Every year, the NBA grants voting power to the people and allows the fan base to vote for the starters in it's annual All-Star game. It seems that this year, like all other years, we here at MAMBINO have looked at the selections and determined that the people don't know shit.
The NBA All-Star game amounts to a gigantic popularity contest, in which fans vote for both conference's starters, which in turn affects the seven reserves selected by the 30 head coaches. After a quick poll between some of MAMBINO's finest, we've combed our collective roundball consciousness and determined which players were most deserving of this prestigious honor. Unlike the bogus MLB All-Star game, the NBA holds no premises like mandatory representatives from every team or a 34-man roster which is 9 players larger than the standard 25-man. It's extremely difficult to be selected to an All-Star team in basketball, as great players on poor teams are routinely--and perhaps righty--penalized for playing on a terrible squad. Until Thursday night, the Golden State Warriors haven't had an All-Star since 1997, when Latrell Sprewell laughed at $21 million dollar contracts and played at a high level. The reason? The Warriors have made the postseason just once in that span.
We've put together our rosters according to NBA standards, which means two guards and three "bigs" (there is no "Center" position on the ballot this year, a telling sign of the direction the league is going. The Lakers are even getting beaten down subliminally on nomination sheets), as well as seven reserve players. We tried our best to reward players who are not just playing great, but doing the most to elevate their teams into playoff, or close to playoff contention. Here are the MAMBINO Eastern Conference All-Stars, with select commentary. Western Conference coming tomorrow!
Starting Guards: Jrue Holiday, Philadelphia 76ers (Unanimous) & Paul George, Indiana Pacers
In a tough year for the Eastern Conference guards, Holiday and George surprisingly pick up the nods here. The Sixers' starting point guard has been the bright spot of an otherwise extremely disappointing season in Philly. Holiday has been the biggest reason why a Andrew Bynum-less team is even staying on the fringes of a under-competitive Eastern Conference playoff race, ranking 8th in scoring, 4th in assists and 12th in rebounds per game for guards. The biggest knock on him has to be his league-leading 4 turnovers a game, but it's his willingness to take the lead dog spot for a Philly team that's had it's trajectory radically changed that's most impressive.
Most casual NBA fans won't know the name "Paul George", and if they did, they're either from Indianapolis or think that he's a Revolutionary War general. Like Holiday, George's ability to step into a leading role for the injured Danny Granger has been inspiring. The former Fresno State Bulldog is registering career-highs in almost every category, including a massive 7.8 boards per game as well as throwing in 17 points and nearly 4 assists a contest. More importantly, his defense has been fantastic and thus providing more overall value than the max contract man in Granger.
Snubbing Dwyane Wade here for the starting spot was extremely difficult, but this year's regression as well as piss poor attitude kept him off two MAMBINO starting ballots.
Starting Bigs: Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks (Unanimous); LeBron James, Miami Heat (Unanimous) & Tyson Chandler, New York Knicks
For Melo and Bron, it wasn't much of a conversation. You might be looking at the leading and third-place players for the MVP trophy. Case closed.
Chandler was a slightly more controversial selection. We had Joakim Noah and Paul Pierce on two other starting ballots, but Chandler got the majority nod. Statistically, the Dominguez Hills product may be having his best season ever at the age of 30. He's been a monster on the glass at almost 11 boards a game (which oddly doesn't count his numerous tap outs as offensive rebounds), but it's his defense and unbelievable offensive efficiency that's been so marvelous. The reigning Defensive Player of the Year hasn't slipped a bit, organizing a set of subpar defenders into the 15th most defensively efficient team. Scoring-wise, he's vital to the Knicks attack, with oppositions having to account for him rolling to the rim for oops and put backs. Chandler never, ever takes a bad shot (lending to a 67% FG), and though he can't create for himself at all, teams must collapse defenses on him, which opens up New York's litany of shooters. He impacts the game in every conceivable way on one of the league's best teams. I'd call that an All-Star.
Reserve Guards: Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers; Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat; Brandon Jennings, Milwaukee Bucks
The reserve guards were relatively easy selections. Wade is having the aforementioned superb season once again as the second-best player on the L's best team. Kyrie Irving conversely plays on one of the NBA's worst teams, but his individual brilliance is so stark that it's hard to keep him off of any All-Star squad. In just his second year, is there any doubt that he's one of the game's best 15 players? He's got so little help around him Cleveland that it's hard to imagine the 12-32 Cavs even getting to 6 wins without him. Despite a low 40% shooting clip, Brandon Jennings had to make this illustrious crew. He's the best player on a seemingly playoff-bound Bucks team, doling out 6 dimes a game at a 2:1 assist to turnover ratio. Jennings will never be an elite defensive stopper at his size and strength, but he works his skinny ass off, fighting through screens, keeping his fouls down (1.8 per game) and coming in fourth in steals amongst guards.
Reserve Bigs: Josh Smith, Atlanta Hawks; Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics (Unanimous); Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls (Unanimous); Brook Lopez, Brooklyn Nets
Noah and Pierce were unanimous on our ballots, and for good reason; Joakim is having a career year on a surprisingly great sans-Rose Bulls team, with 12 ppg, 11 rpg, 4 apg and 2 bpg, all while anchoring one of the league's best defenses. Pierce is once again the best player on a disappointing Celtics team--which we'll get to in a bit.
Smith and Lopez were both difficult selections, but probably for reasons more superficial than basketball-related. J-Smoove is having a slightly down year, at 16/8/4, down from a nearly 19/10/4 year in 2012. However, his perimeter defense and shot blocking have kept Atlanta 9th in defensive efficiency and right in the middle of the pack in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. He didn't make the NBA's All-Star team because, well, he's kind of an asshole, but like Brandon Jennings, as the best player on a playoff team, he had to be rewarded.
The same logic could be applied to Brook Lopez here, but it's actually more than that. He's top-5 in PER overall, as well as top 5 in scoring and blocks amongst centers. Lopez is still a lumbering slowpoke who seems allergic to rebounds, but at a legitimate 7 feet, 265 lbs, he's still an extremely potent offensively as well as defensively. Brooklyn has popped right back up into the top-4 of the East recently, and Brook is (literally) a gigantic reason why.
Snubs: Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics; Luol Deng, Boston Celtics; Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks; Deron Williams, Brooklyn Nets; Monta Ellis, Milwaukee Bucks; Kemba Walker, Charlotte Bobcats; Chris Bosh, Miami Heat
Many of these snubs were easy choices; Kemba is having a great season, but plays on an awful Bobcats team. Deng, Horford, Ellis and Bosh were all victims of the numbers game--essentially, Noah, Smith, Jennings and Lopez took their spots because they are all having slightly better seasons, and some of them on the same teams. Deron Williams didn't make it despite a recent surge from his Nets, but seeing as he's not even the best player (or maybe even second-best player) on his own team, he had to be left off. MAMBINO didn't even consider Kevin Garnett a snub here because neither his individual numbers nor his team success warranted it. His All-Star berth this year is probably the biggest "travesty" amongst the popular vote.
The biggest snub here is obviously Rajon Rondo, who was voted in by the fans as a starter. Looking at his numbers, he's been fantastic, ranking first in rebounds and assists per game amongst guards, and 9th in field goal percentage. But the biggest reason why he was snubbed on the MAMBINO ballot was his unwillingness to become the player that Boston needs him to be. Rondo still only scores 13.7 points a night, which isn't what the team 27th in offensive efficiency needs. The Celtics are hurting for scoring, and their star guard's inability to get his team points beyond just assisting on baskets is what's helping to put this team two games below .500. As if that weren't enough, Rondo is hurting the team off the court. He's been suspended twice this year, once for a fight with Kris Humphries and once for bumping a referee, his fourth such suspension in a year. Being that stupid is worth being thrown off the MAMBINO All-Stars.
Check back tomorrow for our Western Conference selections!