If fans were betting on seeing the league’s best players in the NBA All-Star Game, they may feel empty-handed even before the trip to Las Vegas. In the latest sin to hit a city that made them famous, the fans once again dropped the ball in their All-Star voting. Not surprsingly, fans often used “star power” as their main criterion for casting votes. The two centers in the game, Shaquille O’Neal and Yao Ming, have played a combined 35 games, which is less than the number of games that fellow starter LeBron James has played. Odds are that the coaches will have better judgment with their own selections for the game’s reserves, but just in case, here is a rundown of who should be making the trip to Las Vegas. This year’s choices would include some familiar faces, some All-Star newbies and a newcomer to the West squad that many fans never envisioned leaving the Eastern Conference.
JASON KIDDNEW JERSEY NETSPOINT GUARD33 YEARS OLD
The Nets’ point guard already has eight triple-doubles this season and established a new career-high in rebounds (8.4 per game) in the process. Kidd’s steady play, in one of the finest seasons of his Hall-of-Fame career, has been one reason why New Jersey has been able to overcome injuries to starters Richard Jefferson and Nenad Krstic.
JOE JOHNSONATLANTA HAWKSSHOOTING GUARD25 YEARS OLD
The best player you have never heard of is wasting the prime of his career in Atlanta. Johnson is the only player on the Hawks that concerns opponents. Despite being double-teamed every night, he is averaging a career-high 24.9 points per game.
BEN GORDONCHICAGO BULLSSHOOTING GUARD23 YEARS OLD
It’s not often that a healthy player with only 14 starts deserves an All-Star selection, but Gordon fits that description. Since being inserted into the starting lineup in early January, Gordon has led the Bulls to six wins in their last eight games. It’s only fitting that the world’s best reserve should assume that role in Las Vegas.
MICHAEL REDDMILWAUKEE BUCKSSHOOTING GUARD27 YEARS OLD
The toughest choice among the East reserves was Redd, who missed close to a month due to a knee injury. Before his injury, Redd was third in the NBA in scoring with a career-high 27.7 points per game. His impact on the Bucks is immeasurable, considering they have fallen out of playoff contention without him in the lineup.
CARON BUTLERWASHINGTON WIZARDSSMALL FORWARD26 YEARS OLD
Michael Jordan needed Scottie Pippen in almost the same way that Gilbert Arenas needs Caron Butler. The former UConn star is averaging career-highs in points, rebounds and assists while becoming Arenas’ perfect compliment.
JERMAINE O’NEALINDIANA PACERSPOWER FORWARD28 YEARS OLD
The Pacers’ big man is one of only four players in the Eastern Conference to average double-figures in both points and rebounds. More importantly, the league’s leading shot blocker has developed into a leader that has kept the Indiana Pacers in the thick of the playoff hunt.
DWIGHT HOWARDORLANDO MAGICCENTER21 YEARS OLD
The way young Howard has been playing this season is causing some professors at Villanova to question whether or not he is human. At just 21 years old, Howard is already leading the league in rebounds and is by far the best big man to enter the NBA since Tim Duncan.
STEVE NASHPHOENIX SUNSPOINT GUARD32 YEARS OLD
How does the two-time reigning MVP not make the All-Star Game’s starting lineup? That’s another reason why the fans should be stripped of their votes. Nash is once again having an All-Star season and is currently the only player in the NBA averaging over 10 assists per game. As hard as it is to win three straight MVPs, Nash is making a great case.
ALLEN IVERSONDENVER NUGGETSPOINT GUARD31 YEARS OLD
The injury to Yao Ming allowed the Western Conference to select an extra player as a replacement on the roster. Iverson, who would probably have started if he had stayed in Philadelphia, should get the nod here. Not only is he third in the NBA in scoring, but he has also shed the selfish label he once had as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers.
CARMELO ANTHONYDENVER NUGGETSSMALL FORWARD22 YEARS OLD
Normally, the league’s leading scorer would be a guarantee for the All-Star Game, but because of Anthony’s role in an earlier brawl, he has been the source of a heated debate. He should not be invited to play, but when has the NBA been known to do the right thing? Expect him to be there.
SHAWN MARIONPHOENIX SUNSSMALL FORWARD28 YEARS OLD
The versatile, often overlooked and underrated Marion has once again excelled in the up-tempo offense of the Phoenix Suns and is the one player on the team who consistently rebounds. It seems only fitting that the league’s best team should have the game’s most players.
CARLOS BOOZERUTAH JAZZPOWER FORWARD25 YEARS OLD
His availability for the game may be in question after suffering a knee injury, but a healthy Boozer should be on the roster. The former Blue Devil is leading the impressive Jazz with career-high averages in every major offensive category, a big reason why Utah is finally back in the playoff hunt.
ZACH RANDOLPHPORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERSPOWER FORWARD25 YEARS OLD
The emerging Randolph was once considered a bust, but career highs in both points and rebounds show that he is coming into his own as a player. Randolph should not be punished for his team’s poor record but instead rewarded for his play with a trip to Las Vegas.
DIRK NOWITZKIDALLAS MAVERICKSFORWARD/CENTER28 YEARS OLD
Like his former teammate Steve Nash, Dirk is having an MVP caliber season and should have been voted in by the fans. Most likely, we will see Dirk replace the injured Yao Ming in the starting lineup to give the West the very formidable front line of Garnett, Duncan and Nowitzki.
AMARE STOUDEMIREPHOENIX SUNSCENTER24 YEARS OLD
When a player suffers an injury like Stoudemire’s, he can only assume that he will never again reach the level at which he previously played. Stoudemire defied all odds and is having one of the best comeback seasons in recent memory. Stoudemire’s return to stardom may be the final piece to a Phoenix championship.