With Jeremy Lin close to an NBA All-Star Game starting spot, how does he fare against some of the other Western Conference point guards nominated for the game? (Photo : Reuters)
Will Jeremy Lin make his first-ever NBA All-Star Game?
As of this writing, only two days remain before fan voting closes to select the starting lineup for this year's NBA hoops gala, coming to Houston, where Lin starts at point guard for the Rockets, on Feb. 17.
And at last count (Jan. 3), Lin was separated from L.A. Clippers superstar point guard Chris Paul by just under a mere 50,000 votes. With the final tally coming Tuesday, unless Lin gets a last-minute surge in fan votes, it looks like he'll be missing out on his chance to start at point guard for the Western Conference.
But will this mean that Lin will miss his opportunity to play in the game completely? Of the fourteen All-Star spots available for each conference, the remaining nine are chosen by the coaches for the game.
Lin's play, while gradually improving--and occasionally sensational--has been streaky for much of the first half of the season. And he faces some pretty stiff competition for the remaining All-Star point guard spots in the form of Russell Westbrook, Tony Parker, Steve Nash, Stephen Curry and even the recently-returned Ricky Rubio.
So, who deserves to be a point guard representative in the reserved spots for the Western Conference in the All-Star Game this season? Here's a look at some of the candidates:
Jeremy Lin, Houston Rockets
He has the fan base. He has the buzz. And, as San Antonio, New York and Los Angeles have come to realize, he has the moves, as well.
Though he initially struggled to start the season, Lin has started to pick up the pace in the latter part of the first half. Some of the highlights include his 38-point display against San Antonio on Dec. 10, his 22-point, nine-assist homecoming against the Knicks on Dec. 17, a stretch of strong performances against the defensively tough Grizzlies and Bulls, and a 16-point second half against the Lakers on Jan. 8.
Lin is currently is fifth in the NBA in steals, with 2.05 swipes per game. And there is something to be said for the way he has helped to steer Houston's super-fast, running-and-gunning offense, second in the NBA with 105.6 points per game.
His offensive numbers have been up-and-down, and his turnovers, currently at 3.1 a game, have caused concern among some, but if the All-Star game is a popularity contest (as some have argued it to be) then few players have been more popular and sparked more interest in the game than Lin has ever since he broke out from bench-warming obscurity into instant stardom nearly a year ago in New York. In 2012, he was the most searched athlete on Google, more than even Olympic champion Michael Phelps or the reigning king of the NBA, LeBron James.
And last season, there was an outcry for Lin to be in the All-Star Game; while he didn't make it, he made it to the NBA's Rising Stars Challenge, which drew the highest ratings numbers for that game ever. Will his drawing power equal his first start in the game's biggest gala event?
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
There isn't a single key point guard stat where Westbrook isn't a league leader in.
Points? He's sixth in the league with 21.6 points, just behind LeBron James.
Assists? Westbrook is fifth in the NBA, passing for 8.5 dishes per night.
Steals? No. 3 in the league with 2.11 picks per game.
On an Oklahoma City team whose explosive offense leads the league with 105.7 points per night, the superiorly athletic Westbrook is just as important a part of the team's success--in some ways, more so--as OKC's leading scorer and superstar Kevin Durant. He has his issues at times on defense, but that aside, Westbrook is as good as it gets in terms of point guards. He's made two consecutive All-Star games so far. Barring an upset, it's hard to see this 2012 Olympian not making a third one.
Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs
The model of consistency for point guards everywhere, Parker, 30, is enjoying one of his finest seasons yet. Averaging 19.5 points, 7.1 assists and an efficient 51.5 percent from the field, Parker is at the helm of San Antonio's smooth-as-lotion offensive machine, third in the NBA with 104.8 points per game.
When the Spurs need a clutch shot, he's there. When they need a nifty pass to help them change the tide of a game, Parker's their man. And with the three-time NBA Champion Parker showing no signs of slowing down, he's part of the reason the Spurs are always a title contender.
Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
After years of being seen as a joke, Golden State is looking like a winner. And a big part of the reason why the 23-12 Warriors, only 4.5 games behind the Clippers in the Pacific Division standings, are looking so good can be found in two words: Stephen Curry.
The slick-passing, speedy 24-year-old point guard out of Davidson has emerged as one of the most dangerous scorers in the west, ranked eight among NBA scorers with 20.2 points per game. As dangerous with his passing as he is with a quick step to the lane, Curry and David Lee are on pace to take the Warriors to great heights for years to come.
Steve Nash, L.A. Lakers
Having just passed his 10,000th assist this week, Nash is in a historic group of point guards, and that is undisputed. The two-time NBA MVP and eight-time NBA All-Star will ultimately go down in history as one of the best point guards to ever play the game.
Though he's struggled with injuries this season, Nash still remains dangerous at the point for the Lakers, netting 10.8 points and 8.8 assists this season, and those numbers continue to improve. He may not be as explosive as he was in his prime, but even at age 38, few can play the one-spot better than Nash.
Ricky Rubio, Minnesota Timberwolves
It is debatable as to whether Rubio, who has missed much of the season after coming back from ACL surgery, should be a favorite to be a part of the All-Star Game this season.
While his highlight-reel worthy behind-the-back passes and savvy style made his a strong candidate for Rookie of the Year last season (10.5 points, 8.8 assists, 2.2 steals), Rubio has struggled in the eight games since his return, averaging only 3.5 points and 4.8 assists. He could return to form soon, but not quick enough to make a real dent in his consideration for All-Star status.