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Paul Connors, Associated Press
Amare Stoudemire

This time the fans weren't too bad. They didn't pick someone who has been out injured most of the year or who was otherwise clearly not deserving to be an NBA All-Star — as has been the case in some years past.

Sure, there are some minor quibbles — like Allen Iverson getting the start over Steve Nash. But at least Iverson was able to rally to surpass the less-deserving Tracy McGrady, who has missed 14 games due to injury.

Now it's up to the coaches to vote for the seven substitutes per side. It won't be easy, either. Deserving players will be left out in both conferences — but there will be more in the West, which is loaded with quality guards and forwards. Coaches are instructed to vote for one center, two forwards and two wildcards in their own conferences, without selecting one of their own players. The All-Star reserves will be announced on Thursday.

Should any coaches need some help (which, of course, they don't need), here's one person's opinion on who should be an All-Star next month in New Orleans:


Starters: C — Yao Ming (Houston); F — Tim Duncan (San Antonio), Carmello Anthony (Denver); G — Kobe Bryant (Lakers), Allen Iverson (Denver)

Overview: There are 10 quality teams in the West all within a handful of games of each other. In a perfect world, all 10 of those teams should get at least one representative into the All-Star Game. The Nuggets, thanks to the fan voting, already have two. That's probably bad news for Marcus Camby, the Nuggets' center who is having an All-Star caliber year. It would be hard to justify having three All-Stars from any one team from the West.

The picks

C — Amare Stoudemire (Phoenix): Stoudemire is a better offensive player than Denver's Marcus Camby, but Camby is the superior defender. The All-Star Game is all about scoring, though, right? Plus, the Nuggets shouldn't have three of the 12 players on the roster.

F — Carlos Boozer (Utah): Boozer made his first All-Star team last year — but was unable to play due to an injury. This year the Jazz's double-double machine should actually get into the game. He certainly deserves to be an All-Star, averaging 22.5 points and 10.8 rebounds per game.

F — Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas): The 7-foot German isn't having another MVP season, but he's still the best player for one of the best teams in the West. He's averaging 22 points, more than eight rebounds and almost four assists per game for Mavericks.

G — Steve Nash (Phoenix): The two-time league MVP may be having his best season ever. He averages 12.1 assists per game, which is almost two more than anyone else in the league. Nash simply makes players around him better and should be starting for the West.

G — Chris Paul (New Orleans): His numbers are similar to Utah's Deron Williams, but he has the advantage in one big way — the Hornets have a better record. With the All-Star game in New Orleans, too, there should be at least one representative from the Hornets.

WC — Baron Davis (Golden State): Davis is having his best overall season, averaging 22.3 points, 8.1 assists, 4.9 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game. Sure, the West doesn't really need another point guard, but Davis' Warriors are in the thick of the playoff chase and he deserves much of the credit.

WC — Brandon Roy (Portland): Again, the West doesn't need another guard — but Roy's play deserves to be recognized. He is the best player on the young Trail Blazers team that is in the thick of the Northwest Division race. Roy is averaging 19.2 points, 5.7 assists and 4.5 rebounds as a "combo" guard.

Top 12 missing the cut: Chris Kaman (Clippers), Marcus Camby (Denver), David West (New Orleans), Deron Williams (Utah), Josh Howard (Dallas), Tony Parker (San Antonio), Manu Ginobilli (San Antonio), Stephen Jackson (Golden State), Al Jefferson (Minnesota), Rudy Gay (Memphis), Pau Gasol (Memphis), Shawn Marion (Phoenix).


Starters: C — Dwight Howard (Orlando); F — LeBron James (Cleveland), Kevin Garnett (Boston); G — Dwyane Wade (Miami), Jason Kidd (New Jersey)

Overview: The West is clearly the better conference overall, but the East has some quality stars. The starting lineup the fans picked for the East is outstanding. With Shaquille O'Neal having an off-year, however, the East doesn't have any real deserving All-Star centers besides Howard. Also, the Celtics are so far head-and-shoulders ahead of all the other teams in the East that they deserve to be represented by three players.

The picks

C — Chris Bosh (Toronto): This is really a bit of a cheat. Bosh is really a forward for the Raptors. But it is a way to be able to honor one more deserving star. Bosh's YouTube video campaigning for All-Star votes didn't work, but he should get in as a sub. He's averaging 22.6 points and 9.2 boards.

F — Caron Butler (Washington): Most people figured the Wizards would struggle once Agent Zero — Gilbert Arenas — went out with an injury. Thanks in large part to Butler, Washington has stayed tough. He's one of the top all-around players in the league who can score, pass, rebound and defend.

F — Paul Pierce (Boston): Pierce is the leading scorer on the best team in the NBA to this point. While he's no longer the only good option for the Celtics thanks to the additions of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, he's still getting plenty of opportunities to shine — and he's made the most of them.

G — Richard Hamilton (Detroit): On a team filled with former All-Stars, Hamilton has been the biggest standout so far this year. He's leading the Pistons in scoring (18.8 ppg) and making better than 50 percent of his shots — which is rare in the NBA, especially for a guard. He's even making 46 percent of his 3-point attempts.

G — Ray Allen (Boston): Yes, all three of the Celtics stars deserve to be in New Orleans. They have been the story of the first half of the year. Folks from the West can argue that they are feasting on weak opponents in the East, but the fact is that Boston is now 10-0 against teams from the Western Conference. Allen is averaging 18.2 points per game, not bad for a third option.

WC — Hedo Turkoglu (Orlando): The division-leading Magic have been one of the pleasant surprises in the NBA, and the 6-10 forward from Turkey is one of the big reasons why. Turkoglu is a strong outside shooter who is averaging 19 points, six rebounds and four assists per game.

WC — Chauncey Billups (Detroit): No offense to Jason Kidd, but Billups is now the best point guard in the East. Billups has the aging Pistons still within striking distance of Boston for the best record in the conference, while Kidd's Nets are a struggling, sub-.500 club.

Top 12 missing the cut: Joe Johnson (Atlanta), Richard Jefferson (New Jersey), Michael Redd (Milwaukee), Gerald Wallace (Charlotte), Antawn Jamison (Washington), Vince Carter (New Jersey), Ben Gordon (Chicago), Jason Richardson (Charlotte), Jamal Crawford (New York), Andre Iguodala (Philadelphia), Danny Granger (Indiana), Jose Calderon (Toronto).

E-mail: lojo@desnews.com