Roughly a third of the way through this 2012-2013 NBA Season, the All-Star teams are beginning to take shape. There may be some significant changes leading up to the official selections in February, but this is the team I’d take if I had to pick today.
WESTERN STARTING GUARDS (Accompanied with pictures of them doing their thing, cause they know they’re the automatics. Well, except maybe the center.)
Chris Paul, LA Clippers
So top 5 point guards in the league right now? I’m going to take Paul a hair above healthy Derrick Rose. In terms of ushering in the new generation of explosive, scoring point guards who take it upon themselves to win or lose games, Rose is unquestionably number one. But I’ll still take Paul’s overall game at this point, in terms of commanding the floor and dictating the flow of the game. He doesn’t put up gaudy numbers compared to some of his elite peers, but that’s because Paul is smart enough to recognize and utilize the talent around him- and this years’ Clips had enough talent to win 17 in a row, longest since Houston a few seasons back if I’m not mistaken. After Rose I’ll put mini-Rose Russell Westbrook at 3 (who has officially stolen D-Wade’s mantle of most efficient finisher at the basket), Rondo at 4, and Tony Parker at 5. I think that’s where you can draw a clear line from the elite and the junior elite (Holiday, Rubio, Lillard), still-quasi-elite (Nash and Deron Williams) and the guys who will screw you with a killer performance every other night (Calderon, Dragic.) Oh, and Jeremy Lin, who will probably be starting in this spot courtesy of fan voting.
Kobe Bryant, LA Lakers
Though he’s officially entered the “grumpy old man” realm, Kobe is putting up some of his best numbers this year. But I don’t think we can really properly assess the kind of season Kobe’s having without a healthy roster around him. Had Nash, Dwight Howard, and Pau Gasol all been healthy from the start of the season, would the Lakers be sitting at 26-5? Or would Kobe still be putting up 30 a night, not getting the others involved, and halting Howard’s development the same way he did (and openly admitted to doing, why is that not discussed and debated more?) Bynum’s? Kobe won two titles in the last five years by realizing that limiting his shots was a more efficient way of winning than putting up 81 points in a game. By adding Nash and Howard, did they pile the pressure on Kobe to remain the man, and is he overcompensating his game as a result? But I want an all-LA backcourt, damn it. Look at those two already, being all like “whhhaaaaaas this? Thought Stern said no?”
WESTERN STARTING FORWARDS
Kevin Durant, OKC
If Kevin Durant wasn’t already nicknamed The Durantula, I’d propose The Taj Mahal- because it’s hard to see just how high the ceiling is on this guy. He somehow keeps getting better every season, getting his teammates more actively involved than ever with his scoring dipping only slightly. And you can tell there’s a bit of an edge to him this year after losing the finals- see his first career ejection last night.
Tim Duncan, San Antonio
Duncan’s like an old novelist at this point, who will become ever so reclusive, drink away a couple of years (so to speak) while outlining vague rhetoric that will hopefully evolve into more profound sentiment, reminiscent of the glory days, the days of admirals and horrys, then emerge with a work that astounds because it ranks with his best and brightest, just as we had nearly forgotten what came before it. This season is Tim Duncan’s Tale of Two Cities.
EASTERN STARTING CENTER
David Lee, Golden State
Three years ago, this looked like one of the worst signings in recent memory. Now I’ve got him as my starting center in the All-Star game (mostly because Dwight Howard’s getting this spot from the fan vote anyway, so I can be inventive, and come on, we want to see a Warrior start in this game after the year they’re having.) He’s posting 20 and 11 with a good PER despite getting flat-footed on defense a bit too often. Of course, he attributes a lot of this sudden success to…
WESTERN RESERVE GUARDS (Accompanied with pictures of how they reacted to just making the cut).
Steph Curry, Golden State
How freaking good does that Monta Ellis trade look now? Let’s see: the gamble that Steph Curry would stay healthy this year has thus far paid off (and he’s rewarding them with easily his best season), the loss of the over-shooting Ellis has opened the floor more for both Curry and Lee, the Warriors are sitting above the Lakers in the Pacific at 22-10, and- oh yeah- the 7’1″ center they traded for has played JUST 4 GAMES. And now the Bucks are looking to shop Ellis? If the Warriors advance in the playoffs, that could go down as the best trade that yielded absolutely zero on-paper production of all time. But the much more mutually amicable trade came just a few months ago, involving…
James Harden, Houston
…The Beard, who has made Houston’s Dwight Howard debacle look like more of a blessing in disguise than Dan Orlovsky starting 8 games for the Colts in 2011. He’s proven himself an elite scorer with starter’s minutes, and it’s not even hurting…
Russell Westbrook, OKC
…this guy! We need OKC to have the best record in the league going into the All-Star game, so Scott Brooks can run Durant, Harden, and Westbrook at the same time, choose Serge Ibaka to replace Dwight Howard once he says his back spasms are going to keep him out of the game, and have a nice little 10-month reunion show.
Tony Parker, San Antonio
There’s only so many championships a guy can win before he can’t be called underrated, but Tony Parker continues to defy that motion. As efficient and electric as ever, we’ll look back at Tony Parker’s highlights on the same reel as Rose, Nash, and Paul in a few years and wonder how he was so overlooked. And lest we forget he’s playing this year with one eyeball.
WESTERN RESERVE FORWARDS
Blake Griffin, LA Clippers
Because he’s developed a better outside game and has helped guide the Clippers well past the Lakers and do you really want to watch an All-Star game without him in it and OH SHIT THAT PHOTO.
LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland
Damien Lillard’s going to be a star, and he’ll be the cornerstone the Blazers build around in the decade to come, but let’s award the kid Rookie of the Year and let LaMarcus have his due as the most consistent player on a surprising Portland team. Along with Lillard and Nic Batum, the Blazers have an exciting core to build around if they choose to, which they won’t, because they are the Blazers.
Marc Gasol, Memphis
Rudy Gay is their most dynamic and exciting player, but his performance has been a bit to up and down (which is unfortunate, because the Grizzlies seem to really struggle when he’s off). So let’s give the spot to the self-proclaimed Beast of the West, Marc Gasol, the lovable scamp who’s now officially passed his mad scientist older brother. He’s a double-double machine (granted, of the kind of boring 12 and 10 variety), but more importantly, an elite post defender who, along with Zack Randolph (snubbed, I know, the West is seriously freaking deep), can alter playoff games by matching up with a Griffin or Howard (who, again, will have one of these spots, because his numbers- 17 and 10- are nowhere indicative of the negative impact he’s had on the floor in too many games for the Lakers this season).
The other 12 players I considered: Rudy Gay, Zack Randolph, Damien Lillard, Serge Ibaka, Jamal Crawford, DeAndre Jordan, Kenneth Faried, Al Jefferson (tough one to leave off), Kevin Love, Nic Batum, Marcin Gortat, Dwight Howard.