Bill Smith/Chicago Bulls
How many Bulls could be All-Stars?
The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.
By Sam Smith | 12.11.2014 | 7:52 p.m. CT
NBA balloting for the All-Star team started Thursday, and for just the second time in franchise history it would appear the Bulls have a chance to have three All-Stars.
It’s happened just once in franchise history and it didn’t involve Michael Jordan. It was the 1993-94 season after Jordan’s first retirement when Scottie Pippen, B.J. Armstrong and Horace Grant made the team. Pippen and Armstrong were selected by fan voting while Grant was added by the coaches. Voting then was by guard, forward and center. Armstrong and Pippen led among guards and forwards while Shaquille O’Neal at center was the leading vote getter overall. The popular Armstrong after the Bulls third consecutive title was the second in most Eastern votes to O’Neal and third league wide behind Charles Barkley and O’Neal.
Dennis Rodman never made an All-Star team when he played for the Bulls and only made two All-Star teams in his career.
The NBA changed the voting procedure again for this year’s game in New York Feb. 15, which was why the ballot release was delayed until December. For the first time, every NBA player will be eligible to be voted onto teams by the fans worldwide, selecting two guards and three frontcourt players. Balloting ends Jan. 19 with starters announced Jan. 22 and the seven reserves selected by the coaches announced Jan. 29.
Until this year, there was a ballot listing the top players by position for fans to vote. I’ve been on the committee which selected the players for the ballot, but have been assured that’s not why they changed. The new method shouldn’t produce a vastly different starting team, though with everyone on the ballot there does, in theory, remain the possibility a team like the Warriors with their hot start and international roster could have Ognjen Kuzmic, Leandro Barbosa, Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli voted in by fans and coaches selecting the obvious stars, like Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Though it does seem unlikely as the fan vote always has been responsible and accurate.
Actually, there’s never been a restriction in the game for having, say, eight players from one team. A lot of things that could happen just won’t.
The Bulls have a chance for getting the All-Star trio given the first quarter of the season play of Pau Gasol and Jimmy Butler and the popularity of Derrick Rose. Rose having missed eight of the first 13 games and sitting out the second half of another with modest numbers might limit his candidacy at this point. But with the East so weak and just five teams with winning records, it’s not off base to consider Rose an All-Star even with his limited play. And that could change in a big way if Rose continues to play through the Jan. 19 deadline and the Bulls remain among the East’s top teams. But considering Rose’s popularity with young fans, he also could be voted in given just the circumstances of his comeback, not unlike the wave of popularity that made Armstrong the Eastern vote leader among guards in 1994. In fact, Armstrong drew more votes than any other guard in the NBA that season. And that included Clyde Drexler, Mitch Richmond, Gary Payton, Mark Price, Joe Dumars and Isiah Thomas.
There’s no way of knowing the fan voting, so here’s a look at what the All-Star rosters should/could/might look like if the selections were made this week:
Eastern Conference (Going to be difficult to find 12 who really qualify)
Jimmy Butler, Bulls: The surprise player of the league with his scoring and points created going to the basket.
John Wall, Wizards: The track star has evolved into a basketball player. He’s still more offensively minded with a much improved shot, but runs the team better.
Dwyane Wade, Heat: Not that Wade anymore without the explosive athleticism, and missed several games. But clever veteran who still can score 20.
Jeff Teague, Hawks: They’ve been a surprise team as they often are given the lack of media and community attention. He drives them and pretty much as he goes they go.
Kyrie Irving, Cavs: Not passing all that much, but terrific off the dribble and playing a bit more defense. Overall, a top talent.
Kyle Lowry, Raptors: DeMar DeRozan has won the acclaim, but he’s hurt and the rugged Lowry has emerged as their do everything guy with big shots and running the team.
Derrick Rose, Bulls: Not his best season yet, but he’s coming on with better health and a month from now could be a popular choice to make the team.
LeBron James, Cavs: That was easy.
Chris Bosh, Heat: Can’t quite carry a team, as Toronto knows, but a high level player.
Pau Gasol, Bulls: Having a career renaissance as probably the league’s best center this season.
Paul Millsap, Hawks: Sort of the glue guy who makes big plays for them despite being about 6-5 and surprisingly one of the league’s steal leaders.
Nikola Vucevic, Magic: He’s been out lately and if his injuries continue he won’t make it. But as East big men go he’s been one of the most productive. If they were better Tobias Harris would be getting some more attention.
Al Jefferson, Hornets: His team has had a slow start with some tough losses as their guards have shot poorly, but he’s mostly been solid once again. Sorry, Carmelo. Not with your team playing like that. And I haven't mentioned Joakim Noah, who could emerge to make the team or miss out given several injuries this season.
Western Conference (Limiting it to 12 is going to be difficult and create some loud outcries):
Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, Warriors: Just put them together now as an entry; they’re the elite backcourt on the elite team thus far.
James Harden, Rockets: They’ve been terrific even with Dwight Howard missing so many games. Despite the defenses loading up on him—as much as anyone does it in the Western Conference—no one gets to the rim better.
Chris Paul, Clippers: The motor who runs that team and if he’ll have to win more playoff series to erase questions about his legacy, for midseason games he’s one of the best.
Mike Conley, Grizzlies: Overlooked because of the team. the city and his seemingly understated game. But makes almost every big shot for them.
Monta Ellis, Mavericks: Fellow overlooked; never an All-Star despite a career average close to 20. But he’s emerged over Dirk Nowitzki as the guy to make big plays for them.
Tony Parker, Spurs: Yes, already too many guards and Russell Westbrook is exploding back onto the scene after injuries. But even if Popovich won’t always let them play, they are All-Stars.
Kobe Bryant, Lakers: Maybe he shoots a bit much, but he could again lead the league in scoring despite injuries that generally end careers. A truly remarkable player.
Anthony Davis, Pelicans: The new emerging star of the NBA with incredible all around talents and skills. Talked about as a league MVP even if his team misses the playoffs.
Blake Griffin, Clippers: Expanded his game with shooting and as he combines it with his physical prowess becomes tough to stop.
LaMarcus Aldridge, Trailblazers: Their foundation in a strong starting group who probably has the best mid range shot for a big man.
Marc Gasol, Grizzlies: They’ve been as good as there is since he returned from injury almost a year ago and carrying into this season around his all around play.
There’s likely never to be a more controversial coaches’ picks after the fan voting is concluded. That’s because by the end of January Kevin Durant and Westbrook likely will look like All-Stars again. And I’m also leaving out Dwight Howard, DeMarcus Cousins, Damian Lillard, Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki, Zach Randolph, Tyson Chandler and Ty Lawson. And you could make a case for any of them. Get ready for the complaints.