Who should start for East All-Stars?
5-on-5: Who should start for East All-Stars?
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Who should start for East All-Stars?
Who deserves to start for the Eastern Conference in the 2015 NBA All-Star Game? The 5-on-5 panel makes its picks. For our choices for Western Conference starters,click here.
Kevin Arnovitz, ESPN.com:Kyle Lowry. Setting aside theeye-popping real plus-minusand how he carried a team with few pure offensive threats duringDeMar DeRozans absence, Lowry deserves a big stage with a bright spotlight, and All-Star Sunday at Madison Square Garden is such a place.
Israel Gutierrez, ESPN.com:Jeff Teague. On a team with the best record in the East that also leads the conference in assists per game (26), it begins with the point guard. A lot likeTony Parkerin San Antonio, Teague wont put up gaudy numbers often, but hes letting results speak for him.
Scoop Jackson, ESPN.com:John Wall. He might not be considered the best at the point guard position (who is?), but he might have claim to the pound-for-pound title. Hes first in the league in assists, third in steals. With the most deceptive 17 points a game average in the NBA, Wall could be called the Steph Curry of the East.
Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com:Wall. Washington has been near the top of the conference the entire first half of the season, just as Wall has been near the top of the leagues assist list -- hes the only player in the league currently averaging double digits. It should be the second straight All-Star appearance for Wall, who is now living up to his No. 1-pick status.
Brian Windhorst, ESPN.com:Teague. Thehighest player efficiency ratingamong East point guards? Its Teague and hes in command of an extremely impressive, team-oriented offense that has stunned the whole league. I wouldnt quibble with Lowry here either. Its hard to truly rank the East point guards, but team record sure is a good tiebreaker.
Arnovitz:Jeff Teague. I like John Wall a lot, but Teague blows him away as a shooter and can now fairly be characterized as a plus defender (worth mentioning that the Hawks rank ahead of the Wizards in team defense with less length). Teague has added heaping amounts of vision and savvy to his game and orchestrates one of the leagues best offensive systems.
Gutierrez:Kyle Lowry. This was a bit tough, becauseDwyane Wades shooting numbers appear significantly more efficient than Lowrys (49.3 percent to 43.2). But Lowrys actual PER is just 1.4 points below Wades. Factor in how crucial Lowry is to a 27-15 team and it becomes an easier decision.
Jackson:Jimmy Butler. Despite the January falloff, despite the fact that a strong argument can be made for Lowry in this spot, despite Teagues season-long play, Butler has two things working in his favor that the others dont: (1) a player of the month award and (2) other All-Stars who arent his teammates saying he should have been in the MVP conversation early on.
McMenamin:Lowry. Considered an MVP candidate in the early portion of the season, the nine-year veteran is deserving of his first All-Star nod, putting up career highs in points (19.8), assists (7.6), rebounds (4.9) and steals (1.6) while keeping Toronto afloat when DeMar DeRozan was out. Plus, he doesnt know hownotto play hard, so having him in the All-Star Game gives the exhibition a greater chance of staying competitive.
Windhorst:Dwyane Wade. Yes, he has missed a bunch of games with injury again, but thats reality. When he has been on the floor hes been a top-10 player and hes earned this spot.
Arnovitz:LeBron James. I know he sat out a couple of weeks and Cleveland is a mess, but hestillranks No. 1 in the Eastern Conference in estimated wins added. In the West, hed have to take a back seat to the firm of Brow, Spain and Blake, but in a conference still lean in the frontcourt, its a pretty easy call.
Gutierrez:James. No explanation necessary, so lets use this space to predict how high up in the standings LeBron can lift the Cavs by seasons end. I say to the No. 3 seed. Theyre currently 4 1/2 games behind third-seeded Toronto with 39 games to play. Itll be a fight, but it can happen.
Jackson:James. Flu, back problems, fatigue, falloff, extreme self-induced pressure, leadership ability in question; none of that makes a difference. LeBron is still a first-name-basis icon who happens to be the single most important player in all of American sports. Until that changes, an All-Star starting spot is his to lose.
McMenamin:James. Hes a no-brainer, even with missing nine games because of knee and back soreness. He might be somewhat fed up with all thepressures that All-Star puts on his timebut he still shows out, winning the games MVP twice in 10 career appearances so far. Sadly for James good buddyCarmelo Anthony, who shouldnt make it unless the fans vote him in, it will be another time that James shows up Anthony by taking the stage in Melos home city. Earlier in the season it was James holding court with the more prestigious royals inPrince William and Kate Middleton, while Anthony spent time only withPrince Harry.
Windhorst:James. It hasnt been a great year for him. But even with the injuries he doesnt have a peer, especially in the East. When hes on, hes still unstoppable.
Arnovitz:Jimmy Butler, whom Im slotting as a small forward because this backcourt/frontcourt business is nonsense in a league where most teams play with two wings. Butler has cooled off during the Bulls recent drought, but there isnt a more formidable two-way player in the East. A guy who was supposed to be a 3-and-D specialist has blossomed into a triple threat who can create for himself and serve as the fulcrum of the offense.
Gutierrez:Al Horford. Im not a fan of simply rewarding winning teams by granting their players All-Star berths, but Horford wouldnt be just a token selection. Horford is one of the most well-rounded bigs in the game. And just as he did at Florida withJoakim Noah, he encourages ball movement and spreading the wealth, knowing that translates to winning.
Jackson:Nikola Vucevic. This spot by virtue of what theyve done in the past and, more important, what theyve done in the first half of the season, honestly belongs to either Chris Bosh or Pau Gasol. But sometimes you have to give love to the underdogs when they come out of nowhere and do the unexpected. Vucevics 18.8 points a game (22nd in the league) and 11.0 rebounds (eighth) are Kevin Love-type numbers that not even Kevin Love is getting this season.
McMenamin:Pau Gasol. It has been a long time between drinks for Gasol, as he hasnt made the All-Star Game since 2011, but the 34-year-olds career has found a second wind in the Windy City. Plus, in whats sure to be a full-circle celebration forKobe Bryantbookending his first All-Star appearance in 1998 at Madison Square Garden with what could be his last back at MSG, it will be only right to have Gasol as part of the festivities.
Windhorst:Horford. He has belonged here for some time, but has often been overlooked and had several seasons ruined by injuries. Hes one of the best big men in the entire league, and the Hawks record shows it.
Arnovitz:Paul Millsap. This isnt a courtesy nod to the conference-leading Hawks, because Millsap has been the single most consistent big man in the East. You couldnt go wrong with either Pau Gasol or Al Horford, but Ill take Millsaps lunch-bucket rsum, which translates nicely in every metric on both sides of the floor -- defense, on/off and peripherals such as assist rate that demonstrate his versatility as an other-sized big man.
Gutierrez:Pau Gasol. Who wouldve thought a 34-year-old Gasol would be such a stable and at times dominant force for Tom Thibodeaus Bulls? I mean, he had a 46-and-18 game, for crying out loud. I wouldve guessed his legs wouldve fallen off by now playing for the Bulls.
Jackson:Al Horford. Part of this is because Roy Hibbert has virtually disappeared and that Joakim Noah has been hurt, but Horford has earned the right to finally start in an ASG. And even though his numbers arent the sole reason the Hawks are the best team in the East, Horfords play and Tim Duncan-like presence on the court are.
McMenamin:Millsap. I saved an Atlanta player for last just to see if you were paying attention. Of course the Hawks deserve to be represented, and with the ballot doing away with the center position recently, Millsap is a fit in this spot. Yes, Jeff Teague leads the team in points and assists, but guard is a deeper position in the East and Millsap leads the Hawks in rebounds and shoots a better percentage than Teague while averaging only about half a point less than him anyway.
Windhorst:Gasol. Hes having a strong season, really overachieving based on what was expected. Defensively hes struggled, which isnt a surprise, but hes looked younger and even dominant at times offensively in a conference short on dominant bigs.