Can we just skip the All-Star Game and the next three months of basketball and just get to the Western Conference playoffs already?
In fact, just simulate the East to the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers, so that there’s more air time for the playoffs out West. Just listing these names alone has peaked my excitement and intrigue into the possibilities and scenarios we may encounter once the postseason begins.
There wouldn’t be a single postseason scenario with the current seeding that wouldn’t be worth watching. Even the first-round matchups between the one and eight seed or two and seven seed would be worth catching.
Were the season to end today, San Antonio would be playing Phoenix and Oklahoma City against Dallas. Sign me up.
The depth of talent out West is insane compared to the East. While out East, the likes of Arron Afflalo and DeMar DeRozan are making it, both deserving in their own right, the player with the sixth-highest PER in the NBA plays out West may not make it and there would be valid reasoning behind it.
And this is with Kobe Bryant having to sit out. If Bryant were playing, there would be two extremely deserving players, who may just be starters on the East’s team, that wouldn’t be able to make it.
The depth of talent at the point guard, power forward and center positions out West is phenomenal. There may only be one true shooting guard and one true small forward on the roster, while the other ten spots are taken up by big men and floor generals.
There’s only so much room for so much talent, but we were able to whittle our way down into a 12-man roster that may be among the best in All-Star Game history.
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Backcourt: Stephen Curry
For the first time in his career, Stephen Curry is shooting below 43 percent from beyond the arc. And yet, he’s still as volatile and dangerous as ever, documented by a 43-point effort against Charlotte and the nine other games where he scored at least 30 points this season.
He’s also attempting over eight three-pointers per game, though, nearly one full three-pointer more than he’s ever averaged, leading to his 38 percent shooting this year. He has taken it upon himself more than ever to lead his Golden State Warriors, posting a career-high usage rate, as well as career-highs in field goal attempts per contest.
Curry is currently second in the league in three-pointers made this season, trailing Damian Lillard by three, and is averaging a career-highs in points (23.5) and assists (9.2). He’s posting up nearly two more assists per game than his previous high, which has led to an assist percentage of 40.9 percent, and is good enough for second in the league.
Steph never had a higher assist percentage than 32.3 percent prior to this season. He’s fourth in the league in points created by assists per game and has been the focal point of a Curry-or-bust offense in Golden State.
There may not be a larger dropoff on the offensive end when it comes to a single player. When he’s on the court and leading the offense, the Warriors are generating 109.7 points per 100 possessions, the second-best on the team among rotation players. But when he’s off the court, the Warriors are garnering only 87.5 points per 100 possessions.
The Warriors are losing over 20 points on offense when Curry is off the court. Overall, Golden State is a minus-12.2 when off the court, but a plus-10.3 when he’s on.
Here’s hoping Jordan Crawford somehow solves those woes.
Backcourt: Chris Paul
This is of course assuming Chris Paul is healthy enough to play when the All-Star Game rolls around.
In 34 games this season, and with Rajon Rondo hurt, Paul is attempting to lead the league in assists per for the first time since 2009 while still a member of the New Orleans Hornets. His overwhelming mastery over the game has led to his averaging 11.2 assists and an assist percentage of 54.1 percent, also the best mark in the league.
He’s had six games this season recording at least 15 assists. Even with a 42-point game against Golden State, his most remarkable performance of the season remains finding a way to record 17 assists in only 27 minutes against Chicago.
His facilitation has led to the Clippers ranking sixth in the league in offensive efficiency and tied for fifth in assist ratio. They’re three points better per 100 possessions on offense when Paul is running the show.
The increase in assists is because he’s now surrounded by competent shot-makers in J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley, shooting 36 and 38 percent from three respectively. Blake Griffin has also played a role with his newfound semi-ability to make jumpers.
Per Synergy, Griffin has made 41 percent of his spot-up attempts this season. It has only helped Paul’s ability to facilitate when Blake is becoming the stretch-four he needs to become in order for the Los Angeles Clippers to become a legitimate title contender.
On top of being a world-class point guard on the offensive end, he’s also been his usual dominant self on the defensive end. Per Synergy, Paul ranks 42nd in the league in points per possession allowed, holding opponents to 37 percent shooting overall and 31 percent spot-up shooting.
Paul remains the league’s best point guard until further notice. In fact, at the moment, there’s hardly any competition, with so many of the league’s point guards either injured or working their way back from injury.