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Choosing the East’s All-Stars

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By Kevin Sawyer

All this Pistons talk is depressing, so I thought I’d switch gears and start a discussion that won’t include any of our players … The Eastern Conference all-star team.

Intro. I know it’s early. Blah, blah, blah. Transition sentence. Let’s get to ‘em.

F – LeBron James (Cavs)
Any questions?

F – Kevin Garnett (Celtics)
Heads or tails whether to go with Bosh or Garnett here. Bosh logs more minutes, and is a bigger offensive threat. But what Garnett has done on the defensive end, turning the Celtics into one of the great defensive franchises in history, needs to be recognized here. A superstar resting for the playoffs is still a superstar.

C – Dwight Howard (Magic)
You were expecting Emeka Okafor? Dwight is currently leading the vote totals, not because he is the best player, but because there isn’t any real competition for the starting slot. The big question is whether he can keep this up all season. Another late-season fade will assuredly result in reduced minutes next year.

G – Dwyane Wade (Heat)
It’s like he went to China and got bionic parts. D-Wade is back, and is having a career year. He might yet break down, but all-star games are about first-half efforts, and nobody other than LeBron is having a better first half in the East.

G – Devin Harris (Nets)
The fans won’t go for it, but the decision is surprisingly easy on the merits. The player with the closest PER at the position is Vince Carter, and you can hardly argue that Vince should start ahead of Harris. I can’t in good conscience root for AI to land here, though it would be amusing were he to start for the East while coming off the Pistons bench.

THE BENCH

F – Chris Bosh (Raptors)
See above. Team woes aside, Bosh is easily deserving of a selection.

F – Paul Pierce (Celtics)
He’s off to a slow start, but I suspect he’ll have that worked out by the time the all-star game rolls around. Pierce gets it done at both ends of the floor, and his 40% shooting will almost assuredly improve.

C – Zydrunas Ilgauskas (Cavs)
In the past, Big Z has earned the spot by virtue of a fluke actually rewards Eastern Conference centers for being mediocre on the whole (the same one that made Jamal Magloire an All Star). This year, Ilgauskas has earned it. His PER is second overall at his position, and he has been a key component of the Cavs ridiculous start.

G – Vince Carter (Nets)
The old Vince is back. No, not that old Vince, the older old Vince… No, not that one either. Never mind. In truth, Carter’s descent has largely been a figment of sportswriters’ imaginations. He was never that great, and he was never that bad. This year, VC seems to have benefited from the departure of Richard Jefferson, and New Jersey has been among the leagues biggest surprises.

G – Ray Allen (Celtics)
He was nearly snubbed last year, only to lead everyone in scoring (in only 18 minutes). This year, he seems to have recovered his shooting stroke, and his team’s record looks like something out of the ACC. So he shouldn’t need to worry about being snubbed again.

W – Joe Johnson (Hawks)
Another player who always seems to catch fire early, only to fade as the season wears on. This time, his team is making a pretty strong case that he deserves to be there, but ten years from now, we’ll all be wondering how Joe Johnson became a seven time all-star. Book it.

W – Rajon Rondo (Celtics)
Do 10 and 7 get you into the all-star game? They do when your team plays at a slow pace, you have to share the ball with three other all-stars (who can also pass) and when you have become the best defender in the league at your position. The Celtics get four in.

WITH APOLOGIES TO:

Jose Calderon – If I’m going to bench the 10 and seven guy, it’s not going to be for a 13 and 9 guy on a vastly inferior team. Efficiency is Calderon’s game. If he doesn’t shoot 50%, he’s not an all-star.

Caron Butler/Antawn Jamison – Two fringe candidates from a terrible team. If they are both all-stars, how can the Wizards be this bad?

Tayshaun Prince – Our strongest candidate this year has been absolutely terrible lately.

Rashard Lewis – Threatens to steal a spot as the Wally Sczerbiak memorial "second best player on a team with a gaudy record". He’s 76th in the league in PER, and is morphing into Sam Perkins.

Derrick Rose – He’s been better than I expected, but he hasn’t been an all-star by any definition, hype notwithstanding.