Yes, it’s December 21, chirstmas just around the conrer and the NBA All-Star early voting results came out a few days ago (The All-Star game is two months from now in Los Angeles) with the starters officialy announced on January 27th. The leaders? LeBron, Howard, Wade, Rondo and Garnett in the East while Yao (won’t play) or Bynum (who knows), Bryant, Chris Paul, Durant and Pau Gasol lead the voting out West. Who do we think should start and sit on the bench two months from now at the Staples Center? Here’s our take –
Guard – Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls
Derrick Rose played in his first All-Star game last year and won’t be missing from this year’s game, guaranteed. Averaging 24.3 points (sixth in the league), 8.4 assists (8th) and suddenly enjoying shooting from the outside (41.7% with nearly 2 tre’s a game), Rose is looking like the best point guard in the league some nights. The Bulls, and Rose, are for real this year. As of now, Rose isn’t among the starters, with Rondo ahead of him in the ballots.
Guard – Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat
Wade won the All-Star MVP award last year, scoring 28 points in the East’s 141-139 win in Dallas. Despite the early season struggles, the Heat are looking better and better with every game that goes by and Wade seems to enjoy sharing the load with LeBron. He’s averaging 23.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and 6.4 assists per game. Wade is leading the East guards in votes.
Forward – LeBron James, Miami Heat
Pretty much the same as Wade, leading the Eastern forwards in votes and getting better and better with his new team (21-9, lead the Southeast division). James is averaging 24.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 7.2 assists and this will be his seventh All-Star game. He already has two All-Star MVP’s (2006, 2008).
Forward – Amar’e Stoudemire, New York Knicks
Amar’e is rather enjoying his time on the East Coast, with Knicks over .500 for the first time in years. Stoudemire’s reenactment with D’Antoni is clicking, and the five time All-Star is averaging 26.5 points per game (second in the league) and 9.4 rebounds per game. His defense, despite not being great (it’ll never be) looks better as well, averaging 2.1 blocks per game.
Center – Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic
Leading the votes in the Eastern conference among all players is the Orlando Magic center who has been the best center (true center) in the league for the last three seasons. Howard has already played in four All-Star games, and even though his rebounding and blocking crowns might be heading somewhere else this season, he’s looking much better on offense, much more involved, averaging 21.6 points per game along with 12.8 rebounds.
Al Horford (C, Atlanta Hawks), Danny Granger (F, Indiana Pacers), Chris Bosh (F, Miami Heat), Paul Pierce (F, Boston Celtics), Rajon Rondo (G, Boston Celtics), Raymond Felton (G, New York Knicks), Jason Richardson (G, Orlando Magic).
Guard – Deron Williams, Utah Jazz
Chris Paul is ahead in the voted, but Williams, as of now, is proving that he is the best point guard in the league. Maybe he has a better team than Paul, but it’s hard to argue will D-Will’s 22.3 points and 9.7 assists per game, with Utah 20-9 so far despite a rough first couple of weeks.
Guard – Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
Kobe’s not only leading Western conference guards, he has more votes than anyone else in the league. Yes, even more than Yao. Bryant has been to 12 All-Star games and has won 3 All-Star MVP awards (2002, 2007, 2009). The Lakers are leading the Pacific with 21-7 while Kobe, playing only 33 minutes a night (fewest since 1997-1998) is averaging 25.9 points per game.
Forward – Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
Durant is leading the Western Forwards in votes and the league, again, in scoring, averaging 27.4 points per game with the Thunder enjoying his fantastic 1-2 punch with Westbrook to go 19-9 after the first couple of months in the season. Durant is finding scoring a bit harder this year (43.9% from the field), but the MVP expectations do that. Still, after making his first All-Star game last season, there’s no doubt Durant deserves to start this year.
Forward – Pau Gasol, Los Angeles Lakers
Gasol had a wild start to this season but has cooled off a bit to “normal” status. Normal? 19.8 points, 11.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game. Pretty normal. Gasol is second among the Western forwards on the ballot and unless something unforeseen happens, he will play in his fourth All-Star game.
Center – Nene, Denver Nuggets
In votes – It’s Yao. And if it isn’t Yao, it’s Andrew Bynum, just starting to return from his injury. But Bynum has only 4 games under his belt, never going beyond 18 minutes a night, so even if he makes the starters list eventually, he doesn’t deserve it. Who does? No one actually. The guys playing as centers are listed as Forwards anyway. So from the voting list, who is it? Nene, who is playing the best basketball of his career on a team waiting on one player to decide if and where he’s leaving. Averaging 15 points and 7 rebounds, if Nene gets in through the bench, it will be his first All-Star game.
Marc Gasol (C, Memphis Grizzlies), Kevin Love (F, Minnesota Timberwolves), Dirk Nowitzki (F, Dallas Mavericks), Carmelo Anthony (F, Denver Nuggets), Russell Westbrook (G, Oklahoma City Thunder), Steve Nash (G, Phoenix Suns), Monta Ellis (G, Golden State Warriors).
To influence and vote for the All-Star game, go here.