Who Should Play in the 2011 NBA All-Star Game: Eastern Conference
Unassisted Eastern Conference Team | Unassisted Western Conference Team
Before I begin my take on the 2011 East-All Stars, I have to point out that this is not an article on who WILL make the East All-Star team based on the ballots and fan voting. Rather, this is my take on players I believe SHOULD make the East All-Star team based on their season performance. Note: Position eligibility is determined by official NBA ballot. (i.e. Even though Paul Gasol plays C, he is not listed at center on the ballot and therefore cannot start at center).
G Derrick Rose – Chicago Bulls
I’m giving the starting nod at one of the guard positions to Rose over NBA assist leader Rajon Rondo; Rondo has missed 11 games thanks to an ankle injury. Without Rondo, the Celtics still were 7-4. Meanwhile, Derrick Rose has yet to miss a game this season despite injuries to teammates Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah. Rose is 8th in the NBA in scoring, and shoulders 24% of the scoring in the Windy City. His assist average of 8.1 is good for 9th in the league. He’s averaging career highs in minutes, points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, 3-point percentage, and free throw percentage. In fact, Rose has made more three-pointers this season (58) than he’s made in his previous two seasons combined (32). Thanks to his play, the Bulls currently hold the #3 seed in the East and Rose is a leading MVP candidate.
G Dwyane Wade – Miami Heat
Dwyane Wade is the no-brainer choice at the other guard position in the East. Although his scoring is down, he is averaging a career high in rebounds and a career low in turnovers per game. Wade is tied for a career high in FG percentage and is a few percentage points away from a career high in 3PT shooting. He ranks sixth in scoring in the NBA. It seems like Wade and LeBron have figured out how to coexist together and it has led them to the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference.
F LeBron James – Miami Heat
Love him or hate him, LBJ is putting up some gaudy numbers as a member of the Miami Heat. Although his scoring (still fourth in NBA), assists (12th in NBA and ranks first for forwards), and rebounds are down from his consecutive MVP years, he is shooting the best percentage of his career from three-point range. That increased percentage is a byproduct of defenses being stretched out in order to guard the talent the Heat have on the floor. No matter what his diminished (slightly) statistics are, LeBron is still one of the best players in the NBA, if not the best, and he deserves to be a starter for the East.
F Amar’e Stoudemire – New York Knicks
Perhaps the most surprising story of the season, Amar’e Stoudemire is responsible for making basketball relevant in New York again. Amar’e has flourished in Gotham, netting a career high in points (second in the NBA), assists and blocks, all without Steve Nash dishing him the ball. Amar’e had a streak of 9 straight 30-point games during a 8-1 stretch at the beginning of December. He has become the go-to guy in New York on the league’s highest scoring offense and could have a chance at the scoring title this season. Stoudemire’s performance will propel the Knicks to a playoff spot this season.
C Dwight Howard – Orlando Magic
The easiest choice to make for either conference, Dwight Howard is the best center in the league. No questions asked. This season he is averaging a career high in points, and is second in the NBA in rebounding, fourth in FG percentage, and fourth in blocks and also leads the East in double-doubles with 28. Howard could be on his way to a third straight Defensive Player of the Year if he continues his strong play.
G Rajon Rondo – Boston Celtics
The NBA’s assist leader is certainly deserving of a spot on the All-Star team. Although he missed some time because of an ankle injury, Rondo’s play has reconfigured Boston into the “Big Four.” His two triple-doubles against the Spurs and Knicks were sensational and in those two games, Rondo averaged 11 points, 10 rebounds, and 23 assists. The perceived weakness in his game, his outside shooting, has improved. His 52% shooting percentage is a career high and shows his evolution as a player.
G Raymond Felton – New York Knicks
After Rondo, the East guards start to thin out. I considered John Wall and Jameer Nelson for a guard spot, but Wall has missed too much time to injury and Nelson’s stats just don’t compare to Felton’s. Under coach Mike D’Antoni, Felton has exploded for career highs in points, rebounds, assists (5th in NBA), steals and free throw percentage. In fact, he has assisted or scored on almost 40% of New York’s field goals this season. He’s helped stabilize a position that the Knicks have had a void at since, dare I say, the early Stephon Marbury years. Felton is the perfect fit in the uptempo system.
F Paul Pierce – Boston Celtics
Paul Pierce has been the model of consistency this season. Although Rondo and Garnett went down with injuries, Pierce has played in every game for Boston this season and in all but two games, he has scored in double figures. He leads the Celtics in scoring, is third in rebounding, and is second in assists. He’s shooting a career high 51.5% from the floor and also has one of the 13 triple-doubles recorded this season.
F Josh Smith – Atlanta Hawks
J-Smoove is one of the selections to this team that isn’t overly exciting, but he’s been productive this season. After a season where he only attempted seven 3-pointers, Smith is shooting a career high 38% from long distance and will surpass his career high for threes made (38) by season’s end (currently at 29). In 20 of 40 games he’s played for Atlanta, Smith has recorded at least two blocks. Although he’s been shut down sometimes against the best defenses in the NBA (8 points and 8 rebounds against Milwaukee on 11/10, 2 points and 3 rebounds against Boston on 11/22, 1 point and 4 rebounds against Boston on 12/16), Josh Smith is still an All-Star player.
F Danny Granger – Indiana Pacers
Danny Granger was an All-Star last season with a line of 24.1 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 2.8 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.8 BPG. The numbers he’s putting up this year are incredibly similar, with the only notable difference being a dip in scoring. That small dip could be attributed to the growth of Roy Hibbert and the acquisition of PG Darren Collison. Granger is also averaging a block a game this season. With nearly identical numbers that made him an All-Star last season, it’s deserved that those numbers make Granger an All-Star this season.
F Carlos Boozer – Chicago Bulls
Sure to be a controversial choice but I chose Boozer over Miami Heat F Chris Bosh and Celtics F Kevin Garnett. Boozer has better scoring and rebounding averages than both of them. Boozer is averaging a double-double this season and since his debut, the Bulls are 16-7. He has missed 15 games this season, but he looks primed to have a strong year and already has 15 double-doubles and ranks just outside the top ten in that category. Boozer is also 10th in the NBA in rebounding, 21st in scoring, and 14th in efficiency.
C Al Horford – Atlanta Hawks
Al Horford is the clear choice as the backup center in the East. He’s averaging career highs in points, assists, free throw percentage and field goal percentage while committing a career low in turnovers per game. I gave Horford the edge over Andrew Bogut and Joakim Noah. Horford has higher assists and shooting percentages, especially in free throws (82.1% to 42.7%) and although Horford has less rebounds and blocks than Bogut, Andrew has been in and out of the Bucks lineup. Noah also had surgery and will be out until February. If the 3.3 APG for Horford doesn’t resonate, then get this: It ranks seconds amongst all NBA centers, only behind Pau Gasol.