So Toronto Raptors coach Dwane Casey said this week that he very much wants both DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry to make the All-Star Game this season. He want to far as to say, “All of the coaches, I talk to them about it, text them … I’m pushing our guys, they deserve it.” And even this much, “I’ll beg the coaches, bribe them with lunch, dinner, whatever at a coaches meeting. It’s what we should be, and are doing as an organization.”
Not that we can’t get behind this. We have been lauding DeRozan all season and have said before that we think it would be foolish for the Raptors to trade him, especially because we think he still has room to improve. At 21-5-4, DeRozan has done everything that could have been asked after the trade of Rudy Gay. And his never-give-up, team first attitude is infectious. There is no doubt that a birth in the All-Star game would mean a lot to him. We feel like carrying a first-place team that is playing great gives him plenty of clout in that argument.
We hate to toot our own horns in that prognostication, but we’ll toot.
The issue is his competition in the East. Of course the selection of starters is ridiculous; the fans and their recognizable name/herd mentality can be maddening for us that care about the actual merits and contributions of a player. Our best case of Blake Griffin getting more fan votes than Kevin Love or Anthony Davis among others is sad, but we have to acknowledge and concede that it is a nonsensical system with uninformed people.
The reserves, though, are selected by the coaches, thus Casey’s lobbying. Carmelo Anthony’s name will propel him as a starter, warranted or not, as will LeBron James and Paul George. But after center Roy Hibbert, who should also be a lock, we do not see any others who have a more compelling case than DeRozan.
The name to watch is going to be Lance Stephenson. He is impressive and one of guy we would love to have on our team in the playoffs. But he is not a better player than DeRozan and is certainly not having a better year. He could get in due to a “Pacers push,” our term for the coaches rewarding a great, hard-nosed team so far. The coaches have to love this group of good players doing great things, and Stephenson could be the beneficiary. We could see, given the scoring discrepancy, if Stephenson had a higher player efficiency ranking that he may have more of a case. But DeRozan, in addition to averaging eight more points per game, also sports a higher PER, 17.02 to 15. Essentially, DeRozan is carrying a playoff team, and Stephenson is contributing to one.
It should be a clear selection. We think the coaches will realize DeRozan’s improvement and impact, especially since the Rudy Gay trade, and make him a first-time All-Star.
Kyle Lowry will find it more difficult. We could make the case that he has been the best player on the team and far more important with Gay gone. With the ball in his hands, he has facilitated a dramatic improvement in ball movement and record has shown it.
The way we see it, though, John Wall will be assured of one spot after starter Kyrie Irving, and the pool of others is deep, including point guards from teams that will not have another All-Star. If DeRozan is selected, like we assume, it will be difficult to justify another, with Kemba Walker, Arron Afflalo, and Jeff Teague putting up better numbers than Lowry.
It’s not going to happen for Kyle Lowry.
We just hope that GM Masai Ujiri isn’t hoping for All-Star bids for his players for all the wrong reasons. If he was looking for an ace-in-the-hole to squeeze a bit more out of the Knicks in a trade for Lowry, an All-Star selection may be just what he needs.
Or it could up Lowry’s contract demands in the offseason. Is this that “no man’s land” thing Uriji was worried about?