Getting pumped for my third chance at covering the Warriors tomorrow night, and not just because I get a kick out of people booing Mike Dunleavy (Garry St. Jean, on the other hand, gets a free pass because making fun of St. Jean is kind of like mocking Wilford Brimley for mispronouncing “diabetes”). I get to see Monta Ellis at the absolute height of his powers, and whatever you think about his defensive skills or how well he works with Stephen Curry, watching Ellis with the ball in his hand is exciting as hell.
He’s one of the league’s best finishers, even though he often goes multiple games without dunking. His speed hasn’t diminished a bit. (When was the last time anybody mentioned the moped accident? Exactly.) His range is nearly unlimited now, which along with his tattoo count marks the biggest change from the first five years of his career. His maturation, as well as his arrival as a perennial top-5 scorer in the NBA, are the only things that have kept he and Andris Biedrins (and their matching 5-year contracts) from becoming known as the Warriors’ latest version of Dunleavy and Troy Murphy (or, as Damon Bruce so artfully put it years ago, “DunMurphy”).
But with all that said, Monta is not an All-Star. Sorry Fitz. Sorry AND1. Sorry Warriors fans clinging to the hope that one of their players will be known outside this region now that Keith Smart seems to be fed up with Curry’s decision-making and defensive shortfalls. Until Monta Ellis’ team starts winning, even his offensive excellence isn’t enough to win one of the few spots on the Western Conference All-Star team available to players not on the conference’s elite teams.
What Monta’s up against
First, Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant will be named the starters any day now. Then you have the vets who always make the team and are still playing great basketball (Tim Duncan, Pau Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash). So now we have 8 of the 12 roster spots, already filled.
Yao Ming will win the voting at center, and the ridiculousness of that fact won’t be discussed here. With Gregg Popovich as the Western Conference coach, one has to imagine he’ll slide Duncan or Gasol into the starting lineup. Antiquated positional requirements avoided … sort of (more on that later).
The good news for Monta is Amar’e Stoudemire switched conferences, Chauncey Billups and Jason Kidd are in the twilight of their careers and aren’t beloved enough to get sympathy votes, and Brandon Roy and Chris Kaman aren’t playing. That’s five guys who made the All-Star team in 2010. However, Monta’s in a phenomenally tough spot, competing against several outstanding candidates for the remaining four three spots (update: in the first draft of this post I wrote a paragraph that included a section on how Manu Ginobili was definitely making the squad, then I deleted the entire paragraph and forgot to include Manu — he’s a sure thing) on the All-Star roster. Here they are, along with why each guy might get chosen over Monta:
Deron Williams: Almost surely will make the team, since he’s the best player on the Jazz and he made the squad last year.
Blake Griffin: The hype machine is strong with this one. However, in his case the hype’s justified (22.5 ppg/12.8 rpg). Don’t forget, this year’s ASG is at Staples, too — just another reason to take Blake.
Kevin Love: Already the subject of a feature in SI; leads the league in rebounding by a large margin along with 44.4% 3pg.
David West: An All-Star in 2009 (it’s definitely harder to make your first ASG than your second); people love saying how underrated he is, and the Hornets have a surprisingly good record this year.
Tony Parker: An All-Star three times previously; PG of the team with the best record in the NBA.
Russell Westbrook: Along with Monta (25.7/5.6) and Deron Williams (22.2/9.4), the only guys in the West to average more than 20 ppg and 5 apg (22.4/8.4). And oh yeah, Westbrook actually plays defense from time to time, other than trying to rack up steals.
Zach Randolph: All-Star in 2010; averaging 20 and 13 this year.
Nene: Leads NBA in FG%; only center on the All-Star ballot having a good season. And even though the NBA’s insistence on putting “true centers” on the team inherently makes the All-Star game less interesting or representative of the way the game is played these days, chances are he’ll make the team.
LaMarcus Aldridge: 22/8, leading injury-ravaged Portland to a record above .500 (22-20) without Roy and many others.
Lamar Odom: The most consistent Laker this season, gained a ton of respect by how well he performed at the World Championships (almost enough to counteract the fact that he’s a Kardashian).
What do all these players have in common? Along with Paul Millsap, Kevin Martin and Eric Gordon, they all have a higher PER than Monta. And except for Love, Griffin and Gordon, each of their teams have a better record. So unless Carmelo gets traded to the Eastern Conference and at least four players are replaced due to injury, there’s no way Monta Ellis becomes the first Golden State Warrior to make an All-Star team since Latrell Sprewell in 1997.
BASG’s predicted All-Star Roster: Starters: Kobe (G), CP3 (G), Melo (F), Durant (F), Duncan (F/C); Reserves: Williams (G), Nash (G), Parker Ginobili (G), Gasol (F), Nowitzki (F), Griffin (F), Nene (C)
Injury replacements (in order): Parker, Westbrook, Love, Odom, Aldridge, Randolph, Monta.
Check out my thoughts on the San Francisco Giants possibly becoming reality stars while the Oakland A’s quietly build their own monster pitching staff on my second weekly column at SB Nation Bay Area. What, you think I didn’t post here yesterday because I was taking a 3-day weekend?