DeMar DeRozan is having a career year. Through 24 games this season, DeRozan has been studly. Currently, DeRozan is averaging 21.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.4 apg and shooting 43 percent from the field. DeRozan also, surprisingly, has his squad sitting in eighth place in the Eastern Conference standings. So it seems like a given all that, he should be headed to New Orleans come Feb. 14, right?
Not exactly. In fact, with the East’s current complexion and the league’s grotesquely flawed All-Star voting system, DeRozan will be hard-pressed to make his first All-Star appearance this season. But it could still happen.
It should come as no surprise that DeRozan will not make the starting five in the East as the starting spots are reserved for the league’s superstars (or more accurately, the league’s most popular players). In fact, even though only the first round of voting results have been counted as of today, the East’s starting five seem locked in already. Kyrie Irving, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony all seem primed to represent the East.
In considering DeRozan as a bench reserve, it is important to note that given the NBA‘s newly adopted position-less ballot structure (meaning players are selected as frontcourt and backcourt players, not based on individual positions), it seems very likely that the coaches will choose three-to-four big men as bench reserves (there isn’t a single post player in the starting five). Expect these nods to go to Roy Hibbert, Chris Bosh, Al Horford and Greg Monroe/Paul Millsap. Accordingly then, at the very best, the East coaches will select four guards to round out the bench reserves. So, where does Derozan fit into this mix?
At this point, John Wall is the only lock for the bench reserves as he clearly is the most dynamic guard remaining in the East after the aforementioned starters. Wall is currently averaging 19.6 ppg, 9.3 apg (third in the NBA), 4.4 rpg and 2.1 spg (seventh in the NBA) while also leading the Washington Wizards to the playoffs. But beyond Wall, the other three guard spots are up for grabs.
If the All-Stars are to be based purely on production, DeRozan should strongly be considered amongst the East guards. Yet, so too should Orlando Magic guard Aaron Afflalo. He is quietly having a career year, averaging 21.6 ppg (11th in the NBA), 4.7 rpg and 4.0 apg while also shooting on more efficient numbers than DeRozan (46.8 percent FG and 41.5 percent 3PT in comparison to DeRozan’s 43 percent FG and 32.2 percent 3PT). Yet, DeRozan has a noticeably better team record, so this should work in his favor when the coaches vote.
Ultimately, DeRozan’s All-Star snub may be determined by an embarrassing trend occurring in the East currently. The East is bad, as in historical bad. Currently, there are three teams that are sitting above .500. That’s right, three teams: the Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers and Atlanta Hawks. Given the absolutely atrocious performance of the East this season, it seems very likely — and even downright righteous — that the coaches should reward the winning teams with multiple All Stars.
That puts the Hawks’ Jeff Teague and the Pacers’ Lance Stephenson right in the mix. Stephenson is averaging 13 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 4.9 apg and shooting 48.4 percent FG — all career highs — for the Pacers. The Pacers and Heat have absolutely dominated the East so far with nearly identical records (21-5 and 20-6, respectively). It seems unlikely then that the Heat would receive three All Stars (James, Wade, Bosh) while the Pacers would receive only two (George, Hibbert). If Stephenson continues to play near this level, expect him to earn his first All-Star nod.
As for Teague, the Hawks have surprised the league and sit at 15-12, good enough for third place in the East. The Hawks deserve at least two All Stars. Horford seems like a lock while Millsap’s recognition is more in question based on the other Eastern big men. With Teague averaging 15.8 ppg, 8.0 apg (sixth in the NBA) and being the consummate floor general for the overachieving Hawks, Toronto Raptors fans shouldn’t be overly surprised if Teague gets the nod ahead of DeRozan come February.
If the All Stars were to be selected this weekend, DeRozan probably wouldn’t make the cut based on Teague, Stephenson and Afflalo. Evidently, there is still a lot of basketball to be played before the All-Star reserves are announced, but if the Raptors can continue to gel in the awful East — as they have since the Rudy Gay trade — then expect DeRozan to make his first All-Star appearance this season.