Since this site started less than a month ago, this has been BY FAR the most challenging subject to write about.
Did I start this whole All-Star selection process as a way to plug Baron? Um, maybe. But how hard could selecting seven players for each conference be? I’ve watched a lot of basketball in this, a supposedly lost season for the NBA (anybody heard Tim Donaghy’s name lately?).
The Eastern Conference was difficult enough to choose reserves for. The West is nearly impossible. But that’s why I love that the NBA won’t increase the All-Star rosters to 15. To make an NBA All-Star team has turned into a spectacular and memorable achievement, unlike the late 1990’s when guys like Chris Gatling and Tyrone Hill found their way to the All-Star game somehow.
So even if any of the players I select don’t make the cut on Thursday when the full rosters are announced, they can take solace that they’ll be BA Sports Guy All-Stars always. Wait, that sounded kinda creepy. Oh well, onto the picks!
Western Conference Starters (already announced last week)
Duncan (He needs some sort of nickname, doesn’t he? I mean besides The Tattler and Turtle-head)
Chris Paul – MVP of the league to this point, and this comes from a known Kobe apologist. Quick, raise your hands if you thought the NEW ORLEANS FREAKING HORNETS would have the best record in the Western Conference today. Put your hand down, you are lying.
Paul is the one point guard with the ability to decide on any night, much like Magic Johnson, how he’s going to beat you. His handle is so good and he’s much stronger than he looks, so whenever he wants a layup he’s going to get it. If he needs to distribute, he’ll get you 19 assists. And unlike Magic, he can take over a game defensively, leading the league in steals with 2.57 per game.
Baron Davis – He’s been so outstanding this year, he deserves to make it as one of the two reserve guards. He’s above wildcard status after what he’s done for the Warriors. Not only is Baron their leading scorer and defender, he’s the face of Golden State. And for a team that had been so bad they weren’t just cursed, they couldn’t even figure out a good name for their curse, that’s a Godsend.
It’s never been a question of ability for Baron, but durability. Not only has he not had one injury issue all year even though he’s one of the league-leaders in minutes played (knocking feverishly on wood right now), he’s also one of the top five players in the league with less than ten seconds to go and the game in doubt. Add in one of the pantheon beards in NBA history, along with the fact that he’s the unquestioned leader of the most exciting team in the league, there’s no way he should be left at home…even though he could use the rest.
David West – Playing the Scottie Pippen to Paul’s Jordan, West has finally graduated from his previous status of “guy who’s most fun to call underrated.” As tough as it is to pick the guards in the West, the forwards are even tougher because their numbers and games are almost interchangeable.
The reason why West made the cut is partly to do with his stats (19.5 pts, 9.3 reb’s) but more to do with the Hornets’ stunning run this year and West’s play of late. There are several productive forwards in this conference, but West is truly making a difference on one of the most surprisingly good teams since, well, last year’s post-Dunmurphy Warriors.
Dirk Nowitzki – Could have gone with Boozer, Manu or his teammate Josh Howard here, but Dirk Diggler gets the nod because of two things: his consistency year after year and my own West Coast Bias (wait, did I just make up a term?).
People have been mumbling about a supposed slide in Nowitzki’s game this season, but I just don’t see it. His numbers are a little down (22.3 points, 8.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists and only 0.8 three’s per game), but they still rank right up there with the other forwards. It was his play in two games against the Warriors that sewed it up for me. For somebody supposedly mentally broken by last year’s loss to the W’s, Dirk looked pretty spry to me.
Amare Stoudemire – Call me a fair-weather All-Star Game selector, but I had to take Amare over Chris Kaman for something that isn’t Kaman’s fault. No, not because Kaman has, shall we say, interesting features, but because his team sucks. After losing Elton Brand and Shawn Livingston, the Clippers are a team where the stats are ripe for the picking. If Kaman has the same numbers next year on a winning team alongside Brand, he makes this team.
Even though Amare’s approach to defense is sort of like mine when it comes to watching musicals (ignorance, apathy and/or refusal), he is the most efficient scoring machine in the league. He takes three fewer shots per game to reach the same scoring average as Boozer, shoots 59% from the field and gives the Suns the biggest matchup nightmare in the league. Never has a center ran and jumped like Amare, and he’s just a year removed from (insert “Jaws” music here) microfracture surgery.
Steve Nash – The fact that I would put Baron slightly ahead of Nash puts me in the minority, and I understand. However, there are two reasons why even though Ginger Spice’s former flame is still a magician with the ball and unquestionably an All-Star, he’s just a shade behind Chrysler La Baron this season.
First off, the Suns aren’t quite the same this year. It may be grading on the curve, but they aren’t playing with the same joy and enthusiasm they usually do, almost like they take Nash for granted now. Actually, Shawn Marion obviously takes Nash for granted, since he wants to be traded to a team where he can have a bigger role (In getting a team to the lottery? Uh Shawn, have you seen your shooting form? You aren’t a No. 1 option). Also, Nash plays absolutely no defense. He couldn’t guard my buddy Felz even if Felz was holding a 40oz of Steel Reserve. Of course Felz could always hold his liquor.
Brandon Roy – If team performance is a factor in deciding these teams, Roy cannot be left off. Will the Blazers even be at .500 at the end of the year? I doubt it. But without Oden and Steve Blake as their biggest addition going into the season, Roy has led the Blazers to unimaginable heights already, including a 13-game winning streak.
Almost the definition of a combo guard, Roy plays defense, runs the offense when Blake isn’t on the floor, and isn’t a bad shooter. But the key is he’s been a winner in a murderous conference. In today’s NBA, where teams regularly break 100 points a night, there are plenty of stats to be had. While numbers can tell a story, Roy taking a team like Portland from sure Lottery status to playoff contender is one of the year’s best stories. That’s why he’s on this team over several other worthy candidates.