The NBA All-Star Game 2012 starters have been announced for the matchup between the Eastern and Western Conferences that will take place Feb. 26 in Orlando, Fla.
Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard, the leading vote-getter not only in the East but also overall (1,600,390), headlines his squad, which includes guards Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls (1,514,723) and Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat (1,334,223), as well as forwards Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks (1,041,290) and LeBron James of the Heat (1,360,680).
Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, the leading vote-getter in the West (1,555,479), headlines his squad, which includes Lakers teammate and center Andrew Bynum (1,051,945), guard Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers (1,138,743), as well as forwards Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder (1,345,566) and Blake Griffin of the Clippers (876,451).
Fans made one mistake in their votes for each conference's starting five. Carmelo Anthony in the East and Blake Griffin in the West. (Wikipedia)
Every year, fans' voting for the starters comes with much debate, and 2012's voting is no different. Let's just say for each conference, fans got voting 80 percent right.
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Anthony in the East is questionable, considering that the Knicks are six games below .500 (8-14) and aren't getting it done, despite his fifth-ranked scoring average of 23.8 points per game. It is notable that Anthony has been shouldering the load in New York, but he also has sat out three games this season due to injury.
A suitable replacement for Anthony as starter would have been Heat forward Chris Bosh, who is averaging 20 points and eight rebounds a game. He especially stepped up his game in Wade's absence because of an injury, averaging 27 and seven, respectively. He also has played in every game, unlike Anthony, but has most likely been overshadowed by numerous factors: being the third wheel of the Heat's Big Three, Anthony's popularity in playing for New York, and Anthony's offensive statistics in relation to those of his teammates.
In the West, Griffin, despite the flashy dunking and raw power, just isn't putting up the same numbers being compiled by Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love. Griffin averages 21.4 points and 10.9 rebounds a game, but Love trumps those stats by fair margins, averaging 25.3 and 13.6, respectively.
Fans have rightfully taken a liking to what Griffin and the Clippers can do, but the numbers don't lie. Love had a double-double in all but two games this season, while Griffin had one in all but eight. And, yes, the Timberwolves have a losing record, but they still remain on the cusp of a playoff spot largely because of Love and his consistency.
If you thought there was drama in fans choosing the All-Star Game starters, there, as is the case almost all of the time, might be even more drama as to who will fill out the rosters as reserves. Those decisions will be announced next Thursday on TNT.
During the shortened season, no NBA team has really stood out as the best of the best. The Bulls have the best record in the East (19-6), but the Heat, Magic and Hawks are right on their tail. The Thunder (17-4) own the West now, but the Nuggets, Clippers and Lakers all look primed look to overtake them. That being said, the league is deep, and therefore, so are the players that make it up.
Nevertheless, here are the seven most deserving reserve players in each conference:
Chris Bosh (20.4 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 2.1 apg), Miami Heat (16-6)
Bosh deserves to go for the reasons mentioned above. Add on the facts the Heat were 8-1 when Wade was out and Bosh has scored at least 30 four times this season, and there's no reason he won't make his seventh straight appearance.
Josh Smith (15.2 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 3.1 apg), Atlanta Hawks (16-7)
Most of Smith's numbers are down from last year, but if history is any indicator of justification for a vote, he has guaranteed almost two blocks and at least one steal in each of the past three seasons alongside numbers in the general area mentioned above. And, with Al Horford out, Smith, along with Joe Johnson, have been under a bigger scope.
Andre Iguodala (13.1 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 5.0 apg), Philadelphia 76ers (16-6)
Iguodala also averages almost two steals a game. He's energetic, athletic and clutch. Truth be told, teammates Lou Williams and Jrue Holiday are also worthy, but Igoudala is the guy Philadelphia fans come to see.
Joe Johnson (18.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 3.6 apg), Atlanta Hawks (16-7)
Since Al Horford was sidelined by a torn pectoral muscle on Jan. 11, Johnson has done what Bosh did while Wade was out, and stepped it up, averaging 21.5 points. As a result, the Hawks have gone 9-2. The Hawks are near perfect at 11-1 when he scores at least 20, too.
Roy Hibbert (14.0 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 1.8 bpg), Indiana Pacers (15-6)
If Greg Monroe weren't on the Pistons, he would most likely get the nod as reserve center, especially because he has a better points average than Hibbert at 15.9 per game. Nevertheless, Hibbert grabs more boards and blocks more shots. Knicks center Tyson Chandler and Washington Wizards center JaVale McGee are on bad teams and Bulls center Joakim Noah doesn't have the numbers despite being on a good team. The Pacers are one of the East's best teams and deserve at least one player to go to Orlando.
Ryan Anderson (16.5 ppg. 7.1 rpg, 0.7 apg), Orlando Magic (13-9)
Anderson most likely won't get in because he doesn't have the star power or gaudy resume, but he is having his best year of his career. Anderson is the second leading scorer on the Magic, playing just over 30 minutes a game and shooting 44 percent and 43 percent overall and from behind the arc respectively.
Brandon Jennings (20.5 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 5.6 apg), Milwaukee Bucks (10-11)
Again, Jennings is another case of someone who has stepped up after a teammate got injured. Since center Andrew Bogut fractured his ankle on Jan. 25, Jennings has averaged 22 points and four assists a game. He's been the main reason the Bucks are clinging to the eighth playoff spot in the East.
Kevin Love (25.5 ppg, 13.5 rpg, 1.6 apg), Minnesota Timberwolves (10-12)
The double-double machine ranks fourth in the league in scoring and second in rebounding. Minnesota is up-and-coming, especially with Ricky Rubio on the floor, so the spotlight is even brighter for Love now. Arguably, no other player in the West plays a more complete game inside and outside.
LaMarcus Aldridge (22.9 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 2.7 apg), Portland Trail Blazers (13-9)
The Blazers are in the playoff hunt without Brandon Roy and Greg Oden because of Aldridge. His points and assists averages are career highs. Plus, he has to be repaid for getting snubbed last year, right?
Russell Westbrook (21.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 5.7 apg), Oklahoma City Thunder (17-4)
Westbrook is only second to Rose among point guards in average points per game. He's exciting to watch and has matured since he came into the league in 2008, all culminating in a huge extension that he signed last month. Although Durant is still the best player on the Thunder, Westbrook has established himself as a premier player and point guard worth positive attention.
Tony Parker (17.1 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 7.6 apg), San Antonio Spurs (15-9)
Manu Ginobili's been out with a broken left hand and Tim Duncan is becoming obscure each and every day. That leaves Parker as the San Antonio's best player. Although the Spurs are in a borderline transitional period, Parker has still effectively called the shots on the floor, leading the team to play overlooked team basketball.
Al Jefferson (18.5 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 1.6 bpg), Utah Jazz (12-8)
Jefferson is second only to Howard in the entire league in points average, even though the center position isn't his natural position. He's tough and persistent in the paint. Nobody has probably worked as hard to justify a vote than Jefferson.
Marc Gasol (14.7 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 2.3 bpg), Memphis (12-10)
Gasol is one of only 11 players in the league averaging a double-double. He's also performing well while having to pick up the slack for the injured Zach Randolph.
Ty Lawson (15.6 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 6.4 apg), Denver Nuggets (14-7)
The Nuggets are understandably the best team-oriented team in the NBA, and Lawson has been a big reason why. In barely two seasons, Lawson has transformed himself from timid into one who pushes the pace, runs the offense and makes the rest of the Nuggets more efficient. He has also become a pest on defense, which leads to the Nuggets running and scoring in the transition game. By virtue of record, one Denver player should get a nod.
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