With NBA All-Star reserves getting announced on Thursday, it’s definitely worth guessing who those names will be. I’ll save the toughest choices for last and choose the Eastern Conference reserves first.
Even though there’s no defense played until four minutes to go in the game, the NBA’s All-Star game is the most legit for several reasons, mostly to do with the selection process.
Having the Pro Bowl after the Super Bowl is pretty much like serving a cup of Sanka after a four-star dinner. Half the players who go to Hawaii are injury replacements, with some of the best players understandably ducking yet another chance for injury. I don’t think Joe Montana actually played in a Pro Bowl after his fourth year in the league.
Baseball has a different issue when it comes to who goes to the game, the inane rule that each team must have a representative. Why baseball feels the need to get all Tee-Ball on everybody I have no idea. Does the All-Star game have team moms, too?
Baseball might tell you that their All Star game means something because it decides home field advantage in the World Series, but that’s actually a negative because the premise is nonsensical. Leave it to Bud Selig to take a mistake (the infamous 7-7 tie game in 2002) and make it even worse.
Especially now, it’s extremely hard to make an All Star team in the NBA. It’s almost as difficult to choose the teams – sitting in front of a laptop in your bedroom is more challenging than you’d think.
Eastern Conference Starters
C The guy on the Magic with the shoulders
We’ll go with the recommended daily allowance of NBA positions for our reserves: two guards, two forwards, one center and two wildcards. And there’s also no way anybody makes the All-Star team from a squad not in playoff contention, especially in this conference.
Chauncey Billups – The stats are nice (18 points and 7 assists) and he plays good defense. But most of all Billups leads the quietly elite Detroit Pistons. The Pistons are only four games behind the Celtics, and don’t be surprised if they surpass Boston as the Eastern Conference’s top seed by the time April rolls around.
Josh Smith – Even with their improvement over last year, I have a hard time putting two Hawks on this team. Joe Johnson controls the ball and is a more consistent scorer, but Josh Smith deserves to make the team based on defense alone.
While Smith is often stationed at forward, depending on Atlanta’s lineup he can play the two sometimes too, making him a freak with 18 points, 8 rebounds, two steals and an astounding 3.3 blocks a game. Not only is Smith a better fantasy player and dunker, he’s become a better player than Johnson.
Caron Butler – Isn’t it kind of hard to believe that Washington would have a much better record than 23-19 (as of today) with a healthy Gilbert Arenas? Butler had already played well enough as a Wizard before this season to make the Lakers trading him for Kwame Brown one of the most moronic deals in the past decade.
But this year Butler is angling for at least a second-team All-NBA selection, let alone one on the Eastern Conference All-Star team. 22 points a game is great, but the guy can shoot, too – 48% from the field, 37% from three and 92% from the line. Along with seven rebounds and four assists, Butler also has 2.4 steals per game, showing his defense hasn’t suffered with his increased role either.
Paul Pierce – His scoring is down by three points from his career average, he’s grabbing one less rebound per game, but that’s OK. The Big Worry with the Big Three was that a certain former Big Dog wouldn’t be happy with sharing the spotlight, but Pierce not only has been a good soldier, he still gets to lead the team in scoring.
One category where Pierce has improved is assists. And that’s why the Celtics have spent this season answering questions about 70-win seasons instead of whom they could get in a Pierce trade. He might not get the last shot in every game, but he will in at least half. At least two of Boston’s three stars should be in this game, and Pierce has had a better year than Allen in almost every way.
Chris Bosh – And this has absolutely nothing to do with his youtube commercial. Bosh leads the Raptors in scoring (22.5 pts/game) and rebounding (9.2).
Bosh is also one of the more unique players in the Eastern Conference along with Smith. He’s got range from up to 20 feet, and he’s been using it lately. Bosh has scored over 30 points in five of the past eight games, showing that he is more than willing to back up his promotional campaign.
Antawn Jamison – First off, Dwyane Wade will be pleased to have a teammate with a similarly misspelled first name. But if we’re going to celebrate Butler’s contributions to a surprisingly good Wizards team, Jamison and his 21 points and 10 rebounds per game can’t be left off.
Have you looked at the rest of the Wiz? DeShawn Stevenson has started every game for this team, and it makes sense when you look at their roster. But after a horrendous start (0-5 with Agent Zero at the helm), the Wizards have gone 23-14, with wins against Portland, Toronto, Cleveland and twice against Dallas and Boston.
Jose Calderon – It was between him and Hedo Turkoglu, but I went with Calderon because he deserves a break. He had been quietly plugging away all year behind T.J. Ford, just waiting for Ford’s annual near-death experience. He’s proven that he should have been the starter all year.
Since Ford was decapitated, or whatever it was, Calderon has been the best point guard in the conference, averaging 14.3 points and 9.7 assists per game. Of course Marty picked him up in our fantasy league just two days before Ford entered the hospital. Coincidence?