Let’s take it one step further. Let’s go beyond what Kobe Bryant suggested. Last week he made the case for younger players in the All Star Game. Traditionally they are left out because they have not played long enough to either dominate their position or to have a worldwide fan base.
In its current format the All-Star voting system is rigged for the ultra popular. Fans vote for who they want to see and then fans watch who they voted for. But let’s imagine something different. Every year in which there is a Winter Olympics in some frozen city the All Star game changes its format. Players with max contracts and superstars and international icons have the weekend off. Let them go to Paris or Bermuda or some island for a few days to recover and recuperate. And as Kobe suggested lets have an All Star Game of young guys who deserve the attention, players in their second through fifth year in the league who are going to be great one day.
The West Team 2014 Starters
PG- Damian Lillard (Trailblazers). In his second year the Oakland native averages 21 points and 5 assists. He scored his career high, 41 points, against Sacramento and had 26 points in the 4th quarter. At Cleveland he had 36 points, 10 assists, 8 rebounds, and a killer three to win the game. The next night at Minnesota he had 36 points, 6 assists, 6 rebounds and 3 steals.
SG- Klay Thompson (Warriors). The son of Mychal Thompson is a pure shooter with a quick release. 300 catch and shoot threes. 19 points a game, 45% shooter. Scored over 25 points nine times.
SF- Kawhi Leonard (Spurs). He has already been to the NBA Finals and in game 7 he was the best player on the floor for the Spurs. He can score and defend any position and shoots 50%, he just doesn’t get a lot of shots with Parker, Duncan and Ginobli on the team but he is the future face of the Spurs franchise once Duncan retires.
PF- Anthony Davis (Pelicans). He has been a teammate of Kobe Bryant, Lebron James and Kevin Durant. The former guard turned big man and Olympian is long and athletic and leads the NBA in blocks. He handles the ball like a guard, has a midrange jumper, is long enough to guard forwards and centers, runs the floor, and averages 19 points and 10 rebounds. He is a big man who makes his free throws. Against the Lakers he had 32 points, 12 rebounds, 6 blocks, 3 assists, 1 steal.
C- DeMarcus Cousins (Kings). Waiting for DeMarcus to grow up is like watching water drip-it is exasperating- but this is the best season of his career. He is averaging 23 points and 11 rebounds. He dropped 35 on the Trailblazers. He has scored over 30 points seven times. He had a 32-19 game against the Mavs.
PG- Jeremy Lin (Rockets). Linsanity is long gone and in its place is a solid point guard. He struggled last year as he tried to live up to his contract and expectations but this year he has settled into his role in the offense, helped by the presence and attention of Dwight Howard. He is averaging 14 points a game, 4 asissts and is shooting 47%.
PG- Ty Lawson (Nuggets). Flourishing under Brian Shaw he is averaging 17 and 8 even as his team of last year, including the coach, was torn down, leaving Lawson with a bunch of pieces that often do not fit. His game consistently produces points or assists. He has scored 20 points or more fourteen times, has had 10 assists or more eleven times.
SG- Jrue Holliday (Pelicans). The Campbell Hall and UCLA alum is continuing the breakout season he had last year with the 76ers. The trade to the Pelicans, a shocking draft day deal, did not inhibit his talent and performance. He averages 14 points and 8 assists and the first time he was back in Philly, against his old team, Jrue torched them. He had 20 points, 13 assists, 7 rebounds, 3 steals, 1 block, he shot 61%- just as a reminder to what they gave up.
SG- Reggie Jackson (Thunder). The Italian born right handed guard stepped into the limelight last spring when Russell Westbrook went down. Now he is back again, taking Westbrook’s spot in the rotation, until Russ returns. He averages 13 points and 3 assists on the year, shooting 45%.
SG/SF-Gordon Hayward (Jazz). He and the Jazz couldn’t agree on an extension and Gordon came into this year trying to prove a point, that he deserved close to max money. He is the Jazz’s best player even as he is playing at the shooting guard position and not his natural position, small forward. He averages 17 and 5. Making his case for his value, against the Thunder he had 37 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals, 1 block. He shot 81% and 66% from three.
PF-Derrick Favors (Jazz). Utah acquired the athletic forward/center in the trade that sent Deron Williams to New Jersey. He was considered a project and every year he has improved. The Jazz believe in his potential so much they did not resign reliable Paul Milsap and big man Al Jefferson. Favors averages 13 and 8.
C- Nikola Pecovic. The right handed center from Montenegro is underrated and under the radar and plays bigger than his size, if that is possible. A 17 and 9 player who is unmovable around the basket, nice hands, nice touch, good finisher. He takes over games and small front lines. His two best games were against title contenders. Against the Clippers he had 34 points, 14 rebounds, 8 offensive rebounds. Against the Thunder he 31 points, 8 rebounds, 5 offensive rebounds.
East Team 2014 Starters
PG- Jeff Teague (Hawks). The right handed guard from Wake Forest has had double digits assists in ten games. On the season he is averaging 16 points and 7 assists. His best game this year was against Philadelphia. He shot 61%, had 33 points, 10 assists and 4 rebounds.
SG-DeMar Derozan (Raptors). The athletic shooting guard from Compton is finally reaching his potential as a dynamic scorer. He has four 30+ games. On the season DeMar is averaging 21 points and 3 assists. Against the Heat he had 26 points, 7 assists and 4 rebounds, 2 steals. Two nights later, against the Pacers he had 28 points and 6 assists.
SF-Evan Turner (Sixers). The Ohio State guard is having a breakout season, this in the final year of his contract. Philly had no interest in offering Evan an extension and he has been their best player all year long, averaging 19 points and 6 rebounds.
PF- Greg Monroe (Pistons). The 6-11 left handed big man averages 14 points and 8 rebounds. He has had double digit rebounds in 17 games. Against the Thunder Greg scored 20 points, pulled down 15 rebounds, 10 offensive rebounds, he had 3 blocks, 3 assists and 2 steals and he was 8-12 from the free throw line.
C- Andre Drummond (Pistons). The UConn disappointment has turned into the beginning of a dominant career for a league with a scarcity of true big man. He averages 12 points and 12 rebounds but that is only part of what makes Drummond such a force in the middle. He has had double digit rebounds in 28 games. He can’t make free throws. But against the 76ers he had 31 points, 19 rebounds, 6 offensive rebounds, 6 steals, 2 blocks and shot 80%.
PG- Kemba Walker (Bobcats). The great NCAA tournament for Kemba did not immediate translate into NBA success. He is a scoring point guard who had to learn how to score. In his third season he is averaging 18 points and 4 assists. He had a four game stretch where he scored 24 points against the Lakers, 24 points against the Kings, 29 points against the Raptors, 34 points against the Pistons, 20 points against Utah, 25 points against Milwaukee and the Bobcats went 4-2.
PG- Brandon Knight (Bucks). The trade from Detroit and the presence of Larry Drew has had a positive impact on Brandon. He is averaging 15 points, and 4 assists, both a career high.
SG- Bradley Beal (Wizards). The extremely confident right handed shooting guard is averaging 17 points and 3 assists in his second year.
SG- Dion Waiters (Cavaliers). Although it’s been a difficult year for Dion chemistry wise, he was a starter, now he is coming off the bench, he is averaging 15 points and 2 assists. He has scored 20+ points ten times.
SF- Tobias Harris (Magic) Knowing they were not going to resign JJ Reddick the Magic traded him to the Bucks for the forward who played his college ball at Tennessee. In his third year he is averaging 11 points and 6 rebounds.
PF- Tristan Thompson (Cavaliers). He changed shooting hands over the summer from his left hand to his right and has not suffered from the transformation. The Canadian power forward by way of the University of Texas averages 12 points and 9 rebounds. He has double digit rebounds in 18 games.
C- Nicola Vucevic (Magic)- He is the answer to a trivia question. Who was the winner in the four team trade that sent Dwight Howard to L.A., Andre Iguodala, to Denver, Andrew Bynum to Philadelphia, and Vucevic to Orlando. One year later, he is the only player still with the team he was traded to. He is an undersized center that has 10+ rebounds in 18 games. He had a 30-20 game this year against the Clippers. On the season he averages 13 points and 11 rebounds.