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Less than one week left to vote for All-Star starters. Give me one player in the East and one player in the West who need (and deserve) a late push from fans to make the starting 10.
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David Aldridge:I go back and forth between Victor Oladipo and Bradley Beal in the East. Both have had great first halves and been the most important players for their respective teams. Beal's Wizards are doing a little better overall. But Oladipo has done so much with far less proven help in Indiana than Beal has had in Washington. Oladipo's not just averaging more points, but is shooting a better percentage both (.492 to Beal's .453) and on 3-pointers (.421 to .366). (And ... Oladipo attended the most successful high school in the history of the United States of America -- DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, Md.-- as your humble author also did. One DeMatha! :-) )
In the West, Jimmy Butler -- the catalyst for the Wolves' dramatic rise into a top-four team in the conference -- all day long. He's currently 10th among West guards, and while Chris Paul (sixth) is an all-time great, he's been out a lot this season, as has Damian Lillard (seventh). Lonzo Ball (eighth) ... come on. And Devin Booker (ninth) is a raft of excellence in an algae-filled Suns pool.
Steve Aschburner: I was actually pretty OK with the starting 10 that popped up from the first round of All-Star balloting. But I’ll play along and say Victor Oladipo in the East and Russell Westbrook in the West. Oladipo hasn’t been better than either Kyrie Irving or DeMar DeRozan but he has been terrific, while shouldering so much more grief as the scoffed-at key piece on the Pacers’ side of the Paul George trade. Starting the All-Star Game would be a cherry-on-top sort of vindication. Westbrook might land a starting spot on his own in that three-headed monster of a West backcourt but then, do you hold out Stephen Curry or James Harden? The way the game has gone, it probably should have three guards and two “frontcourt” guys per squad, but that’s a topic for another blogtable.
Shaun Powell: I think the fans are spot on so far in both conferences, especially in the East, with LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kyrie Irving, DeMar DeRozan and Joel Embiid. I just don't see anyone deserving to crack that top five. In the West, you could maybe nit pick with James Harden getting one of the backcourt spots over Russell Westbrook ONLY if Harden misses a lot of time with hamstring issues. Otherwise, the fans are 2-for-2.
John Schuhmann: If I have to make a change in the East, I'd push both DeMar DeRozan and Victor Oladipo over Kyrie Irving. It's actually pretty remarkable how evenly those three guys measure up, but DeRozan and Oladipo are the key cogs on offenses that rank fifth and eighth in the league, respectively, while the Celtics' success has been more about defense.
In the West, I'd push for Karl-Anthony Towns over DeMarcus Cousins for the third frontcourt spot. Cousins has the better points/rebounds/assists numbers, but that's mostly about usage. Towns has been the more efficient scorer and better defender (after some early-season struggles on that end of the floor), as well as more of a difference maker in regard to his team's success.
Sekou Smith: This is tough. It's hard to argue with the first returns on both sides of the conference divide. That said, Kevin Love has been stellar for the Cavaliers this season and I wouldn't argue with him being in that Eastern Conference first five, were the Love fans out there so inclined to make it happen.
Out West, I think that for all the struggles the Oklahoma City Thunder have endured this season, Russell Westbrook has been an absolute monster. The Thunder needed some time to figure things out, and they are still working through some issues, but Russ is right back to the triple-double ways the fueled his Kia MVP campaign last season. I've got no problem at all with him finding his way into that Western Conference starting five, were it to happen.