One of my favorite times of the year is right around the corner. Although it’s tough to beat the NCAA Tournament, the NBA regular season is just beyond the horizon and what better way to get excited for the upcoming season than creating an All-Star team for the ever-intriguing Pacific Division.
What I’ve done is picked the best player at each position (point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward, and center) as well as the best player in the division who did not make the starting squad, who I’ve pegged as the sixth man.
Let’s get on with it: here it is, your 2013-14 Pacific Division All-Star team.
Point Guard: Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
Cliff would be proud.
18.3 ppg, 10.5 apg, 4.0 rpg, 2.6 spg, 48.1% FG, 32.8% 3FG, 88.5% FT per 36
Arguably the best point guard in the NBA, Chris Paul had to be my choice for the starting point guard in my Pacific Division dream team. The guy can do it all. He can score from anywhere on the court, he can get to the hoop and finish with any combination of an unstoppable floater/runner/acrobatic layup. He can create his own shot (particularly from the mid-range) and he knocks down over 30% of his threes.
Even more impressive about Paul is that he’s a creator. Considered to be one of the best passers in the game, he is a guy other superstars wouldn’t mind playing with because they can trust him to make the right play and get them the ball in the right spots. His 10.5 assists per 36 is among the best in the league, and he can do it in a variety of ways. He can run the offense via half-court, or he can go off to the races in transition.
Defensively, Paul is a menace. His almost three steals per 36 means that even though he is small in stature (6-foot-0) Paul finds ways to make his presence felt on both sides of the ball.
When it comes to the point guard position, there is no player in the NBA better suited to lead any kind of All-Star team. Paul contributes in big ways on both sides of the ball and relishes in creating exciting plays both for himself and for his teammates. He is the clear-cut choice for the starting point guard for my Pacific Division All-Star team.
Shooting Guard: Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
The other choices were Klay Thompson, Jamal Crawford, Marcus Thornton/Ben McLemore, or Eric Bledsoe and as much as I love Klay Thompson, there is no way I could make a decent argument to choose him even over a crippled Kobe.
25.5 ppg, 5.6 apg, 5.2 rpg, 1.3 spg, 46.3% FG, 32.4% 3FG, 83.9% FT per 36
You all know Kobe. Although he lost the fro, he’s got the rings (thanks Shaq), he’s (falsely) considered one of the clutchest players in the NBA, and he even films himself working out and makes documentaries about it (Kobe Doing Work). He is the (self described) Black Mamba.
As much as I would love to choose Klay over Kobe, just to ruffle some feathers at the very least, it just wouldn’t be right. Bryant gets buckets. He is an underrated passer, solid rebounder, and an overrated but still effective defender in today’s NBA.
Aside from all the accolades (and lack of another shooting guard anywhere near Kobe’s caliber in this division), there is another reason as to why I chose Kobe as the starting shooting guard for this All-Star squad: competitiveness. Rarely will you see players go all out during an All-Star game just to secure a win (okay probably more so for the All-Star Game MVP) for his conference, but Kobe does it year in and year out. Even last year, Kobe secured a win for the West with the signature play coming on a block of LeBron James in a game where defensive highlights are few and far between. Because of this ultra-competitiveness, it makes Kobe the obvious choice (I can’t stress enough the idea that the shooting guard position is just so weak in this division). So congratulations, Mamba, this one’s for you.
Small Forward: Andre Iguodala, Golden State Warriors
Iggy, Iggy, Iggy, can’t you see, that you are a perfect fit for this team. Okay, maybe that was a stretch on the Biggie reference, but I couldn’t resist. The fact of the matter is that Andre Iguodala would be a great glue guy for this All-Star team.
13.4 ppg, 5.6 apg, 5.5 rpg, 1.8 spg, 45.1% FG, 31.7% 3FG, 57.4% FT per 36.
He’s not a dynamite scorer. He’s not a terrific passer. He’s not the best rebounding small forward in the league. He isn’t a superb
shooter, but he does all of these things well enough to make him a valuable asset for this team. Aside from his abysmal free throw percentage (What happened? He’s a career 72% guy who struggled to hit six of 10 shots at the line last year), Iguodala does just about everything well. He can get to the hoop, he can shoot it well enough from deep to be a threat, he is a very solid defender who has the length and athleticism to make life hard on guys like Kevin Durant and LeBron James.
The great thing about Iguodala is that he would not demand the ball or demand attention on a team full of guys who need both to be happy. He would be a perfect starting small forward who could make things difficult for opposing teams on both sides of the ball especially with the athletes he would have around him.
Power Forward: Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
20.0 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 4.1 apg, 1.3 spg, 0.7 bpg, 53.8% FG, 17.9% 3FG (For reasons beyond me, Blake felt compelled to shoot 28 threes last season and miraculously, he hit five of them) 66% FT per 36.
Blake Griffin makes this team very difficult to defend. He possesses rare athleticism for a power forward and is one of the main components to “Lob City.” Pairing him with teammate Chris Paul in this All-Star team would make him even more dangerous, allowing him to play alongside a point guard he understands and is comfortable with.
Blake is a good rebounder and surprisingly good and racking up steals. Although his 0.7 blocks per 36 isn’t overwhelming, his defense is not much of a liability for this team.
Quickly, let’s imagine a three-on-two fastbreak in which CP3 is the ball handler with Blake and Iggy running the floor on the wings while Kobe and his achilles allow the young bucks to have some fun. This potential three-on-two transition opportunity would undoubtedly be a thing of beauty, most likely ending in a posterizing Blake Griffin alley-oop throwdown. The possibilities are endless. Alas, we must pull away from our imagination and progess into the rest of the article.
Center: DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings
Boogie, Boogie, Boogie can’t you see…okay that’s enough of that.
20.1 ppg, 11.7 rpg, 3.1 apg, 1.7 spg, 0.9 bpg, 46.5% FG, 18.2% 3FG (Similarly to Blake, 22 times this past season, Boogie felt compelled to fire away from range…four miracles occurred) 73.8% FT per 36.
Yes, Cousins is a headcase. Yes, he’s young and his field goal percentage is a little suspect, but the fact of the matter is that Cousins is that Cousins would be an asset for this team.
Cousins swallows up rebounds. At almost 12 boards per 36, this All-Star team would have a guy they can lean on two grab those boards and make the outlet pass to start the dream fast break scenario of CP3, Blake, and Iggy in a three-on-two.
Cousins also shoots a rare 73% from the free throw line. For a center, that is incredibly valuable in close games because it takes away the option for a “Hack-a-Shaq” type strategy that has become so popular in today’s NBA against guys like Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan.
Although Boogie can be a bit of a headcase, veteran leaders like Kobe and CP3 should be able to keep him in line enough to make sure he’s not hurting the chemistry of the team.
Although Cousins has a lot of potential to grow into, and the Division has solid centers such as Pau Gasol, Andrew Bogut, Marcin Gortat, and DeAndre Jordan, Cousins is still the best center in the division, making it a relatively easy decision to choose him for this team.
Sixth Man: Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
21.6 ppg, 6.5 apg, 3.8 rpg, 1.5 spg, 45.1% FG, 45.3% 3FG (Yes, he actually shot better from beyond the arc than inside it) 90.0% FT per 36.
This past postseason, Curry took the hearts of most NBA fans during the Warriors’ run to the Western Conference semi-finals. Something about the baby-faced shooter from the mid-major school seems relatable to the fans.
Regardless, the kid can play. He’s a lights out shooter (he broke Ray Allen’s single season three pointers made record while shooting a higher percentage on those shots) who can do it in a variety of ways. He’s a dead-eye spot up shooter, he can get open off the ball with the use of screens, he can create his own shot of the dribble or off of screens, he can shoot the deep ball off one foot, or he can even roll the ball to himself to get himself free.
The important part is that no matter how he gets open, he is ridiculously accurate once he gets his shot off. Arguably the best shooter in, not only the NBA currently, but possibly in the history of the NBA, Curry clearly is a major threat off the bench for this team.
Aside from his three point shooting, he has developed a nasty underhanded floater than he can shoot over the likes of Serge Ibaka, making it virtually unguardable. He has a knack for getting into the lane and making a play, either for himself or for his teammates and he is always willing and able to make the right pass.
His free throw shooting makes him a guy who must be on the court down the stretch in close games, and he also possesses the big shot making ability which sets him apart from most point guards.
Human Torch, Hot Curry, Splash Bro, Big Bro, little Dell, whatever you call him, the important thing is that you make sure he’s on your side in any big game.
Overall, I love the idea of having these six players play together on one team. There is no doubt in my mind that I would take them over the other five All-Star division teams. Because of the versatility, athleticism, playmaking ability, shotmaking ability, and leadership that these guys possess, the Pacific Division All-Star team is the team to beat.