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updated: 2/7/2012 11:14 PM

Is it Deng's time to be an all-star?

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  • The Bulls' Luol Deng goes up for a shot against the Nets' Shelden Williams during the first quarter Monday night.

      The Bulls' Luol Deng goes up for a shot against the Nets' Shelden Williams during the first quarter Monday night.
    Associated Press

 
 

The logic was in place last season and seemed fairly straightforward:

If Derrick Rose is the Bulls' only all-star and leads his team to the NBA's best record, he must be more valuable than any of Miami's three stars.

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That's why Rose was a landslide winner for MVP.

A year has passed, the Bulls still carry the best record in the Eastern Conference, and now it's time to discover whether Rose is still their only all-star.

The all-star reserves will be announced Thursday on TNT.

The Bulls have made no secret of their belief that Luol Deng deserves his first all-star appearance. Missing seven games with a torn ligament in his left wrist slowed some of Deng's momentum, but he came back to average 20 points in the past two games, against Milwaukee and New Jersey.

"We're focused on the most important thing, which is winning," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "I think the more you win, there's more recognition. I think we have several guys that deserve consideration. I hope they get recognized."

The all-star reserves are chosen by a vote of coaches in each conference. Winning usually is the most important factor in all-star voting, so Deng figures to get plenty of support, but his chances probably are around 50-50.

Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah might have had a good chance of getting a call this year, but both have posted smaller numbers than in the recent past. So it appears Deng is the Bulls' only hope for an extra all-star.

"He brings so many different things to winning," Thibodeau said of Deng after the Milwaukee game. "All the intangibles that you look for, from defense to hustle plays to moving the ball, moving without the ball. He can shoot the 3, he can slash, he can post."

Rose will be joined in the East starting lineup by Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard.

Rose left Monday's win at New Jersey with back spasms, and his status is questionable for Wednesday night's game at New Orleans.

Anthony suffered a groin strain Monday and is expected to be out 1-2 weeks, but it's too soon to tell if that will affect his availability for the Feb. 26 All-Star Game in Orlando.

First of all, coaches must vote for two guards, two forwards and one center, plus two wild cards. There are plenty of candidates at guard and forward, but not many at center.

If the voting is limited to players defined as a center on the official all-star ballot, the best choice might be Indiana's Roy Hibbert. Boxing out may not be a specialty, but Hibbert is averaging 13.7 points, 9.7 rebounds and 1.8 blocks.

That stat line stacks up well against New York's Tyson Chandler, Cleveland's Anderson Varejao, Washington's JaVale McGee and Noah (8.6 points, 9.3 rebounds).

The other key issue is the quota system. The top seven teams in the Eastern Conference standings probably are going to get someone. The Bulls, Miami and Orlando already have starters voted into the game, while Indiana and Philadelphia don't have true standouts.

By voting Hibbert at center, Eastern Conference coaches can feel better about passing on Pacers forward Danny Granger, who is averaging 18.2 points but shooting a bewildering 37.7 percent.

A Sixers representative should be either well-rounded forward Andre Iguodala (12.8 pts., 6.6 rebounds, 5.2 assists) or guard Lou Williams (15.5 points). When it comes to a do-everything forward, Iguodala's numbers don't stack up well compared to Atlanta's Josh Smith. But Philadelphia figures to get someone in the game.

Two players who appear to be locks are Atlanta's Joe Johnson (18.6 points) and Miami's Chris Bosh (19.7 points). Boston's Paul Pierce started off slowly but has brought his numbers up to 18.6 points and 5.5 assists.

Based on statistical achievement, two players posting all-star numbers are New Jersey's Deron Williams (20.4 points, 8.6 assists) and Milwaukee's Brandon Jennings (19.9 points, 5.4 assists). They deserve consideration, along with Boston's Rajon Rondo (13.8 points, 9.5 assists).

Actually, that's a full set of seven reserves right there: Bosh, Johnson, Pierce, Hibbert, Iguodala, Williams and Jennings.

But that list is very subjective, and the coaches could make reasonable arguments for leaving a number of those players off their ballot.

Williams and Jennings haven't had enough team success. Iguodala doesn't have all-star numbers. Pierce isn't the player he used to be.

So there are definitely openings for Deng, who stacks up pretty well against other contenders such as New York's Amare Stoudemire (18.2 points, 8.8 rebounds) or Atlanta's Smith (15.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.1 blocks).

Some coaches might prefer Ray Allen, shooting an incredible 54.3 percent from 3-point range, to Pierce. A vote for Kevin Garnett (13.7 points, 7.3 rebounds) would be difficult to justify.

If Bosh, Johnson and Hibbert are in, it appears there are four spots up for grabs between Deng, Pierce, Rondo, Allen, Iguodala, Williams and Jennings.

Cleveland rookie Kyrie Irving (18.1 points, 5.0 assists) is close, but he hasn't had enough time to establish himself.

If Deng doesn't make the cut, Rose's value should once again be at a premium.

mmcgraw@dailyherald.com

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