Predicting this year’s Western conference All-Stars

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NBA All-Star teams have always seemed to puzzle basketball fans, and no doubt there will be many puzzling selections and non-selections this year.

This year’s NBA All-Star teams will look radically different to those of years before due to some players changing conference, as well as others emerging as stars.

Without further ado, here are my predictions for the 2013 NBA All-Star game, split up over two articles, starting with the Western conference.

Honorable mentions: Zach Randolph, LaMarcus Aldridge, Serge Ibaka

The last spot on the team could’ve gone to any of these three. Serge Ibaka and Zach Randolph continue their breakout (and re-breakout) years, bustin’ up the stat box like there’s no tomorrow, and Lamarcus Aldridge continues to be his under-appreciated self.

However, they were beat out (perhaps rather controversially) by some better players that I selected. Maybe next year they will get the recognition they deserve.

Starting backcourt player: Chris Paul

The leader of the ‘Lob City Lobsters’, Chris Paul might be the best player to play point guard in the league. He can do anything – score, assist, steal, and his rebounding is almost top-10 for point guards in the league.

While other points such as Russell Westbrook continue to go after ‘CP3’ for his starting role as the West All-Stars point guard, CP3 will most likely keep the job for yet another year.

Starting backcourt player: Kobe Bryant

Leading the league in scoring by two points is one thing, doing it in this day and age is another. But doing it in your mid-30s, while the two whippersnappers behind you are still in their 20s, is that much more impressive again.

Kobe Bryant’s phenomenal calendar year keeps on keeping on, as he continues to neglect father time, leaving many to wonder if he ever will slow down, or if he’s even passed his prime yet.

Starting frontcourt player: Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant is putting up numbers for an MVP-quality year yet again. Third in scoring and second in player efficiency rating (PER), this kid will get his fourth all-star appearance and most likely fourth all-NBA first team selection at age 24.

He’s also going for his fourth scoring title. I can’t think of the last time someone was assured of greatness so early in his career.

Starting frontcourt player: Kevin Love

If it wasn’t for Blake Griffin’s high-flying dunks, Kevin Love may widely be considered the best power forward in the game (not that he isn’t already). Returning from injury, Kevin Love seems to have lost nothing, averaging 19 and 14, which is better than his career average of 17 and 12.

It will take him a while to get back to his 26 points per game average of last year, but he’ll get there, and if he can maintain his rebounding average (higher than last year) we should see a better than ever Kevin Love.

Starting frontcourt player: Dwight Howard

While he may not be the Dwight Howard of three defensive-player-of-the-years-in-a-row, he is still the best centre the West has to offer, which is scary considering his spine injury is holding him back (excuse the pun).

While there may be a few contenders creeping up on him, Dwight Howard is still the best centre in the league and while that fact remains, he keeps his starting job, no matter what conference he’s playing for.

Bench backcourt player: Russell Westbrook

Last year, Russell Westbrook was being called selfish. This year, he’s averaging nine assists per game, good for almost third in the league. The freaky thing is, Russ still has plenty of shortcomings, including his decision-making.

If he can correct this, could he be the best point guard in the league? Let’s not think about that, it’s a bit scary…

Bench backcourt player: James Harden

It might just be me, but I think of James Harden as one of the league’s best scorers and best shooting guards. If he and Jeremy Lin can share the ball-handling duties, and the Rockets can build around them, Houston could create a team that could be a perennial contender that should have been a few years ago.

But for now, it’d be a grave inequity to scorn Harden entry into the All-Star team.

Bench frontcourt player: Andrei Kirilenko

For most of you, this selection will come as a surprise. The last time ‘AK47’ was selected as an All-Star was in 2004, and eight years later I believe he is having one of his most productive seasons since.

He’s putting up better than his career average on all his stats, is enjoying a steady role in the Timberwolves jersey, and should be rewarded with an All-Star gig, much like the one Luol Deng received last year.

Bench frontcourt player: Blake Griffin

Many of you would see it as a crime to leave the frequent flyer Blake Griffin out of the starting line-up of the West All-Stars. I call it common sense. While Earthquake Blake will probably receive the starting gig from the fans, his 18 points and nine rebounds per game should probably be coming off the pine.

No matter where he is, we’re bound to see him ooping plenty of Chris Paul’s alleys during the 2013 All-Star game.

Bench frontcourt player: Tim Duncan

It’s outrageous that Tim Duncan can even compete for a starting spot in the West at age 36. But there’s really no other option than to give him the starting option. He’s that good.

So good that he beats out Serge Ibaka, Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and other Western Conference stars for a spot on the roster, all of who are almost 10 years younger than him. Does this old-age freakiness remind you of another power forward, maybe Karl Malone?

Reserve: Tony Parker

By now, Tony Parker should be experiencing some serious déjà vu, because he is yet again caught behind two very good players in the West. However, he should make it onto the team as a reserve.

As good as his 19 and seven are, they are once again not enough to be one of the two best in the wild wild West. Not that it’d matters to Parker, as long as his Spurs are up the ladder at the end of the season (and they will be).

Reserve: Marc Gasol

Marc beat out his brother Pau last year as the best Gasol in the league. He does again this year, however with the trading of Dwight to the Lakers, he gets pushed down the rotation in the West.

And unless he can find the fountain of youth and hide it from Tim Duncan, he may need to stay in this position for another year, or he’ll have to up his 14 and eight past Timmy’s 18 and 10.

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