We’ve seen enough of this NBA season that I felt there was enough information to sit down and decide who I would want to send to Houston.
My first thought was: Iâ€™ve been to Houston once, and think of returning as more punishment than reward. I could vote for a team of guys I want to castigate for letting me or the fans down â€” Joe Johnson deserves that kind of treatment, for example.
But no, I want to see an entertaining game on television, and plus, how am I really punishing a guy by sending him to a place where there will be hot and cold running groupies? So, here is the Eastern Conference part of my one All Star ballot (I donâ€™t stuff the ballot box), with the reasons behind my choices. I’m using the NBA’s rules here â€” their definition of positions and only five votes per conference (two guards, two forwards, one center). Iâ€™ll post the West tomorrow.
Guards: Allan Iverson and Chauncey Billups. Just missing out, Dwayne Wade and Vince Carter. This was very difficult, because good players like Gilbert Arenas and T.J. Ford donâ€™t even get into the conversation. I went with Billups because he has been so efficient in the now freewheeling (well, compared to last year) Detroit offense â€” a true shooting percentage of 62.8%, and per 40 minutes he averages 22.2 points, 9.5 assists and just 2.2 turnovers. Wade and Iverson are almost identical statistically, look at their PER, Iverson 27.7, Wade 27.6. It goes like that down the line, one leads a little bit in one category, another is better somewhere else, but it basically balances out. I went with Iverson for two reasons: 1) He has less talent around him and takes on more of his teamâ€™s offense (3 points more usage rate); 2) I like watching Iverson more than Wade. Not by a lot, but it is my ballot after all.
Forwards: LeBron James and Jermaine O’Neal. Just missing out, Chris Bosh, Paul Pierce and Dwight Howard. LeBron was a gimme, heâ€™s putting up MVP-type numbers â€” and this season James and Cleveland will become better known to the common fan during the playoffs, giving Detroit more trouble in the second round than whoever the Pistons get in the conference finals. So that leaves one forward spot and a lot of qualified guys. While Pierce has been great I decided the East needed an athletic, true four to try to match up with Duncan/Nowitzki et al, in the West. So it was down to Bosh and Oâ€™Neal, which is a tough call (Howard is good but a step back statistically). Bosh has had slightly better offensive numbers, but Oâ€™Neal is the better defender and he might block some shots (2.5 per 40 this season), so he gets the nod.
Center: Shaquille O’Neal. Just missed out, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Ben Wallace. First off, how does the Knicks Jerome James even get his name on the ballot? Are we that short of big men? Shaq has only played 14 games this season, but he is still the best center in the East, bar none. Shaqâ€™s scoring more points, grabbing more rebounds and is playing a bigger role on his team than Ilgauskas (who is, however, having a good season). If a coach could get Wallace on the team as a defensive stopper, that would be fun in the last 10 minutes of the game. Not going to happen, but it would be fun.