NBA AM: First Time All-Star Candidates For 2013
Every season a new batch of players take their respective games to the next level and achieve their first All-Star selection. HOOPSWORLD takes a look at some of the players who have the opportunity to make the leap during the 2012-2013 campaign:
Josh Smith, Atlanta Hawks
Last Season: 18.8 points, 9.6 rebounds, 1.7 blocks, 28 double-doubles
When Atlanta Hawks All-Star center Al Horford succumbed to injury early in the 2012 campaign it was the play of Smith not the team’s franchise player, Joe Johnson, which kept the Hawks relevant in the postseason race.
Smith has continued to develop into a leader both on and off the court for Atlanta, but the eighth year veteran is plagued by a mainstream perception which is no longer applicable. Smith’s All-Star snub last season left more than a few heads scratching, but there are two reasons why the forward may make the leap this season.
The first, Smith is in a contract year and will undoubtedly be one of the top five most coveted players next summer in free agency. The second, this will be more of Smith’s team than ever before with Johnson dealt to Brooklyn early this summer.
Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors
Last Season: 14.3 points, 6.6 assists, 1.6 steals, 34% 3PT FG
The good folks in Toronto are thinking playoffs for the first time in years and part of the reason for the optimism is the arrival of Lowry into town. Longtime Raptors starting point guard Jose Calderon is a high assist, low turnover floor general and remains a very respectable professional, but in Lowry head coach Dwane Casey finally has the point guard he desired to run his system.
Al Jefferson, Utah Jazz
Last Season: 19.2 points, 9.6 rebounds, 1.7 blocks, 31 double-doubles
Jefferson is quite simply one of the most productive guys in the league over the past five seasons who routinely fails to generate much All-Star hype during selection time. The previous knock on Jefferson was that his teams underachieved, but after last season’s playoff breakthrough the big man may finally start to hear his name amongst the league’s best.
John Wall, Washington Wizards
Last Season: 16.2 points, 8 assists, 1.4 steals, 16 double-doubles
Over the past year the Wizards’ front office has made it one of their key objectives to surround Wall with a solid group of veteran guys who know how to play the game on the floor and are also professionals off the court. Wall is clearly the face of the franchise and Washington’s fate will ultimately be driven by how much growth the third year guard shows this season.
Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls
Last Season: 10.2 points, 9.8 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, 24 double-doubles
The Bulls will be without the services of former league MVP Derrick Rose for most, if not all, of the 2013 campaign as he rehabs a torn ACL. For the Bulls to remain relevant in the playoff discussion other guys must step up their play. With forward Carlos Boozer’s game seemingly in decline, Noah will be relied on more than ever to be a consistent force for the franchise. If Noah, plays at an All-Star clip the Bulls still have the potential to be standing amongst the Eastern Conference’s top six when the regular season concludes.
James Harden, Oklahoma City Thunder
Last Season: 16.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 39% 3PT
Harden rose more than a few eyebrows in route to taking home the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award last season, but it was in the playoffs where the fourth year guard put the entire league on notice. While, Harden had a disappointing NBA Finals run, his remarkable play in helping the Thunder reach the title round cannot and should not be understated. This could be the year Harden adds All-Star appearance to his mantle, which also includes an Olympic gold medal.
Tyson Chandler, New York Knicks
Last Season: 11.3 points, 9.9 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, 20 double-doubles
Besides Chandler and Marcus Camby (2007) you have to travel back to 1987 to find another Defensive Player of the Year award winner who didn’t make an All-Star appearance in their career. Chandler’s offensive game doesn’t sizzle which doesn’t give him the fanfare of some guys on this list, but his prowess on the defensive end of the floor helped the Dallas Mavericks win a title in 2011 and immediately paid dividends for the New York Knicks last season.
Monta Ellis, Milwaukee Bucks
Last Season: 20.4 points, 6 assists, 3.4 rebounds, 13 games with thirty or more points scored
Although undersized at shooting guard, Ellis has quickly established himself as a bona fide twenty point scorer. But all of the prolific scoring over the years has resulted in just one playoff appearance (none with Ellis as lead guy). Ellis, 26, will be the Bucks’ focal point offensively this season along with backcourt teammate Brandon Jennings, but until the wins start piling up the eighth year guard may be in a familiar place come All-Star weekend 2013.
Rudy Gay, Memphis Grizzlies
Last Season: 19 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.5 steals
Gay has always put up gaudy numbers but his teammates, Zach Randolph (2010) and Marc Gasol (2012), have received the All-Star recognition. The Grizzlies will once again be expected to contend for a Western Conference playoff berth and winning typically will keep your name in the All-Star selection field.
Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers
Last Season: 18.5 points, 5.4 assists, 3.7 rebounds, 26 games with twenty or more points scored
Irving took home the Rookie of the Year award in 2012 and is at the foundation of what the Cavaliers are trying to build going forward. The one thing which may hinder the second year guard in gaining a nod in 2013 is overall team success as Cleveland is expected to struggle for wins on most night. Nonetheless, Irving is an All-Star talent who will get to the midseason classic sooner or later barring injury.
Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Last Season: 14.7 points, 5.3 assists, 3.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 46% 3PT
Curry played in just 26 games last season due to an assortment of ankle issues, so don’t let the production slide fool you. Curry has improved his field goal and three-point percentages each year since entering the league in 2010 and if he’s completely healthy the Warriors have every right to be thinking postseason in 2013.
Thunder GM Addresses Potential James Harden Extension
The Oklahoma City Thunder are a team poised to perennially compete for NBA championships for the foreseeable future behind All-Stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Over the summer the franchise locked up another important piece of their core long term in forward Serge Ibaka with a four-year deal.
The next piece of the puzzle would seemingly appear to be extending the deal of James Harden, the 2012 Sixth Man of the Year. The Thunder has until October 31 to hammer out an extension with the emerging guard. If a deal isn’t reached by then the Thunder can eventually issue a qualifying offer which would make Harden a restricted free agent next summer where the franchise could match any offer received.
There is no rush to get a deal done quickly from the Thunder’s vantage point as the team holds the leverage in this situation and could opt to play the waiting game. The biggest concern for the small market franchise is obviously managing the payroll efficiently and being careful with the luxury tax which his far more punitive under the current collective bargaining agreement.
Thunder general manager Sam Presti says he’d like to secure Harden long term but says the team will take a measured approach during the process.
“James is somebody we value,” Presti told Jenni Carlson of the Oklahoman. “We think he’s an important part to what we’re trying to do with our team and we’re hopeful that he’ll be with us. By the same token, we’ve been very upfront and transparent with everybody that we have some inherent challenges that we face as an organization as a result of the new collective bargaining agreement. I know we’d love to have him here. I think James would like to be here as well. But at the end of the day … you have to find a way to make it work for everybody.”
The more Harden plays and continues to develop, the higher his market value projects to ascend. Presti isn’t saying the team won’t re-sign Harden to a long term deal, but Oklahoma City’s management is obviously taking a wait and observe approach while evaluating the true ceiling of the core they’ve assembled.
NBA Chats: There are two chats on the schedule today. Anthony Macri will hold down his chat beginning at 10am EST. Get your questions in here. Closing the show will be Eric Pincus who goes live at 4:00pm EST.