But Seriously, Who's An All-Star?

Dateline: 01/29/97

With 99.9% of the precincts reporting, here are the All-Star Teams:

West East
C Hakeem Olajuwon
F Charles Barkley
F Shawn Kemp
G Gary Payton
G John Stockton
C Patrick Ewing
F Grant Hill
F Scottie Pippen
G Michael Jordan
G Penny Hardaway
C Shaquille O'Neal
F Karl Malone
F Tom Gugliotta
G Eddie Jones
G Clyde Drexler
G Mitch Richmond
G Latrell Sprewell
C Alonzo Mourning
C Dikembe Mutombo
F Vin Baker
F Christian Laettner
G Glen Rice
G Tim Hardaway
G Terrell Brandon

The starters were voted in by you and me and I'd like to congratulate us on some pretty good picks.

The reserves, on the other hand, were chosen by the coaches and -- it sounds bad to say it -- I have a harder time with their choices than with ours. That can get me in trouble, but I'm getting used to that.

First of all, let's not give ourselves too much credit. The starters were easy choices with Dream Teamers everywhere. The coaches probably would have chosen the same 10 with dispute over Olajuwon vs. O'Neal, Malone over Barkley/Kemp, and Mourning/Mutombo over Ewing. There also might have been question over Penny Hardaway, whose injuries have hampered him and his team this year. But these 13, in my mind, are quite clearly the best in the NBA this year.

In picking subs, coaches have somewhat conflicting agendas. They want to choose players playing well this year, but they also want to choose players who have played pretty well over the past few years. They want to choose players who haven't received enough credit for their play, but they also want to choose the best young and exciting players.

Click for Team Ratings

I'm not sure what the criteria were for choosing Sprewell, Laettner, and Rice. Sprewell is scoring a lot of points, but he doesn't have the support of a lot of Bay Area fans because he hogs the ball in pursuit of his 25 ppg. Laettner has been one of the many beneficiaries of the arrival of Mutombo, whose defense has been the primary reason for the Hawks success and who probably should be the East starter. Rice has been a very good player for years, but has always suffered from inconsistency and weak defense. New coaching in Charlotte and the arrival of Anthony Mason has made him better ...

Mason, by the way, is probably the most deserving player who did not make the team. Out of the New York spotlight, Mason leads Charlotte in just about every offensive and defensive statistical category except points. Mason is the major reason that Charlotte is quietly having the best season in franchise history, even better than when Mourning and Larry Johnson were there. Mason's omission is my biggest complaint about the coach's choices.

A couple players made the team primarily because they are young or not recognized as much as they should be, even though they probably are not great players. First of all, Eddie Jones is a tremendous talent getting credit for his all-around game which, at this point in his development, is actually all-around fairly average or just above. His defense is awesome, but his offense is erratic. The same can be said of Gugliotta and Vin Baker who both play on mediocre teams and who may be the second best players on their teams. Kevin Garnett and Glenn Robinson may not be All-Stars yet, but both are probably more important to their respective teams than their All-Star teammates.

Overall, the coaches didn't make any terrible choices, but they chose a few who, when historians look back, will be question. Probably the only person I would throw off the teams is actually Penny Hardaway -- a fan choice -- and that is just because of injuries.

Below, I look at a few of the players I considered for the team, not that I would actually choose them...

West East
Kenny Anderson: Having a tremendous season for the underrated Portland Trail Blazers. I'd put him in the All-Star Game before Sprewell.

Kevin Garnett: I wouldn't put him in, but he's getting there.

Chris Gatling: Having a legitimately good season for a weak team. Because Dallas is so bad, it's hard to put him in, but he's close.

Jeff Hornacek: The third member of the tremendous Utah triumverate. Good enough to be in the game over Jones.

Mark Jackson: Another pretty good player on a bad team. Probably not good enough to be on the team.

Kevin Johnson: His return to the Suns brought them out of their winless streak. Still an outstanding player hampered by chronic injuries, which is really too bad.

Detlef Schrempf: Like Hornacek, he may be a victim of already having a few teammates on the team. Not good enough to supplant anyone.

Joe Smith: I considered him longer than I expected, but he's still a year or two away.

Rasheed Wallace: Like Smith and Garnett, he has shown some incredible talent and has played better than his more heralded UNC teammate, Jerry Stackhouse.

Mookie Blaylock: Another of his standard seasons of great defense and erratic but sometimes deadly outside shooting. Not good enough to be on the team.

Joe Dumars: Again not good enough to be on the team, but it's hard to imagine a team that wouldn't benefit from his presence.

Tyrone Hill: Quietly having another solid season on the boards and scoring.

Toni Kukoc: I find a place for him on the team. His defense is still something of a liability, but it's good enough to make him a tough competitor.

Reggie Miller: I have been a proponent of Miller's since well before he got credit. This year is a down year for him, but he could be on the team.

Charles Oakley: I have been a big critic of Oakley's for many years, but I'm reconsidering. He has been a rather mediocre player offensively, but as the league's offense has declined, his offense hasn't. Add that to his defense and he's earned my respect, just not my vote.

Dennis Rodman: I'll do a thorough study of his value in a couple weeks. I really don't know how valuable he is.

Carlos Rogers: CNN called him a star the other day in the story about volunteering a kidney for his sister. My consideration of him here is just for sentimental reasons.

Otis Thorpe: One of these days, someone is going to recognize the career this guy has had. Apparently not this year.

Chris Webber: He could be so much better than he is. Even though he is a pretty good player now and as good as a few other All-Stars, it is the fact that he isn't living up to potential that he isn't in the game.