Back around Michael Myers Day, I listed six NBA players who came into this season with All-Star aspirations but would likely end up disappointed come All-Star announcement time. But as Biggie would say, things done changed.
Nearing the turn of the calendar and more than one quarter of the way through the season, there’s a new group guys who have been playing at an All-Star level and could make a solid argument to get on the squad, but have a better chance of landing on the “notable snubs” list. The new six…
LUOL DENG — Still the front-runner to get my vote for Most Improved, Deng (17.9 ppg, 7.9 rpg) has been Chicago’s best player for stretches during their underachieving campaign. In a hard-fought game against the Lakers earlier this week where the Bulls played their best basketball in a while before falling under Kobe‘s 42, Deng was the guy keeping the Bulls in it down the stretch; then on Thursday night he put up 24 points, 13 boards and five assists in a win over New York. But there’s so much talent in the East at forward, with bigger names like KG, LeBron, Josh Smith, Pierce, Bosh, Rashard Lewis, Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison — even Gerald Wallace and Michael Beasley are putting up good numbers — Deng has a lot of guys to outshine.
BRANDON JENNINGS — It’s too bad, too, because the All-Star Game is made for dudes like Jennings. I’ve been able to watch Young Money in-person during a few all-star/exhibition games on the high school level, and he takes full advantage of the stage: throwing all convention out the window in a game that doesn’t count and always putting on a show. But in the NBA he’s still a rookie, and if Chris Paul didn’t make the All-Star team his rookie year, it’s probably not gonna happen for BJ despite his numbers (20.7 ppg, 6.0 apg) and the Bucks being better than expected. Detractors can rightfully cite Milwaukee’s losing record and Jennings’ defensive shortcomings as reasons to keep him out, but really, it’s a politics thing. Allen Iverson could get voted in by the fans and therefore steal somebody’s spot, and then you’ve got Rajon Rondo and Derrick Rose at point guard, and with the Hawks playing as well as they are, don’t sleep on Mike Bibby getting a nod with the coaches.
TYREKE EVANS — See above. Great numbers (20.3 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 5.0 apg), team doing better than expected, but he’s still a rookie. And Tyreke has even tougher competition in the West at point guard than Jennings has in the East. Speaking of …
TONY PARKER — Spurs fans won’t like it, but there are just too many guards in the West this year, and the Spurs aren’t playing well enough that anybody will feel obligated to take another S.A. player after Duncan. Add in that Parker (16.4 ppg, 5.9 apg) isn’t playing as well as he did last year. Steve Nash and CP will be in; Deron Williams should make his All-Star debut in 2010. That’s already three point guards, plus you’ve got Chauncey Billups, Monta Ellis and Aaron Brooks in the mix, and the West needs two-guards as well, i.e. Kobe and B-Roy.
JOAKIM NOAH — No, really. Hate him or hate him a lot, but you can’t deny Noah is putting in work. He’s tied for second in the League in rebounding (12.0 rpg), just a hair under leader Dwight Howard (12.8 rpg). Coupled with his 10.4 scoring average, Noah is one of only nine players in the NBA averaging a points-boards double-double. There aren’t too many All-Star caliber centers in the East, but Noah won’t make the cut.
ZACH RANDOLPH — Here we go again. I’m not even saying this as the assistant treasurer of Z-Bo’s fan club, but I don’t see how he puts up All-Star numbers every year and doesn’t even enter the conversation come All-Star time. This year it’s been 18.3 points and 10 boards a night, including one 20-rebound effort, and monster stat lines in Memphis’ upset wins over Cleveland and Dallas. But you know how this one turns out.