Beyond the Key Episode of the week
By Chris Madden
Every season there will be arguments about who the All-Star lineup should be and who should be starting. We live in a time where the NBA is full of rising talent and full of players capable of making the All-Star game. Think about the Golden State Warriors last season, we had trouble deciding how many could go from one team as well as how many from one team could start. The Clippers holding a strong three with Paul, Jordan and Griffin. Those are just two examples from one conference. So in a league that flows with talented players, is it possible some voted in don’t deserve to make it?
This season has displayed several players who are obvious All-Stars; Steph Curry, LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and many more. These players are so obvious that I could’ve told you they would start in the All-Star game before the season began. However if you look at the starting line ups there may be a few names, one in particular, that don’t quite fit the bill.
When you look at the NBA as a whole, the Western Conference is by far superior to the rival Eastern Conference. So when you look at the lineup, one would assume you would see the best players starting. In my personal opinion there are four players on the Western Conference starting five that deserve the role: Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard. So why doesn’t Kobe Bryant make my starting five?
Kobe Bryant has been one of the best scorers in the league for many years. He has racked up an impressive resume of NBA Championships, MVP’s and Scoring Titles. Kobe is one of the best basketball players we have ever seen. All that considered, we’re experiencing Kobe’s last year in the league. Kobe is retiring at the end of what has been a miserable Laker season so far, and is leading in All-Star votes among players. Bryant however has not played the season that most would need too in order to receive those votes.
Kobe is leading the Lakers in scoring with 15.8 PPG and 3.5 APG, these aren’t necessarily All-Star numbers. Playing for a team that has an astonishing 9 wins on the season, it is hard to imagine an All-Star coming from this team. Obviously Kobe is going to be in the game, especially with this being his last season. So if Kobe shouldn’t be a starter for the Western Conference, who are the players that missed because of popularity voting?
1. James Harden- Leads the Rockets in PPG with 27.5 and APG with 7. Harden was awarded the Player’s MVP last season. Given that Kobe was playing SG for the game, Harden would (and should) actually be the perfect replacement.
2. Chris Paul- Leads the Clippers in PPG with 18.6 and APG with 9.7. As a leader in both categories who practically averages a double-double every game, it is very reasonable to put Paul in the PG role and Curry as the SG in the starting lineup.
3. Damian Lillard- Leading the Trail Blazers with 24.6 PPG and 6.9 APG, Lillard makes a good argument to be a starter for the West. This is another option that would allow Curry to move to the SG and allow him to play PG.
4. Andrew Wiggins- Leading the Timberwolves with 20.8 PPG and 4 RPG, Wiggins, a true shooting guard would make quite a bit of sense replacing Kobe. I know that sentence seems wrong considering it is Kobe Bryant, but Andrew Wiggins is statistically having a better season that Bryant.
Above are 4 realistic and reasonable options for just guards in the Western Conference that make more statistical sense than Kobe Bryant. This doesn’t include several players who play the SF position that could easily be in this game ahead of Bryant. My point is that despite Kobe’s retiring announcement and fan favoritism, he should not be a starter in the 2016 NBA All-Star Game.