Picking an all-star team for the Eastern Conference is a bit more difficult this season. Derrick Rose - still recovering from a torn ACL - isn't even on the ballot this year, and perennial all-star Dwight Howard does business in the Western Conference now.
Another interesting wrinkle is the NBA's new format for all-star voting. The center position isn't listed on this year's ballot; instead, fans can select three frontcourt players from a list that includes forwards and centers.
That said, I like my all-star selections to resemble a traditional basketball lineup as much as possible... I'll continue to select a point guard and shooting guard, a small forward, a power forward and a center, even though the distinctions between those positions gets fuzzier every day.
Voting for the 2013 NBA All-Star game runs through January 14. Starters will be announced on January 17th, as part of TNT's pregame show. The All-Star Game will be played in Houston on February 17.
Voting continues until January 31st. Teams will be announced on February 2nd.
Guard: Deron Williams, Brooklyn Nets
With Derrick Rose out of the mix, the "top point guard in the East" discussion becomes a Deron Williams vs. Rajon Rondo debate. Much as I love Rondo's game, Williams is a better all-around player. (Shooting is, after all, still an important skill in the game of basketball.)
Guard - Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat
Wade is on the down side of his career; that's fairly clear at this point. But when your peak is up at Himalaya altitude, you can be "past your peak" and still a lot better than everyone else.
While Wade is still head-and-shoulders better than any other shooting guard in the East - Brooklyn's Joe Johnson is probably second-best, but he's not off to a particularly compelling start - the gap narrows considerably if you compare him against Eastern Conference guards in general. If you prefer to name someone like Williams or Rondo (Rondo, in my case), I certainly wouldn't argue. Up-and-comers like Philly's Jrue Holiday and Milwaukee's Brandon Jennings are off to tremendous starts and merit consideration as well. If Derrick Rose and Kyrie Irving were healthy, making this selection would be even more difficult.
Forward - Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks
Through the first month of the season, Anthony is playing like the player Knicks fans hoped he'd become. On the offensive end, he's working within the system, allowing Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd to get the entire team involved. On defense, he's actually acting like he gives a damn.
Some of Anthony's improvement may come from the fact that he's lining up primarily at the power forward position, which many NBA experts believe gives him the best chance of success. (It also raises the question of what will happen when Amar'e Stoudemire returns to the Knick rotation... but that's Mike Woodson's problem.)
Center - Chris Bosh, Miami Heat
With Howard out of the mix, the third frontcourt spot in the East is up for grabs. There are lots of deserving candidates, including Atlanta's Al Horford, New York's Tyson Chandler - the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year - Chicago's Joakim Noah or Boston's Kevin Garnett. Brooklyn's Brook Lopez is off to an outstanding start and merits consideration as well.
If having someone who at least looks like a center isn't that important to you, add Paul Pierce, Josh Smith and Luol Deng to the list as well.
But my vote goes to Chris Bosh. Yeah, that makes three Miami players in my starting five. And yeah, I don't love the fact that Bosh opted to be a complementary player on the Heat and not an alpha dog somewhere else. That doesn't change the fact that he's arguably the most complete big left in the East. He also gets bonus points for shifting to center on a more-or-less full-time basis this season.