The NBA announced the 2014 Eastern and Western Conference All-Star reserves on Thursday night, a group of seven players for each side. Of note, Charlotte Bobcats center Al Jefferson was left off the roster for the Eastern Conference, after averaging over 19 points and 10 rebounds per game through the team’s first 47 games.
Four big men were selected ahead of Jefferson for the Eastern Conference All-Star team: Chris Bosh (Miami Heat), Roy Hibbert (Pacers), Joakim Noah (Chicago Bulls) and Paul Millsap (Atlanta Hawks). The starting big men for the East were announced last week, when Paul George (Indiana Pacers), Carmelo Anthony (New York Knicks) and LeBron James (Miami Heat) were selected as the starting front court.
Everyone knew Hibbert was pretty much guaranteed a spot on the team. Hibbert has been great so far this year for the Pacers, the team with the best record in the East. Despite only averaging 12 points and 8 rebounds, Hibbert anchors the Pacers’ defense and there was no way the team with the best record in the East was only going to get one All-Star.
Bosh was in a very familiar situation, as it has almost become expected to see Miami’s big three in the All-Star game. With James and Dwayne Wade starting for the East All-Star team, Bosh was assumed to join them as a reserve. Bosh is averaging approximately 17 points and 7 rebounds per game this season, and has seen an increased role with Wade missing several games with injuries.
After Hibbert and Bosh, there were two remaining spots for big men to occupy on the Eastern Conference All-Star team. Let’s take a look at the two players who made it, Noah and Millsap, compared to Jefferson.
Noah has been a double-double machine for the Bulls this season, averaging over 11 points and 11 rebounds per game. He has also been a constant for the Bulls in a season filled with roster inconsistency. First, Derrick Rose went down to another knee injury. Then, the front office traded away Luol Deng that many considered to be a move that made the Bulls worse on purpose – to tank for a better draft pick. Despite all of this, Noah has played well and the Bulls have stayed in the thick of the playoff race in the East.
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Millsap has had a season much like Noah’s to a certain extent. Hawks center Al Horford went down earlier in the season due to injury and will miss the remainder of the season. However, Millsap has been producing all year and the Hawks have been the third-best team in the Eastern Conference for the majority of the season. Millsap has had a career year so far, averaging 17 points and 8 rebounds per game this season.
However, none of the four big men I have already mentioned have numbers as good as the Bobcats’ big man. Jefferson is averaging over 19 points and 10 rebounds per game and has been on fire as of late. He has scored at least 20 points in his last 10 games, and in seven of those games he had at least 10 rebounds.
Yes, Jefferson did miss nine games earlier in the season due to injury, but that does not deny the fact that he has superior numbers to most of the big men selected ahead of him for the Eastern All-Star team.
Jefferson and Millsap were teammates in Utah for the last three years before this season, and it was pretty clear that Jefferson was the better of the two players when they were playing for the Jazz. Nothing either player has done this season has proven that Millsap is the better player, and I would be willing to bet most NBA scouts would rather have Jefferson for this season, especially considering the rarity with which true, back-to-the-basket-centers are in the NBA nowadays.
It appears that Millsap and Noah were given the nod considering they have had good seasons on two teams that are both better than the Bobcats. The argument can be made that it would be unfair for the Bobcats to have an All-Star, while better teams ahead of them in the East, the Hawks and the Bulls, have no All-Stars.
I think this is flawed logic. All year everyone has heard about how bad the Eastern Conference is due to several mediocre teams, as well as a few teams that are downright awful. The NBA should not reward a team for being .500 in an awful conference just because they are .500. Rather, the NBA should select the best 12 players to represent the Eastern Conference in the All-Star game. After looking at the numbers, it is apparent that Jefferson is one of those 12 players, especially when looking at the competition.
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