Both backcourts are set, barring injury. L.A.’s standouts, Bryant and Paul, will take the court at Orlando’s Amway Center and check Eastern Conference counterparts Wade and Rose. Everyone else is playing for a nod from the league’s head coaches.
LBJ and KD, initials that double as household names for all basketball fans, will be the starting small forwards. Howard, regardless of what conference he happens to play in, will have an overwhelming edge over any other center.
That leaves three dilemmas.
Knicks fans who will be voting for both Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire need to make a choice eventually, because those two are taking a backseat to James and attempting to hold off former starters Chris Bosh and Kevin Garnett. With enthusiasm around New York’s basketball team at a level it hasn’t been at in over a decade, a Knickerbocker should wind up in that starting five, but it will certainly wind up the result of the Eastern Conference’s tightest race.
In the West, it may seem like Blake Griffin is taking over, but he’s got veteran future Hall-of-Famers to best in the voting game. Reigning Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki poses formidable opposition, while Tim Duncan and Pau Gasol will appear on their share of ballots. With Memphis’ Zach Randolph out for the foreseeable future, Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge has his best chance to make the West team after years of near-misses. Still, he’s unlikely to make a dent on the Griffin/Nowtitzki duel. Ditto for Minnesota’s Kevin Love.
Yao Ming was an irresistable force at center, even when injured, due to all the votes that came in from overseas. He even overcame Shaquille O’Neal as the most popular big man in the world. Now that he’s retired, the spot in the middle is wide open.
Lakers star Andrew Bynum looks to be the favorite, but Randolph’s injury will allow Marc Gasol the opportunity to shine in Memphis. Another option is Denver’s Nene, especially if he continues his strong start for a Nuggets team that will be in the mix for the top record in the conference. None of the three top center candidates has ever been an All-Star. Expect one to jump center while the other two struggle to vie for an invite from the coaches.