Assessing Bulls all-star chances
All-star starters were unveiled Thursday night, so the next logical step is to assess the Eastern Conference reserves and decide which Bulls, if any, are likely to draw an invite.
Here's the problem: The race is too close to call.
Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer are all good candidates. It's a stretch to think all three would make it, but the Bulls getting two, one or zero all-stars are reasonable outcomes.
First off, the starters are LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett. All were expected, and though Garnett (14.6 points, 7.1 rebounds) is a poor choice, his presence could affect the remainder of roster.
In my eyes, there are five players that qualify as obvious Eastern Conference reserves:
•Paul George, Pacers (16.9 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 3.7 apg) — Indiana's best player could make a run at the most improved award.
•Jrue Holiday, 76ers (19.0 ppg, 8.8 apg, 4.2 rpg) — His team is disappointing, but his numbers are all-star caliber without a doubt.
•Chris Bosh, Heat (17.9 ppg, 7.2 rpg, .557 FG pct.) — Nearly a starter, Bosh figures to be a lock.
•Brook Lopez, Nets (18.5 ppg, 7.3 rpg, .511 FG pct.) — Some might argue this pick, but the scoring is tough to ignore and Brooklyn has had enough team success.
•Brandon Jennings, Bucks (18.3 ppg, 5.8 apg) — Jennings' numbers have been slightly better than teammate Monta Ellis and considering Milwaukee's improvement this season, one of them should make it.
Lopez and Jennings aren't sure things, but in this example two spots are left on the team and there are probably 10 players with a strong argument.
Let's start with the Bulls.
It's a close call, but Deng has the best statistics (17.8 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 3.0 apg). He made his first all-star appearance last season.
Noah (12.3 ppg, 10.6 rebs, 4.1 apg) hasn't made it yet and this year's vote could be a chance for East coaches to compliment Noah for playing so hard. On the other hand, there is worthy competition at center.
Boozer (16.1 ppg, 9.7 rpg) is having his best month since joining the Bulls. A longshot now, but if he plays well for another week, his numbers will open some eyes. So far in January, Boozer is averaging 24 points, 10.8 rebounds and is shooting 56 percent from the field.
Among the other top candidates, a good case could be made for Cleveland's Kyrie Irving (23.0 ppg, 5.6 apg), but the Cavs don't have a good record. Likewise, Boston's Paul Pierce (19.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg) belongs, but should the Celtics really have three all-star reps with a 20-18 record?
New York's Tyson Chandler (12.4 ppg, 10.9 rpg, .672 FG pct.) built some momentum by winning the defensive player of the year award last season. There's a good chance he'll get in.
Atlanta has two decent candidates in Al Horford (15.4 ppg, 9.5 rpg) and Josh Smith (16.5 ppg, 8.3 rpg). Smith didn't help his cause by getting suspended this week.
Indiana's David West (16.5 ppg, 8.0 rpg) is playing well. Two Nets are in the mix — Joe Johnson (17.3 ppg) and Deron Williams (16.9 ppg, 7.6 apg). Johnson doesn't stack up well compared to Deng and Williams is playing below his past standards. The less likely candidates include Orlando's Arron Afflalo, Detroit's Greg Monroe and Toronto's DeMar DeRozan. Reserves will be announced next Thursday on TNT.
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