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01-18-2006, 03:18 PM
ESPN NBA Insider - 1/17/06
Updated: Jan. 17, 2006, 2:04 PM ET

Who deserves a spot in the All-Star Game?
By John Hollinger
ESPN Insider
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Editor's note: All-Star balloting ends on Sunday, Jan. 22.

Can a player on a terrible team still be an All-Star?

With this year's soiree in Houston less than a month away, that question looms larger than ever this season. Several players whose teams are hovering near the bottom of the standings have performed so well that they're worthy of consideration.

Gilbert Arenas
His team and shot selection aren't great, but Gil's got skills.

Players such as Washington's Gilbert Arenas, New Orleans/Oklahoma City's Chris Paul, Boston's Paul Pierce and Seattle's Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, for instance, all have played at a high level for teams that are well south of the break-even mark. Additionally, at least two players -- Houston's Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming -- seem to be en route to All-Star bids via fan voting, despite their team's suffering through a miserable 12-24 season.

But perhaps no player best exemplifies this year's All-Star quandary better than Toronto's Chris Bosh.

That the Raptors are a bad team is beyond question -- Toronto's 13-24 mark leaves it out of the playoff chase even in the lowly East. But it's hard to pin the blame for that on Bosh, who has been nothing short of superb. The forward averages 22.4 points, 9.2 rebounds and is shooting over 50 percent from the field -- making him, along with LeBron James, the only Eastern Conference players averaging better than 20 points and shooting over 50 percent.

"I think he's deserving," said Raptors coach Sam Mitchell. "He's obviously one of the best power forwards in the NBA. Our record could be a lot worse if we didn't have Chris playing the way he's playing."

Unfortunately, the coaches (who select the reserves for the game) haven't been nearly as kind in their judgment of players from losing teams. In recent years, several players from teams with sub-.500 marks have lost out to players from teams with winning records. Secondary players on top contenders are particularly popular. Look back at almost every shaky All-Star pick from the past few years -- Dale Davis, Otis Thorpe, Wally Szczerbiak, Jamaal Magloire -- and you'll see that common thread.

"Winning always helps, but this is my situation," Bosh said. "I can't really help how things are. To me, it's all about the future, so I think what I do from here on out will dictate [being selected]."

We can't look in our crystal ball and tell whether Bosh will be selected despite his team's record. What we can do, however, is take a look at the landscape in each conference and determine, as of today, which players deserve selection. And that's exactly what I intend to do below.

Before we start, let's go over the process. The fans select five starters from each conference, so we're stuck with those picks no matter how much we might disagree with them. After the fans choose the first five, it's up to the coaches. The 15 coaches in each conference select seven reserves by secret ballot. The rules are that coaches must select at least two guards, two forwards and one center, in addition to two extra players to fill out the roster. However, they aren't limited by positions listed on the All-Star ballot -- a coach can nominate a player at any position he feels appropriate. Thus, a coach could list Tim Duncan or Pau Gasol as a center on his ballot if, in his judgment, that produced the best team for his conference.

With those rules in mind, let's take a look at how it will shake out in each league. Along with each player, I've included his per-game averages and Player Efficiency Rating (PER) this season (all stats through Monday):


Although the voting isn't complete, it's pretty apparent who the five will be on each side, so we can fill in the starting lineups and go from there:

Allen Iverson, G (33.2 ppg, 7.5 apg, 26.95 PER): Can't argue with the fans' choice on this one.

Dwyane Wade, G (26.6 ppg, 7.1 apg, 27.84 PER): Or this one.

LeBron James, F (31.1 ppg, 6.0 apg, 29.23 PER): Or this one. Let's move on to the juicy stuff.

Jermaine O'Neal, F (21.4 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 22.07 PER): OK, here's one I suppose you could quibble with. O'Neal is a tough defender and a reliable post scorer, but he's not having his best season by any stretch. Still, I can't think of another forward in the East except the guy above that the Pacers would trade him for.

Shaquille O'Neal, C (18.2 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 22.30 PER): Shaq has earned the benefit of the doubt based on his past results, but he's done little to deserve nomination this season. He missed 18 games to start the year and has been sluggish since coming back. Of course, a down year for Shaq is a good year for anyone else -- he nearly has the highest PER among Eastern centers.


Chauncey Billups, G (19.0 ppg, 8.6 apg, 24.29 PER): We have to take two reserve guards for the team, and the first choice is a no-brainer. Billups has been the best player on the league's best team and remains on the tips of everyone's tongues in terms of MVP consideration. His selection means that Byron Scott and Mike Bibby once again have the honor of being the best players ever to not be selected.

Gilbert Arenas, G (28.6 ppg, 6.3 apg, 23.77 PER): Arenas has his detractors because he isn't a pure point guard and can get very shot-happy. But his skill as a scorer is undeniable, and it's hard to imagine how bad the Wizards would be right now without him.

Paul Pierce, F (26.1 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 24.56 PER): As with Arenas, Pierce's team isn't exactly setting the world on fire. But, in a conference with only six winning teams, we have to take a few players from losing teams. And it's hard to deny Pierce's credentials -- one could argue that this has been his best season, and unlike a lot of stars he plays both ends of the floor.

Vince Carter, F (25.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 23.72 PER): For the first time in ages Carter wasn't voted in, and one could argue against his selection as karmic retribution for the many times he was undeservedly chosen by the fans. But in terms of basketball, there's no question that he should be our fourth forward. As the best player on the Atlantic Division's best team, his omission would be unprecedented.

Ben Wallace, C (8.4 ppg, 12.7 rpg, 18.78 PER): The backup center spot in the East is an interesting one. A case can be made for Bosh here, since he plays the middle so much for Toronto, but he's also frequently overmatched physically in the middle. The other strong contender here is Cleveland's Zydrunas Ilgauskas (16.2 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 22.45 PER). Z crushes Big Ben on PER, but he's a defensive liability, while Wallace is the league's reigning Defensive Player of the Year. The tiebreaker here is court time -- it's tough to pull the trigger for Ilgauskas when he's playing barely 30 minutes per game.

Chris Bosh, F (22.4 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 23.55 PER): We have two wild-card spots left in the East, so let's take a look at the remaining candidates. There's Bosh, Jason Kidd, Richard Hamilton, Michael Redd and Ilgauskas. Of the group, Bosh has the best PER, the second-best scoring average, the best rebound average and the best field-goal percentage, which makes it an open-and-shut case -- no matter how bad the Raptors are.

Jason Kidd, G (14.7 ppg, 7.9 apg, 20.31 PER): The final spot in the East is where we have a real problem. Because the Pistons are 30-5, many will argue that they deserve at least three players on the squad. That argument has never held water for me. The supposed logic is that there's no way a team can be that good without at least three of the conference's top 12 players, but that's absurd. If Hamilton is only the 13th-best player in the conference, that means he's still better than all but 10 players on the conference's other 14 teams. A team could easily be 30-5 under those conditions -- especially if, as in Detroit's case, two other starters are also among the top 20 to 25 players in the East.

Having dismissed that argument, it comes down to Hamilton (21.5 ppg, 3.1 apg, 19.23 PER) against Kidd, Ilgauskas and Redd (24.7 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 20.44 PER). Ilgauskas trumps them all in PER, but again I have trouble giving him the nod with only 1,026 minutes on the season. The next-best PER belongs to Redd, but he's a poor defender and not ahead of Kidd by much. That leaves us with Kidd. Not only does he outrate Hamilton on PER, but he's undeniably the stronger defender and the more commanding leader.

Best of the rest: Hamilton, Ilgauskas, Redd, Rasheed Wallace, Gerald Wallace.


Steve Nash, G (19.1 ppg, 11.3 apg, 21.85 PER): A clear choice in a weak crop, the reigning MVP leads the league in assists once again and has the Suns surprisingly positioned atop the Pacific Division.

Kobe Bryant, G (34.3 ppg, 4.4 apg, 27.36 PER): A no-brainer. Next.

Tracy McGrady, F (25.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 24.02 PER): It's easy to get up in arms about this pick until you remember the Rockets are 0-12 when T-Mac doesn't play and 12-12 when he does. He's been hurt, but he clearly belongs.

Tim Duncan, F (20.3 ppg, 11.7 rpg, 25.19 PER): Another selection that requires no explanation.

Yao Ming, C (19.9 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 22.31 PER): A questionable pick until you look at the other names on the ballot -- all the other top big men in the West are either perennially injured (Marcus Camby), defensively lacking (Brad Miller) or drawing comparisons to Elvis (Mehmet Okur). Thus, it's Yao by default.


Tony Parker, G (19.4 ppg, 5.9 apg, 21.43 PER): Parker has stepped up his play this season and now stands out in a weak group. With some of the West's top point guards having off years (Baron Davis and Mike Bibby, for instance), Parker is an easy selection.

Chris Paul, G (16.1 ppg, 7.2 apg, 21.81 PER): This pick might surprise a few people, but if we have to select two reserve guards, Paul is the clear choice as the second. The only other guards who are close in terms of performance are Ray Allen (24.1 ppg, 3.6 apg, 21.83 PER), Baron Davis (18.1 ppg, 9.3 apg, 18.28 PER), Mike Bibby (19.9 ppg, 5.4 apg, 17.84 PER) and Jason Terry (17.0 ppg, 3.8 apg, 18.72 PER). Allen is slightly ahead in PER but is a terrible defender on one of the worst defensive teams in history. Davis isn't close in PER and is earning scorn for his brutal shot selection. Bibby and Terry are solid players but haven't been in Paul's league at either end of the floor. The only other remotely plausible pick here is Manu Ginobili (15.7 ppg, 3.0 apg, 24.27 PER), and he's been out of the lineup for most of the season.

Kevin Garnett, C (22.2 ppg, 11.3 rpg, 27.63 PER): Arguably the best player in the game over the past three seasons, Garnett is an obvious choice. But note that I've chosen him as a center. Basically, there isn't a deserving center from the West, so we have to move one of the conference's many dominant power forwards to the middle. With Camby injured, we'd otherwise be stuck with somebody like Okur as an "All-Star" center.

Dirk Nowitzki, F, (26.1 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 27.64 PER): Obviously deserving. Let's move on.

Elton Brand, F (25.2 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 27.84 PER): If you haven't been following the Clippers, Brand has put together what is by far the best season of his career. While the Western coaches seem to take a peculiar delight in shafting him come All-Star time, doing so this year would be an absolute travesty.

Shawn Marion, F (20.9 ppg, 12.0 rpg, 21.86 PER): OK, we have two wild-card spots left on the team, so let's review the candidates. We have Marion, Carmelo Anthony, Pau Gasol, Andrei Kirilenko, Manu Ginobili, Marcus Camby, Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis. Let's delete a few right away: Allen and Lewis don't play any D, while Ginobili and Camby have missed major time due to injuries. That leave Marion, Gasol, 'Melo (25.7 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 21.33 PER) and Kirilenko (15.0 ppg, 3.1 bpg, 20.56 PER). Of those four, Marion has the second-best PER, has stayed in the lineup all season and has been one of the key defenders on the league's second-best defensive team. He gets the nod.

Pau Gasol, F, (19.9 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 22.49 PER): It's amazing how much better a guy can look when the coaches finally play him more than 32 minutes a game. Now that the Grizzlies realize that the guy who is perhaps their best player should be on the court longer, Gasol is putting up the per-game averages that can get him noticed at All-Star time. He outranks Anthony and Kirilenko in PER and, though not exactly Defensive Player of the Year material, has played much tougher D than in past years for one of the West's top teams.

Best of the rest: Kirilenko, Anthony, Davis, Camby, Ginobili.

John Hollinger writes for ESPN Insider. His book "Pro Basketball Forecast: 2005-06" is available at Amazon.com and Potomac Books. To e-mail him, click here.


Broussard Blog

Tough choices for Houston trip

posted: Monday, January 16, 2006 | Feedback

As we near the end of voting for this year's All-Star Game in Houston -- the final day of voting is Jan. 22 -- I feel compelled to name my Eastern and Western Conference reps.

In the East, the starters are simple: AI and D-Wade at the guards. LeBron and Jermaine O'Neal at forwards and Shaq in the middle.

I'll pick my seven reserves according to league rules: at least two guards, two forwards and one center. The center is easy -- Ben Wallace.

It gets a little tougher at the forward spot, but I'm going with Paul Pierce and Chris Bosh. I know, I know, both guys are playing for losing teams. But it's certainly not their fault.

I hate to leave off Richard Jefferson, but Pierce is having a monster year (career highs of 26.2 ppg, 7.5 rpg and 49.1% FG), and Bosh is fantastic, regardless of the Raps' record.

C-Webb's playing well, but his 20 and 10 gets diminished in my eyes because even with AI playing great, the Sixers are still just .500. Plus he's shooting 42 percent and not exactly shutting folks down on the defensive end. Despite the nice numbers, this is nowhere near vintage C-Webb. If it were, the Sixers would be a force, not just a team that squeaks into the playoffs.

As difficult as the forward selections are, the guard spot gets downright crazy. Chauncey Billups and Vince Carter are musts, which leaves me with only two spots for Michael Redd, Rip Hamilton, Jason Kidd and Gilbert Arenas.

I can't win here because all four are legitimate All-Stars. See, this is what happens when centers cease to score. Now we've got all these guards putting up "all-star numbers'' because many centers are all but useless. I could also throw in Stephon Marbury and Steve Francis as All-Star caliber guards in the East, though there's a slight drop-off there, particularly with Francis.

Anyway, here goes: I have to put Redd on the squad because he's averaging a career-high 24.7 points and most importantly, the Bucks (19-17) are winning. They've gone stretches without Mo Williams, T.J. Ford and Bobby Simmons and yet, Redd keeps them alive.

At first, I gave my final spot to Rip, then I thought, "How can I leave J-Kidd off?" Then I said, "Arenas is averaging 29 points and six dimes. Am I nuts?"

I could easily pick this last spot out of a hat and be satisfied, but I guess I have to go with Arenas. His numbers are pretty ridiculous and his league-high turnover average (4.1) is less than one gaffe higher than Kidd's 3.29 miscues a night.

It seems unthinkable to leave Kidd off -- I'm second-guessing myself as I type -- because he's still a top three PG in the league. But the East is so full of guards it's ridiculous.

On to the West.

Guards: Kobe and Steve Nash. Forwards: Tim Duncan and Elton Brand. Center: Marcus Camby.

My reserve at center is Yao, and one of my guards is Tony Parker. My last guard spot is between Warriors' teammates J-Rich and Baron Davis and New Orleans rookie Chris Paul.

I'm going to shock you with my choice because I'm going with the youngster, Paul. If the Warriors were still winning, I'd pick Davis since he makes them go, but Paul is winning more with a much weaker roster.

He's also ahead of Davis in steals (2.17 per game to 1.7), turnovers (2.2 to 2.89), FG shooting (43 percent to 38 percent), FT shooting (79.9 to 65.7) and rebounding (5.7 to 4.5). Davis is ahead in ppg (17.9 to 15.9) and assists (9.3 to 7.2).

Now it gets even harder because as the East is full of guards, the West is full of forwards.

KG, Dirk and Shawn Marion are no-brainers, leaving me with one spot for three deserving players: T-Mac, Carmelo and Pau. Four if you throw in Kirilenko.

Pau's the first to fall. He's having a great year and once again leading the Grizz to 50-plus wins, but it's just that tough in the West.

Carmelo is really balling, and T-Mac has been laden with injuries. Nevertheless, I'm going with T-Mac.

I realize that Camby, Yao and T-Mac may miss because of injuries, which could make the center spot fairly ugly out West. If commissioner David Stern stuck to adding two centers as reserves, you're probably looking at Mehmet Okur and Brad Miller.


Now that I'm done, here's a suggestion for the league: increase the All-Star rosters from 12 players in each conference to 15. Now that there are 30 teams, it's only right. Then just about all the truly deserving players would make it.

And it would save me from trying to explain how I can leave J-Kidd and Rip out of the midseason classic.


NBA Rumor Central: Blount-Kandi Trade Imminent?

Other Rumors: MLB | NFL
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Tuesday, January 17
Mark Blount
Mark Blount


Blount-Kandi Trade Imminent?
Jan 17 - According to two league sources, a deal that would send Mark Blount to Minnesota or Memphis could be completed soon, reports the Boston Globe. One source described a deal as "imminent." The most likely scenario would have the Celtics shipping Blount to Minnesota for Michael Olowokandi.

One source told the newspaper that Marcus Banks appears a likely addition, if a third team is needed.

(Insider Note: Blount's contract, which includes a 15% trade kicker, has 4 years and $28 million remaining after this year. The trade kicker would give him an additional $5 million.)
Los Angeles Clippers
Los Angeles

Sprewell Unlikely To Join Clippers
Jan 17 - Despite Sam Cassell's efforts, it is unlikely the Clippers will be able to lure Latrell Sprewell to the team, reports the Los Angeles Daily News. According to the newspaper, Sprewell is said to be seeking more than the veteran's minimum of $1.1 million and if he does not hook on with one of those few teams, he likely will handpick a championship contender and sign sometime next month.
Steve Francis
Steve Francis

At Least Six Teams Ask About Francis
Jan 17 - Several clubs inquired about trading for Steve Francis while he was suspended, NBA sources told the Orlando Sentinel. The team told Jeff Fried, Francis' agent, that they had no plans to deal him. "Yes, I asked," Fried said. "The answer was, 'No.' " NBA sources told the newspaper there were more than a half-dozen teams that inquired about Francis' availability.
Monday, January 16
Los Angeles Clippers
Los Angeles

Clippers Want Sprewell
Jan 16 - According to the Los Angeles Times, the Clippers are hopeful that Latrell Sprewell will join them for the remainder of the season, a team source said. Clipper officials have had conversations with Sprewell, who apparently needs time to get into playing condition and consider his next move, reports the newspaper.
Eric Williams
Eric Williams

Williams Would Welcome A Trade
Jan 16 - Stopping short of demanding a trade, Eric Williams said he hopes GM Rob Babcock can do something before the Feb. 23 trade deadline to help him out, reports the Toronto Star. "Definitely (a trade) would be the best thing," Williams told the newspaper yesterday. "I'm still able to play. I've been a starter for 10 years of my career so I know I can help somebody win games."
Michael Olowokandi
Michael Olowokandi

Kandi Anyone?
Jan 16 - The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported Sunday that Michael Olowokandi was part of a potential Wolves trade that was, if not imminent, at least brewing. Reached at his home Sunday, owner Glen Taylor told the newspaper that the Wolves were attempting to make a deal to upgrade the team. "I would tell you, we're out there actively talking to other teams," Taylor said. "But we don't have anything going right yet." The Wolves, according to Taylor have no interest in Steve Francis.

01-18-2006, 03:21 PM
For trade to work, Curry needs strength of six men

By Chris Sheridan
ESPN Insider

Memo to all New York Knicks fans planning to check out Eddy Curry's return to Chicago Wednesday night: As you're basking in the glory of watching the young behemoth pile up points against the Bulls' overmatched and undersized front line, take a brief moment to ask yourself the following question:

Was Curry worth the price?

We're not just talking about Michael Sweetney and Tim Thomas, the two main players the Knicks jettisoned in the October deal to acquire the 23-year-old center.

A greater concern is what basically amounts to four draft picks -- two No. 1s and two No. 2s -- that Chicago will get from New York between 2006 and 2009 when the price for Curry, if the Knicks miss the playoffs, could turn astronomical.

Fans in New York can already forget about Greg Oden ever becoming the Knicks' savior. He'll go No. 1 in 2007, but Knicks president Isiah Thomas gave the Bulls the right to swap first-round picks in 2007, even if New York wins the lottery.

You like Adam Morrison, LaMarcus Aldridge, J.J. Redick or anyone else expected to be in this year's lottery? Don't like 'em too much, because the Bulls get the Knicks' pick this June, too -- even if it's No. 1 overall.

Isiah also gave the Bulls second-round picks in 2007 and 2009, and don't forget that he still owes another first-round pick to Utah as part of the package he sent to the Suns to acquire Stephon Marbury. That pick becomes unprotected in 2010, meaning the Knicks already are out of the mix on Lincoln (N.Y.) High School freshman Lance Stephenson, already averaging almost 20 points for the school that produced Marbury and Sebastian Telfair.

That's a heck of a jumbo mortgage to take out on a player with significant health risks, and the question needs to be asked whether Thomas had to include all those draft picks. It's not like other teams were beating down GM John Paxson's door after a heart abnormality was discovered and Curry refused to take DNA tests that might have shown whether he was genetically predisposed to the type of ailments that likely contributed to the deaths of NBA players Reggie Lewis and Jason Collier.

The trade left Chicago woefully undersized along the front line, and it hasn't helped that they haven't gotten much production out of Tyson Chandler (4.6 ppg, 7.4 rpg) after granting him a contract extension. But this is a transitional year in Chicago, with the Bulls sitting on more than $15 million of cap space for this summer.

Greg Oden
Who will end up with Greg Oden? Not the Knicks.

One way or another, they'll replace Curry's size before they turn their attention to extensions for Luol Deng, Kirk Hinrich, Ben Gordon and Andres Nocioni. After that, they can add a few enhancements -- and maybe even Oden -- with the draft picks Thomas tossed into the deal.

See, Knicks fans, that's what a real "rebuilding" plan looks like.

"I don't think that Isiah and our doctors would have taken the risk if we didn't know Eddy was 110 percent, and thus far, thank God we haven't had any problems," said Knicks guard Jamal Crawford, a teammate of Curry's with the Bulls for three seasons. "I don't know what happened in Chicago as far as tests went, but I'm glad he's with us and I'm glad he's healthy."

Curry has been a load for opposing teams to handle in the deep low post, but the Knicks have tended to run plays for him early before switching their offensive sets to get others involved. Curry is averaging only 14.5 points, a drop from his 16.1 last season, and has fallen nearly 10 percentage points on free throws, giving opponents all the more reason to foul him and make him earn his points from the line.

When Curry goes to the foul line Wednesday night, Knicks fans should keep an eye out for the amount of time -- measured in nanoseconds, not seconds -- he spends looking at the rim before releasing his free throw. Watch his footwork, too, for its fundamental flaws, and prepare to cringe if you see Curry get ready to shoot from anywhere beyond 10 feet.

Practice that cringe, too, Knicks fans, because it'll come in handy on the nights of the 2006 and 2007 draft lotteries if this Curry thing doesn't work out.

Chris Sheridan, a national NBA reporter for the past decade, covers the league for ESPN Insider. To e-mail Chris, click here

01-18-2006, 04:57 PM
The prosecution rests. Are the attorneys for Mr. Thomas present?

01-18-2006, 06:53 PM
Wow I just thought it was CurryDavis for Thomas/Sweetney

But 2 first-round picks and 2 second round picks.

He's a dumb****

01-18-2006, 08:16 PM
Duncan deserving the starting spot over Dirk? That's funny...

01-19-2006, 01:10 AM
Duncan deserving the starting spot over Dirk? That's funny...

This year I think dirk deserves the start over Duncan but I wont argue it Timmys great

01-20-2006, 05:04 PM
Well he actually deserves it over tmac

01-20-2006, 08:28 PM
This year I think dirk deserves the start over Duncan but I wont argue it Timmys great

Nobody's arguing that Duncan's a great player. But he's having one of the worst seasons of his career statistically, as is Garnett. IMO the two starting forwards in the West should be Dirk and Brand.

01-21-2006, 12:13 PM
dirk no doubt should be starting... but that will never happen unless kg and td move to the east

01-21-2006, 05:28 PM
dirk no doubt should be starting... but that will never happen unless kg and td move to the east

So true... I think even after they retire KG and Duncan will be starting for the West... And Vince Carter? Hell, he could be dead and he'd still start for the East.