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Coach: Possible First Time NBA All-Stars
Posted By Anthony Macri On November 11, 2011 @ 2:00 pm In All,NBA | No Comments
If there is a season, the race toward the 2012 NBA All-Star Game will be even more of a sprint than years past. While it looks like most of the All-Star slots will be occupied by returners to the game, there is a good chance for a few players who have never experienced an All-Star Game to get the nod. So who are the prospective first-timers? Let’s take a look around the league.
LaMarcus Aldridge – Portland’s prototypical power forward probably had an argument for being the biggest snub last year, but expect the situation to be rectified this season. Whose spot would he move into? It seems likely that Tim Duncan, who was selected by his own coach Gregg Popovich to replace to injured Yao Ming, will not be included this year. Aldridge had the best season of his career in 2010-11, averaging 21.8 points and 8.8 rebounds with a strong 21.57 PER. To lock up his spot in the 2012 NBA All Star Game, Aldridge will need to improve his rebounding rate, especially on the defensive glass, where there is definitely room for him to add at least 1.5-2 boards per game. That combined with a more robust early season performance out of his Blazers will make it hard to ignore him this year.
John Wall – If and when there is a season, however protracted, expect highlights out of the DC area to be spectacular. John Wall pushes the tempo to speeds not seen outside of Phoenix, and with a stable of finishers like JaVale McGee (throw it near the rim and he can get it) and rookie athlete Jan Vesely he should pile up assist numbers pretty easily. As bad as the Wizards were last year, Wall still averaged over eight dimes every game. Where Wall really needs to pick it up is shot selection. In his sophomore campaign, with his mind wrapped around the speed and focus of NBA defenses, Wall should adjust and perform much better in terms of scoring efficiency. As for who falls off the All-Star roster from last year, it is hard to believe that the Boston Celtics will get four players again this year, and would it really surprise anyone if either Joe Johnson or Chris Bosh didn’t make the cut?
Stephen Curry – Unlike the slam dunks listed above who seem to be lined up for an All-Star selection just based on the natural progression of their careers, the ability of players like Stephen Curry to make the cut depends more on external factors. In Curry’s case, it may come down to how committed the Golden State Warriors are to trading fellow guard Monta Ellis. Ellis’ offensive needs have two effects on Curry’s production: first, Ellis demands a number of possessions from a scoring standpoint that would naturally slide to Curry if Ellis were not there, and second, Ellis’ style of scoring tends to limit Curry’s assist totals. This is because Ellis is a ball-dominator and is inclined to score more of his points in one-on-one situations without an assist. Curry averaged over 18 points, nearly six assists, and improved his shooting percentage to over 48% last season. If Ellis moves on, expect Curry to shine.
Brook Lopez – If there was a prize for the most frustrating seven-footer in the league, it would probably go to Brook Lopez. Lopez increased his scoring output last season, increasing that column by nearly two points per contest as he averaged over 20 per game. However, three key statistics for a player like Lopez actually went down at the same time. First, Lopez’ free throw attempts (and makes) both went down, meaning his activity level around the basket was also down. This lack of activity around the rim also resulted in a lower field-goal percentage (though not a huge downturnthere is no reason for this statistic to ever decrease this early in his career). Finally, and most alarmingly, Lopez’ production on the glass went way down as he averaged two and a half less rebounds per game than he did the year prior. For Lopez to make the All-Star leap, he has to establish himself at the same level as Al Horford (note: Horford averaged five points less but nearly four rebounds more and shot much better from the floor than Lopez last season) as the second-best center in the East behind Dwight Howard. This translates directly into working on the glass and displaying the disposition to dominate around the rim.
Tyreke Evans – While his production dropped in his sophomore season as compared to his rookie year, Tyreke Evans may be poised for a rebound season in 2011-12. A tendency to play too fast and take poor shots last year could have been improved significantly with the appropriate offseason work. The opportunities will certainly be there for Evans, who should get as many scoring chances as he did last year, and if he can improve his efficiency a breakout kind of year could be in store.
Marcin Gortat – This name may seem out of place in a list like this. However, consider this: If we only look at Marcin Gortat’s numbers after the trade to Phoenix he averaged a respectable 13 points and nine rebounds. In a Western conference that doesn’t have a lot of center talent (quick, name the best out West – is it Andrew Bynum, Nene, or Tyson Chandler? Really? Those are the choices?), it isn’t a stretch to think Gortat could get just a few more points and a rebound more and average 16 and 10 or so – and that might be enough to sneak his way into the All-Star conversation.
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Each week, HOOPSWORLD NBA analyst and coach Anthony Macri opens his notebook and offer an assortment of observations on games, players, and teams from throughout the league. Coach Macri serves as a player development consultant for the Pro Training Center and Coach David Thorpe, working with a variety of NBA players on their skills and game understanding. The Coach’s Notebook appears on HOOPSWORLD every Thursday.
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