Western Conference All-Star Roster review

After writing about the Eastern Conference we now move to the more well-rounded and dominant Western Conference. With eleven teams within two games of a playoff spot, the Western Conference, unlike the East, has become an all out brawl with no dominant favorite but plenty of solid if unspectacular teams. So without further adieu, here is my review of the Western Conference All-Star roster.

 

Point Guard- Chris Paul

 

CP3 as he’s been known has just been an absolute joy to watch. After toiling in league owned New Orleans for 5 years, this past off-season he was finally able to escape and has formed the best alley-op connection in the league this year with Blake Griffin. That and his statistics, averaging 19.2 points, 8.6 assists and 3.6 rebounds a game, alone would make him an All-Star. But it goes deeper than that. Chris Paul, in a league dominated by point guards, is the best in the game. His ability to run the pick and roll and ball-handle is something I’ve never seen. Despite having a balky right knee that has sapped him of his speed he continues to dominate the game. He’s evolved his game from that of a sprinter to a crafty floor general with ability to adapt to anything thrown at him. Watch the last two minutes of a game with it close. Paul has quietly become the best closer in the game, better than Kobe, LeBron, anyone. The reason for this is his ability to breakdown teams, not with his speed or his strength or his size but with his mind. He always makes the right play; he never turns the ball over and can make any fadeaway imaginable. He’s simply put the most efficient player in the game. And that makes him a worthy starter for this team.

 

Shooting Guard- Kobe Bryant

 

If age weren’t a factor, the player I would build a team around is this man right here. Even at 33 years of age, Kobe continues to produce; becoming the closest thing to Jordan we’ve ever seen. This 5-time champion knows ever trick in the book from post ups to fadeaways to skyhooks to the crossover J. He is a master and watching him play is like watching Picasso paint. It is never a question of if he gets going, on a question of when. Michael Jordan has said the only player he would never be upset with being compared to is Kobe. With 28.4 points, 4.9 assists and 5.8 rebounds a game; Kobe is yet again having another banner campaign. But what makes him truly great is his offense. He is simply unstoppable from ridiculous fadeaways with a 7-footer in his face to dribble drives against younger and faster point guards, Kobe is an offensive guru with every shot in his arsenal. He even still plays top-level defense with the ability to shutdown any guard on the planet. But what makes him great, even after all these years, is his hunger for victory. He never gives up and has drive to win matched only by Jordan himself. In pursuit of a 6th ring he could match Jordan in rings. And that makes Kobe not only a starter of this All-Star team, but also the best player of his generation and the best since MJ.

 

Small Forward- Kevin Durant

 

Finally some young blood! Nothing against Paul and Kobe but they’ve been around so long you know what they can do. But Durant is different. At 23 years of age, he has only just begun to scratch the surface of what he can do. And if this season is any sign, this guy is a legitimate superstar. This 2-time scoring champion is averaging 27.9 points, 3.4 assists and 8.1 rebounds a game. But what makes him truly special is just his shot. He can shoot the 3, he can penetrate, and he can shoot the fadeaway, post up a big man. Basically once he gets the ball, its over, because he just knows how to score. Leading a young Oklahoma City team, Durant looks to be putting it all together and this may be the year his Thunder goes all the way to the championship. There are great things in his future, but for now, he is the starting small forward for the Western Conference and it is well deserved.

 

Power Forward- Blake Griffin

 

Funny how the fans seem to have made mistakes in there choices for the starting power forwards of both conferences! Not that, that’s a knock on Griffin. From his highlight-reel dunks to his suave KIA commercials I can certainly understand the choice. And his averages of 21.4 points, 11.4 rebounds and 1 block a game are certainly worthy of an All-Star, just not a starter. But we’ll discuss that later, for now; we’ll focus on Blake. At 6-10, 250 pounds you would think this guy was just a banger. And you would be wrong! He is a physical specimen with the leaping ability that borderlines a cartoon, having a 55 inch vertical. When around the basket, he just explodes for powerful dunks giving way to the nickname “Lob City” with the arrival of Chris Paul this past year. And he’s certainly lived up to it. The rest of his game needs refining, not a very good foul shooter, doesn’t play defense all that well, and doesn’t really have any bit of a post game. But his physical talents make him a beast and the question is not whether he is a superstar but how high he ascends.

 

Center- Andrew Bynum

 

Rounding out the starting five is a fourth player from Los Angeles, Kobe’s teammate and first-time starter Andrew Bynum. The question was never if he was good, only whether he could stay healthy. And happily this year, he has! Averaging 16.3 points, 12.8 rebounds and 2 blocks a game, Bynum is now the de facto number 2 center behind Dwight Howard. Despite playing with a ball hog like Kobe and next to another 7-footer in Pau Gasol, Bynum has blossomed into his own this year. He pounds the glass and can post up anyone with his overt strength. He plays good help defense and is just a fantastic interior defender. I wish I could say more but there really isn’t much else to say. He’s just a strong burly center who does his job and plays hard. And that alone makes him a starter on this team.

 

Now we transition to the Western Conference reserves which are ridiculously deep.

 

Guard- Russell Westbrook

 

Kevin Durant’s running mate is making a name for himself. Westbrook is physically, the most talented point guard in the game. He has speed to match Derrick Rose and at 6-3, 187 pounds can size up anyone. But as physically gifted as he is, he still leaves a lot to be desired. Because while he can penetrate and create his own shot, he plays point guard along side another superstar in Kevin Durant. And there in lies the problem; Westbrook is simply not a very good ball distributor. When its crunch time, he has a tendency to call his own number and dominate the ball. This would be fine if he played another position and was the number one option but playing point guard along side another elite player means you have to be able to share and Westbrook just doesn’t like to. But despite all that negativity he’s still an All-Star with his 23.5 points, 5.5 assists and 4.8 rebounds a game. And he does rebound very well for his position. He’s just a frustrating player to watch with his vast amount of potential. Still, he’s a worthy reserve on this team.

 

Guard- Steve Nash

 

It’s sad really. If it was purely about the numbers Steve Nash does not belong on this team. But as a 2-time former MVP who’s never been to the Finals, I don’t have the heart to argue with his selection. Even at the old age of 38, Nash continues to be one of the most devastating offensive weapons in the game. His ability to pass is like that of a psychic, he can see it all happening before it even occurs, putting the ball through small windows anticipating where the open man will be before he is even there. Despite a supporting cast that simply put, the worst in the league, he still has them competing for a playoff spot at 14-20 with 14 points, 11 assists and 2.8 rebounds a game. He still can make any open shot from the 3, to the long 2, to the dribble drive. He can still pass like a magician. And he plays solid if unspectacular defense. Nash deserves a shot at a title but for now, an All-Star selection will have to suffice.

 

Guard- Tony Parker

 

Tony Parker is good at what he does and that is get to the basket. Averaging 19.4 points, 8.1 assists and 3 rebounds a game he is the floor general of the quietest dynasty in the association in the San Antonio Spurs. This Frenchman is one of the fleetest of foot guards in the league and uses it to perfection with a crafty ability to get to the rim. He still isn’t a very good shooter in fact making only 25 3-pointers last year, but he offsets it with a knack for passing and smart, methodical pace. Still plays elite defense, still very hard working in understanding positioning. As the leader of the second best team in the conference, Parker is a solid All-Star selection.

 

Forward- Kevin Love

 

Now we get to the controversy! Kevin Love should be starting for the west at power forward. With averages of 25 points, 14 rebounds and 1 block he is a behemoth of a load to deal with. The rebounding champion is a master at positioning on the block being able to decipher any shot attempt’s angle in order to block out and ultimately rebound the ball. In addition, Love is quietly one of the best spot up shooters in the game with an ability to shoot the 3 from the top of the key effectively and make foul shots at a consistent rate. His one problem is his allergy to defense, he just doesn’t play very much of it. While he can rebound he isn’t particularly fast or adapt at help defense and can be lazy at times. But despite this he’s such a load offensively that he deserves to be the starter for this year.

 

Forward- Dirk Nowitzki

 

The German Steamroller continues to roll. After last year’s Finals performance in which he dispatched the Heat, Dirk continues to add to his Hall-of-Fame career. Though his averages are down to 19.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1 block, Dirk continues to a staple of consistency. His fadeaway jumper is the most devastating shot on the planet as being 7 feet no one can block it and he hits it with such consistency that you have to cover him, allowing for his teammates to get open. This shot alone allows Dirk to dominate games and become an unstoppable force as opponents do anything from foul to send double teams to throw him off. He is probably the single most valuable player in basketball because of his ability to create for himself and others and that in and of itself makes him an All-Star.

 

Forward- LaMarcus Aldridge

 

This is a well-deserved All-Star selection. Aldridge has become the heart and soul of a hard fighting Blazers team. Lets call him mister pick and pop because he excels at coming off screens and rolling to the basket allowing for easy pass and dunks. Very efficient and surprisingly quick he’s become a tough forward who plays rough defense and never gives up on a play. He’s just simply a good player having a good year averaging 22.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1 block a game and is well deserved of this selection.

 

Ah, the final man and deservedly so.

 

Center- Marc Gasol

 

Out of all the players this weekend, this selection is my favorite.  Gasol has picked up the slack with the absence of Zach Randolph averaging 15 points, 10 rebounds and 2.2 blocks. And while at first glance those may seem like pedestrian numbers, if you dig a little deeper, you’ll find one of the most valuable players in the association. He is the center of the offense often asked to get the ball initially and work on the post with his skyhook or turn around J or find the open man if double teamed. He plays hard diving for anything and everything and sacrificing his body to get into the paint for buckets. On the defensive end he makes up for his lack of athleticism with the same intensity he applies on the offensive end, pushing the opponent to perform and never getting frustrated and taking every play one at a time. He is the ultimate team player doing all the little things like running picks or rolling for rebound all while willing to do whatever it takes to get his hands on the ball. Its about time this man was rewarded for his hard work with his first All-Star selection.

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