- Karan Madhok / @hoopistani
Out with the old and in with the new… The NBA has rarely seen a sudden paradigm shift in star power like the one taking place now. It all started in the playoffs last year when the usual suspects – Spurs, Lakers, Celtics – all failed to make it past the second round. With a shortened, compressed, and more demanding schedule this season, the younger and more athletic players have a bigger advantage over the veterans in staying healthy and effective night in and night out. And it is this phenomenon that has seen the unexpected rise of talented and deep young squads such as the 76ers, Pacers, Nuggets, Jazz, Bucks, and Timberwolves.
And the rise of new teams has also coincided by the rise of new potential All-Star talent. In a few days, the NBA’s coaches will announce the reserves for the 2012 NBA All-Star Game
, which will be held in Orlando on Feb 26th. While fans voted in the expected favourites
in the Eastern and Western Conference starting fives, it is the reserve rosters where things will really start to get interesting: this year, more than ever before, could feature more first-time
All-Stars than ever before!
Some familiar faces are of course likely to be there: Kobe Bryant (14th All Star appearance), LeBron James and Dwyane Wade (8th each), Dwight Howard (6th ), Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul (5th), Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose (3rd), and Blake Griffin (2nd) will all be starting the game this year. The Lakers’ Andrew Bynum got (deservedly) voted in as a starter and will be playing in his first ever All-Star Game.
But a lot of other regulars at the NBA’s midseason classic may not be making an appearance this time around. Legends such as Kevin Garnett (14-time), Tim Duncan (13), and Ray Allen (10) have been outpaced by their younger counterparts this year. Other All-Star regulars such as Pau Gasol, Deron Williams, Manu Ginobili, and Amar’e Stoudemire will probably not be invited to Orlando. Even 2011 Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki, who has 10 All Star appearances under his belt, has been having a subpar season and may be snubbed for the game in favour of outperforming younger talent.
Who is this younger talent, you ask? Players with no previous All-Star appearances who may be considered by the coaches this season are: Andre Iguodala, Brandon Jennings, LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Gay, Danilo Gallinari, Marc Gasol, Josh Smith, Kyle Lowry, Ty Lawson, Luol Deng, Roy Hibbert, Kevin Martin, James Harden, Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, and rookie Kyrie Irving. All of these players have lifted their squads with exceptional play this year. For some of them, like Iguodala, the statistics may not show it, but they are all crucial cogs to their respective well-oiled machines.
Iguodala is the best player – but not even the highest scorer – in the excellent 76ers team who find themselves at third place in the East, behind only Chicago and Miami. LaMarcus Aldridge continues to be one the most-overlooked stars in the league, getting 23.7 points and 8.6 rebounds per game in a great Blazers side that has overcome injuries to Brandon Roy and Greg Oden. Averaging nearly 20 points a game, third-year guard Brandon Jennings is showing his potential and steering the Milwaukee Bucks to a playoff spot. Danilo Gallinari and Ty Lawson are the two most important pieces for the Nuggets, who find themselves incredibly at 4th place in the West, having become stronger since trading away Carmelo Anthony and conquering the NBA with their unselfish group of players. And so on and so forth…
Of course, there are still some wily vets out there – like Paul Pierce and 38-year-old league assist leader Steve Nash – who continue to be effective and may add another All-Star appearance into their resume. It is also likely that Tony Parker, Joe Johnson, Chris Bosh, Russell Westbrook, and Kevin Love will be picked amongst the list of reserves once more.
But the league is increasingly moving towards the youth. Expect to see a lot of fresh faces at the All-Star Game, which is perhaps the most viewed basketball event in the world. Last year’s game was broadcast in over 200 countries across the world in 40 languages, and each NBA fan in every country is going to see the growth of these new stars on the block.
The future is bright, indeed!