With NBA All-Star season upon us once again, it's time for our annual survey examining the backgrounds of the world's best basketball players - where they came from, how much college ball they played, when they were drafted, how they got to their current teams. (Here's last year's look). Let's go:
|Dwyane Wade||Chicago, IL||3||5||Draft|
|Amar'e Stoudemire||Orlando, FL||0||9||UFA|
|Dwight Howard||Atlanta, GA||0||1||Draft|
|LeBron James||Akron, OH||0||1||UFA|
|Kevin Garnett||Mauldin, SC||0||5||Trade|
|Paul Pierce||Inglewood, CA (L.A.)||3||10||Draft|
|Chris Bosh||Dallas, TX||1||4||UFA|
|Joe Johnson||Little Rock, AR||2||10||RFA/Trade|
|Derrick Rose||Chicago, IL||1||1||Draft|
|Rajon Rondo||Louisville, KY||2||24||Draft/Trade|
|Ray Allen||Dalzell, SC||3||5||Trade|
|Al Horford||Puerto Plata, DR||3||3||Draft|
|Kobe Bryant||L. Merion, PA (Philly)||0||13||Draft/Trade|
|Tim Duncan||St. Croix, US V.I.||4||1||Draft|
|Carmelo Anthony||Baltimore, MD||1||3||Draft|
|Dirk Nowitzki||Wurzburg, GER||0||9||Draft|
|Pau Gasol||Barcelona, ESP||0||3||Trade|
|Manu Ginobili||Bahia Blanca, ARG||0||57||Draft|
|Deron Williams||The Colony, TX (Dallas)||3||3||Draft|
|Kevin Love||Lake Oswego, OR||1||5||Draft/Trade|
|Kevin Durant||Rockville, MD (DC)||1||2||Draft|
|Chris Paul||Winston-Salem, NC||2||4||Draft|
|Russell Westbrook||Long Beach, CA||2||4||Draft|
|Blake Griffin||Oklahoma City, OK||2||1||Draft|
It's been an especially top-heavy year for the Western Conference. As of this writing, 23 of the top 31 ranked players in PER play in the West. As such, we're also making sure to consider "Near All-Stars" - these are guys who were listed as All-Star caliber by some of our preferred analysts, such as John Hollinger, Kevin Pelton, and Kelly Dwyer (West | East).
As such, we offer 13 more players as "Near All-Stars":
|Josh Smith||Atlanta, GA||0||17||Draft|
|Carlos Boozer||Juneau, AK||3||34||UFA|
|Steve Nash||Victoria, BC||4||15||UFA|
|Zach Randolph||Marion, IN||1||19||Trade|
|LaMarcus Aldridge||Dallas, TX||2||2||Draft|
|David West||Garner, NC/Teaneck, NJ||4||18||Draft|
|Tony Parker||Paris, FRA||0||28||Draft|
|Nenê||São Carlos, BRA||0||7||Draft/Trade|
|Lamar Odom||New York, NY||1||4||Trade|
|Eric Gordon||Indianapolis, IN||1||7||Draft|
|Kevin Martin||Zanesville, OH||3||26||Trade|
|Monta Ellis||Jackson, MS||0||40||Draft|
|Luis Scola||Buenos Aires, ARG||0||56||Trade|
We plotted all of these guys onto a Google map to quickly examine the question: Where do the best basketball players in the world come from? (All-Stars in blue, "near All-Stars" in red; click + and - for different views)
View 2011 NBA All-Stars - Where They're From in a larger map
Obviously, this is just an overview look and things don't change that much from year to year. Still, there are a few trends we've noticed:
- Dallas emerging as hotbed for top talent: With the explosive rise of Russell Westbrook to All-Star status, the L.A. Southland (Pierce, Westbrook) now joins Dallas (Bosh, D. Williams) and the Chicagoland area (Wade, Rose) as the metropolitan areas which produced multiple All-Stars.
But stretch it out to All-Stars and "Near All-Stars", and Dallas-area native LaMarcus Aldridge, who continues his surge of exceptional play, gives the Metroplex a third All-Star caliber player, all under 30.
What's even more impressive is the pipeline of potential top talent from the Dallas-Fort Worth area in upcoming years. Baylor's Perry Jones, a Dallas native, could go as high as no. 1 in this year's Draft. Meanwhile, LeBryan Nash, who is a senior at Bosh's alma mater, Lincoln High, is rated no. 6 in the high-school class of 2011 (he will attend Oklahoma State).
Even further, 7-footer Isaiah Austin, who attends Grace Prep in Mansfield (south of Fort Worth/Arlington) is the no. 3 ranked player in the class of 2012, while Julius Randle of Dallas is the early no. 1 among the class of 2013, with another area player (Keith Frazier from Irving) ranked as the no. 7 soph.
Obviously, it's a long way from "potential" to "NBA All-Star", but the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex is quietly emerging as a metropolitan area which can produce world-class basketball players as well as anywhere in the world.
- The New York drought continues: We move from an underrated basketball city back to the one which has become wildly overhyped: the Big Apple. Lamar Odom and potentially Joakim Noah threatened to end the drought of New Yorkers in the All-Stars, but came up short. That means that once again, there are zero NBA All-Stars from New York City, and there hasn't been one since Ron Artest in 2004. Say Queensbridge.
[We discussed the topic "What Happened to the NYC Ballplayer?" at length in our 2009 post.]
One thing that's notable is that the action - and probably, the coaching - is taking place across the Hudson in Jersey. St. Patrick High School in Elizabeth, New Jersey has the chance to pull off an amazing double: it could produce back-to-back no. 1 overall picks in the NBA Draft. Injured Duke PG Kyrie Irving currently sits no. 1 in DraftExpress's 2011 Mock Draft, while senior SF Michael Gilchrist, a player with Pippenesque qualities who will attend Kentucky, could certainly go no. 1 overall in 2012.
Al Harrington, Sam Dalembert and Derrick Caracter are current players in the league from coach Kevin Boyle's storied St. Patrick program. Earlier this year, we caught a televised game between St. Patrick and Winter Park, FL (which features ESPN's no. 1 ranked senior, Austin Rivers). Boyle's well-coached, hard-working team was a joy to watch - we made a note to keep an eye out in case St. Patrick meets Hall of Famer Bob Hurley's St. Anthony's team somewhere down the line in the Jersey state playoffs.
- Where are the next great Europeans?: Hit "-" a few times to back the map out, and you'll notice that, once again, there are only two All-Stars from Europe (Dirk and Pau), and both players have now hit 30 years old. Certainly, the internationalization of the NBA continues apace, with many players from around the world playing key roles around the league.
But where are the next great players from Europe? Guys like Andrea Bargnani and Rudy Fernandez have not lived up to billing as potential stars, and Ricky Rubio's development has stalled as the point guard position has concurrently become overloaded with stunning young talents. Traditional powers Serbia and Croatia - who gave us Divac and Petrovic and Kukoc - are down to just four NBA players combined (Darko, Peja, Vlad Rad and Krstic).
Young players like Frenchmen Roddy Beaubois and Nic Batum, plus Italian Danilo Gallinari, certainly have a ton of potential, but also a lot to prove. Similarly, the 2011 draft class of four possible international lottery picks (Jonas Valanciunas, Enes Kanter, Donatas Motiejunas, and Jan Vesely) has a lot of promise but a lot of uncertainty.
It's improbable though not impossible that Marc Gasol could someday find his way to All-Star Game if the right circumstances come together, but it's hard to see him becoming a true All-NBA player. Joakim Noah is technically a candidate, since he may play for the French national team, but he was born and schooled in New York, played NCAA ball, and also just became a French citizen in 2007.
In 2007, a German was the NBA MVP and a Frenchman was the NBA Finals MVP, and it seemed like the vanguard of the future. Was the preeminence of Dirk, Pau and Tony the summit for European stars rather than a sign of more to come?
- College conference breakdown: Here are the standings of All-Stars and near All-Stars by NCAA conference. The first number is taken from the total of all 37 players above. The second number is strictly for the 24 All-Stars.
ACC 4 / 3 Big 12 4 / 3 Big East 3 / 3 SEC 3 / 3 Big Ten 3 / 1 Pac-10 2 / 2 Atlantic 10 2 / 0 Conference USA 1 / 1 WCC 1 / 0 Southern 1 / 0 None 13 / 8
- NCAA experience not necessary:: Wow, that last number above really stands out as a staggering change over the last 20 years. A third of NBA All-Stars never played a minute of NCAA basketball, more than half played no more than a year, and only one All-Star - grand old man Timmy Duncan - played a full four years of college basketball.
The average college-basketball experience for the 2011 All-Stars is as follows: East: 1.5 years, West: 1.3, Overall: 1.4 (down from 1.6 in 2010 and 1.8 in 2009).
Why has the quality of play in NCAA basketball declined so drastically over the last generation? It's as simple as these numbers. The best basketball players in the world no longer play college basketball for any meaningful amount of time.
Compare to the 1990 NBA All-Star Game - the players in that game played an average of 3.5 years of college basketball, more than two times the current average! Only 9 of the 24 All-Stars that year had played *fewer* than four years of college, and not one player had played fewer than two years.
We loved college basketball in the '80s and '90s, but now find the game extremely overrated, and often hard to watch. It's nothing personal. We just want to see good basketball, and we now rarely see the best players in the world make it to their junior or senior years.
- Dunk contest prediction: Since this will be our only pre-All-Star post, we're going to throw this in here. We love watching the nightly Blake Griffin highlight reel as much as anybody, but we're not convinced that he will be as impressive of a contest dunker as he is a game dunker. The source of Blake's ability to inspire awe in us stems from his power and explosiveness - plus that combo coming down on someone's head - more than his creativity. As such, we're predicting that crazy-ass JaVale McGee will outdunk Blake on Saturday night, though we'd still bet that the combo of home court and crowd favorite will carry Griffin to the contest win.
2011 NBA All-Stars: Where They're From