By Kevin Sawyer
Well, it’s that time of year again. No, not Christmas, and I am so offended that you made assumptions about my religion. It’s time to stuff the ballot box with votes for Piston players carefully consider and cast your vote for the 2008 all-star lineup. You know this, of course, you have probably already voted at least once, and I’m certainly preaching to the choir… But nonetheless, here is my case for Chauncey Billups to start in the NBA all-star game.
As I’ve stated before, Chauncey is having the best year of his career, producing his best numbers with slightly less playing time than usual. However, the guard position in the East has been pretty top-loaded, with luminaries like Wade and Arenas, and high-scorers like Iverson and Redd. But this year, Billups unquestionably deserves your vote. More so than any other guard in the East, Chauncey Billups should be starting in the all star game.
What Billups does is often under appreciated. His contribution is a product of his efficiency. In particular, his ability to get to the line (augmented by a gaudy free throw percentage), combined with his ability to hold on to the ball make him one of the deadliest offensive threats in the NBA. Take Sunday’s game against the Warriors as an example. His stat-line might look unspectacular: nineteen points with two assists and six rebounds. But he scored those nineteen points while taking only five shots.
Is efficiency what we are looking for in the all star game? I think so. How much do YOU enjoy watching players loft alley-oop passes into the 10th row? The first time, it’s funny. The second time, I’m going to get a beer.
And there’s storyline value. Imagine Chauncey hooking up with Garnett for a killer drive, dish and dunk. Cut to a shot of a pensive Kevin McHale, visions of Marko Jaric dancing in his head.
Of course, none of this takes into consideration that Billups is a top-tier defender.
And let’s examine the guard situation in the East for a moment. Let’s take it as a given that Dwyane Wade is getting in. Arguably the best player in the NBA when healthy. No protest here. But the rest of the list is problematic.
We have Ray Allen, the brilliance of whose team is overshadowing what is easily the worst year of his career. The world’s most famous three point specialist isn’t shooting any better than Billups from the outside and it isn’t for lack of open looks.
Gilbert Arenas seems well-positioned to win the Vince Carter memorial "is anyone even paying attention to this game?" vote. He was playing lousy basketball even before a knee injury, um, freed up more time for blogging.
It’s a good thing the all-star ballot lists the Western Conference first, sparing the league office from having to answer 200,000 phone calls complaining that Allen Iverson isn’t on it. Some fans will probably waste their vote on Michael Redd, a one-dimensional player for a mediocre team, and pat themselves on the back for being savvy fans.
And then there’s Jason Kidd, who is (say it with me folks) NEARLY AVERAGING A TRIPLE-DOUBLE! Nonetheless, he is averaging 11 ppg on 37% shooting. Triple doubles (and migraines) aside, he isn’t even outplaying Vince Carter, another likely recipient of pure name-recognition votes.
Further, Billups falls victim to the notion that the Pistons play as a team. It is true that the Pistons play great team ball… It’s just the Billups plays it a little better than the other starters. Even the alphabet is unkind, giving careless fans two easy picks (Allen and Arenas) before they get to "Billups, Chauncey".
So it isn’t enough for us to simply stuff ballot boxes. We have to evangelize for our boy. Tell your cocky Cavs fan friends to do the right thing. Tell suicidal Blazers devotees that a Billups vote will help them in the afterlife. I’ve done my part, having already sent an e-mail to all six Minnesota basketball fans, making the case for the former Timberwolf.
Let’s get it done.