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The NBA All-Star Game: Who Belongs Now, Who Belongs in the Future?

2011 NBA All-Star Game Logo (Image courtesy NBA)

This weekend, the NBA’s most talented players will convene for the 2011 All-Star Game at Staples Center in Los Angeles. A pointless exhibition, the honor of achieving All-Star status is likely more important to many players than the actual game itself. The game acts as a showcase for the league, stretched out over a three-day weekend, while those not involved get a deserved mid-season break. The hiatus also gives the media an opportunity to craft mid-season reports that touch on any angle worth covering, from surprises to snubs. While this piece will be firmly entrenched in the former, it will differ from all of the other All-Star snub columns you read two weeks ago, when everybody was clamoring for Kevin Love to make the team. He did. So did Blake Griffin. Now that the rosters are finally set, let’s take a look at not only who was slighted, but also some of the guys we can expect to see in years to follow.

True Snubs

I call these guys “true snubs” because not only are they not invited to participate in the game, but they should actually be playing instead of somebody else who was voted in or selected. Luckily, this naturally occurred in the Kevin Love case, where he was selected to replaced the injured Yao Ming. Had Yao been healthy and Love ignored, he would be exhibit A in this exercise. That should give you the idea.

Kevin Martin, G, Houston Rockets

If Martin walked by you on the street wearing his entire uniform, you wouldn’t notice him. The unheralded Western Carolina guard has been a giant piece in the Houston puzzle. Unfortunately, that puzzle will remain incomplete until either the Chinese develop a technology to keep favorite son Yao healthy, or Houston GM Daryl Morey is able to rid his roster of the Ming albatross. Class act that he is, Martin is widely unaffected by the supposed disregard.

“It’s the least of my worries,” Martin said recently in a phone interview with his hometown paper, the Zanesville Times Recorder. “It just means I can come home and spend time with my family. People on the outside have no idea — there is so much that goes into that besides basketball. I’m having an All-Star-caliber season, just getting back to being a consistent player. … I don’t need to be glorified. Man to man, I know what kind of player I am.”

LaMarcus Aldridge, F, Portland Trail Blazers

Another guy who is somehow strangely affected by the injuries and inconsistencies around him. If Brandon Roy never disappears and Greg Oden was anybody but Greg Oden, Portland would be a pest in the West and Aldridge’s profile would be heightened on a national scale. Instead, the Blazers toil away in Rip City, and Aldridge and his 22 points and nine rebounds-per-game get no All-Star appreciation. Witness Detroit Coach John Kuester, following the Pistons’ loss to Portland last Sunday:

“I think the execution was Aldridge, Aldridge and Aldridge, and then when they were looking to run a play, they went to Aldridge,” Kuester said. “It was either pick and roll or post up. The execution of Aldridge was great.”

The fourth-year forward from the Univeristy of Texas scored a career high 42 points against Chicago on February 7. He also scored 40 points and had a career high 16 field goals along with 11 rebounds on February 1 against the Spurs.

On The Brink

Not molecular biology, just guys who are very close to being All-Stars.

Andrew Bogut, C, Milwaukee Bucks

There seems to be something about Bogut that people just don’t get. Last season was his best, and this season isn’t far behind, but still Bogut gets no All-Star love.

“It’s just the way it is. We’ve got to play really well as a team to have an All-Star. And it’s magnified playing in a small market” Bogut said.

The 7-footer is currently putting up close to 13 points a night, with nearly 12 rebounds and three blocks per game as well. In a league with few true centers, Bogut is a beast. Look for him to break through next season if he continues his ascension while Tim Duncan grows old.

Joakim Noah, F, Chicago Bulls

I’ll be the first to confess that I never thought Noah’s game would translate to the pros, and that I dreaded the prospect of the Celtics drafting him back in 2007. At the halfway mark, the former Florida Gator is averaging a double-double with 14 points and nearly 12 boards per game. His hustle, energy, and bobbing ponytail make him both a standout and pest for opposing teams to game plan against. At only 25 years old, Noah can expect to be a fixture at All-Star weekends for years to come.

See Ya Real Soon

Tyreke Evans, G, Sacramento Kings, — Eric Gordon, G, Los Angeles Clippers, — John Wall, G, Washington Wizards

The NBA is absolutely loaded with young, talented guards. They, like their All-Star counterparts, are all freakishly athletic with speed in spades. It’s reminiscent of the late 90′s resurgence of the MLB shortstop or the 1983 NFL Draft class of quarterbacks. With Deron Williams, Chris Paul (if healthy), Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose, and Rajon Rondo all standing over these young guards, it will be interesting to see how future All-Star rosters shake out. It’s been suggested that All-Star rosters ought to be expanded to 15 players from the current 12. This is really a no-brainer, and I’m not sure why Commissioner David Stern wouldn’t even go as high as 18 players per conference. It’s a showcase event; why not show off more of your product?

Demarcus Cousins, F, Sacramento Kings

Per ESPN’s Bill Simmons: “In the past three weeks alone, he dropped a 27-10 on the Lakers, a 25-14 on Utah, a 19-15 on Dallas and a few punches on teammate Donte Greene’s head, then subsequently got banned from a team plane and suspended.” Depending on which activity Cousins enjoys more, basketball or rabble-rousing, we may see anywhere from zero to ten All-Star appearances in his future. When the Celtics played the Kings a couple of weeks ago, Kevin Garnett predictably went at his young doppleganger, who was mildly affected by it. Though annoyed as he seemed, don’t doubt that he was also taking notes, hoping to follow in KG’s path.

*For a full schedule of all this weekend’s All-Star events, check out: http://www.nba.com/allstar/2011/.

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