Compared To The Rest of The West, Do The 2014-2015 Dallas Mavericks Even Deserve An All-Star?
Once again Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban earned himself some headlines last week — this time by blasting the NBA's use of fan voting for its annual All-Star Game, which will this year take place on February 15 in Brooklyn.
After it was revealed that the Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry led the voting with about 1.5 million votes, Cuban decided to tell everyone how he really thought about that rather meager tally.
“I mean, think about it,” he said on Friday evening as his Mavericks hosted the Chicago Bulls at the American Airlines Center. “Of all the people who go to games, all the people who watch games globally, to have [1.5] million means that system's broken. Absolutely, positively broken.”
Cuban makes a strong case. But, for the most part, it's hard to argue against the 10 players who were selected by the fans as the NBA All-Star starters — well, other than Kobe Bryant, who, outside of scoring a good amount of points, has had a lackluster season and is all but out for the rest of the season due to a shoulder injury.
Let's just be real here: Cuban most likely would not have expressed concern on the matter if, say, Dirk Nowitzki had received a popularity/legacy starter vote from the fans or it, somehow, the underappreciated Monta Ellis were voted in.
There's no doubt about that: In the same conversation in which Cuban lambasted the system, he championed Ellis as deserving of an All-Star nod. Interestingly, he also admitted the team wouldn't troll for votes — something that probably hurt Ellis' campaign.
What's being lost in this conversation, though, is the obvious question: Is there even a Dallas Mavericks player that deserves a spot in this year's All-Star Game?
We'll find out for sure on Thursday night when the reserves are announced as part of TNT's broadcast. But, before then, let's take an honest look ourselves, compare the Mavericks' starters to their competition, and see if any one of the starting Dallas Mavericks players is really deserving of that sort of recognition.
Point Guard: Rajon Rondo.
Fan-Voted All-Star Starter: Stephen Curry.
Since the Mavericks traded for him in December, Rajon Rondo has elevated the point guard play for the Mavericks immensely. But his performance hasn't quite been All-Star-worthy — not when taking into account the fact that the Western Conference is stacked with point guards. Even though his 9.1 assists per game may be good enough for third in the league, guys like Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook Ty Lawson and Damian Lillard are outputting nearly as many dimes as Rondo while also averaging about three times the points that he scores. Curry has already been voted the starting guard. More than likely, Westbrook and Chris Paul will fill out any other point guard picks in the backcourt reserves.
Shooting Guard: Monta Ellis.
Fan-Voted NBA All-Star Starter: Kobe Bryant.
This position is going to be the hardest pill to swallow for Mavs fans. Why? Because, sure, Ellis is having an All-Star-caliber season. Cuban and head coach Rick Carlisle are each quick to point out that fact. They have a point: Ellis is arguably the team's most important player. He's the team's leading scorer and, in the final moments of close games, he's the Mavericks' go-to, clutch shooter. This year, he's especially elevated his game. It's a shame, though, that the Houston Rockets' James Harden is having the best season of his career, too, while leading the league in scoring. Harden is an obvious lock for the reserve spot. And, if there's another shooting guard chosen for the Western Conference backcourt, it'd be hard to imagine it won't be Klay Thompson — especially after his record-setting 37-point third quarter from this past weekend.
Small Forward: Chandler Parsons.
Fan-Voted All-Star Starter: None.
Even though he was an exciting signing for the Mavericks this past offseason, Chandler Parsons hasn't played anywhere near an All-Star level. His inconsistency pretty much cements that there's not a chance he'll be chosen as a reserve. There's probably only going to be one small forward selected in the reserve spot anyway — and that'll be held for Kevin Durant, of course. Even though Durant's only played in 21 games this season, he's one of the faces of the league, and hes all-around statistically better than Gordon Hayward, Rudy Gay, Parsons or any other Western Conference small forward.
Power Forward: Dirk Nowitzki.
Fan-Voted All-Star Starter: Blake Griffin and Anthony Davis.
This is the toughest position group to eliminate players from. Dirk Nowitzki's name still rings bells — obviously — even though his scoring numbers have dipped from last year. Unfortunately, he likely won't be getting a legacy pick from the coaches this time around. Really, he'd probably prefer it that way: At 36, in his 17th season, he's probably more excited about the idea of getting rest during the All-Star break than putting on a show in Brooklyn. Carlisle and Cuban have expressed the same sentiment: They'd prefer he get the rest. Not that any of this matters. Most likely, this reserve pick will go to Lamarcus Aldridge — if he decides to play after injuring his hand earlier this season.
Center: Tyson Chandler.
Fan-Voted All-Star Starter: Marc Gasol.
It's been fun to watch Tyson Chandler get back to 2010-11 championship form this year. The guy's been productive as all get out, averaging a double-double and accounting for damn near all of the Mavericks' rebounding. His efforts will almost certainly go unrewarded during the break, though. Demarcus Cousins is having a ridiculous season, averaging 24.2 points per game and 12.6 rebounds per game for the Sacramento Kings. The fact that Marc Gasol was voted as the starter over him is a puzzle in itself.
Let's boil this down to brass tacks, folks: The Mavericks have failed to prove to this point in the season that they even deserve to have an All-Star in this crowded Western Conference. So far this season, the Mavericks are just 2-9 against the top eight teams in the West — and one of those two victories came against an absolutely depleted San Antonio Spurs team that was playing without Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli and Kawhi Leonard. The other victory? It came against the Memphis Grizzlies, who just last night walloped the Mavericks 109-90.
Listen: The 2014-2015 Mavericks are an exciting, deep team with the potential to make a splash in the post-season should some things fall their way at the right moment. Regardless, none of this All-Star stuff really matters anyway. And, with any luck, not having an All-Star representative this season will end up being a blessing for this team as it regroups and starts down the path of the season's second half.
Here's hoping, at least.
Cover photo of Monta Ellis by Danny Bollinger.