CHICAGO, February 2, 2012 - Wednesday night, the NBA announced the starters of its annual All-Star game. The East has a few subtle surprises, while the West features merely one starter that isn’t from Los Angeles. Here’s a rundown on the starters for each side:
Derrick Rose, PG – The reigning MVP has been as dominant as ever this year, although hampered with a sprained toe. His Bulls are off to a fast start, currently with the best record in the conference, and Rose proves his value to the team in every game. Rose has been too big, too strong, too fast, and too good for nearly every opposing guard this year save for a poor performance against Philadelphia’s Andre Iguodala. No surprise here.
Dwayne Wade, SG – The best shot block his position has ever seen makes his return to the game, and it comes as a bit of a surprise for some. With the emergence of Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving and other solid shooting guards around the conference, Wade’s inclusion after playing only 13 of his team’s 22 games will understandably be questioned. If the All-Star starters are based on talent, it shouldn’t be.
LeBron James, SF – The only possible surprise about this pick is that LeBron, at 6-feet-8-inches tall and 250 pounds, is listed as a small forward. James is on pace to have one of the best seasons by any player in the game’s history in terms of complete, all-around excellence. Enough said.
Carmelo Anthony, PF – Melo’s inclusion is the biggest surprise of the bunch, as his offensive efficiency has dwindled since the start of the season. Chris Bosh may have deserved this spot a bit more, especially after pulling his team past a good Atlanta squad in the absence of Lebron and Wade. Anthony is still the more talented player, but he’s more of a small forward, and Bosh frankly deserved this spot more than his New York counterpart.
Dwight Howard, C – Ladies and gentlemen, the Eastern Conference’s most popular team-wrecker. Howard’s constant nagging has destroyed the morale of a Magic team that otherwise was performing very well. Not to say he isn’t the best center in the East, nor the most deserving, but it’s hard to watch someone doing something like that to their team retain such popularity.
Chris Paul, PG – Lob Town’s maestro was a shoe-in, regardless of the few games he’s missed with various injuries. His long-term dominance at his position is only topped by Rose, and he’s arguably been the second-best player of the season, behind King James. Paul’s incredible vision and passing skills make him a killer, and when you add in his 44 percent three-point percentage, he’s just unstoppable.
Kobe Bryant, SG – The Mamba shot himself into his 14th straight all-star game, tying the league record. Bryant is averaging a league-leading 30 points on a ridiculous 24 shots per game, defining volume scoring. Bryant deserves credit for playing through a painful wrist injury, but with his team including other great scoring options in Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, one wonders why he doesn’t just try to get healthy.
Kevin Durant, SF – The one player outside of LA city limits to start for the West, Durant has been as dominant as ever this season, using his unfair wingspan and his incredible shot-making to make guarding him seem futile. The most impressive feat of Durant’s career may be that he thrives so much on a team with Russell Westbrook, who is still convinced that he deserves to be the team’s first offensive option.
Blake Griffin, PF – Probably the weakest player of the 10, Griffin was on far too many highlight reels in this young season to be excluded from this list. No one was surprised when Griffin posturized Kendrick Perkins because Griffin’s been taking shots from about that distance for most of the year; any further than a 3-foot jump-shot, and you can expect a miss. Oh, and Griffin doesn’t seem to know how to play defense. After all this, are his dunks enough to merit his selection over Kevin Love or LaMarcus Aldridge? Nope.
Andrew Bynum, C – The chubby young Laker finally seems to be growing into a muscular scoring and rebounding machine. Bynum has been a more efficient option for the Lakers this year than anyone else, a fact that would be much more apparent if Kobe didn’t take a shot for every hour of the day in the game he’s playing. Bynum’s 12 rebounds aren’t matched by another Western center, and his defensive ability has only been improving. It’s too early to suggest that he could someday stand alongside Shaq, Kareem or Wilt as a historically great Lakers center, but not by much.
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