The rosters for the NBA All-Star game on Feb. 15 in Phoenix are set and, for the most part, the fan voting and the selection of the reserves for the East and West squads were consistent with my picks with the exception of two players: Rashard Lewis and David West.
I have a problem with having three Orlando Magic players on the East roster, and that mistake cost a deserving player a trip to Phoenix for All-Star weekend. Dwight Howard was named the starting center and one more player from the Magic would have been enough. I would have picked either Jameer Nelson or Lewis, but not both. Heck, Lewis may not even be the third-best player on Orlando’s team.
My choice would have been Tayshaun Prince, the vastly underrated forward of the Detroit Pistons. The Palace Prince has been the most consistent Piston this season, and does not get enough credit for his play on both ends of the court. Prince’s stat line is pedestrian (14 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and is shooting 36% from behind the 3-point line) compared to the other stars, but his numbers have remained consistent for the past three seasons. He gets overlooked for being steady.
In addition to his offense, he is regarded as one of the top five lock-down defenders in the league. Night in and night out, Prince takes on the opposing team’s best player and, more often than not, he wins those one-on-one battles. Prince’s defense is so well-respected that during the Beijing Olympics, USA Basketball Coach Mike Krzyzewski called on Prince on more than one occasion to help some of the Dream Teamers on how to defend the pick-and-roll.
In the West, I would have chosen Timberwolves center Al Jefferson over forward David West of the Hornets. Voters were turned off by the Timberwolves poor record, but they’re improving. Based on pure numbers, Jefferson is having a better statistical year than West. Jefferson is one of just three players in the league averaging more than 20 points and 10 rebounds a game. Howard and Tim Duncan are the others, and they’re both All-Star starters.
Jefferson was named Player of the Week when he averaged 27.3 points (.524 FG% and .821 FT%), 12.3 rebounds and 1.0 assists from Dec. 27-Jan. 4. The Wolves opened the week with a 108-98 overtime win vs. Memphis on Dec. 29 in which Jefferson poured in a season-high 38 points and collected 16 rebounds, with 19 of those points (on 7-for-8 shooting) coming in the fourth quarter and overtime. After dropping a 107-100 decision at Dallas the following night, Jefferson again paced the Wolves with 32 points and 10 rebounds in a 115-108 win over Memphis on Jan. 2. He tallied his third double-double of the week with 18 points and 14 boards in Minnesota’s 102-92 win at Chicago on Jan. 3. Including his double-doubles in all three Minnesota victories last week, Jefferson now has 18 on the season (eighth in NBA), and his two 30/10 games on the week give him three in Minnesota’s last eight games.
Jefferson also ranks 11th in blocked shots (1.76 bpg) and 30th in field-goal percentage (49.8%), and is shooting a career-best 77.0% from the free-throw line this season.