Wednesday, January 26, 2011

My NBA All-Star Game, Part 1

Last summer I did a three-part column on my made up version of Major League Baseball’s All-Star game. The premise behind the idea was this: instead of fans voting on their favorite players and the All-Star teams being created that way (with 3 or 4 players sometimes coming from the same team); what if every team had to be represented and every team had to send their best player—fans voting accordingly. With the NBA’s All-Star game looming, I decided to do the exact same thing for basketball as I did for baseball. Enjoy.

To recap there will be a few rules adopted from my MLB version and put in to effect in this NBA take. In my opinion, the baseball column was a lot trickier to iron out because almost every position in baseball is super specific and technical, whereas in basketball—for the large part—most players can play all five positions.

Proposed All-Star Selection Guidelines:

• All players representing their team must play their regular season position, unless there is another player from a different team that also plays said position (again, in baseball this rule played a bigger role). If said position has multiple representatives, a player may switch to a position that is vacant or lacking depth.
• Roster size will be dependent upon how many teams are in each conference. In baseball the National League has two more teams than the American League. Basketball keeps it nice and tidy with a 50/50 split at 15 teams per conference.
• The best player chosen for their team is not necessarily the person putting up the best numbers for that particular season, rather the one who is collectively considered that teams best player overall. Past production, accomplishments and future potential is all factored as part of the selection. There are no restrictions for rookies.

In the baseball column I did a three game series, but for this column I’ll keep in line with the real NBA All-Star game, and stick with one. Another wrinkle from the June/July column is I would ask people who were homers of certain teams I did not like, and get their opinion on the best player. It would eliminate bias on my part and represent the best player, in the best possible way. For the NBA however, I only hate one team: the Los Angeles Lakers and the best player on their team is a no-brainer. It should not be too much a roadblock to offer a fair evaluation of each team. Without further delay, faithful HITS readers, I give you my version of the 2011 NBA All-Star Game, starting with the Eastern Conference.

BOSTON CELTICS
Player: Rajon Rondo
Age/ Position: 24/Point Guard
2010/11 Stats: 10 PPG, 13 APG, 2.5 SPG

I am so glad the Celts have Rondo because I would be so bugged if I had to write a paragraph on why I thought Paul Pierce is good. Rondo is so good (and so young) he has added longevity to the careers of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Pierce, because he makes all of the other players around him not have to work as hard. They don’t have to be the offense because Rondo does such a superb job of creating it. So far this season, Rajon has only had two games where his assist totals have been in the single digits—eight and nine respectfully. But he has had ten games of getting 15 or more assist; including two games in which he dished out 22 and 24 dimes.

Fun fact: Rajon Rondo was drafted in the first round by the Phoenix Suns, but then traded to Boston for the Cleveland Cavaliers first round pick (24th overall) and cash considerations. Phoenix in turn, draft Rudy Hernandez but then trade him to the Blazers for cash considerations.

Bottom line: Rajon Rondo >>> Cash

NEW YORK KNICKERBOCKERS
Player: Amare Stoudemire
Age/Position: 28/Power Forward
2010/11 Stats: 26 PPG, 9 RPG, 2 BPG

You know I love me some Ray-Ray, but lets be real with ourselves. Amare is enjoying the best season of his career. It’s funny what a fresh start will do for someone. Amare has been a 20-and-10 guy (even though technically he’s never gotten the 10, but a handful of 8s and 9s) his whole career and easily has another six years left in his tank. The Knicks think so too. $100 million dollars is coming Stoudemire way over the next five years. Last season the Knicks were 19-32 going in to the All-Star break, this year with Amare they have already bested that mark by 4 games.

Fun fact: Amare Stoudemire was drafted in the first round by the Phoenix Suns. Of course he wasn’t traded but instead opted out of his contract and took an offer from the Knicks. When he signed with the Knicks, it reunited him with form Phoenix Suns head coach Mike D’Antoni, who also left Phoenix on his own accord and took an offer from the Knicks. Hmmm….

Bottom line: Amare Stoudemire >>> Cash ($100 million)

Is anyone else noticing the emergence of a trend here…

PHILADELPHIA 76ERS
Player: Andre Iguodala
Age/Position: 26/Shooting Guard
2010/11 Stats: 14 PPG, 6 RPG, 5 APG

I really, really wanted to put Spencer Hawes as 76ers best player. Except not. I’m not bitter per se but Spencer Hawes sucks and was a complete waste of the Sacramento Kings 10th overall pick in the 2007 draft. OK, I am bitter. Thanks for nothing Spence. You played ONE season in the Pac-10—a weak Pac-10 I might add—and averaged 14 and 6. Lookout, everyone! A gangly 7’1” white ginger, who barely weighs 250 pounds, just finished his freshman season for the 19-and-13 Washington Huskies!

Mimicking the exact emphasis in the “ICED-MOCHA-FRAPPUCCINOS!” line from Zoolander: LET’S DRAFT HIM WITH OUR 10th OVERALL PICK!

I was never impressed. How you were ever a Top-10 pick is beyond me bruh.

I should probably get to Andre… but before that I’d like to take a moment of silence for Elton Brand. “Elton Brand you say?” Yes. Elton Brand, who currently plays for the 76ers, and who also was drafted in the first round by the Phoenix Su… just kidding. He was the #1 overall pick by the Chicago Bulls. I had you going there for a moment. Elton Brand mind you, was deserving of a Top-10 pick. And he lived up to it. But who noticed? Off the top of your head, could anybody reading this HITS column spit out his career stats? Even ballpark them?

Elton Brand has had Tim Duncan-esque numbers for his almost his entire career 20 PPG and 10 RPG; up until the 07-08 season when he only played eight games and ruptured his Achilles tendon. Career changer. Eight seasons of quality. The number one pick, playing great and nobody notices. That will happen when you spend most of your career with the Clippers and post-Iverson 76ers. You get neglected and wither away. The sad part of the story is how it could have been so different.

After a money freshman (co-Rookie of the Year) and sophomore season with the Chicago Bulls, Elton Brand was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers. Brand had another awesome season, and at the end of it (2003) he became a restricted free agent. The Miami Heat offered Brand a 6-year deal worth over $80 million dollars and the Clippers had 15 days to match it. If the bells aren’t ringing yet, 2003 was the year Miami drafted Flash aka #3 aka Dwyane Wade. A Dwyane Wade caliber player is something Brand never had. Think Kevin Garnett in Minnesota. Great player; but wasting away in a bad situation. Had the Clips passed on the match sheet to keep EB, the Heat would not have been able to afford Shaquille O’Neil—but with Brand the Heat did not need Shaq. They still win the 2004 title with Elton. Of course, the Clippers matched the offer and the rest is history. A moment of silence for a career forgotten.

Andre Iguodala on the other hand is still young. Young enough he could bounce out of Philly and better his situation. Or the Sixers could luck out in the draft and return to some prominence. Iguodala is good. In fact Andre is really good. True, Andre is going through a sub-par season for him, but it is more to injury than to lack of skill. He’ll bounce back to his 18-19 PPG.

TORONTO RAPTERS
Player: Andrea Bargnani
Age/Position: 25/Center
2010/11 Stats: 21 PPG, 6RPG, 82% FT Shooter

Andrea has been getting better every single season since he was drafted 1st overall in 2006. Check out these improvements from the Italian big man:

2006: 11 PPG, 4 RPG
2007: 10 PPG, 4 RPG
2008: 15 PPG, 5 RPG
2009: 17 PPG, 6 RPG

The big man of the Raptors future. Plus they have the addition of DeMar DeRozan out of USC from the draft and they just traded for one of my favorite players (even though he is WAAY over the hill) Peja Stojakovic. I like the way Toronto is piecing together this team.

BROOKLYN NETS
Player: Brook Lopez
Age/Position: 22/Center
2010/11 Stats: 18 PPG, 6 RPG, 1.5 BPG

I put the Brooklyn Nets because we all know they’re moving there in a year or two. Also, Brook Lopez is the Nets. If Nick Humphries was not crashing the boards as much (9 per game) then Lopez would have a higher total. Even in the Nets traded and got Carmelo Anthony, I’d still put Brook here. Dude is solid.

CHICAGO BULLS
Player: Derrick Rose
Age/Position: 22/Point Guard
2010/11 Stats: 24 PPG, 8 APG, 4.5 RPG

The Chicago Bulls uniforms still today are the dopest in the league. For two years now I have been waiting to get their Game Official white silk bottoms for Christmas. Maybe the $120 sticker price I peeped at the NBA Store when I was in New York last year has had something to do with me NOT getting them. Oh well, I still want ‘em. If I ever do get them, I can pretend I am Michael Jordan circa 1996—and when I am not pretending to be MJ, I can pretend to be Derrick Rose.

I thoroughly enjoyed watching him go seven games against the Celtics in the 08-09 playoffs, and also last year against the Cavaliers. He elevates his game. This year, with the additional pieces they’ve added in Carlos Boozer and Kyle Korver, they’ll make it past the first round of the playoffs. And do it on the shoulders of Derrick Rose.

INDIANA PACERS
Player: Roy Hibbert
Age/Position: 24/Center
2010-11 Stats: 12 PPG, 8 RPG, 1.8 BPG

A lot of people would be quick to jump and say Danny Granger. Granger is good and leads the team in scoring, but with Danny I think we have already seen how good he will be for his career, whereas with Hibbert, he seems to be getting better and better. He finally is starting majority of the games and will likely be a double-double guy in the very new future.

Fun fact: The starting line-up of the Pacers are all Top-21 first-round picks: Darren Collison (21st overall, 2005), Mike Dunleavy (3rd overall, 2002), Danny Granger (17th overall, 2005), Tyler Hansborough (13th overall, 2009) and Roy Hibbert (17th overall, 2008). Extend that even further to the bench and you get six more first rounders: TJ Ford (8th overall, 2003), Brandon Rush (13th overall, 2008), Paul George (10th overall, 2010), Dahntay Jones (20th overall, 2003), James Posey (18th overall, 1999), and Jeff Foster (21st overall, 1999). Eleven out of the fifteen roster spots! The next closest team is the Boston Celtics at 10, but four of those ten players were drafted in the 1930s and have a combined age of 12,518.

Fun fact #2: The Pacers are a team which represent one of my most memorable what-the-hell-is-happening?! moments—not just sports moments, but all moments—of all time.

Moments making the list:

1) Any episode, of any “finding true love” reality show, mainly The Bachelor, in which a contestant tries to woo the show’s featured person by demonstrating a talent—in a setting that does not even come close to warranting the exhibition of one—and the person who is watching the debacle unfold feels painfully awkward. Meanwhile the producers are thinking a collective, “jackpot,” while I sit at home and scream in to a pillow.
2) Mike Tyson biting Evander Holyfield’s ear off and while my friend Scott Whitmore’s dad started yelling, “HE JUST BIT HIS EAR!” before most of us realized what had just happened.
3) Kanye during the Hurricane Katrina special.
4) Kanye grabbing the mic at the VMAs
5) Kanye releasing 808s and Heartbreaks after previously dropping behemoths of The College Dropout, Late-Registration, and Graduation.
6) Watching the child birthing video in my 6th grade health class.

So you say, “Is the moment ESPNs Reggie Miller: Winning Time?” No, but Reggie Miller was in attendance for the event. “Could it be Rick Smitts’ extremely gross, trying to pull off a svelte styled moustache and failing?” Pfff, yeah right. The answer is the Artest Melee. Duh.

I remember sharing The Melee moment with my close buddies Brett (partner in crime from the Ray-Ray column), Ross, Kyle, Garrett, and Stevie. It is kind of crazy to think this happened seven years ago. We were in Garrett’s basement living room and had just finished hooking up their new HD receiver to the big screen (HD programming was just a few months old). Thinking back to the night, it felt something like destiny really. We had just turned the channel to ESPN HD for the first time and we were catching the tail end of the Pacers/Pistons game. We barely had time to digest the visual upgrade of what sports would be like to watch, when all of sudden Ben Wallace and Ron Artest get in to it, and minutes later Artest gets clunked with a beer. Our initial reaction was like a gun was pulled on us; wide-eyed and frozen in place. That soon changed in to us screaming at the TV as the melee snowballed. It was like the clip from Rocky IV where Rocky is about to knock out Drago and the scene quickly switches to Rocky’s kid at home, bouncing up and down and punching at the TV with his buds. Favorite moment of The Melee, was Ross bellowing, “OOOHHHH!!!!” and then seeing the replay of Jermaine O’Neal landing a devastating haymaker on some idiot Pistons fan. Queue the Chris Tucker quote from Friday.

MILWAUKEE BUCKS
Player: Brandon Jennings
Age/Position: 21/Point Guard
2010-11 Stats: 18 PPG, 5 APG, 1.2 SPG

I pick Jennings here because he is younger, better and smarter/original than Andrew Bogut. The younger and better is self-explanatory, but allow me to explain the smarter/original factor.

Andrew Bogut Originality: Australian. Played center for a Mountain West Conference school. Not the first, not the last.

Brandon Jennings Originality: American. First person ever to forgo college and play professionally in Europe.

Andrew Bogut Smartness: Paid zero dollars (that we know of) to play basketball post high school, pre-NBA.

Brandon Jennings Smartness: Paid $3.6 million dollars (and we do know) to play basketball post high school, pre-NBA.

With the whole Cam Newton getting paid or not getting paid, I like how Jennings flat out showed the world, “I want everybody to publicly know that I want to get money for playing ball.” So what did he do? He skipped college, as the nations top ranked prep recruit, and went over to Europe to play, got paid, until he was 19 and draft eligible.

DETROIT PISTONS
Player: Greg Monroe
Age/Position: 20/Power Forward
2010-11 Stats: 6 PPG, 6 RPG and 1 BPG

I choose Greg because Ben Wallace needs to retire and stop hogging up a starting roster spot. When Wallace finally calls it quits, then I see the Pistons moving Charlie Villanueva to center, and Monroe will become the starter at PF. The Villanueva/Monroe split time thing is not working. Under a new format, Monroe can and will develop into a bigger contributor. Give him 2-3 years and watch his stats skyrocket.

CLEVELAND CAVELIERS
Player: LeBr…. Uhh…
Age/Position: …(beginning to panic)…
2010-11 Stats: …. (…. crickets chirping…) …

Remember when Cavaliers owner, Dan Gilbert, sent out a press release right after The Decision, and in it he guaranteed that the Cleveland Cavaliers would win an NBA Championship before LeBron James?

It’s like the passing of Princess Diana; everybody knows where he or she was when it happened. I was lucky enough to get a picture to document the moment.

Good luck winning more than 20 games in a regular season for the next five years. You know Dan, statistically, your team has better chance of having a losing streak longer than the total number your team could win in a season. Yikes. If I had to pick their best player on your team, at gunpoint, I’d probably say J.J. Hickson, for no other reason than I have zero desire to be shot in the face.

MIAMI HEAT
Player: LeBron James
Age/Position: 26/Small Forward
2010-11 Stats: 26 PPG, 7 RPG, 7 APG

Does this need explanation? It doesn’t? Ok, good. If the Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers were high school girls in 1991, Miami would probably form a hip-hop group call M.C. Luscious and make a rap video like this.

ATLANTA HAWKS
Player: Al Horford
Age/Position: 24/Center
2010-11 Stats: 16 PPG, 10 RPG, 1 BPG

A lot of options to choose from with the Hawks. I narrowed it down to Josh Smith or Al Horford and decided I’d flip a coin. Both play great, are about the same age and put up the same numbers. Unfortunately, I did not have any change on me when I wrote this, so I executed the only logical scientific method left to me. I asked my wife who she thought was win in a drag race, based on nothing but looks from the neck up.

“What’s a drag race?”

“When two people line up and race a car or motorcycle for a quarter-mile.”

“Why does it matter what they look like then?”

“Just answer the question.”

“This is stupid.”

In case you’re wondering, when I showed her the pictures, Al Horford won in a landside. Looks always affect the way you assess a basketball player. You probably don’t even realize you do it. Take Sam Cassell for example. Sam Cassell is so ugly, it is safe to say aliens will never abduct him. And when you think of Sam Cassell, you think of him as a so-so point guard, but it is not the case. Ole’ Sam, for the better part of his career, got you 18 points, 8 assist, and 4-5 boards a game. Think Rajon Rondo like production, but Cassell turned the ball over less. One turnover a game to Rondo’s three or four. Like it or not, looks factor and because of it, Al Horford represents the Hawks.

ORLANDO MAGIC
Player: Dwight Howard
Age/Position: 25/Center
2010-11: 22 PPG, 13 RPG, 2 BPG

Another one of those I-don’t-have-to-think-about-who-I-am-picking-here choices. Did you know Dwight has already had four 20-20 games this year? He just needs 66 more to tie Wilt Chamberlin’s single-season record of 70. Will that ever be broken?

CHARLOTTE BOBCATS
Player: Gerald Wallace
Age/Position: 28/Small Forward
2010-11: 16 PPG, 8 RPG, 2 APG

I really like Gerald Wallace. I like what he contributes to his team and also think Charlotte is the best fit for him? So what does he need to take the Bobcats at the next level?

If you finished the NBA season today, the Bobcats are the 9th or 10th worst team in basketball. Looking at Chad Ford’s Top 100 Big Board, and assuming Charlotte would get the 9th or 10th overall pick, that lands the Bobcats either UConn’s Kemba Walker or Europe basketball prospect Donatas Motiejunas. They already have DJ Augustine out of Texas, who they drafted 8th overall in 2008, playing point guard. Adding another point guard in Walker doesn’t make the most sense. Motiejunas, at seven foot, will likely play center, and the guy playing that spot right now, is the only number one overall draft pick making less than million dollars a year—Kwame Brown.

So do you roll with Dontas Motiejunas and hope you land the next Dirk Nowitzki, or do take Kemba Walker with the realization that Steven Jackson is a 32-years old shooting guard? Or do you draft Kemba and trade him? What if Kemba is the next John Wall? Speaking of John Wall…

WASHINGTON WIZARDS
Player: John Wall
Age/Position: 20/Point Guard
2010-11 Stats: 15 PPG, 9 APG, 2 SPG

Wall has Derrick Rose potential, but if not, being John Wall is still pretty good. I am by no means a supporter of the Wizards, but I was really happy to see them get rid Gilbert Arenas. Sure during 2006 and 2007, when Gilbert Arenas was shooting the lights out and putting up the stats, those stats never translated in to more wins for the Wizards (42-40 in ’06 and 41-41 in 07’). How you guys landed the five seed in 2006 amazes me. Arenas shot the ball because he could, Wall can, but doesn’t. Give Wall a year or two and we will see the Wizards in the playoffs.


RECAP AND EASTERN CONFERENCE STARTERS

Point Guards: Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose, Brandon Jennings, John Wall
Shooting Guards: Andre Iguodala
Small Forward: LeBron James, Gerald Wallace
Power Forward: Amare Stoudemire, Greg Monroe, J.J. Hickson
Centers: Andrea Bargnani, Brook Lopez, Roy Hibbert, Al Horford, Dwight Howard

Starters:
Rajon Rondo
Derrick Rose
LeBron James
Amare Stoudemire
Dwight Howard

Bench:
Al Horford
Andre Iguodala
Gerald Wallace

Brandon Jennings
John Wall
Andrea Bargnani
Brook Lopez
Greg Monroe
Roy Hibbert
J.J. Hickson


Click here for Part-2, of My Version of the NBA All-Star Game.


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