Regular readers of this site will recognize erivera7 from his activity in our community. I'm pleased to announce he has joined Third Quarter Collapse as a contributing editor. Here is his first post. - BQR
With the 2009 All-Star Game steadily approaching, I feel it's a good time to share my ballot and recognize the players that deserve to represent the Eastern Conference in Phoenix on February 15, 2009. So without further ado, here are my choices:
G - Devin Harris (New Jersey Nets)
G - Dwyane Wade (Miami Heat)
F - LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers)
F - Chris Bosh (Toronto Raptors)
C - Dwight Howard (Orlando Magic)
Guard: Devin Harris
I can't think of anyone more deserving to start at guard in the All-Star Game than Harris, even though sadly he won't be able to (thanks fans!). Nevertheless, talk about a player coming into his own. For the season, Harris is a veraging a career-best in points (24.4), assists (6.7), steals (1.5), free-throw percentage and attempts (84%, 10.4 [!!!]), and more. The meteoric rise in points and free-throw attempts, though, are the two stats that jump out. Last season, Harris averaged 14.7 ppg & attempted 4.7 ft's/game. This season (it's worth repeating), Harris is averaging 24.4 ppg & attempts 10.4 ft's/game. Disgusting. Go ahead and hand him the NBA's Most Improved Player Award. Hedo sends his regards.
Credit Nets head coach Lawrence Frank for implementing the dribble drive system (see John Calipari/Univ. of Memphis) on offense for New Jersey. It's pretty obvious the new offensive system has been beneficial to Harris, simply because it plays to his strengths as a player (as well as VC's). Don't consider Lakers head coach Phil Jackson a fan of it, however.
Q. Do you like the dribble drive system?
Phil Jackson: Not particularly.
Guard: Dwyane WWWAAADDDEEE
Sorry, but just had to type his name as an ode to his infamous Converse commercial. Anyways, we saw this coming, the 2008 Olympics was just a preview of what NBA fans would expect to see once the season would start. Wade's play so far this season has been brilliant, with the Chicago native averaging a career-best in points (28.8), steals (2.2), blocks (1.6), as well as "chipping in" with 7.0 apg & 5.1 rpg. Can you say stat stuffer?
Because of Wade's remarkable play, a young/raw Heat team currently sits at 14-12 with realistic aspirations of making the Playoffs this year. But come on, we saw this coming too. Right?
Forward: LeBron James
Is anyone in the NBA or heck, the world, better than King James right now? His stats are "down", with 'Bron averaging only 27.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 6.4 apg, 2.0 spg, and 1.15 bpg. But the reason for the drop in numbers is because James finally has a supporting cast competent enough to not require an ungodly effort from him night-in and night-out. Sure, he can still do it, but it's no longer a pre-requisite for the Cavs to win. It's now an option.
The arrival of Mo Williams has provided LBJ with the side-kick he's always clamored to have and the returns have been immediate for the Cavs. A 23-4 record, the claim (statistically, so far) as being the best team in the NBA, and for 'Bron, the inside track to win his first MVP award.
Forward: Chris Bosh
2010 seems so far away for CB4, who seems destined to leave Toronto for the bright lights of New York, or maybe the luxurious "palace" of Detroit. Certainly the fact that the Raptors, this season, are grossly underachieving has quickly fired up the rumor mill about Bosh's future with his team. Speculation ensues but it hasn't affected Bosh's play, who's averaging a career-high in points (23.3), to go along with 10.0 rpg.
If one thing is for sure, is that Bosh gets frustrated if you ask him if he's frustrated about Toronto's current play/situation.
"Ya'll keep using 'frustrated' and everything. It's over, you know what I mean?"
Center: Dwight Howard
As Magic fans, can we really be surprised? After Superman captivated the All-Star crowd in New Orleans last year by winning the Slam Dunk Title, his popularity has skyrocketed off the court. Commercial with McDonald's? Check. Commercial with Adidas? Check. Commercial with ESPN? Check. The list goes on and oh, by the way, D12 is doing pretty well on the court too. He's just averaging your "standard" 20.7 ppg, 14.0 rpg, as well putting up a career-high 3.72 bpg - the type of numbers that have Howard as the leading candidate to win the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year Award. But the accolades don't stop there; Howard leads the NBA in double-doubles with 19 and even had his first career triple-double to boot as well on November 12th (30 points, 19 rebounds, 10 blocks vs. Oklahoma City). And if Howard continues his current pace of leading the league in rebounding and blocks, he will be the first player to do so since Ben Wallace accomplished the feat in 2001.
Dwight's dominance on the court has helped lead the Magic to an excellent 22-6 start and a well-deserved seat at the "adults table", where Orlando has made its demands known that it would like to be regarded as a serious threat to contend for a Title this season.
Click after the jump to check out my reserves.
G - Rajon Rondo (Boston Celtics)
G - Vince Carter (New Jersey Nets)
F - Caron Butler (Washington Wizards)
F - Danny Granger (Indiana Pacers)
C - Zydrunas Ilgauskas (Cleveland Cavaliers)
F - Kevin Garnett (Boston Celtics)
G - Joe Johnson (Atlanta Hawks)
G - Rajon Rondo: .519 FG%, second in the NBA in steals (2.4), and eighth in assists (7.5). He's the engine that makes the Celtics go and ..
"He's like a combo of J-Will [Jason Williams], the way he goes behind his back, Tony Parker, the way he hits his floater and Gary Payton, with the way he plays defense," Celtics forward Paul Pierce said. "He's a rare combo of speed, long arms, toughness, and he rebounds like Jason Kidd at that position."
.. sounds like an All-Star to me.
G - Vince Carter: Has taken on the role of being the team leader in stride and with the help of Harris, has put the Nets in a position to make the Playoffs. Putting up solid numbers too - 22.9 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 4.8 apg.
"Vince has been phenomenal," Frank said. "Here's an eight-time All-Star and a Hall of Famer playing for a team that has significantly changed from when he re-signed [in 2007]. He has totally embraced the role of being a leader. Vince is unique in that when some players have success, they get territorial. They get insecure. [But] he celebrates other people's success."
F - Caron Butler: I feel bad for Tough Juice because he's putting up All-Star caliber numbers (21.2 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 4.3 apg, 1.6 spg) on a terrible team in Washington. I have a gut feeling he may be penalized for the lack of wins coming from the Wizards to warrant a spot on the East team, but he deserves it in my book.
F - Danny Granger: If it wasn't for Wade's ridiculous play, Granger would have been a starter on my ballot, given the numbers he's been putting up so far this season - career-highs in points (24.4), assists (3.2), and blocks (1.4), to go along with 5.3 rpg and 1.0 spg. Granger has certainly come into his own as a player for the Indiana Pacers, even though they are struggling this season.
C - Zydrunas Ilgauskas: Big Z has put up nice numbers for a Cleveland team razing a path towards the Finals this season. The gentle giant has posted stats of 14.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg, and 1.1 bpg, in only 26 minutes per game. Z's ability to spread the floor and force big men to come out of the paint has allowed LeBron and Co. to wreak havoc in the interior.
F - Kevin Garnett: Antics aside and despite posting modest numbers by his standard (16.3 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 1.3 spg, 1.3 bpg), KG has been the emotional leader once against for the Celtics this season. He's a big reason why Boston has posted a 26-2 record to start the year, including an 18-game winning streak that's still going.
G - Joe Johnson: The Atlanta Hawks have been a pleasant surprise so far this season (17-10, 2nd in the Southeast), taking the momentum established last year in the Playoffs and transferring their high level of play to the court this year. Johnson has been a big reason for Hotlanta's success, dropping 22.7 ppg, 5.4 apg, 4.5 rpg, and 1.1 spg.
F - Antawn Jamison: I feel bad for 'Tawn because he's putting up All-Star caliber numbers again this season (20.1 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 1.2 spg), but I can't justify placing two Wizards on the reserve roster when there are more deserving players out there to choose from. If Washington was just half-decent, I'd probably would have made Jamison a reserve because he deserves to be rewarded for his stellar play. But alas, 'Tawn is penalized (maybe unfairly) for the Wizard's poor record so far this year.