Since nothing can be done about the botched job the fans did on picking the Eastern Conference all-star team (I know it’s a dead horse, but Allen Iverson, really?), here’s my picks for the rest of the East squad.
Joe Johnson, Atlanta Hawks: I remember a few years ago, there was a story in Sports Illustrated saying how LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Joe Johnson liked to hang out together. The everlasting question was this: How did Joe Johnson finagle his way into that crew? At the time, he was the fourth best player on the Suns. I assumed he either had a really good personality, or a really good drug dealer. Turns out, he’s a damn good player who can play with anyone in the league. He’s filling up the stat sheet this year (21.7 ppg, 6 apg, 4.5 rpg), and has the Hawks pushing for 50 wins.
Jameer Nelson, Orlando Magic: No doubt, Meer Meer deserves to be here. After years of fans working out trades and pining for free agents to acquire a better point guard, Otis Smith committed to Nelson this past offseason. Nelson has responded by evolving into one of the league’s most efficient scorers, the unequivocal floor leader and a prototype prime time player. And he hasn’t even been that much of a liability on defense. The nugget is playing like at least a top-10 point guard, maybe even top 5.
Chris Bosh, Toronto Raptors: Maybe he’s not technically a center, but I stop watching basketball the day we name either Samuel Dalem-squirt or Emeka Okafor as an all-star because of a technicality. Bosh is the clear choice here. He’s almost averaging a double-double (23.1 ppg, 9.8 rpg), and he’s being relied on even more heavily with the great Jose Calderon missing so much time due to injury.
Danny Granger, Indiana Pacers: Since the legendary Reggie Miller left the NBA, it gets me a little misty to see an elite scorer in a Pacers uniform again. Granger is big, strong and can shoot, and he can straight take over games. If the Pacers could surround him with some talent not named Troy Murphy or Mike Dunleavy, the Pacers could go somewhere.
Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics: He doesn’t have the stats as some others, but that’s because he’s hit the stage in his career where he only plays when his team needs him. He doesn’t seem to care about stats anymore. When it’s the fourth quarter, you can’t stop him. As long as Pierce and Garnett are healthy, the Celtics are the favorites in the East.
Vince Carter, New Jersey Nets: I’ve always had a soft spot for Vince. Sure, he screwed over the Raptors and has been known to take numerous games (months) off. Yeah, he’s one of the most gifted players to ever touch a ball, yet reeks of untapped potential. But he gave millions of dollars to re-do his old high-school’s gym, which is in Daytona Beach. How can you disrespect a man who does that?
Devin Harris, New Jersey Nets: I hate putting two guys from the same team, when that team has lost more games than won. But Harris’ improvement since last season has him as the frontrunner for most improved player. It looks like Nets lucked into a franchise player. If the league would allow Kevin Durant to switch conferences for all-star weekend, I’d put him in this spot.
FIVE WHO JUST MISSED: Rashard Lewis, Orlando Magic; Mo Williams, Cleveland Cavaliers; Antawn Jamison, Washington Wizards; Hedo Turkoglu, Orlando Magic; Ray Allen, Boston Celtics