As is typically the case, there was some bickering on the internet and on TV over who did and didn't make each All-Star team this year. I thought it was a great move by the Eastern Conference coaches to send Kyrie Irving and Jrue Holiday to their first All-Star game, despite their team's struggles. It's not their fault that their supporting casts aren't better.
The whole, "reward players on winning teams" argument is fine, until you start making cases for players on winning teams who played poorly enough to get their coach fired in the first half of the season. The message here was clear: there's nothing stopping players from intentionally (allegedly) getting coaches fired in the NBA, but there's also nothing stopping all of the other coaches from deciding that you're not all-star material if you play on a team that helped along the process of its coach's demise. Deron Williams and Joe Johnson don't have the numbers Holiday and Irving do anyway, so it's a pretty hollow argument that because the Nets' ownership goes all-in every season in an effort to win now, their players should be favored over better players on lesser teams. It's the same stone-age thinking that led baseball writers to make the case for Miguel Cabrera to win the American League MVP over Mike Trout because his team made the playoffs, even though the Tigers actually had a worse record than Trout's Angels, and were able to take advantage of being the best team in a horrible division. The fact is, players are often given too much credit or too little credit based on factors that are completely out of their control.
Now, Brook Lopez is a different story statistically. He probably should have made the team over Luol Deng or Kevin Garnett (though Garnett made it through fan voting, so that decision was out of the coaches' hands), but it seems that the coaches' decision to not include a Net was unilateral.
In honor of the announcement of the All-Star rosters, I am going to unveil the Category All-Stars for the first half, focusing not only on production, but value, based on where players were drafted and what position they play. If you are in need of help in these categories, this should give you a pretty good idea of whom to target in trades.
2013 CATEGORY ALL-STARS
Starter: Kobe Bryant, SG, Lakers - It's no surprise that Bryant is helping his owners greatly in the scoring category, but it is pretty astonishing that he is averaging more points (28.9 per game) than he has since the 2006-07 season. This was supposed to be a season where Bryant took a bit of a step back as Steve Nash took over the offense and Dwight Howard followed in the footsteps of the great Lakers centers of old and dominated on both ends of the court in the paint. As everything crumbles around Bryant in L.A., his owners sit at home smiling as they got a renaissance season from Bryant with what was likely a second-round pick.
Reserve: Damian Lillard, PG, Trail Blazers - There were a couple other great candidates here - O.J. Mayo, whose position makes it harder for him to stand out, and Carmelo Anthony. Like Bryant, ‘Melo was a second rounder in most drafts, but he's also missed seven games, which has hurt owners with weekly lineups. Lillard is averaging 18.3 points per game out of the point guard spot, and was taken in the eighth round of most ESPN drafts, making him a standout category contributor en route to what will likely be a rookie-of-the-year season.
Starter: Greivis Vasquez, PG, Hornets - Vasquez is third in the league in assists this season, at 9.1 per game. He was also drafted as a bench player, past the 11th round in most ESPN leagues, making him one of the true steals of the draft.
Reserve: Jose Calderon, PG, Raptors - Justifiably, Calderon was a bit of an afterthought on draft day after the Raptors acquired Kyle Lowry in the offseason, but he has certainly rewarded the owners who grabbed him in the later rounds of drafts, ranking eighth in the league in assists at 7.5 per game.
Starter: Nikola Vucevic, C, Magic - Vucevic was sitting on waivers in many leagues a month into the season as he lacked consistency, averaging less than eight rebounds per game in November. As his minutes gradually increased, he really started to take off, averaging 12.8 boards in December and 13.0 in January. He is fifth in the league in rebounds per game, behind the usual suspects, but what separates Vucevic is that he went widely undrafted in most standard leagues.
Reserve: J.J. Hickson, C, Trail Blazers - Hickson has averaged 10.9 boards per game in the first half of the season, and to think that there were actually some questions entering the season as to whether he would be in a time-share with Meyers Leonard at the five for the Blazers. Hickson was widely available towards the end of most standard league drafts and has rewarded the owners who saw him as the clear choice to start at center in Portland.
Starter: Kemba Walker, PG, Bobcats - It's crazy now to think that Walker was going in the 10th round or later in many drafts, based on what he's done so far in his sophomore season. Most notably perhaps is his 1.9 steals per game, which ranks him fifth in the league, ahead of the likes of Russell Westbrook, Rajon Rondo, and Kyrie Irving.
Reserve: Metta World Peace, SF, Lakers - Another afterthought on draft day, World Peace could have been had in the last round of most standard league drafts. His 1.7 steals per game is the most he's averaged since 2007-08, and is extra-valuable because he's eligible at power forward.
Starter: Larry Sanders, PF, Bucks - This is the biggest no-brainer of the entire Category All-Stars. Sanders wasn't drafted in the vast majority of leagues, and he now has a somewhat comfortable lead over Serge Ibaka for the most blocks in the league at 3.1 per game.
Reserve: Tim Duncan, PF, Spurs - The Big Fundamental was a sixth round pick in most leagues, and yet he currently sits at third in the league in blocks at 2.7 per game. As crazy as it sounds, Duncan has only averaged more than 2.7 blocks per game once in his career, in 2002-03 when he averaged 2.9 bpg on his way to his second MVP award. Nobody can say they saw Duncan having close to a career defensive year at the age of 36, but his owners should still be feeling pretty smart right now.
Starter: Ryan Anderson, PF, Hornets - Anderson isn't a guy who really slipped in drafts, but he's just so darn productive. He's second in the league at 3.0 three-pointers per game, while also qualifying at center. He does enough elsewhere in the box score to make him an elite player in roto leagues and a lethal weapon in the longball category.
Reserve: Kyle Korver, SF, Hawks - Korver has only really started coming on of late, but he's still third in the league at 2.8 three-pointers per game. With Lou Williams out for the season, Korver should be getting scooped up in the majority of roto leagues.
Starter: Tony Parker, PG, Spurs - It is pretty rare that a point guard can anchor a fantasy squad in shooting efficiency, but Parker (who takes more than 15 shots per game and hits at a 53 percent clip) does just that. Never a hot name on draft day, Parker is starting to develop a quiet productiveness that savvy fantasy owners are exploiting.
Reserve: LeBron James, SF, Heat - There was no way that a Category All-Star team could be put together without the ultimate category stuffer. James was the first or second pick in most leagues, but that doesn't make his 55 percent field-goal percentage much less impressive. When you draft James, the thought is often of his ability to score 20-plus points and come close to a triple-double on most nights, but it's worth noting that he's also the most efficient scorer in the league, considering he attempts 18.5 shots per game.