If the outrage after the announcement of the full 2012 NBA All-Star Game rosters on Thursday seemed subdued, it is because it should have been. One look at the Eastern and Western rosters reveals that the voters -- first the fans, who elected starters, then NBA head coaches, who voted on subs -- mostly got things right. There's not one player on either team who objectively does not deserve to be an All-Star.
The problem with All-Star balloting every year is that there are more players worthy of All-Star attention than there are slots. You look at a player like Josh Smith, having a marvelous defensive season in Atlanta, and feel that if you're honoring Luol Deng, Joe Johnson and Andre Iguodala, then Smoove should be earning the laurel as well. But there are only so many spots. Smith, Deng and Paul Pierce -- another forward elected to the team -- have been roughly at the same level this season. You have spots for two of them. No matter which two you pick, someone worthy of the honor is getting left out. It's like planning the BCS Championship Game when you have three unbeatens: someone's going to get snubbed, and there's no way around it.
The other positional debates are similar. Brandon Jennings and Kyrie Irving have been awesome -- I picked Irving for my nonexistent ballot -- but they have not been considerably better (if better at all) than Johnson or Rajon Rondo. Greg Monroe and Tyson Chandler are having nice seasons, the former on offense and the latter on defense. But Roy Hibbert is perfectly on par with them in terms of positive impact. That he got the bid is no great injustice.
Out West, the major issue is that Dirk Nowitzki got in over perhaps more deserving forwards Pau Gasol, Paul Millsap and Danilo Gallinari or one of the myriad guards considered (James Harden, Monta Ellis, Ricky Rubio among them). Dirk is having his worst season since 2000 (his second year), but his performance has been right on par with all of those other options. Nowitzki has been so, so good the last 10 years that when he's less than amazing he looks like a shadow of himself. But as it turns out, the shadow of Dirk Nowitzki still legitimately has a case as one of the top 12 players in the West.
Tony Parker and Steve Nash, two of the guards selected by coaches, aren't as exciting to watch as Ellis or Rubio, but they are better, plain and simple. The idea that coaches should give the benefit of the doubt to fresh blood over old hands is not only impractical -- coaches are never going that direction -- but unfair. There's real honor for guys like Parker in picking up another All-Star bid as his career wears on.
It's amazing: now that Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady aren't getting elected by fans off of the injured reserve, the All-Star Game selection process works pretty darn well. It's not perfect, but it could never be given the dearth of official criteria and the differing values fans and coaches place on various basketball skills. The best we can hope for is something about which we can say, "Yeah, that looks about right."
That's what we have in 2012. I can't complain.
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