Tag:Russell Westbrook
Posted on: January 27, 2011 3:03 pm
Edited on: January 27, 2011 3:04 pm

Fans to vote on Skills Competition participants

Fans to vote on Skills Contest participants. Derek Fisher one of the candidates. We're not sure why.
Posted by Matt Moore

Did you know that this year, you, yes, you get to choose the participants of the most random, boring competition in the All-Star Saturday Night festivities?

Taco-Bell is giving fans a vote on which players they want to see in the Skills Competition. Chris Paul is the "spokesman" and therefore automatically in, but the rest will be chosen by vote. The list of candidates includes:  and...
  • Derek Fisher?

Let's take a look at the candidates, and what we think their odds are. 

Derrick Rose (-150):  He's got youth, speed, experience as a former winner, and oh, yeah, he did this. Rose is a massive favorite in our opinion, considering he's arguably the best point guard in the league, and the best point athlete of this bunch. He's got the competitive streak to want to win, and the skills involved are specifically suited to his game. Hence the previous pwnage. Being a huge star this league in a major market, he'll have no problems securing selection.

Chris Paul (-140): Nearly the favorite Rose is. Paul's a more accurate passer, more precise with this movements, nearly as fast, and the best overall point guard in this competition. The only reason he's behind Paul at all is injury questions and Paul being in the competition for the fourth time.  

Tony Parker (+150): Parker's a sexy dark horse pick here.  Solid in all areas of competition, healthier than he's been in years, a former Finals MVP, and he's a Spur. Toppling more flashy competition is what they do. His odds of getting voted in aren't as strong, considering the flash and shine of the other candidates, but he might make it off international recognition and veteran respect. 

Russell Westbrook (+250): Westbrook isn't the pure passer a lot of these players are but his handle and speed could be enough to put on a show. When in the zone he's as precise as any player in the league, and he's got a killer instinct rarely found in this league.  He could also go for the dunk approach Derrick Rose did when he won the event, only Westbrook can leap from the free throw line to cut down on time. Even playing in OKC, likely to be selected based off of star power and name recognition alongside Kevin Durant

Tyreke Evans (+450): The dribbling and passing could give him issues, and that's before the three-point shot. Reke's chances aren't great here as he excels based on athleticism. He's simply not the pure skill competitor that some of the other players are. Playing in Sacramento who's having a terrible year and having been forgotten about in a slump following a historic rookie season, Reke's chances at election aren't great. Small market, disappointing season, and bad team. Not a great combo for election, but he's still more likely to make it than some.

Stephen Curry (+200): Curry's a nice, sleek moneymaker to take here. He's an underdog based on name recognition and not being a top level point guard, but in terms of skill, he's got it to win this thing. A terrific passer with excellent control, fast and light to get through the cones, and range for miles, Curry could wind up shocking everyone with this thing, as long as he can make it in. With five of the eight expected to make it, he's got good odds. This is smart money.

John Wall (+500): Wall has been injury-prone this season, has been turnover prone, is a rookie on the big stage for the first time, and isn't a great shooter. BIG GIGANTIC RED FLAGS. Wall could get in based off of popularity, market, and name recognition. But his odds of stepping up and beating the rest of the competition are low. 

Baron Davis (+600): Injury prone? Check. Older? Yup. Inconsistent? Uh-huh. Not a great point? Surely. Biggest star on his team? Third, if we're being generous. Davis is very unlikely to make the vote, and should he somehow get in through the Clipper faithful, it's not likely he'll walk away with the trophy with so many faster guards he's up against. 

Derek Fisher (+7,858): No. Not at all. Not in any situation. Not a great passer. Aged like a German cheese. Not awesome on the dribble, either. I mean, there's no way this guy gets voted in, right? That would be like voting in Andrew Bynum to the All-Star game when he missed 3/4 of the season so far...oh. Never underestimate the power of the Lakers to get in to these things, but Fisher will not win, unless there's some sort of horrific banana peel accident. 

Posted on: January 25, 2011 4:50 am

Game Changer 1.25.11:

Detroit takes a perimeter attack, CP3 overwhelms with help, and Ruy Gay saves the day, all in today's Game Changer. 
Posted by Matt Moore

Each game is made up of elements which help formulate the outcome. Monday through Friday, we'll bring you the elements from the night before's games in our own specialized version of the game recaps. It's not everything that happened, but it's an insight into what lead to the results you'll see in the box scores. This is the Game Changer.  

THE BIG ONE: Detroit wings it to victory

You know? If the Pistons can get past their coach screwing with their rotations, their chemistry, and their play, and somehow manage to rely on the talent they have on this roster? This team ain't bad.  Austin Daye was the real hero here, and the youngster is proving that he's a big part of the Pistions' future. 20 points on 5-9 shooting, including 4-4 from the arc and 7 rebounds for Daye. Tayshaun Prince started at small forward, and added 20 points of his own, along with 6 assists, and Tracy McGrady had 20 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists. That's right. The Pistons got 60 points from three small forwards in this game. Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson, and Quentin Richardson combined for 15 points. When you lose a position battle by 45? Dwight Howard's 7 offensive boards aren't going to help much.

The Magic had five players out of their nine-man rotation with at least two turnovers, while the Pistons had just two out of their ten-man. Throw in some hot shooting from outside and the Pistons brought the Heat. Big win for the Pistons who continue to have one of the oddest seasons in memory. And guess what?

At 17-28, they're a game and a half back of the playoffs. Weird. 

THE N'ORLEANS HOMEFRONT: Victory through swarm

Trevor Ariza got busy. Ariza swarmed Kevin Durant down the stretch and it was one terrible shot after another, only this time he wasn't hitting any miracles. The Hornets threw multiple waves of pressure to keep the ball out of Russell Westbrook's hand after he had torched the Hornets time after time in this game, and in the end, it was David West's off-balance pivot jumper that won it for New Orleans. 

The Hornets at once seemed completely out-manned in this one and certifiably in control. Basically, whenever David West, Emeka Okafor, or Chris Paul got involved, they looked like the better squad, and when anyone else got involved it was not so much the case. Marcus Thornton was nice, if you think 10 points on 12 shots is nice, but in reality, none of the Hornets outside the Big 3 mattered much. What was relevant was a long stretch in the second and third quarter when Scott Brooks gave Eric Maynor the reins and watched as Chris Paul sliced him into roast beef. Maynor was simply not in a position to defend the MVP candidate, and it showed. 

A key play down the stretch saw Chris Paul steal the inbounds with the game tied, then come crashing down to the floor holding his ankle. Paul would walk it off, though. David West continues his reliable play and you have to think he and Okafor will determine how far this team goes in the playoffs. Okafor was at times brilliant, and at times extremely vulnerable as the Thunder crashed the glass time after time.  The Thunder held an 8% advantage in percentage of available offensive boards collected. 

Jeff Green had 19 points and wreaked havoc on the Hornets but had no shots in the final 3:16. 


Kevin Love: 24 points, 17 rebounds, 7 assists

Runner-Up:  Tyreke Evans: 26 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists

HERO OF THE DAY: RG doin' work

Posted on: January 14, 2011 1:28 pm
Edited on: January 14, 2011 1:31 pm

The Game Changer: Heat bomb without LeBron James

LeBron James and the Miami Heat finally lose, Elvis Night in Detroit, Blake Griffin throws down a double-pump dunk past Dwyane Wade, and the San Antonio Spurs run a gorgeous play for a big basket. Posted by Ben Golliver.

Each game is made up of elements which help formulate the outcome. Monday through Friday, we'll bring you the elements from the night before's games in our own specialized version of the game recaps. It's not everything that happened, but it's an insight into what lead to the results you'll see in the box scores. This is the Game Changer. 


LeBron James was out with a sprained ankle. It was the second night of a back-to-back. The team plane landed in the wee hours of the morning. The game was played at high altitude. 

There are a litany of excuses, and reasons, that the Miami Heat got clobbered by the Denver Nuggets on Thursday night on national television, 130-102, but, in the aftermath, James' absence will serve as the lightning rod.  

Without their leading scorer and best play-maker, the Heat looked listless, settled for bad shots, couldn't really guard anybody, played deeper into their bench than they usually do, and generally didn't get up for the moment. What's more, the other two parts of the Big 3, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, were -25 and -26 respectively, combining for just 40 points when 75 or so was needed. 

James' absence and the promise of his return makes this loss a lot easier to take for the Heat and their fans, although it's got to be a touch disconcerting for James, who came to Miami with the idea he was seeking out teammates who could meaningfully help him shoulder the load. But it's not panic time, by any means, as James surely understands that a Big 3 makes for a contender and any Big 2, no matter how big, is only good enough to be a pretender in the top-heavy NBA.

As for Heat coach Eric Spoelstra? Well, he doesn't appear to be taking the loss very well.



Russell Westbrook: 32 points, 10 rebounds, 13 assists, one steal and two blocks in 42 minutes in an Oklahoma City Thunder home win over the Orlando Magic.

Kevin Love: 35 points, 11 rebounds, and four assists in 41 minutes in a Minnesota Timberwolves home win over the Washington Wizards.

Dwight Howard: 39 points, 18 rebounds, two blocks in 43 minutes in an Orlando Magic road loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.



This is a pretty breathtaking ensemble from LeBron James: winter coat, dress pants, dress shoe and Nike flip flop, necessitated by his sprained ankle, of course. It's likely this is the first time in the history of the universe that someone has ever worn this outfit.


I'm not sure if Minnesota Timberwolves center Darko Milicic is a future All-Star, but he did manage to tip a jump ball into the wrong hoop, scoring two points for the opposition. Insane and so unlucky. Unfortunately, in typical Darko fashion, this weird news becomes the headline on a night when he put up 14 points and 11 rebounds. 


A great quote from Orlando Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy, on Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant after he went off for 36 points on 17 shots last night. "What haunts me are guys like Kevin Durant,” Van Gundy said. “So, I would say this building is haunted because of guys like him, as are most of the buildings in the NBA. I haven’t run into a haunted hotel, just haunted arenas.” Via DailyThunder.com.
Posted on: January 4, 2011 6:52 pm
Edited on: January 4, 2011 7:28 pm

Westbrook, Rose and Love talked teaming up

Posted by Royce Young

Super trios are all the rage in basketball these days. Or at least the idea of forming one is. And I guess the place to hatch the plan is overseas.

That's rumored to be where Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James decided to come together back in 2008. During the Beijing Olympic games, the three made a pact to join forces. And according to a story from Sports Illustrated, three other young stars talked about doing something similar in Turkey during the World Championships.

Kevin Love told SI.com that he's discussed playing with Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose at some point in their careers. Love said, "We all talk about playing together. It's fun to talk about. When the time comes, we'll assess the situation and figure it out."

All three are eligible for long-term extensions this summer. Maybe they plan on doing the same thing Bosh, Wade and LeBron did when they all added in a player option on the fifth year so that way they can opt out and look for the best situation.

Obviously all three teams the players play for now will absolutely look to lock them up for a good while. For a time, Love's future in Minnesota looked uncertain, but according to the SI story, Love will be in line for a max extension. Rose will likely garner one as well. And with the way Westbrook is playing, he might be getting the big payday too.

But what if they are really serious about playing together? Like Love alluded to, when will that time come? Westbrook and Love are former teammates, having played together at UCLA where they went to a Final Four. Rose is one of Westbrook's very good friends and evidently good pals with Love too.

The first question is, could Westbrook and Rose actually play together? It's really not that much different from Wade and LeBron honestly, except that Westbrook is five inches shorter than LeBron. But really, Westbrook is almost the same player except a little smaller and technically he plays a different position. Rose is similar to Wade except that he plays point guard. It might take some work but that would be about as fast and dynamic a backcourt as you'll ever see.

And of course then add in Kevin Love who is probably every bit as good as Bosh and you've got quite the core. Maybe it's not as super as the group in Miami but in five years? Westbrook, Love and Rose might be as equally household superstar names as Wade, Bosh and LeBron.

It's unlikely there's a fit for all three to join up, but Love and Westbrook could realistically pair up, most likely with the Thunder. Oklahoma City has some cap space coming up and with the uncertain situation of Jeff Green, there could be an opportunity there to snag Love.

But that, or the combination of the three, is of course is a long way off from happening. And there's a darn good chance it never actually comes to fruition. Love was probably just talking -- as he tends to do -- and said how the three discussed how fun it would be. Right now Westbrook and Rose are in pretty good situations themselves so I'm sure they are thinking about any kind of ultimate trio at this point.

However, just for kicks let's assume that Oklahoma City is the "South Beach" all these guys take their talents to. Love, Westbrook, Rose and Kevin Durant? That would be an okay team I think.

Posted on: December 27, 2010 1:58 pm
Edited on: December 27, 2010 1:59 pm

Griffin wants in; who could be dunking in L.A.?

Posted by Royce Young

Blake Griffin has pretty much taken over the NBA over the first couple months of the season. Every night people just wait for his latest highlight. So naturally it seems like he's a perfect fit for the dunk contest in Los Angeles during All-Star Weekend.

He's got the buzz around him, he's got the dunking ability and he's got the game in his team's hometown of Los Angeles.

Griffin has already said he'd be interested. "That would be cool," Griffin told NBA.com. "If it's something that the league wants me to do, I'll probably try to do it." According Chris Tomasson of FanHouse via Twitter, Griffin hasn't heard anything yet from the league. But if he's truly willing, you can pretty much guarantee he'll be there.

Another high-flyer that doesn't garner near as much attention is Indiana's Josh McRoberts. If you've been paying attention this season -- really close attention that is -- you'd have seen a few pretty terrific aerial manuevers from McRoberts. So McRoberts is firing up a little video campaign to try and get in.

Assuming Nate Robinson doesn't try and enter and ruin the dunk contest again, who else could be a candidate? Griffin is a lock, McRoberts is a long-shot unless he puts together some kind of award-winning video. Here's five others that could get consideration.

1. DeMar DeRozan:
He got in last year during the "Dunk Off" in Dallas, but didn't seem totally prepared for the contest. The guy can absolute finish with the best of them as showcased with his cram against Charlotte. Given the opportunity, I'm sure DeRozan wouldn't disappoint again. He's a power finisher with a bit of Vince Carter style mixed in.

2. Russell Westbrook:
Westbrook is a candidate a lot of people are mentioning and he's said he could possibly be interested. He was part of a fan vote his rookie season but lost out to Rudy Fernandez. Westbrook though said while he'd think about it this year, he doesn't know if he'd do it because he admitted he's not a great contest dunker. Which is true. Westbrook is one of the premier in-game dunkers out there, but I don't know how much flash he'd be able to come up with if he doesn't have Shane Battier standing there to dunk over.

3. Eric Gordon: The loser in last year's "Dunk Off" to DeRozan, Gordon is one of those inconspicuous dunkers. He doesn't look like he'd have the abilty to rise and finish, but he absolutely has some hops. He's a sentimental favorite since the contest is in Los Angeles, but Griffin's inclusion might snub him. Still, he'll at least be considered.

4. Derrick Rose: Last year, Rose was rumored to potentially be in, until bowing out of consideration. But I'm tossing him in here because he would be a really interesting competitor in it. He's a straight line player and while he looks flashy, he doesn't play with a ton of flash. But everything he does has a little extra accent on it, so even a standard two hand jam from him would look a little cooler than everyone else's.

5. Shannon Brown: Brown's performance last year was a pretty large disappointment. A viral fan movement is what got him included in the first place but once he was there it was like he didn't know what to do. He almost looked scared to really bust anything out. I think he needs another shot. Now that he's been in it and knows what to expect, I feel like he would blow us away. His leaping ability is downright scary and of course there's the natural inclination to put him in because he's a Laker and this is in, you know, Los Angeles.
Posted on: December 25, 2010 11:49 pm
Edited on: December 26, 2010 12:53 am

Durant's 44 lead OKC to Christmas win over Denver

Posted by Royce Young

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Not often do you see someone with 44 points completely take over a game in the fourth quarter, despite only taking two shots.

But that's exactly what Kevin Durant did for the Thunder in Oklahoma City's 114-106 Christmas Day win over the Nuggets.

When I say "take over," I don't just mean that he dominated the ball and forced the defense to adjust to him. Point guards can do that all the time. But after Durant dropped 21 in the third quarter to give him 40 going into the fourth, Denver made the natural adjustment to double him every time he touched it, no matter where he touched it.

The Nuggets wanted to force someone else to beat them other than Durant by trying to take the ball out of his hands, but he beat them anyway. Just in the way they didn't expect.

Durant made every right decision when the double came, passing to cutting teammates, swinging the ball wide and setting others up almost every time down the floor. Even when the Thunder came out with an empty possession, the shot taken was still a good one.

"The only thing I was thinking was 'hockey assist'," Durant said after the game. "I just wanted to catch the ball as close as I could to the basket and go from there."

"Hockey assist" is definitely the best way to describe how he worked out of the doubles. He finished with just four assists, with only two coming in the fourth, but if this were on ice, he would've been racking up points like Sidney Crosby.

Of course Durant couldn't lie after the game though. His career-high is 47 (set two years ago against the Hornets) and with 40 entering the fourth quarter, he admitted to having 50 on his mind. But he wasn't going to get greedy on Christmas. He was fine with what he had and the only other present he wanted was a nice Thunder win under his tree.

"Back of my mind I wanted it bad, but I wanted a win worse," he said.

Not to say Durant did this all by himself. He did score 44 on a slick 14-20 shooting, but James Harden poured in 21 off the bench and Russell Westbrook added 19. It's a luxury the Thunder have. It's one thing for your star to pass out of a double-team. It's another to pass it to guys that can actually put the ball in the hold. That certainly helps.

Of course this game might've been a lot different had Carmelo Anthony been available. Anthony of course is away from the team currently after the death of his sister. But without him, Denver just didn't know where to go - on both ends. George Karl tried a number of things with Durant. The aforementioned double, the bigger Kenyon Martin, the smaller J.R. Smith, the middle-sized Arron Afflalo - obviously it didn't really work.

Wait, that's exactly what Kenyon Martin said too when asked what the Nuggets tried. "Whatever it was, obviously it didn't work. That kid's a helluva player. He can shoot the ball with unlimited range so when a guy can do that it's rough."

But not only would Anthony have provided a natural fit defensively to check Durant, but also someone to look to on the offensive end. Chauncey Billups was great with 30 points on 10-16 shooting, Ty Lawson added a solid 19 and Nene had 21, but the Nuggets were missing that go-to option late in the game. OKC outscored them 26-21 in the final frame and pulled away to hold a 12-point lead late when Denver came up empty on multiple trips.

For the Thunder, it's a nice bounce-back win after dropping a sloppy loss to the Knicks last Wednesday. For the Nuggets, it's the third loss in four tries, but a valiant try without Anthony.

And for the Thunder's star, it was quite the gift to a sold out crowd in OKC. Not quite the 50 he was hoping for, but like Durant said, the win will do just fine.

"It's been a great Christmas already so far," Durant said. "Waking up in the morning with all my family around, opening gifts and just having the opportunity to play the game of basketball on Christmas. Not too many people get to do what they love to do, so getting to do it on Christmas Day in front of family felt great. But to get 50 would've been a cherry on top."
Posted on: December 14, 2010 11:59 am
Edited on: December 14, 2010 8:47 pm

Jersey needs to bail on Melo

As reports surface that Carmelo may still be amiable to the Nets, we ask the question: should the Nets be amiable to Melo?
Posted by Matt Moore

UPDATE: Now that the Nets have acquired two more picks in order to try and sweeten the deal , the Nets have commited themselves fully to this enterprise. In doing so, they're hedging more of their future on trying to land the forward All-Star, while a source told CBSSports.com's Ken Berger, "they can't get it done." The Nets are like that business owner who's staff is revolting and isn't turninga profit but keeps trying to buy expensive new curtains instead of changing the product to try and lure customers. The crusade continues. At this point, even if they are able to force a trade through, you have to wonder what they're going to be surrendering in terms of future assets.

Reports have come tumbling in with the tumbling tumbleweeds that the Nets are not out of the Carmelo Anthony race. They remain interested in the acquisition of Melo, and officials have met to discuss the matter. 

Here's the thing. 

They shouldn't be. 

(For more on the Melo situation with New York, read Ken Berger's latest update .)

That ship has sailed, and it's time to move on for the Nets. At this point, New Jersey isn't just trying to jam a square peg into a round hole, they're trying to stuff $17 million in there as well. The problem that exists now isn't one of a deal. It's not about trying to convince Denver to take Derrick Favors, two first round picks, and whatever leftover assets they want thrown in. That's not the problem here. It's a problem. It's just not the problem. No, instead, New Jersey is trying to acquire a star that doesn't want to play for them. And if you don't have a star for more than five months, you don't really have a star to start with. 

Throughout this process, Carmelo Anthony has maintained the inside track on the steering wheel of this vehicle (I'm mixing metaphors; roll with it; I'm doing it again). He's been in control the entire way in terms of directing how this thing has been led. If Anthony had decided that Newark, and later Brooklyn, was the right place to plant his flag for the new empire of Melo, all he would have to do is inform Denver that was the case, that he would not re-sign in Denver, and they would likely start extorting the most assets out of New Jersey, including possibly a series of brand new Yo! cars. (Note: They could not actually trade for Yo! cars. But if they could, you can bet Donald Sterling would be dishing for one, possibly in exchange for Eric Gordon.)

What's missed in this situation, as it was in LeBron's situation, is how easy it is for Melo to decide it. Sure, Denver holds his rights, and can ship him off to basketball Siberia if they want (say hey, David Kahn). But they won't. Because doing so damages relations with the next star they try and acquire. It damages relations with all of Carmelo Anthony's agent's clients (and that's a list of people you don't want to alienate). And it damages their relations with their current players who wonder if the same will happen to them. It's not plausible. So you try and make the best of the situation, get what you can, and go forward. 

But Melo hasn't done that. He hasn't assented. He's remained on the fence. He's seeing three teams (at least) jostle and struggle and bend over backwards trying to acquire his services. He's holding his own in-season version of what LeBron did for two weeks in July, holding court. He's just doing it behind the scenes. And he knows where he wants to go. There could be somewhere else he wants to go. But there's not. Because if there was, he'd be there by now. 

Meanwhile, the Nets are hijacking themselves, their season, and their future, trying to figure out how to get Melo. Guys know they could be moved at any time, as soon as Melo gives his OK to an extend-and-trade to New Jersey. But what's worse is that the way that the Nets are still showing interest in a player who isn't 100% interested in them. This isn't to say that players don't change their minds when they arrive somewhere. But it is to say that if you want to build a championship team, you need leadership that wants to take your team, your team  to the title. And Anthony at this point is looking for a comfy situation where he can get good endorsement deals. It's possible that in two years, the Nets will be in a position to offer that. But they can't now. 

Finally, this could end up being a blessing in disguise. In 2012, under whatever bizarre new CBA world we're living in, the following players could be free agents: Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Dwight Howard, Russell Westbrook, and Kevin Love, among others. While pulling Derrick Rose out of Chicago would require a pretty big crowbar, Paul and Howard have both shown reticence to commit to a team that won't contend. Westbrook may eventually tire of being Robin to Durant's Batman, and Kevin Love ... well, Kevin Love plays for the Timberwolves

There are other options out there, and perhaps by that time, with the team in Brooklyn (no offense to the Garden State), and a more established hierarchy of who to build around, the Nets can move forward. Right now, they're trying to force their way into a superstar's heart. You have to take your opportunities where you can find them. But you also can't force the hot person to date you when they seem so interested in flirting with your sibling. 

Time to walk away, comrades.

Posted on: December 10, 2010 2:50 pm

The NBA Quarterly All-Star Teams

Posted by Royce Young

It's never too early to start thinking about the All-Star Game. Well, I take that back. It probably is too early. But I wrote the body of this post before the intro so I'm pressing on anyway.

We're a quarter of the way done with the 2010-11 NBA season. Everybody has at least 20 games under their belt. We've learned a lot. The Heat can be good, the Spurs are great, the Lakers oddly struggle at times, Blake Griffin is exciting and Boston won't let you score... ever.

But on top of that, a few players have started that whole breakout thing. And a lot of the old good ones have stayed really good. The NBA truly has a ridiculous amount of talent right now. Seriously, this is a great time for the league. Except for that lockout stuff but I'm not going to mention that.

So because I think a lot about non-important things like the All-Star Game and Chick-Fil-A sauce, I began to notice how tough it's going to be to narrow down a 12-man roster for both conference. If there were an At The Quarter All-Star Team, it would already be quite a task to select that.

So naturally, here's my At The Quarter All-Star Teams:


PG: Deron Williams (21.8 ppg, 10.1 apg)
I'd say the starting Western point guard spot is the toughest to pick in the whole league. Look at the candidates: Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Steve Nash, Tony Parker, Stephen Curry. But Williams is the starters right now because he's commandeering an elite Western team, along with having terrific numbers.

SG: Kobe Bryant (26.6 ppg, 4.5 apg)
Kobe is the type of player that will probably be an All-Star Game starter for life since the fans vote make that happen, but it's well-deserved at this point. He's second in the league in scoring and is having a classic Kobe season. Big shots, big plays and big numbers on the biggest stage.

SF: Kevin Durant (27.6 ppg, 7.0 rpg)
By his standards, he's struggled a bit. His percentages are a bit down, he's missed a few games because of an ankle sprain and then a sore knee and he's seen his teammate Russell Westbrook steal some of his Thunder. But KD still leads the league in scoring and is still the leader on a very good Thunder team.

PF: Dirk Nowitzki (24.9 ppg, 7.4 rpg)
If I were voting, Dirk would be getting my MVP vote. Which would be weird because the season's only 25 percent done and I also don't have a vote. But Dirk is having one of his finest seasons and leading the hottest and second best team in the league (tied with Boston at 17-4). The Mavericks have found a new identity behind defense and ball pressure, but Dirk is the same old awesome Dirk.

C: Blake Griffin (20.0 ppg, 11.7 rpg)
Remember when the West used to be so stacked with big men that figuring out the starting front court was a nightmare? It's not that way anyone. There's been a shift to point guard in the West for those issues. But really, who do you start here? The best "center" is probably Tyson Chandler and maybe Al Jefferson right now. Both have been good, but I'm going to fudge and give it to Griffin. His numbers are worthy at 20-12, but he's everything that an All-Star should be. He has the league buzzing, every night is a potential highlight-fest and he's the most can't-miss guy going. To me, if we're selecting an All-Star team right now, he's got to be on it.

Russell Westbrook, PG: Westbrook leads Western point guards in scoring, plus he's got better "LeBron" numbers than LeBron at 23.7 ppg, 8.6 apg and 5.5 rpg.

Chris Paul, PG: Weird to have CP3 on the bench considering he's in the top two or three for MVP, but again, the West is stacked. His team's little slide lately isn't helping either.

Manu Ginobili, SG: The best team in the league doesn't have an MVP candidate? Who says so? Because Manu is certainly playing like one, at least in my mind.

Monta Ellis, SG: Ellis barely gets the nod over Eric Gordon who is also having a really good year. They score virtually the same amount but Ellis has simply been a bit more efficient.

Luis Scola, PF: The Rockets may be struggling and disappointing, but Scola hasn't. Coming off a big World Championships where he raised expectations for himself, Scola has lived up to it in every way.

Kevin Love, PF: He's leading the league in rebounding, and it's not close (15.5 per game, Joakim Noah is next at 12.3). This season there have been 11 20-20 games. Love has six of them.

Tyson Chandler, C: The last spot is where things get a bit hairy. Chandler has been having a re-birth of a season with the Mavericks, protecting the rim and playing solid offense. And just barely does he get the nod of Al Jefferson for the lone center on the roster simply because playing both ends counts for something.

Tough cuts: Stephen Curry, Steve Nash, Carmelo Anthony, Rudy Gay.


PG: Derrick Rose (25.1 ppg, 8.1 apg)
Rose wondered why he couldn't be an MVP candidate before the season. And there's no doubt he should be, if only he could get his team to win a few more games. But he leads all point guards in scoring (fourth in the league) and is dishing out a career-high assist average. Rose is the total package right now at point and really, one of the top two or three players in the entire conference.

SG: Dwyane Wade (22.0 ppg, 6.5 rpg)
His numbers are down a bit, but there's an obvious reason why. I'll be honest, if there was another really impressive shooting guard in the East, Wade wouldn't be such a lock. But because the East is pretty thin there (Stephen Jackson? Ray Allen? Vince Carter?) Wade is the starter by default.

SF: LeBron James (24.1 ppg, 7.3 apg)
Despite what his numbers say, he's still the most talented and gifted player in the game. And it's not like the stats aren't excellent anyway. He's just set a bar so high for himself there that all of a sudden 24-7-5 doesn't look so great.

PF: Amar'e Stoudemire (25.7 ppg, 9.1 rpg)
Not only are the Knicks winning, but Amar'e has been fairly awesome this season. He's third in the league in scoring and has just broken a franchise record held by Bernand King for most consecutive games with 30 points (six). That's like, pretty good.

C: Dwight Howard (20.9 ppg, 12.1 rpg)
Forget the fact there's not a ton of competition here. Howard has maybe been the most productive NBA player this season. He's scoring at a career-high rate, plus putting up his typical big rebounding and blocked shots numbers. His developing post game is no joke and he's becoming the total package at center.

Rajon Rondo, PG: His 14.1 assists per game are obviously eye-catching, but he's also turning it over 4.0 times a game, second in the league.

Raymond Felton, PG: Yep, seriously. He's playing on a winning club and his numbers are great! No really, they are! Look at them, I promise I'm not lying!

Ray Allen, SG: Nothing spectacular from the league's best shooter, but his stats are solid, his team is good and he's already hit a number of big shots just a quarter of the way in.

Danny Granger, SF: Come real selection time, he might get squeezed for a bigger name, but he's made the team once. He's a great scorer and now that he's on a decent team, he's deserving.

Kevin Garnett, PF: As long as he's still moving his way up and down the court, he's an All-Star. Plus, don't look, but he's actually having a pretty darn good season.

Roy Hibbert, C: A chic pick for Most Improved, the 7'3 Pacer big man has a well-developed game. Post moves, power moves and even a distance jumpshot.

Andrea Bargnani, C: Probably a stretch especially since Al Horford likely deserves it more, but Barge Nanny is sixth in the East in scoring and in his last few games has really looked fantastic, punctuated by a 41-point explosion against the Knicks Wednesday.

Tough cuts: Al Horford, Joakim Noah, Paul Pierce, John Wall, Shaquille O'Neal
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