[Image via AP / Danny Moloshok]
FEATURE: The Half Cloth NBA All-Stars – Western Conference
by Trevor Johnson
How do you not snub several people from possibly the best conference in NBA history? It seems nearly impossible, right? Think about it: the Western playoff picture is practically locked in place. That excludes the Thunder who sit at .500 and will have to do some serious work after missing Kevin Durant for half of the season; the Kings who are a (fired) competent coach away from being pretty frightening; and the Pelicans who have one of the five most dominant players alive. At this moment OKC, New Orleans, and even Denver would be in the playoffs if they played in the East. But with that being said, there is just too much talent for someone not to get snubbed. Except Kobe. Let’s get real Laker fans, he’s not a fucking All Star anymore. Let it go.
Damian Lillard – Point Guard, Portland Trailblazers
Dame is number one with a bullet in any snub conversation. Yes, the point guard spot is loaded in the West with a handful of others deserving recognition. But Damian Lillard should be in the current conversation for MVP and no one has ever won the MVP without making the All Star Game. You read that right, since 1964 no regular season MVP ever got snubbed. So if there were ever a year for history to be made, 2015 is it. Damian Lillard plays with an unbelievable chip on his shoulder and a mean streak that has brought him from Weber State to the MVP discussion. Consider this just another log on the fire. On second thought, I’m kinda glad Dame got snubbed. It’s going to be a hell of a lot of fun watching him take it out on the opposing team every night from now until April.
DeMarcus Cousins – Center, Sacramento Kings
Sure, Boogie Cousins missed some time with Viral Meningitis (yikes) and has looked frequently disinterested since coach Mike Malone was fired in mid-December. But Boogie knew what he had to deal with each day. He has a crazy-ass owner that wants to play FOUR- ON-FIVE defense. Vivek: stop. I know that with no knowledge of basketball you coached your daughter’s team to the California State Finals by pressing constantly and finding the inefficiencies and David vs. Goliath and whatever. THESE AREN’T CHILDREN AND YOU DON’T KNOW BASKETBALL. Be an owner: sit in the luxury box and count your money. You screwed up a good thing here. Moreover, Boogie played against interim head coach Tyrone Corbin’s Jazz teams last year. He knows Corbin can’t coach! Who would get hyped up for that? He’ still averaging a frightening 23 and 12 on the season and is one of very few centers in the league that could put up 40 points any night. Sure, maybe losing interest after your coach got fired isn’t exactly the type of thing you reward, or maybe being an All Star is exactly the type of thing that would light a fire under his ass, just as being a part of Team USA seemed to out of the gate in November. Either way, I feel for you Boogie and I’m sorry you’re stuck with Vivek until 2018.
(Editor: Cousins was named a replacement for Kobe Bryant late last week, but still.)
Kawhi Leonard – Forward, San Antonio Spurs
Oh what’s that? He was hurt for too long to make the All Star team? Well, The Silent Wonder (still working on that nickname) has actually played eight more games than Durant and he is still the best player on the reigning World Champs as well as the Finals MVP. He’s not flashy, he’s definitely not loud, but Kawhi is absolutely one of the best defensive players in the league and exactly the guy you want to watch guard the likes of LeBron, Melo, and whoever else the East wants to throw out there.
Draymond Green – Forward, Golden State Warriors
Okay, so everyone is really happy for the Atlanta Hawks, and I understand it and agree. But lost in the midst of their current winning streak (17 games as I type) is the fact that the Golden State Warriors have literally the same record. Now, why is there all this outrage over the Hawks not getting four players into the game when the Dubs only got two!? Draymond Green is one of the biggest breakout stories of the season. He has fit seamlessly into their starting lineup, played both forward positions and done it damn well despite center Andrew Bogut missing considerable time. Moreover, remember back a few short months ago when people thought the Warriors were crazy for not trading Klay Thompson to Minnesota for Kevin Love. WELLLLLLLLLL WHERE ARE THOSE PEOPLE NOW?!?! Love is very busy adjusting to being a second or third option while Green is playing perfectly within Steve Kerr’s system and has far better defensive ratings than Love. And on top of all that, he does it on the same team as the two best shooters in the league, which would not have happened had Love and Klay been swapped over the summer. So I’d say Draymond has been pretty essential to the Dubs’ success all year.
Dirk Nowitzki – Forward, Dallas Mavericks
Okay, so the 12-time All Star has had an up-and-down year. He’s averaging under 20 points-per-game for only the third time since his rookie year. But this is also the first time in all those years that he hasn’t been his team’s number one option on offense. Also, COME ON!!!! It’s Dirk! He just passed Moses Malone to become the 7th leading scorer in NBA history. He’s been in the league 16 years, WE DON’T KNOW HOW MUCH DIRK WE HAVE LEFT! If Kobe gets to start this game, fans, then Dirk gets to come off the bench. I’m putting my foot down. He’s one of the all time greats and the greatest foreign-born player ever (sorry, Hakeem). I want to watch him fire up a few more one-footers before it’s all said and done.
Honorable Mention: Mike Conley, Goran Dragic, Andrew Wiggins, Gordon Heyward, Monta Ellis, Jusuf Nurkic*
*This is only if – for some reason – the All Star Game decides to spice things up a bit and basically changes the entire format to mirror the WWE’s Royal Rumble, in which case the entirety of my paltry life savings is on Jusuf.