It’s never too early to start talking All-Star. With Rajon Rondo, Devin Harris, Derrick Rose and Jose Calderon each throwing their names into the Eastern Conference mix with strong performances in the season’s first couple of months, Allen Iverson‘s midseason return to the conference where he was once an All-Star lock, and the looming possibility of Yi Jianlian stealing a starting spot, this year’s game will be just like every year: a few deserving guys will get snubbed.
Given the typical All-Star roster set-up (at least four guards, four forwards, two centers, and two wild-card spots), I’d imagine there can be an absolute maximum of six guards taken, or six forwards, or four centers, but most likely it’ll be 5-5-2.
Starting with the East and later tackling the West, here are some players facing the possibility of being snubbed come decision-time:
Likely starters: Dwyane Wade and Allen Iverson (guards), LeBron James and Kevin Garnett (forwards), Dwight Howard (center).
Vince Carter (22.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 4.9 apg)
Pro: Top-10 in scoring, and close to matching last year’s 20-5-5 numbers across the board, which only four players achieved.
Con: With Devin Harris as everyone’s trendy All-Star pick, he should take one of New Jersey’s unwritten allotment of spots. And if Yi steals one, there’s no way three Nets make the squad.
Derrick Rose (18.5 ppg, 6.1 apg)
Pro: Already one of the League’s top point guards and a highlight-reel regular.
Con: He’s a rookie. Ask Chris Paul how that turned out in 2006.
Ray Allen (19.2 ppg, 53 3PM)
Pro: Leading scorer on the best team in the NBA, and the League leader in threes made. He lit up last year’s All-Star Game, which may stick in the minds of the coaches.
Con: Still considered the third-best guy on the Celtics and somewhat one-dimensional.
Jose Calderon (12.8 ppg, 9.6 apg)
Pro: Second in the NBA in assists.
Con: He’s been good, but not quite living up to a lot of the preseason hype. The Raptors have been bad enough to get one coach fired, and Calderon’s shoddy defense is one glaring liability.
Danny Granger (23.1 ppg, 4.8 rpg)
Pro: Carrying a better-than-expected Pacers squad to some high-profile upsets. Has the support of some national TV talking heads.
Con: Between LeBron, KG, Bosh and Pierce, could simply fall victim to the numbers game and more popular/established competitors.
Caron Butler (21.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.7 spg)
Pro: In the major categories, putting up equal or better numbers than last year, when he was named to his second straight All-Star Game.
Con: The Wizards are getting better, but still generally awful.
Tayshaun Prince (15.5 ppg, 6.6 rpg)
Pro: He’s been Detroit’s best and most consistent player on both ends of the floor.
Con: A regular on the annual snub list — he was the one left out when four Pistons made the squad a couple years ago — it wouldn’t be a shock to see it happen again.
Rashard Lewis (18.7 ppg, 6 rpg, 51 3PM)
Pro: Second in the NBA in threes made. Has at least three game-winners on his resume already; at Dallas, at Philly and at Indiana.
Con: Hedo Turkoglu is still seen as the engine that makes Orlando’s offense go.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas (15.2 ppg, 7.8 rpg)
Pro: The Cavs are at worst a Top-5 team, and not a one-man show anymore. If they deserve a second All-Star, it’s Z. After Dwight Howard, there aren’t too many worthy centers in the East.
Con: Z’s style isn’t exactly in line with the All-Star Game style. We’ve all been so conditioned to view Cleveland as LeBron and the LeBroninites, Ilgauskas could be forgotten come voting time.
Emeka Okafor (11.9 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 1.7 bpg)
Pro: Numbers are on his side. Three games of 15-plus boards, two 20-10 efforts, ranks fourth in the NBA in rebounding, and one of only seven players currently averaging at least 10 points, 10 boards and 1.5 blocks.
Con: The Bobcats are terrible and no one watches them.