Jennifer Stewart-US PRESSWIRE
Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer are all hoping for All-Star Game bids. What are the chances they get selected by the coaches?
It's time for another SB Nation NBA Theme Day, and with the All-Star reserves being unveiled tomorrow night, the theme this time around is naturally dedicated to the All-Star Game. There are several Bulls on the fence of making the East All-Star Team, so let's take a look at their cases.
Noah seems to be the most likely candidate, as he has gotten a decent amount of hype and has shouldered a huge load for a somewhat overachieving Bulls team this year. I say somewhat because there were some who still thought the Bulls were going to be damn good despite Derrick Rose being out and the Bench Mob being gone.
Noah's numbers, at least offensively, don't really scream All-Star. I noted last week that some of his per/36 numbers are down from past years and his shooting numbers are pretty bad for a 7-footer who does most of his work close to the hoop. Jo is shooting just 45.5 percent on the season, and that total is a Roy Hibbert-esque 37.7 percent in January. Can his huge minutes total be blamed for that? Perhaps.
But Noah has made up for some of his shooting struggles with brilliance in other areas. He's arguably the best passing big man in the game, averaging 4.0 assists. He's shooting 78.4 percent from the line, which is pretty remarkable considering that ugly shot, although he has always been a pretty solid free throw shooter.
And of course, there's the defense. Noah is the backbone of Tom Thibodeau's staunch D, and Grantland's Zach Lowe says Jo may be the best defender in the league. Noah's ability to guard pick-and-roll is paramount in Thibs' scheme and helps the Bulls be so good at what they do. He can flash and recover with the best of them, and does an excellent job at protecting the paint. Throw in his versatility and ability to effectively guard nearly every position on the floor, and you have an absolute defensive dynamo.
Noah obviously has some stellar competition for a spot on the All-Star team, with centers like Tyson Chandler and Brook Lopez having really solid campaigns. And since the center position was taken off the All-Star ballot, it may be even more difficult to get in, because there are also numerous other forwards who could get taken ahead of Noah. But if Jo does get in, I don't think one could argue he's not deserving.
Deng is in search of his second straight All-Star appearance, although many think he didn't deserve his selection last year. When you look at the numbers it can be tough to argue that point, but much like Noah, Deng's value to the Bulls isn't always seen in the numbers.
Deng's numbers compared to last are a tad better, although his three-point percentage is down a couple of percentage points. He still plays his great defense and has had a couple of massive games against big time opponents, including two big-time efforts against the Knicks.
Naturally, Thibs thinks Deng should be "a lock" to make the team, and Celtics head coach Doc Rivers has also endorsed the small forward (Rivers endorsed Noah as well). I certainly wouldn't call Deng a lock, and I honestly don't think he's going to make it. Which is sort of funny because he's probably more deserving this year than last. But I'm good with him using that break to just relax and get some rest. Because after the break is when the real fun starts.
After a rough start, Boozer has gone crazy in the month of January and vaulted himself into All-Star conversation. The way he's playing right now, he's arguably the best pure power forward in the East. He's putting up 22 and 11.5 in the month of January and collecting double-doubles like it's nobody's business. He leads the East in double-doubles this season with 23.
However, as good as he has been lately, I don't think I could give a guy an All-Star bid just based on three weeks of outstanding play. I love ya Charles Barkley, but I just can't do it. Boozer was just so bad the first couple of months of the season, and it showed in the Bulls' numbers when he was on the court. So while I think it's fair to include Boozer in All-Star talks, I really don't believe he deserves to get in.
Jimmy Butler in the Rookie/Sophomore Game?
I also just wanted to note that I think there's a pretty good chance Blog a Bull favorite Jimmy Butler gets selected to play in the Rookie/Sophomore Game, especially thanks to his recent play with Deng injured. Helping shut down Kobe on national TV is certainly a good way to get noticed. On the other hand, not so sure about Marquis Teague's chances for the Rookie/Sophomore Game. I would doubt he gets the invite, but ya never know.
Also, since Jimmy has some serious hops, perhaps some Slam Dunk Contest consideration?