NBA All-Stars: A Look At The Eastern Conference Reserves
The Eastern Conference All-Stars were unveiled Thursday, revealing that the coaches left many deserving players off the roster. Conversely, the Western Conference coaches did a much better job.
Here are the Eastern Conference reserves along with my thoughts on their selections:
Chris Bosh (Heat) - In his second year with Miami, Bosh has delivered All-Star-worthy contributions. Although the first part of February has not been as kind to Bosh, he had a great month of January, in which he posted 30 or more points on three occasions.
The former fourth overall pick has also been key to Miami’s success this season. During his team's 19 wins, Bosh is averaging 20.4 points per game on 53 percent shooting. However, in team losses, Bosh has posted only 16.0 points per game on 44 percent shooting. He also averages 2.3 assists in wins, compared to just 1.4 in losses.
Roy Hibbert (Pacers) - I begrudgingly agree with the Hibbert selection. Greg Monroe's numbers are slightly better, but the "quality of one's team" argument makes sense here. It’s not as if the Pacers are a little better than the Pistons; they’re considerably superior. The Pistons were 4-20 before their current three-game winning streak. The Pacers, on the other hand, currently boast the fourth-best record in the Eastern Conference.
Individually, however, not much (if anything) separates Hibbert from Monroe. Monroe is a better passer and free throw shooter, whereas Hibbert is the superior shot blocker. Monroe is scoring more points, but he’s playing nearly three additional minutes per game, for a worse team.
Tyson Chandler has undoubtedly been solid for the Knicks, but the horrendous Knicks do not deserve more than one All-Star selection. Chandler and Amare Stoudermire are arguably more deserving than Carmelo Anthony, but he was already voted in by the fans, so that's that.
Luol Deng (Bulls) - Although his offensive numbers look awfully similar to Joe Johnson’s, Deng has been the superior player this season. He's the dominating force behind the Bulls' stingy defense, and his offensive game isn't too shabby, either. I know Deng missed seven games due to injury, but those seven games revealed just how important the former Duke Blue Devil’s defense is to his team. Chicago allowed an average of 96.4 points over the seven games Deng missed. Conversely, in the team’s 21 games with their trusty small forward, the team held opponents to 84.8 points per game.
Andre Iguodala (76ers) - This one is tricky. If we're debating who’s most deserving of a selection, then Iguodala was the right pick. On the other hand, Brandon Jennings, Ray Allen, Josh Smith, Ryan Anderson or even Danny Granger would have been more exciting to watch. The Eastern coaches wanted to reward defense, and that's fair. At the same time, the coaches already selected a defensive stopper in Luol Deng.
Many would argue that one stopper was more than enough, especially in a game where offensive dominates and defense is largely relegated to the crowd, where vendors are protecting their snow cones from overzealous kids without any money.
Joe Johnson (Hawks) - Much like the coaches probably felt the 18-8 76ers deserved an All-Star representative, the same can be said for the 17-9 Hawks. The coaches missed the mark on this one, though. Atlanta’s representative should have been Josh Smith. He's a defensive force and a more consistent player than Joe Johnson. To illustrate this point, let's look at a particular five-game stretch for the 30-year-old Johnson: Over five games from Jan. 25 to Feb. 2, Johnson scored 10 points or fewer three times, but exploded for 30 points twice. Those three 10-point-or-fewer games surrounded the two 30-point games. On Jan. 29, Johnson shot a miserable 4 of 15 from the field. Two days later, he barely missed, converting 13 of 18 attempts.
Paul Pierce (Celtics) - The coaches got it wrong, here. And that's the truth (pun intended)! The career Celtic is scoring but 18.4 points per night, but he's having one of the worst shooting seasons of his career. His field goal percentage is down more than 6.5 percentage points from a season ago. His teammate Ray Allen, also known as Jesus Shuttlesworth, was absolutely robbed of an All-Star selection. Allen has made more than half of his three-point attempts and played with a great deal of energy for a 36-year-old veteran. Allen has missed four games, but so what? Pierce has missed three, and Deng missed seven. I would much rather watch Allen drain some threes this All-Star Game. Too bad it won't be happening.
Orlando forward Ryan Anderson is another player who I'd rather see in this year's game. Anderson has been deadly accurate from long-range, converting more than 43 percent of his attempts. More importantly, as Anderson goes, so does his team. The Cal alumnus has scored 19.1 points per game in Magic wins, but just 12.8 in team losses. He has made 48 percent of three-point attempts in Magic wins. When the team loses, Anderson's three-point rate is below average at a rate of just 31.5 percent.
Deron Williams (Nets) Brandon Jennings or Kyrie Irving should have taken Willams' spot. On stats alone, I like Irving, who has scored 18 points per game on fewer than 30 minutes per night. But his omission is understandable, given that the NBA often requires rookies to pay their supposed dues. For that reason, at the very least I think Jennings should have made the team over Williams. If this were a career-achievement award, then the Nets guard would have easily won, but frankly he has not been very good this season.
Williams' turnover rate is much too high at 4.3 per game, but he's also shooting just 41 percent from the field. Despite being a rookie, Irving is shooting an impressive 49 percent. For his part, Jennings has always been a volume shooter, but even he has managed to raise his field goal percentage 3.5 percentage points, up to 42.6 percent. He's blindingly quick and not afraid to shoot. Admittedly, I'm not the biggest Jennings fan, but I’d much rather see him or Irving in the All-Star game than Williams.