Posted Feb 4 2011 11:19AM
There are All-Stars who are practically born under a spotlight and into the starting lineup of the annual glitzy affair. They are the likes of Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and Tim Duncan, who arrive as finished-product rookies and fit seamlessly in as the best of the best.
There are All-Stars who take longer to bloom and get to shine only once. They are players like Anthony Mason and Sam Cassell, who make careers of toiling in the chorus and finally have their one moment in the big game in their mid-30s.
Then there are the All-Stars who never were, the players who scored like All-Stars, played like All-Stars, contributed like All-Stars, but for one reason or another were always denied their chance to shine. They include Eddie Johnson, Byron Scott, Derek Harper and Drazen Petrovic.
Now with the voting and debating over and the rosters for the 2011 All-Star Game complete (pending commissioner David Stern's pick to replace Yao Ming), now is a good time to look at two lists. These are the players who are most likely to become All-Stars in the next few seasons and those whose time has likely passed.
(Note: All plays have played 5 seasons or less)
LaMarcus Aldridge: The raw talent and the flashy skills have always been there. This season he's showing leadership and carrying the burden of the offense in another star-crossed Portland season without the injured Brandon Roy and Greg Oden. Go ahead, just ask the Spurs if L.A. should already have been ticketed for L.A.
Monta Ellis: The name of the game is supposed be about putting the ball into the hoop. The Warriors' little big man, who is sixth in the league in scoring, can certainly do that -- to the tune of 25.1 points per game. He's been a victim of a logjam of backcourt talent in the Western Conference and maybe also paying a price for playing for Golden State. But that shouldn't be a reason for keeping him off the All-Star stage where filling it up is what it's all about.
Rudy Gay: There were plenty of people who would have sworn when he was the No. 8 pick in the 2006 Draft that Gay would already have punched his ticket to this dance. Oh, he can dunk and he can shoot and he can score (he's 22nd in the league). But coach Lionel Hollins will tell you it's making a commitment to do all of the little things that will make him an All-Star to the Grizzlies and the rest of the league.
Eric Gordon: If it weren't for the slam dunking antics and the bombastic highlights of The Blake Show, the third-year point guard would be the reason to attend Clippers games. He's sidelined with a sprained wrist, but the injuries will heal and it's not out of the question to think that Gordon and Blake Griffin could be All-Star teammates next season.
Brook Lopez: Everything in New Jersey this season hasn't been about Carmelo Anthony. The third-year center is a proven scorer who could use a boost to the rebounding part of his game. But he's a workhorse who shows up every night and, in the age of vanishing centers, is a traditional big man who could soon find his way to All-Star recognition.
Kevin Love: Never mind that his Timberwolves are at the bottom of the Western Conference standings. When he became the first player to ring up a 30-30 game in 28 years back in November, it got everyone to notice. But it's his relentless consistency since that should earn him an All-Star nod from the commissioner as Yao Ming's replacement. If not, you can count on an All-Star nod in Orlando next year.
(Note: All plays have played 5 seasons or more)
Mike Bibby: He's past his prime now with the Hawks, well down in the pecking order below Joe Johnson, Al Horford and Josh Smith. But during those six seasons spent in Sacramento, he was a perfect part of the Kings' offense. He's a fearless shooter and he probably would have gotten his All-Star due if the Kings hadn't blown that 3-2 lead over the Lakers in the 2002 Western Conference finals.
Andrew Bogut: In his sixth season, this might finally have been the big chance for the No. 1 pick in the 2005 Draft to make his All-Star breakthrough. But his shooting still hasn't recovered from the grisly elbow injury he suffered last season and now he's got a balky knee that won't let him shine.
Andre Iguodala: He's shown that he can run the floor, slash to the hoop, defend at the other end and do so many of the individual things that make up an All-Star's game. But he's never been able to rise above the Sixers' mediocrity -- or pull them out of it -- to become a must-see attraction in person or on TV.
Richard Jefferson: He's never been the main attraction, but for enough years he ran the floor and was the high-flying act catching Jason Kidd's passes and slamming them home in New Jersey. You might have thought he'd have gotten one All-Star nod back then, but he's always been the victim of the numbers game. He played behind All-Stars in Kidd and Kenyon Martin when N.J. went to two NBA Finals (2002, '03) and now is fourth in line behind Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker in San Antonio.
Andre Miller: This is his 12th season of being smart, tough and cooler than a penguin at a ski resort. There's absolutely nothing flashy about his game, which may be the problem for a guy who's dealt out more than seven assists per game and made a lot of teammates look good throughout his career.
Lamar Odom: Everybody always talks about appreciating the guy who does all of the dirty work. But do they really? For all of the brilliance of Kobe Bryant, the play of Pau Gasol and the serendipity of Ron Artest, the Lakers don't win back-to-back championships without Odom, who can do it all. He's the one that gets called in every situation. Except the All-Star Game.
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