Ahead of the NBA All-Star team announcements, sportsnet.ca’s Kevin Nielsen has provided his picks as to who should be on the floor for the Eastern Conference when the game tips off in Houston on Feb. 17.
The fans selected the game’s official starters which will be announced Thursday evening.
The rest of the squad will be chosen by coaches and will be unveiled on Jan. 24.
Who will start: Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat (765,077 votes)
Who should start: Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat — The Heat shooting guard has continued his slow decline this season but is still among the game’s elite. The Heat have appeared to be on cruise control over the first half of the season but are still on top of the Eastern Conference. Looking around the conference landscape at the shooting guard position, it is still Wade by a large margin over everyone else.
Who will start: Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics (675,822 votes)
Who should start: Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics — If I had my druthers, Rondo wouldn’t be starting for the Eastern Conference squad but he would still be on the team so I am not going to cross the fans on this one. A little more was expected from Rondo than what he can actually deliver but with Avery Bradley back, the Celtics machine has started running at full force of late.
Who will start: LeBron James, Miami Heat (1,151,304 votes)
Who should start: LeBron James, Miami Heat — Perhaps the most impressive part of LeBron James’ career is just how durable he has been despite the fact that he has never been afraid to take the rock to the rim. He has yet to play less than 75 games over a full season which in no small part helped James become the youngest player to score 20,000 points in a career. With current draft rules being the way they are, his record will likely remain untouched.
Who will start: Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks (1,054,099 votes)
Who should start: Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks — It’s really hard to argue with the fans’ choice here either as Melo has been solid for the Knicks although he has missed a few games due to injury. Always a strong scorer, Anthony has taken on the additional load of covering power forwards for the Knicks which has helped them to their strong start. Some may say he chucks too much, but he has been shooting over 42 percent from beyond the arc this season which is impressive considering the heavy coverage he battles.
Who will start: Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics (390,751 votes)
Who should start: Chris Bosh, Miami Heat — While Garnett is still playing strong, he is clearly no longer among the elite players in the league. Bosh shifted his game over to the middle last season and is now making more of an effort to pull down boards. While KG’s rumoured use of Honey Nut Cheerios in a taunt was impressive, Bosh’s team is still on top of the heap and he deserves some credit for a team that lacks inside might beyond his broad shoulders. The fans still may have given the edge to Bosh by the time all was said and done as he only trailed Garnett by 28,000 or so votes when the third returns were announced.
Tyson Chandler, New York Knicks — When people talk about the lack of quality centres in today’s game, they clearly are not trying to select an all-star roster for the east. Between Chandler, Bosh, Garnett, Roy Hibbert and Brook Lopez it becomes awfully hard to reject anyone. Chandler’s ability to create havoc on his own end as well as off the pick-and-roll make him a lock.
Deron Williams, Brooklyn Nets — If the Nets hadn’t gone on their recent run it would have been very easy to cut the coachkiller from this squad but if you are going to scapegoat him when he is off then you have to pay him his due when the Nets are running strong.
Brandon Jennings, Milwaukee Bucks — In a head-to-head competition I might favour Sixers guard Jrue Holliday but the difference between Jennings and his counterpart lies in their teams’ records. At the moment, the Bucks are a playoff team and deserve some recognition. Besides, this young Buck will add a ton of fun to the game.
Paul George, Indiana Pacers — The absence of Danny Granger has forced George to elevate his game to a new level. His stat totals are up across the board this season and after a slow start the Pacers have climbed into third place in the Eastern Conference. The Pacers are the new Spurs — a small-market team that no one pays attention too but they continue to remain relevant.
Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks — I really wanted to include Josh Smith here but the return of a healthy Al Horford has played a bigger part in the Hawks ability to remain a playoff team despite the absence of Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams. The Hawks centre is averaging nearly a double-double per game while also dishing out three assists per game to boot.
Carlos Boozer, Chicago Bulls — I still believe the Heat would have been better served by signing Boozer rather than Bosh a couple of seasons ago if only for the lower contract value. This season, Boozer has averaged close to a double-double while also teaming with Joakim Noah to provide the best inside one-two-punch outside of Memphis. When Derrick Rose returns, the Bulls will be a tough out.
Luol Deng, Chicago Bulls — You only had to watch the closing stages of the Bulls-Raptors game on Wednesday to see how valuable Deng can be. The Bulls had Deng cover Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry while also using him as their go-to guy on offence to boot. In all-star games, defence doesn’t really matter ’til the closing minutes but it still needs to rewarded.
Roy Hibbert, Indiana Pacers — I think I would have been more likely to select Paul Pierce here if the fans weren’t so eager to vote for Kevin Garnett. That doesn’t mean there aren’t several worthy candidates for the roster but the Pacers defence has been historically good so far this season and Hibbert’s ability to block shots, clog the lane and secure boards is a big part of the reason why.
Just missed: Brook Lopez, Brooklyn Nets; Jrue Holliday, Philadelphia 76ers; Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics; J.R. Smith, New York Knicks; Josh Smith, Atlanta Hawks; Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers.