With all of the talk about how bad the NBA's Eastern Conference is compared to the West, has anybody considered exactly who might be representing the East in February's All-Star Game?
Obviously fans vote in the starters and with the league utilizing "frontcourt" designations, a true center doesn't have to be selected.
With Bulls point guard Derrick Rose out for the season, Celtics counterpart Rajon Rondo still sidelined from his ACL injury last spring and Pacers swingman Paul George now considered a forward, Cleveland's Kyrie Irving, a former Rookie of the Year coming off his debut All-Star appearance as a reserve last season and equipped with widespread popularity from his "Uncle Drew" commercial could land a starting nod in the backcourt alongside Miami's Dwayne Wade.
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The aforementioned George is likely to start in the East's frontcourt, next to Heat superstar LeBron James and New York's Carmelo Anthony, both fellow small forwards. That doesn't give the East a whole lot of size up front to battle the likes of Houston's Dwight Howard for the Western Conference, but at least the lineup is sure to provide some exciting basketball and name recognition for fans.
The same can't be said for the potential East bench. Indiana center Roy Hibbert is a lock and would be a starter if traditional positions were upheld for the exhibition game, while Washington's John Wall should make his debut appearance, Bulls small forward Luol Deng is likely to make his third consecutive trip and Heat big man Chris Bosh is almost a guarantee, too.
But beyond that quartet is where things get murky. Atlanta should be rewarded for being the third-best competitive team in the conference-even if the Hawks are only barely above .500 now, the fact that they weren't expected to be very good, especially with a low payroll and lacking high-profile players, makes them a success-and while big man Al Horford is his usual consistent self, point guard Jeff Teague should be rewarded for his breakout season, particularly with Bosh and Hibbert already on the squad.
After that, unfortunately, the only players to consider is a pair enjoying career campaigns, albeit for losing teams: Orlando's Arron Afflalo and Toronto's DeMar DeRozan. Besides their shared hometown of Compton, Calif., names heavy on alliteration and playing the same position, shooting guard, each of the duo plays for teams supposedly tanking, but are thriving nonetheless and in an East where only two squads are legitimate contenders, solid individual play has to be rewarded.
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Hopefully more Eastern Conference players establish themselves as the season goes on, giving East coaches more options to choose from-Pistons point guard Brandon Jennings is having a good debut season in Detroit, Nets center Brook Lopez is the lone bright spot in Brooklyn and the aforementioned Horford can't be ignored-but as of right now, the pickings are slim.
To illustrate exactly how sad a state of affairs it is in the East without getting too deep into Western Conference supremacy, consider this for a second: Kevin Durant, the Clippers tandem of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, the recently-recovered Kobe Bryant and the Rockets' Howard are likely to be the fans' choices to start for the West in New Orleans.
That conference's potential group of reserves includes: Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge, the best player for the West's top team right now; Golden State's Stephen Curry, arguably the game's best pure shooter; San Antonio's Tony Parker, who requires no further explanation; Houston's James Harden, the league's fifth-leading scorer; Pelicans big man Anthony Davis, perhaps slightly a product of hometown cooking, but also putting up outrageous numbers; and for a sleeper first-time All-Star, Monta Ellis, who has been Dallas' top player thus far this season.
Some of the players excluded, such as Oklahoma City point guard Russell Westbrook, could be starting for the East. Again, it's still very early, but barring any unforeseen stretches by players in the next few months or a blockbuster trade that send a star player to the East, it's also reality.