Well, folks, the halfway point of the season is upon us, and the 2013 All-Star reserves will be announced live on TNT at 7 PM. This year, the NBA stuck to its usual procedure and left the big decisions up to the coaches, but if they’d elected to put me in charge (and I expect that they will once they catch wind of my awesome picks) these would be the seven Western Conference players swangin’ down to H-Town to sip on drank and ride on fo’s (and play basketball).
BC: Tony Parker — Tony Parker doesn’t have the flair of a Chris Paul, or the athleticism of a Russell Westbrook, or the crazy statistics of a Rajon Rondo, but he does average 19 points a night whilst making 52% of his shots for the San Antonio Spurs, who happen to be a pretty decent group of basketball players. At times I feel as though Parker is the unsung top-five point guard, but as a member of the Spurs I’m sure he wouldn’t have it any other way, and it won’t prevent him from making his fifth All-Star appearance.
BC: James Harden — James Harden… I don’t think anyone has forced me to eat so much crow since Joakim Noah. As a lead scorer, I proclaimed Harden would accomplish little more than Ricky Davis did during his brief tenure spent taking the majority of the shots for the Cleveland Cavaliers. I just didn’t think James Harden had it in him to be an All-Star, to carry a sketchy roster into playoff contention, or to achieve a scoring average that ranks amongst the league’s premier offensive forces. I thought James Harden was Jamal Crawford, Jason Terry, or Chicago Ben Gordon, albeit with a better gift for playmaking. Clearly, I was way, way off the mark.
FC: David Lee — Amongst teams that feature the same core as last season, the Golden State Warriors are the league’s most improved. How have they executed such a dramatic turnaround? Well, there is never one single change behind any major transformation, but I believe the Warriors’ ability to rebound the basketball has been the biggest difference. In ’11/12, Golden State ranked 30th in the league on the glass. This year, they rank 10th. Though he certainly hasn’t done it alone, David Lee’s work on the interior has been crucial in making the Warriors a force to be reckoned with in the painted area. Oh, and for the record, Lee is currently the only player in the league who is top 15 in points (19.6) and rebounds (10.8).
FC: Blake Griffin — Blake Griffin has truly been fantastic this season. He’s made improvements across the board, so don’t be fooled by the downward shift in his statistics. Though the Clippers lost on Tuesday, Griffin’s 31-point, 11-rebound, 5-assist performance against Serge Ibaka is a great example of the individual dominance he’s been capable of when he’s been called upon to carry the load. He’s become a legitimate force on the low block, and at 36% from 16-23 feet his mid-range shooting has been decent enough to put him within a few percentage points of guys like LaMarcus Aldridge and Zach Randolph.
FC: Tim Duncan — What Tim Duncan has been able to do at age 36 is nothing short of amazing. I wish I could gather all the stats I’ve seen about the things he’s done that only a select few 36-year-olds ever have, but I can’t seem to find any of them. I suppose I shouldn’t need to anyway. I mean, if you need me to provide stats to justify the placement of Tim Duncan on an NBA All-Star team then you should probably reconsider everything you think you know about the game of basketball.
WC: Russell Westbrook — I don’t make it any secret that Russell Westbrook is not the point guard I want leading my championship-caliber team, as my fear of his potential to spontaneously combust would surely send me to my grave. That said, he creates fire far more often than he’s consumed by it, and with averages of 23/5/8 for the squad with the best record in the league he is quite obviously an All-Star.
WC: Zach Randolph — There are five players on this list that I feel are justifiable locks to make the team. Those players are Westbrook, Harden, Griffin, Duncan, and Parker. That leaves just two spots to distribute amongst four primary candidates: David Lee, Zach Randolph, Steph Curry, and Marc Gasol. Collectively, they are the four best players on the fourth and fifth best teams in the West. It’s difficult to say which two are most deserving of this honor, but I made the case for David Lee from the Warriors and I’m going with Zach Randolph from the Grizzlies. I think it’s only fair that I spread the love, as there is no clear-cut choice between Randolph and Curry; both are having fabulous seasons.
But what about…
…LaMarcus Aldridge? LaMarcus has played well for a Portland team that, despite some recent struggles, has outperformed its expectations. However, has he put together a better season than any of the bigs on my list, all of whom have been fantastic for top teams? I think not.
…Jamal Crawford? There is not a single player in this league that I would rather see in the All-Star game than Jamal Crawford. He’s a guy I’ve aimed to model my own game after for more than a decade, and by all accounts he’s an outstanding person. Unfortunately, I think he’s more deserving of another Sixth Man award than he is an All-Star berth. He’s been absolutely invaluable to the Clippers, don’t get me wrong, but has he been Tony Parker, Russell Westbrook, or James Harden? Even I can’t argue that he has.
…Nikola Pekovic? Trust me, I wanted to… but with his recent injury troubles and the way the Wolves have played, I just can’t.