First-time All-Star candidates

Aldridge, Wall, Bynum among players who could earn first All-Star appearances

Originally Published: December 29, 2011
By Chris Palmer | ESPN The Magazine
LaMarcus Aldridge, Dirk NowitzkiAP PhotoLaMarcus Aldridge is one of the NBA's best young post players.

Every season, legions of players make it a goal to become an All-Star, but only a select few are chosen. The first five All-Star spots are reserved for the game's absolute best and most popular players, which leaves the rest of the players in each conference to battle it out for the remaining seven slots.

Here are eight players who have a shot at their first All-Star selection:

1. LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers

Projection: 21.1 pts, 8.6 reb, 2.1 ast per 40 min; 20.76 PER

Save for Blake Griffin, no power forward in the game is improving as rapidly as Aldridge. And when considering post moves and 18-foot jump shots, Aldridge is well ahead of Griffin. In fact, the only reason he didn't make the All-Star team last season was due to the glut of talented power forwards in the conference. (The league's leading rebounder, Kevin Love, was named last season as a replacement for Yao Ming.)

His turnaround jumper and jump hook are among the best in the game and his length causes a great deal of difficulty for contemporaries Griffin and Love. Winning the head-to-head battle against those two would greatly improve his chances.

Who he'd replace: Dirk Nowitzki

Why he wouldn't make it: For the same reason he was the odd man out last year: There are simply more quality power forwards out West than there are available All-Star roster spots.

2. Eric Gordon, New Orleans Hornets

Chris Palmer

ESPN the Magazine