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Nothin' but Net: Quarter mark All-Stars

By Jim Brighters, NBA Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - We are a quarter of the way through the 2012-13 NBA season. Time flies when the Lakers stink.

All-Star ballots are due on Jan. 14, leaving 34 days until polls close and the starters are determined.

This season, there was a change to voting. A starting center is no longer required, rather the selection is for three frontcourt players, This means you could have three small forwards start. The bench players, determined by coaches, consist of two guards, three frontcourters and two wild-card selections of any position.

Fans voting for All-Star games means that undeserving players will head to Houston on Feb. 17, 2013. That happens, but barring making fans pass a written NBA test to vote, it's going to continue.

About 20 games into the season isn't much of a sample size, but it's all we have. Here is who I would have on the All-Star teams, but, in order for the fans' voice to be heard, we will incorporate who will likely make the starting five.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Expected starters:

G - Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics G - Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat C/F - Chris Bosh, Miami Heat F - Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks F - LeBron James, Miami Heat

This is a pretty strong group and there aren't many objections. Bosh is averaging 18.3 ppg and 8.1 rpg so all of you that think he is undeserving are wrong.

Reserves:

G - JRUE HOLIDAY, Philadelphia 76ers

The favorite for Most Improved Player, Holiday is averaging 18.0 ppg and 8.9 apg. Those are stout numbers for a winning team and he plays solid defense. Turnovers are an issue, but they are for anyone who has his hands on the ball as much as Holiday does.

G - RAYMOND FELTON, New York Knicks

At 16.1 ppg and 6.8 apg Felton is the catalyst for a Knicks team that has been near the top of the Eastern Conference standings all season. What sold me on his candidacy is how he played against the Heat with Anthony out of the game. Felton went 6-for-10 from the 3-point line, scored 27 and pulled off the 20- point win.

C - ANDERSON VAREJAO, Cleveland Cavaliers

If he doesn't make this team, the NBA should stop staging this game. Varejao is scoring 14.5 ppg, but the 15.2 rpg is staggering. He shares the NBA lead in double-doubles and plays great team defense. The knock would be the Cavs are terrible, but Varejao has played better center than anyone in the Eastern Conference.

F - PAUL PIERCE, Boston Celtics

It's easy to say Pierce doesn't belong again. He's made 10 All-Star teams and every one since 2002 except for 2007. Pierce is averaging 19.2 ppg, pulling down 5.4 rpg and dishing out 3.6 apg. Those are All-Star numbers again folks. Problem is, do we put two Celtics on the team after an uneven season?

F - JOSH SMITH, Atlanta Hawks

This was a dead-heat with fellow Hawk, Al Horford. Smith is outscoring Horford 17.3-to-16.8, but Horford gets almost two more rebounds per outing. Smith blocks a full shot more a game. This is really a toss-up, but Smith has never made an All-Star team and we will reward him.

C - BROOK LOPEZ, Brooklyn Nets

The big man, who has missed five games with a foot injury, is putting in 18.5 ppg and 6.8 rpg. Those rebounding numbers make me sad for a center, but he's been the best Nets player this season. Deron Williams and Joe Johnson have been average and the Nets lost four of five with Lopez out. He's that important.

F - LUOL DENG, Chicago Bulls

Deng leads the NBA in minutes played while contributing 18.3 ppg and 7.1 rpg. And, Deng always checks the best perimeter player and has kept the Bulls over .500 without Derrick Rose in the lineup.

Close, but not quite: Horford, Kevin Garnett, Joakim Noah, Tyson Chandler, Evan Turner, Brandon Jennings, David West and Kyrie Irving (who would be here if he didn't miss half the games with a broken finger).

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Expected starters:

G - Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers G - Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers C - Dwight Howard, Los Angeles Lakers F - Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder F - Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers

Here, the voting will matter. Griffin is a hunch based on his popularity, but Tim Duncan belongs in the group more. Duncan could get voted in and that might make a difference, although Griffin is probably still an All-Star. It's actually close since Griffin's numbers are almost all in decline from previous years. But this is what we are going with.

Reserves:

G - RUSSELL WESTBROOK, Oklahoma City Thunder

Westbrook's scoring is down from last season (23.6-to-21.5), but the assist numbers sky-rocketed. Westbrook is up three assists a game so far in 2012-13 and the Thunder have been excellent yet again this season.

G - TONY PARKER, San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs leader is scoring and assisting at his usual All-Star level. Parker, a guard, albeit a penetrating scoring one, shoots over 51 percent from the field. That's a gigantic number.

C - MARC GASOL, Memphis Grizzlies

He has become the most well-rounded center in the league with 4.4 apg. The Spaniard and baby brother to frequent All-Star Pau Gasol is averaging a career-best 15.7 ppg as well as anchoring the spectacular front line of Memphis. Speaking of...

F - ZACH RANDOLPH, Memphis Grizzlies

He ranks third in the NBA in rebounding and is tied for first in double- doubles. Randolph has made only one All-Star game and that will change. He and Gasol make the best big-man duo in the league. Randolph is an All-Star player even if the numbers weren't overwhelming, which, at 17.6 ppg and 12.9 rpg, they are.

F - TIM DUNCAN, San Antonio Spurs

The Big Fundamental is having his best season in the last three. At 17.7 ppg, 9.9 rpg and 2.4 blocks an outing, which is his best number in that category since the 2006-07 season, Duncan's numbers, not his pedigree, make him a clear All-Star.

G - JAMES HARDEN, Houston Rockets

The Beard is fifth in the league in scoring and he's led a team that has endured a lot this season. Head coach Kevin McHale's daughter passed away and first-round pick Royce White hasn't played and battled the organization over his treatment for anxiety. Through it all, Harden has guided them to a close to .500 record, which is much higher than most expected.

G - STEPHEN CURRY, Golden State Warriors

For the final spot, he edged out O.J. Mayo, based on the fact that the Warriors have turned into a really solid squad. Curry has gone over 20 points in eight straight games, and not so coincidentally, the Warriors have gone 7-1.

Close, but not quite: Mayo, David Lee, LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Gay, Mike Conley, Ryan Anderson and Kevin Love (who will probably still make the team despite missing so much time).

12/11 13:14:24 ET

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