The Chicago Bulls are going to be represented by the Eastern Conference come February’s All-Star game in Toronto. It’s unknown if Pau Gasol will be that representation.
One thing that’s all but official, at this point, is that Jimmy Butler will be there; and while Gasol’s resume may not boast greatness over Jimmy’s, it certainly holds water against other players fighting for a spot.
Before I make Pau’s claim for All-Star-dom we should understand how voting works:
To make sure the NBA doesn’t lose its foothold as the ultimate popularity contest, the fans vote for each conference’s five starters. Reserves are decided by the coaches of that specific conference with a coach not able to vote for his own player.
Injured players are replaced by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.
There’s one very important thing that you need to remember about the NBA All-Star voting process — the fans vote for flash and the coaches vote for players who will help win a game and they usually choose from teams who have good records.
Currently, this is what that starting lineup looks like for the Eastern Conference: Kyrie Irving, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Paul George, and Andre Drummond.
As of right now, those are the starters, leaving the likes of Butler and Gasol, along with great players like John Wall, Chris Bosh, Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, and Carmelo Anthony, Hassan Whiteside, Kevin Love, Isaiah Thomas, Reggie Jackson, and Kemba Walker, all vying for coaches attention.
You assume that Butler, Wall, and Lowry will absolutely make it. They currently rank three, four, and five in backcourt voting and newsflash, this is a guard-oriented league.
Jimmy Butler 4th in All Star Voting. Derrick Rose- 7th Front court. Pau Gasol -5th. Joakim Noah -13th
— chuck swirsky (@ctsbulls) January 7, 2016
That leaves four spots for head coach David Blatt to fill.
Pau currently ranks fifth in front court voting behind Carmelo Anthony and slightly ahead of Chris Bosh. This, of course, means nothing in the long run unless he somehow vaults into the top three.
That’s unlikely, so we need to revisit the previous hypotheticals we recognize when it comes to coach voting: They like guys who will help the team win and they pull them from teams at the top of the standings.
Pau Gasol fits both of those hypotheticals.
That doesn’t automatically give him the nod, though. Just because the East lacks depth in true “big men,” he still has stiff competition at the position.
Here’s what Basketball Insiders thinks about it:
Reserve: Chris Bosh, Miami HEAT – Bosh back in Toronto is too good a storyline to leave the guy off of the All-Star roster. Also, he’s putting together a really impressive season following a near-death experience, so it would be reasonable to expect that all the good feelings will play some sort of role in getting him onto the team. Pau Gasol might be his biggest competition for this spot, but Bosh seems more likely to get the nod.
Bosh is the main worry, but other guys like Nikola Vucevic, Kevin Love, Hassan Whiteside, and Kristaps Porzingis have All-Star caliber considerations. Don’t forget, if Andre Drummond is somehow passed up in the third frontcourt spot, he’d be another power forward/center type the coaches would have to vote.
Right now, Pau Gasol is averaging 16.5 points, 10.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.2 blocks, and 1.9 fouls per game this year. The only Eastern Conference players averaging more rebounds per game than Gasol are Drummond and Hassan Whiteside.
Drummond is already slotted as a starter and Gasol is averaging more points than Whiteside. Plus, with Dwyane Wade already starting for Miami and with Chris Bosh having a better overall resume it’s unlikely Whiteside gets serious consideration.
Kevin Love is in a similar boat as he plays third fiddle to Kyrie Irving (don’t get me started) and LeBron James.
Pau is also third in the Eastern Conference in double-doubles with 19 (behind Wall and Drummond). So if you narrow it down, you really only have a case between Gasol and Bosh, or both, to round out the East’s frontcourt.
And that, they say, is a wrap.
With 12 players receiving game honors, it’s likely Gasol and Bosh both make the game in Toronto based on their resume’s. And if you don’t agree then you can fight me.
Here’s my Eastern Conference All-Stars for 2015-16:
Starter: Kyrie Irving
Starter: Dwyane Wade
Starter: LeBron James
Starter: Paul George
Starter: Andre Drummond
Reserve: Kyle Lowry
Reserve: Jimmy Butler
Reserve: John Wall
Reserve: Carmelo Anthony
Reserve: Pau Gasol
Reserve: Chris Bosh
Reserve: DeMar DeRozan
Snubs: Reggie Jackson, Kemba Walker, Paul Millsap.