th place in the East, due to the inspired play by Rose’s former supporting cast. Joakim Noah, also an All-Star this season, sets the tone defensively every game with his relentless hustle and effort. Carlos Boozer has taken on most of the scoring burden that was left when Rose tore his ACL in last season’s playoffs. That leaves Deng, a great two-way wing player, one of the best in the league, yet arguably the third most valuable player on his own team behind Noah and Boozer. It was my opinion last season when Deng was selected for his first All-Star game that he benefited primarily from the Bulls’ team success, and I think something similar has happened this year.
And here’s who I think should have made it into the All-Star game instead:
Stephen Curry: Golden State Warriors
As I said when discussing David Lee, the Warriors’ All-Star selection needs to be someone who represents their play style. Curry is the exact embodiment of this play style. He is arguably the best pure shooter in the NBA, the only other player on his level is Kevin Durant. He is quick, he is young, he is exciting, and he is the face of the Warriors franchise. He has emerged this season as a potent scorer, averaging over 20 points for the first time in his young career, and his three-point shot is Golden State’s best weapon offensively. While David Lee is a solid secondary star, this team is Curry’s, and he should have been selected as their All-Star to reflect that.
Al Jefferson: Utah Jazz
The Utah Jazz always find a way to slip under everyone’s radar, probably because they play in Utah, and this season is no exception. Al Jefferson has been the man in the middle for Utah a 20-point, 10-rebound player since he was acquired from Minnesota in 2010. Utah wins games with their rugged style of play that emphasizes defense, pick-and-rolls, and post ups, all of which Jefferson excels at. Jefferson is a dominant big man in a conference that lacks a dominant low post presence, which is why I am surprised that he was not selected. This is partially the fans’ fault for voting in Dwight Howard as an All-Star starter when he really hasn’t been playing like one, yet it is surprising that the coaches continue to overlook Jefferson’s credentials. His stats speak for themselves: he is the highest scoring center in the Western conference at 17 a game, and his team is poised to make the playoffs. Not many of those that were selected above him could claim the same.
Carlos Boozer: Chicago Bulls
When Boozer was signed in the summer of 2010, it was believed that he would be the key second option to Derrick Rose that would put the Bulls over the top. Since then, he has mainly been seen as a waste of money. This season has seen him emerge as a leader on the court as well as an offensive threat that the Bulls can dump the ball down to and get a key bucket down the stretch. The Bulls’ play has been inspiring this season, largely because of Boozer’s rebound focus. I don’t know if it is the burden of having a team relying on him again to produce that did it, but Boozer has been playing with a drive that I haven’t seen in him since he first arrived in Chicago. No longer is he just unfocused money that Chicago fans had grown accustomed to witnessing the past few seasons, and I think his vast improvement is All-Star-worthy.
Deron Williams: Brooklyn Nets
Deron Williams is one of the top five point guards in the league, and yet not an All-Star. It’s true that the East is very guard heavy, with great talents like Joe Johnson, Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis and J.R. Smith all not receiving All-Star nods either. My main issue with Williams not being selected is not so much that he is having such an amazing season that must be recognized, but more that he is leading a Brooklyn Nets squad that used to be terrible but now has a legitimate shot at Eastern Conference Supremacy. Brook Lopez was selected as the injury replacement to Celtics guard Rajon Rondo, so the Nets do have an All-Star now, but Williams is the franchise, not Brook. He was the one management brought in to lead the Nets to the ring, not Brook, and he deserves to represent the team in the All-Star game as well.