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Predicting the Next Batch of All Stars From the 2011 Draft Class
Now that Kyrie Irving has been selected in the 2013 All Star Game (and probably will start due to Rondo's season ending injury), many people will wonder if anyone else from the same class will make it to the All Star Game in the future. Here are some notable picks. Kenneth Faried, Nuggets (No. 22 pick in 2011): Denver’s dreadlocked ball of fury (No. 48) joins Irving (No. 11) and Kemba Walker (No. 36) as the only players from the 2011 draft to crack the top 50 in Player Efficiency Rating this season. Yes, there are holes in the 6-foot-8 Faried’s game: A full 90 percent of his shot attempts come inside the paint, his lack of height catches up with him in individual defensive matchups, he fouls a lot and he’s not a good free-throw shooter. His strengths — effort level, leaping ability, elite offensive rebounding, taking and making high-percentage shots — overcome those limitations and regularly overwhelm defenses. At 23, Faried is averaging 11.8 points and 9.7 rebounds in 29 minutes per game for a team that is poised to make the playoffs for the 10th consecutive season. His path to an All-Star selection isn’t particularly easy: The Nuggets’ balanced approach makes individual stardom more difficult, Faried is competing in a crowded Western Conference frontcourt field and his playing time, while ramped up from 22.5 minutes as a rookie, isn’t yet in line with what we expect from All-Star power forwards. But when the Tim Duncans, Dirk Nowitzkis and Zach Randolphs of the world hit the retirement castle, Faried will be well-positioned, especially if Denver’s promising young core continues to crank out solid win totals year after year. Kawhi Leonard, Spurs (No. 15): Leonard showed a rare commitment to defense as a rookie that suggested big things were to come this season. His raw statistics — 9.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.3 assists — haven’t been jaw-dropping, in part because of injuries, but there’s no question his individual numbers would be significantly larger if he played on a team that relied on him more. Instead, he’s fitting snugly into his “three-and-D” role, hitting 46 percent of his corner threes and ranking among the team leaders in defensive rating. San Antonio has improved from No. 11 in defensive efficiency last season to No. 4 this season, and Leonard’s play and instincts on the wing deserve a slice of the credit. It’s difficult but not impossible for perimeter players primarily known as defenders to receive All-Star recognition. Iguodala found his way to Orlando in 2012, the Pacers’ Paul George was selected this season and Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum should be a candidate in coming years. George and Batum took big steps forward on offense this season, something that can be expected from Leonard once Manu Ginobili and Duncan hang it up or play even less. Assuming he can pair with Tony Parker to continue San Antonio’s tradition of winning, there’s every reason to believe Leonard will get his due, even if his game lacks the flash and pop of other small forwards. Coach Gregg Popovich’s ability to construct a winning system around his top players should pay huge dividends once Leonard grows into bigger shoes. Klay Thompson, Warriors (No. 11): Thompson entered the NBA gunning and he hasn’t stopped since. His 40.7 shooting percentage this season leaves much to be desired, but his smooth stroke, deep range (38.1 percent on 7.1 three-point attempts) and comfort level with all types of shots suggest the potential to become a 20-point scorer, and volume scoring can be one of the surest paths to All-Star status. That he’s already an every-night starter putting up numbers — 16.1 points, four rebounds and 2.5 assists — for a playoff-bound team sets him apart from most of the rest of this class, Irving included. Golden State’s pecking order could be a limiting factor for Thompson in the short term. The Warriors’ two All-Star candidates this year — David Lee and Stephen Curry — both take at least 15 shots per game and are signed long term, and while coach Mark Jackson has done a masterful job of keeping everyone happy and productive, Thompson’s shooting appetite has been satiated in part because of the absences of Andrew Bogut and Brandon Rush. It’s not unthinkable that a team trades for Thompson in a few years with the idea of utilizing him as a No. 1 option, much like the Rockets did with James Harden this season. Harden, of course, wasted no time in making his first All-Star team. Do you think these guys have a chance? Any other potential candidates?
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