Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Pacers guard Lance Stephenson REALLY wants to go to the All-Star Game.
If you haven't checked out his promotional video (not to give too much away but he does wear a wig), well that's what YouTube is for.
But the real question is whether Stephenson, the all-time leading scorer at Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn, is deserving of an all expenses paid trip to New Orleans next month.
The fans do have a say in this and so far support for Stephenson has been lukewarm at best. In fact, he's not even the leading vote-getter in his own backcourt. Teammate George Hill leads Stephenson by over 12,000 votes.
As it stands, or as it stood when the third All-Star returns were released back on January 9th, Stephenson is ninth among Eastern Conference guards with 77,364 votes. Dwyane Wade, Kyrie Irving, Ray Allen and Deron Williams are just a few of the names ahead of him.
Stephenson needs his fans to click like crazy over the next 24 hours if he hopes to make up the ground. If Stephenson can't secure the fan vote, he can still get in as a reserve if coaches vote him in.
But will they? That depends on what criteria they're basing their decision off of.
Usually shooting guards are known for their scoring. In that regard, Stephenson has been quite ordinary this season. His 13.9 ppg average, though a noticeable improvement from what he averaged last season (8.8 ppg), ranks just 16th among shooting guards. Overall, he's 58th in the league in scoring.
Whether that ends up being a detriment to Stephenson's All-Star candidacy remains to be seen. But a lack of scoring has posed problems for players trying to make the All-Star roster in the past.
Only four of the 25 All-Stars selected in 2013 averaged fewer than 15 ppg. Rajon Rondo (13.7 ppg) was the only guard who carried that distinction. In fact, the last shooting guard that made the All-Star team with an average that low was Allen Iverson in 2010. And you could argue that Iverson's inclusion in that particular game was merely a lifetime achievement award (he was voted in by the fans).
Manu Ginobili has made a couple All-Star appearances despite averaging fewer than 15 ppg in his career, though both times he made it he was averaging at least 16 ppg (16.0 ppg in 2004-05, 17.4 in 2010-11). So really, a shooting guard getting in with an average south of 15 a game is rather unprecedented in today's NBA.
Of course for Stephenson, scoring is only one piece of the puzzle. As a rebounder, no shooting guard in the league has been better this season (6.8 rpg). No two-guard in the league has cleared the six rebound per game hurdle since Dwyane Wade in 2011 (6.4 rpg). If you can believe it, Kobe Bryant and Tracy McGrady are the only shooting guards this CENTURY to average more than Stephenson's 6.8.
Stephenson is also one of the better distributors at his position. His 5.2 dimes per contest ranks fifth among NBA two-guards and third if you believe Jordan Crawford and Goran Dragic are actually point guards (which most people do). Combined with his expert rebounding, Stephenson is the first shooting guard to average six boards and five assists per game since Vince Carter and Kobe both did it in 2008.
It seems silly to compare Stephenson to Kobe and Vinsanity in their primes. Both players were among the league leaders in scoring when they accomplished these feats. As mentioned earlier, that hasn't been the case with Stephenson.
But here's something most people haven't considered. The Nets and Lakers NEEDED Vince and Kobe to be big-time scorers. The Pacers, a team with as stacked a starting lineup as we've seen in years, has not asked that of Stephenson. If they did, we might be looking at Stephenson a lot differently.
Yes, Bryant and Carter both averaged over 21 ppg that season, but they did it while tossing up more than 16 shots per contest. Stephenson's average this year? A mere 11.1 field goal attempts per game.
Though part of it has to do with Stephenson taking fewer shots, he's been much more efficient than Carter and Bryant were in 2008 (50.1 field goal percentage compared to 45.9 for Kobe and 45.6 for VC). If Stephenson took 20.6 shots per game like Kobe did that season while still making 50.1 percent of his field goals, he'd be averaging close to 26 ppg. It would be pretty tough to deny Stephenson with those kind of numbers.
And who in the Eastern Conference is really more deserving than Stephenson?
Dwyane Wade will get the fan's vote but he and his aging knees would probably be better served by sitting this one out. Orlando's Arron Afflalo has posted some remarkable numbers this season (career-high 20.9 ppg) but he's done it while playing for a crummy team (the Magic are 10-30). If Joe Johnson makes the roster, it would be on reputation alone.
There is a case to be made for Toronto's DeMar DeRozan (21.2 ppg), who has been spectacular. But when it comes down to it, who would you rather have: a guy whose team is barely over .500 or Stephenson, the starting two-guard for the team with the best record in the NBA?
That's what I thought.
You've got my vote, Lance. Let's hope America feels the same way.
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