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The Rockets Daily – January 24, 2013

Down to the Wire - When the final voting for the NBA All-Star game starters was announced last night, the biggest surprise on the list was that Dwight Howard’s spot had been usurped at the last minute by Kevin Love.  Despite trailing Blake Griffin by only 17,000 votes for the final frontcourt spot last week, Love and Griffin both made a late-push to knock Howard off the list in the final days of voting.  The final rosters for both squads look like this:  

West

Steph Curry

Kobe Bryant

Kevin Durant

Blake Griffin

Kevin Love

East

Kyrie Irving

Dwyane Wade

Paul George

Carmelo Anthony

LeBron James

These types of rosters, at least while the starters are in, are going to lead to exciting basketball for fans.  With no big men on the court (not that much defense gets played in these games, anyway), and the likes of LeBron, Griffin and George all playing, it is going to be an absolute dunk-fest.

And with Kobe almost certain to miss the All-Star game, I’m curious if the powers-that-be will replace him with James Harden or the currently injured Chris Paul, who led the guard voting for much of the process.

Speaking of those two, all that’s left now is figuring out the final seven spots (eight if you count an injury replacement for Kobe) for each roster.  Kevin Pelton offered his choices for filling out the rest of the Western Conference (Tom Haberstroh picked the East) using his WARP metric (which qualified SEVENTEEN players out of the West to choose from), with James Harden and Dwight Howard both making the cut.

James Harden | SG | Houston Rockets

Harden isn’t quite the no-brainer selection he was this time a year ago. The arrival of Dwight Howard means Harden is using slightly fewer plays, but he hasn’t seen any boost in his efficiency. And with Howard around, it’s harder to excuse Harden’s defensive no-showing as a product of his heavy offensive load.

Still, Harden is elite, in large part because the gap between the best and worst offensive players is much larger than the best and worst defensive players. So while RAPM adjusted plus-minus from the Talking Practice blog has Harden as a negative factor on defense, he remains in the top 10 overall thanks to the second-best offensive rating in the league behind LeBron James.

Dwight Howard | C | Houston Rockets

Kevin Love justifiably made a late push for a starting spot, but Howard belongs on the West roster as well. He has settled in somewhere between his All-NBA numbers with the Orlando Magic and last season’s post-back surgery play with the Los Angeles Lakers.

This season, Howard has been more efficient as a scorer (in no small part because he’s hitting better than 50 percent of his free throws for the first time since 2010-11) while playing a larger role in the Houston offense than he did in L.A. As a result, Howard is back in the NBA’s top 10 in WARP.

If I had my way, the final spots in the West would go to Harden, CP3, Damian Lillard and Tony Parker (as the injury replacement for Kobe) in the backcourt, and Dwight, LaMarcus Aldridge, Dirk Nowitzki and Anthony Davis (barely, over Boogie Cousins) in the frontcourt.

In the East, I agree with Haberstroh’s list completely: John Wall, Kyle Lowry and Arron Afflalo in the backcourt, with Roy Hibbert, Chris Bosh, Joakim Noah (hands down my favorite player in the league) and Paul Millsap making up the frontcourt.

Straight From the Horses Mouth - Daryl Morey had a few choice words regarding Dwight Howard’s exclusion from the starting roster in this year’s All-Star game.

Like I stated previously, I think it will come down to Harden and Chris Paul, but I like Morey’s idea better.  The NBA has made it clear they don’t care about positions, and Dwight did receive the sixth most votes.  My guess is Harden though.

Speaking of the Beard: Hey James, how do you feel about being out-voted by a 35 year old that has only played six games this year and is scoring less than 14 ppg?

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