Top 5 First-Time All-Star Candidates
Every year there are young players who take the league by storm, either out of nowhere as or a natural next step in their progression towards transforming into superstars, but one way or another new All-Star players pop up every winter. It’s safe to say that 2011-2012 will be no different, especially as so many All-Star standards get older and no longer guarantee themselves a starting spot via fan vote-in.
So who has the best shot at making his first All-Star game this year? Let’s have a look at some of the strongest candidates:
#5 – Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies – Currently, Gasol is sixth in the league in rebounds per game with 10.4, and his 12.5 ppg have given him, this far at least, the first double-double season average of his career. Zach Randolph’s prolonged absence won’t help Memphis win more games, but it might help Gasol’s stat line, and the Gasol last name won’t hurt in fan voting. It’s looking like a career year for this young man, but it should be noted that his points and rebounds per game are nearly identical to Philadelphia’s Spencer Hawes. However, the West is more wide open for centers, and Gasol is certainly more recognized a player at this point in both guys’ careers. Still, Hawes deserves a little bit of love here, too, even if he has close to zero chance at making the All-Star team himself.
#4 – Kyle Lowry, Houston Rockets – This is our top candidate for the guy coming from out of nowhere to receive serious consideration for an All-Star selection. Lowry is second in the league in assists per game with 10 a night, but he’s also scoring well (15.3 rpg) and rebounding really well for a point guard (6.2 rpg). Houston as a team is playing pretty poorly to start the season, but the individual play of Lowry cannot be ignored. He might not have the name recognition to make it into the All-Star game, but this is far and away the best season of his career, and there’s a really strong case to be made for his deserving a shot at Orlando.
#3 – Monta Ellis, Golden State Warriors – We all knew that Monta could score the ball, and his 24.1 ppg average is good for 7th in the entire league right now, but it’s his assists this year that could launch him into the first All-Star game of his career this season. With 8.1 apg, he’s also 7th in the league in that category, placing him alongside LeBron James as the only player in the league to be in the top ten for both points and assists. Last year, Derrick Rose was the only guy to do that, meaning Ellis is in the company for something only achieved by former MVPs. If he keeps this up, an All-Star tab would seem only fair.
#2 – LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers – Easily last season’s biggest snub, Aldridge is having another big season for the Blazers. Honestly, he has the look of a perennial All-Star, and players like that tend to get in eventually and then never look back (a la Carmelo Anthony). Right now, Aldridge is in the top ten scorers in the league with 22.6 ppg, and he’s chipping in 7.8 boards for a really good 6-2 Blazers team of which he is pretty clearly the leader now that Brandon Roy’s gone. If Portland remains a top-three team in the West the rest of the season (and I think they can), they’re going to have to have an All-Star, and LA seems like the guy to fill the spot.
#1 – Andrew Bynum, L.A. Lakers – If trends continue, and Bynum keeps on playing as well as he as (18.8 ppg, 1.7 bpg, and a league-leading 15.7 rpg), it’s starting to seem as though Bynum will not only make his first All-Star game this season, but he could very well be voted in as the starter. For almost a decade, Yao Ming had been penciled in as the West’s starting center because of dedicated voting in Yao’s home country of China, but Bynum seems like the obvious replacement not only because of his play, but because the Lakers probably have the largest fan base in basketball. It’s a perfect storm for Bynum to slip into his first All-Star game, and it would be well-deserved.
Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors – When healthy, Curry has put up some sick stat lines, and he’s certainly about as likable a young star as there is in this league. But chronic ankle injuries are going to be a headache for him and the Warriors this season, making Monta Ellis the team’s more likely All-Star candidate for now. Someday, though, Curry could find himself in an All-Star game or two. The talent is certainly there.
Andrea Bargnani, Toronto Raptors – I think we all know that no Raptor is getting named to the All-Star team this season, but Bargnani is scoring the crud out of the ball right now (22.8 ppg), and that’s enough to at least earn him a bullet in the Honorable Mention section, right?
Eric Gordon, New Orleans Hornets – Whether or not Gordon had gotten traded from the Clippers, a lot of people expected this to be something of a breakout year for him. As a Hornet he’s averaged a career-high 21 ppg, placing him in the top ten of all NBA scorers so far this season. His team, however, isn’t off to a particularly great start, which means in a conference with so many good guards this might not be the year Gordon gets in. But he is close, and as the best player on his current team, it seems like only a matter of time before he gets there.
Kris Humphries, New Jersey Nets – It sounds crazy, I know, but despite everything Humphries is fourth in the league in rebounding with 11.1 boards per game, and he’s chipping in 13.3 points a night. Those are better numbers than Marc Gasol, Al Horford, and Joakim Noah—all guys who have either made All-Star games in the past or who have at least been in the conversation. He may be the most hated player in basketball, which means there’s no way he’s getting voted in, but based on merit alone he may get a few votes from coaches when the time comes. He probably won’t get in, but he’ll be in the discussion.
Are there other players you think could be in consideration for a first-time All-Star appearance this year? What about players who aren’t close to All-Stardom yet, but could get there in the future? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below!