Yes, I know it’s only mid-November, but the NBA just recently released the ballot for the 2009 edition of its annual talent showcase and it got me thinking about who would be selected if the votes were counted today.
As far as starting players go, it has always been more of a popularity contest than a reflection of performance merit anyway, with injured players even being voted to start in the past. That being said, my selections are equally biased in some cases and often reflect my love for certain players, while omissions may represent my utter disdain for others.
All in all, this is my ballot. You are entitled to a difference of opinion and your vote is equally as valuable in the selection process as mine. What follows are simply my starting fives for each respective conference and what I feel justifies as warrant for this honor.
Since the bench is selected by merit, my justifications for deserving alternatives will also be presented. Feel free to object all you want. My votes will likely sway as the season progresses, but as of today what follows are my all-star picks.
Guards: Jose Calderon and Joe Johnson
Dispute these picks all you want, but Calderon is second in the league in assists, first in free throw percentage and well on his way to challenging Muggsy Bogues for the best career assist-to-turnover ratio in league history. As for Johnson, he’s the engine that fuels the 6-3 Hawks, along the way finding time to put up 24.4 points, 4.7 boards, 4.9 assists and 1.6 steals per contest.
Dwyane Wade is also making a comeback statement in a very big way this season and looks to challenge for a starting nod with ridiculous across the board averages of 28.3 points, 5.9 rebounds, 7.6 assists, 2.8 steals and 1.8 blocks.
Making major cases themselves are New Jersey’s Devin Harris who has averaged 33.6 points and 6.6 assists over his last three contests, and future Rookie of the Year Derrick Rose who is already averaging 18.9 points, 5.6 assists and 5 rebounds. Rose is the real deal and even if he’s overlooked by the selection committee this year expect him to be a regular fixture at All-Star Weekend for the duration of his career.
New York’s Jamal Crawford and newly-acquired Piston Allen Iverson are also in contention, but I’ll also be keeping an eye on Gilbert Arenas and Stephon Marbury, neither of whom have played a single minute this season, but could be voted in nonetheless.
Forwards: LeBron James and Chris Bosh
Simply put, LeBron is the best player in the world. Not only is he putting up a league leading 28.9 points to go along with 8.3 rebounds, 7.3 assists and 2 steals per contest, but the Cavs have only lost to the Lakers and Hornets to start the season as well.
Bosh on the other hand is the newest member of the 25 and 10 club, and his aggressive play this season is something to marvel at, not to mention that he’s the best free-throw shooting big in the league. Bosh’s greatest competition for the starting spot will come from Kevin Garnett. His long established popularity combines with his uncanny consistency to produce big time fan vote numbers.
Other Eastern forwards in contention include Garnett’s teammate Paul Pierce, who has been putting up 20.4 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1 steal so far this season. Danny Granger and Josh Smith also look impressive and look for Elton Brand to climb the ladder as he becomes better acclimated with his new Sixers teammates.
Centers: Dwight Howard
This pick is not up for debate. If the season ended today Howard would be the Defensive Player of the Year, and I’m going to go on record right now and say that I don’t think anything, aside from injury, will change that come April. Howard is averaging 4.1 blocks!, and had 10 against the Thunder last week. Add to this averages of 23.2 points and 14.8 rebounds and there’s virtually no chance anyone else in the east can take this spot.
As for the reserve center, look no further than first-year Raptor Jermaine O’Neal. His slow start to the season aside, O’Neal is averaging 17.3 points and 13.3 rebounds over his last three contests, including 18 boards against Miami on Sunday. There could easily be three Raptors represented in Phoenix, with O’Neal’s closest competition likely coming from second-year Hawk Al Horford.
Guards: Chris Paul and Kobe Bryant
The two best guards in the league continue to impress. Kobe has the Lakers atop the Western Conference, while finding time to contribute modest averages of 24.1 points, 5.1 boards and 1.4 steals nightly, while Paul persistently shines with averages of 22.6 points, a league leading 11.9 assists, 3.1 steals and 5.4 rebounds.
Steve Nash is a very likely selection, with the game being held in the land of the Suns and all, but his strong play may be offset by a deep guard pool in the west that includes Jason Kidd, Kevin Martin, Tracy McGrady, Tony Parker, Deron Williams, Brandon Roy, Baron Davis and now Chauncey Billups. The one certainty is that more than one of these players will end up feeling snubbed come February.
Forwards: Amare Stoudemire and Carlos Boozer
Lately Amare’s consistently has been somewhat lacking, but he remains the most viable all-star from the Suns’ roster. His averages of 23.1 points, 8.4 rebounds, a steal and a block a game are enough to ensure this.
Meanwhile, Boozer has been able to keep the Jazz above .600 even with Deron Williams out, leading Utah with 20.3 points, 11.3 boards and a steal per contest. His greatest competition will likely be from Tim Duncan, who despite averaging 24.9 points, 9.6 rebounds and 1 block thus far, currently has the Spurs sitting below .400 without running mate Manu Ginobli and now Tony Parker.
Dirk Nowitzki will also likely be there on the tails of his 22.3 points and 7 rebounds per night, but may find major competition from the likes of Rudy Gay, Carmelo Anthony, David West, Ron Artest and teammate Josh Howard.
The West’s depth at forward is similar to that at guard, so there are likely to be plenty of unhappy campers when the selection committee finalizes the rosters.
Centers: Andris Biedrins
Okay, so you think I’ve lost my mind, right? Think again, the fourth-year Latvian is averaging 16.8 points, a league-leading 14.9 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and nearly a steal per contest. In reality we all know that Yao Ming has this position locked up as long as his name’s on the ballot, but my vote goes to Biedrins. Nipping on his heels for my vote is Al Jefferson who paces the woeful Timberwolves with impressive averages of 22.6 points, 10.1 rebounds, 2 blocks and 1 steal thus far.
That’s it for this week. Check back in the future for performance adjusted changes as the season continues. Cheers.