In honor of this weekend's NBA All-Star Game, SI.com NBA producer Matt Dollinger and college basketball blogger Chris Johnson face off to find the best amateur all-stars. Read on for SI.com's first ever College Basketball All-Star Teams and for Luke Winn's analysis of the winner.
Doug McDermott, Creighton
Dollinger: That’s right, the NBA guy is taking Doug McDermott with the first pick. This is a college All-Star Game, where college stars shine. I’m not worried about McDermott being the second coming of Adam Morrison, I want him to be the second coming of Adam Morrison. McDermott is everyone you want in a No. 1 option -- a volume shooter (25 points per game) who doubles as a pillar for efficiency (he’s toeing the elusive 40/50/90 shooting splits). Most impressive of all, he does it with a target on his back roughly the size of Nebraska. McDermott might be low on NBA Big Boards, but he’s on top of any college team’s wish list, including this All-Star squad.
Jabari Parker, Duke
Johnson: If the best high-usage, high-efficiency scorer in the country is off the table, I’ll “settle” for the second best. That’s the only way my team will be able to keep pace with one that features McDermott. Parker’s workload won’t be quite as big on this team, but if Team Dollinger breaks off a scoring run, and I need someone to put an end to it, I won’t hesitate to put the ball in Parker’s hands. I also don’t plan to pick a lot of traditional big men for my team, so I’ll need Parker to rebound effectively. He’s proven he can. Parker may not have been my first choice, but I’m not complaining.
Nick Johnson, Arizona
Johnson: It’s important that my team has enough flexibility to adapt to whatever Team Dollinger throws at it. In that sense, Johnson is the perfect fit at this spot. I could have gone with a true point guard or another elite scorer, but the versatility Johnson provides is something I can’t pass up. Johnson can score in a variety of ways, play multiple positions and, if the game gets tight, I’ll feel comfortable putting the ball in his hands for the final shot. Arguably more important is what he offers on the other end of the floor. Whatever the composition of Team Dollinger, Johnson will be a useful defensive piece to deploy on the perimeter.
Julius Randle, Kentucky
Dollinger: College basketball’s best bruising big man will have plenty of room to operate with the sweet-shooting McDermott as a teammate. The Kentucky freshman has struggled in recent weeks, but that’s partially because opposing teams are game planning in particular for Randle, realizing he’s the most dangerous of Kentucky’s assortment of weapons. But Team Johnson won’t have the luxury of being able to double-team Randle, not when you have a player on the wing like McDermott, as well as …
Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
Dollinger: … Andrew Wiggins! In the third round? The guy that draws the Jordan comparisons and has NBA teams openly not trying this season? Sure, Wiggins has shown a penchant for disappearing this season at Kansas, but he shows up for big games (like a college All-Star Game!). He’s averaging 19.6 ppg against ranked teams and has shown he can be more than just a scorer when he chooses, like when he pulled down 19 rebounds against Iowa State. On Team Dollinger, Wiggins will get a chance to do a little bit of everything. Think of this as LeBron joining the Heat. The uber-talented Wiggins is going to be liberated by his star-studded teammates, bringing out the best in the future King of Canada. What do you have to say about that, Team Johnson?
C.J. Fair, Syracuse
Johnson: LeBron joining the Heat? Please. I think you’re a bit consumed by the “Year of the freshman” hype, Matt. I’ll counter with a veteran on one of the nation’s best teams. Fair has been productive throughout his three-plus years at Syracuse, but he’s taken on a bigger offensive role this season. Fair won’t need to take as many shots or play as many minutes in this game, because there will be other elite scorers around him. There may be some overlap between what he and Parker can do, but I’m not concerned about chemistry problems. Pairing two scorers as skilled as Parker and Fair will present matchup issues.
Lamar Patterson, Pittsburgh
Johnson: Looks like I’m cornering the market on underappreciated seniors from the ACC. Not many people came into the season expecting Patterson, who didn’t average more than 10 points per game the last three seasons, to morph into one of the nation’s most dangerous offensive threats. Patterson can score: he has averaged 17.2 points per game during conference play. But that’s not the main reason I selected the owner of Pharoah the Alligator. Patterson is also one of Pitt’s best playmakers. In conference play, the senior has assisted on 33 percent of his teammates’ field goals while he’s been on the floor, appreciably better than the 25.1 percent posted by sophomore point guard James Robinson. The explanation I provided for selecting Johnson in some ways applies to Patterson. I want versatile perimeter players, guys who will allow me to be flexible in what lineups I roll out.
Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
Dollinger: You keep cornering the market on underappreciated seniors, I’ll keep cornering the market at the best players at their position. Marcus Smart might be clouded in controversy these days, but he’s still the best all-around point man in the league. His draft stock has slipped, but don’t let the narrative fool you, Smart is actually playing better than last season. He’s lightning quick, can get to the rim and can find the open man. Not to mention the endless pick-and-roll possibilities with McDermott and Randle.
Nik Stauskas, Michigan
Dollinger: With defenses collapsing on McDermott, Wiggins and Randle, I’m going to want someone who can knock down an open jumper. Enter: the best shooter in the Big Ten and maybe the entire country. Stauskas is hitting 44.7 of his three-pointers this year and averaging 16.9 ppg, almost a six-point jump from last season. He’s not afraid to take big shots and he’s particularly effective from the corners, where he’ll be setting up shot for Team Dollinger. With Smart running the break and my Big Three distracting defenses in halfcourt sets, Stauskas can only dream in Ann Arbor about having this many open looks.
Joel Embiid, Kansas
Johnson: I can guarantee one thing Stauskas won’t be doing: Waving kisses to the crowd.
To slow down Randle, Wiggins and McDermott, I’ll need someone to protect the rim. That makes my next pick pretty easy. In 11 Big 12 games this season, Embiid has blocked 11.9 percent of opponents’ two-point field goals while he’s been on the floor and helped the Jayhawks maintain the league’s No. 3-ranked efficiency defense. I also like the balance Embiid adds to my team’s lineup. Fair and Parker can score better than most forwards in the country, while Embiid serves as a premier defensive complement. Anytime you have an opportunity to add someone to your team who’s been mentioned in the same breath as Hakeem Olajuwan, you do it. It really is that simple. Plus, an all-star game is the perfect setting for one of Embiid’s dreamshakes.
Johnson: It might have been wise to take a point guard a few rounds earlier, but Ennis is hardly a consolation prize. You saw what he did last night, right? The Syracuse freshman has averaged 12 points and 5.8 assists and posted an assist to turnover ratio of 3.2 in 37.4 minutes per game during ACC play this season. On this team, Ennis will be able to stick to what he does best: facilitate. Though I took Ennis sixth, he will be in the starting lineup. His ability to handle the ball, avoid turnovers and create opportunities for others are too indispensable to leave on the bench for too long. Ennis will make my team’s offense go. Say what you want about Smart’s athleticism, my team’s point guard thrives in crunch time. If it’s a tight game, Ennis will win it for me.
Dollinger: After taking arguably the Big Ten’s best shooter with my last pick, I’m taking the competition with my next. Michigan State’s sophomore is the most complete two-guard in the nation and will be a valuable two-way player on my team. Not only is he a prolific scorer (we like those), but he’s also a lockdown defender, averaging 2.0 steals per game. To boot, he’s a Tom Izzo-coached player, which makes him even more ideal as my defensive stopper. If Johnson or Patterson catches fire, Harris will be my first guy off the bench.
Adreian Payne, Michigan State
Dollinger: Did I mention I like Tom Izzo-coached players? After grabbing the Big Ten’s best guard with my last pick, I’m taking its best big man in round seven. At 6-10 and 245 pounds, Payne is an absolute behemoth in the paint. Between him and Randle, Joel Embiid is going to be in foul trouble as soon as he takes his sweats off. And if Payne’s 16.4 points and 7.2 rebounds per night weren’t enough to convince you he’s he pick, the big man is also shooting 44.4 percent from three-point range, which just seems kind of unfair at this point.
Xavier Thames, San Diego State
Johnson: Payneful (I’ll see myself out) as it is for me to acknowledge, you read my mind, Matt. The Spartans’ big man was on my radar. Adjusting won’t be a problem. It’s not a stretch to say that Thames is the most underrated player in the country. Despite posting really good numbers – 20.4 points and a 126.8 offensive rating in Mountain West play – for the top team in the conference (one listed as a No. 2 seed in SI’s latest bracket projection he was left off the Wooden Award’s midseason watch list. Don’t let his off night against Wyoming earlier this week fool you: Thames was an excellent value pick at this spot. He ranks ninth in Ken Pomeroy’s player of the year rankings. Having Thames also allows me some flexibility at the point guard spot. Whereas Ennis is primarily a distributor, Thames can score in bunches and is an excellent defender to boot.
Casey Prather, Florida
Johnson: Prather will bring a scoring pop to an already high-octane offense and is especially dangerous attacking defenses on the break. He has scored an average of 1.338 points per possession in transition, according to Synergy Scouting Data. Prather has also excelled off cuts, scoring 1.559 points per possession. Like Thames, Prather hasn’t received as much national attention as he deserves, but people will take notice if he leads Florida to a fourth consecutive NCAA tournament regional final or further. All I need him to do for this team is attack the rim, get to the free throw line (he’s drawing 5.8 fouls per 40 minutes) and play good defense.
DeAndre Kane, Iowa State
Dollinger: College basketball’s closest thing to Russell Westbrook comes from the state of Iowa. Not bad for a backup point guard. DeAndre Kane has size (6-4, 200), the ability to score (15.9 ppg), rebound (6.5 rpg) and pass the ball (6.0 apg), making him one of the most complete players in the country. He’s also 24, which gives him another trait that separates him from the rest of the pack: Grown-man strength.
Cleanthony Early, Wichita State
Dollinger: It’s time to add some frontcourt depth, so I’ll draft a versatile forward with Final Four experience. The 6-foot-8 Early can spell any of my first three picks and will be tough to keep off the floor in crunch time. The inside-outside threat can score out of the post and beyond the 3-point line, making him the perfect type of player to excel in an All-Star Game, where talent is at a premium and positions become trivial. With McDermott, Kane and Early on my squad, I’ve got more than enough experience to make up for the greenness of my super freshmen.
Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati
Johnson: With Johnson, Prather, Patterson, Thames and Ennis on board, I feel confident about my team’s perimeter rotation. Kilpatrick, the best player on the best team in the American Athletic Conference, gives me another option. I’m starting to think I should have selected Cincinnati’s star senior a few rounds earlier. Kilpatrick will come off the bench, but he’s good enough to start. Being able to use him against a team with a big group of guards like Stauskas (6-foot-6), Smart (6-4) and Harris (6-4) is a luxury. Kilpatrick has made big plays for Cincinnati all season and is a legitimate contender for the AAC player of the year award. Oh, and one more thing: he’s 24. Grown-man strength counterbalance achieved.
Kyle Anderson, UCLA
Johnson: To explain why I picked Anderson, I’m going to pass the mic to legendary St. Anthony (N.J.) High School basketball coach Bob Hurley. “(Anderson) has the most unique skill-set of any kid I’ve ever coached,” Hurley told NJ.com in January. The main knock on Anderson from NBA mock drafters and analysts is that he lacks top-end athleticism. Anderson won’t be mistaken for Wiggins any time soon, but he’s earned a spot on my college hoops all-star squad. The most intriguing aspect of Anderson’s game is his versatility. Anderson can handle the ball, battle for boards in the post and boasts a well-developed mid-range game. The potential lineup permutations are legion.
Russ Smith, Louisville
Dollinger: Chris passed the mic. I’m dropping it. Russ Smith in the 10th round? C’mon, man. Before I even get into how Russdiciolous of a snub that is, let’s close our eyes and imagine how entertaining Russ Smith would be in an All-Star Game. He needs to be there. Luckily for Team Dollinger, he’s more than worthy. Not only is he still an amazing shotmaker and one of the best off-the-dribble players in recent memory, but he’s no longer the liability he once was to take horrendous shots, either. He’s upped his field-goal percentage from 41.4 to 45.3 and improved his three-point mark from 32.8 to 39.7. He’s clearly benefitted from another year of seasoning at Louisville and we’ll need a reined-in Russ to pass the rock occasionally on team Dollinger.
Noah Vonleh, Indiana
Dollinger: Noah Vonleh doesn't garner the same attention as some of his talented first-year peers, but the talent is there. The Hoosier is a versatile 6-foot-10, 240-pound forward who can shoot from outside (57.9 percent on three-pointers) and bang below the rim (9.6 rebounds per game). He's taking less than seven shots per game for IU, which is why he's averaging just 11.5 ppg, but when called upon Vonleh has shown lottery potential. He can play the four or the five on my team and doesn't need to be force-fed the ball to be effective.
JayVaughn Pinkston, Villanova
Johnson: If you’re going to drop the mic, I’ll … pick it back up? I don’t expect the last two players I select to get a lot of playing time. Still, being selected for the 2014 SI.com College Basketball All-Star Game is an honor in itself. My team could be at a big disadvantage in the frontcourt, and Pinkston provides depth in that area. If Parker, Fair or Embiid (foul trouble could be an issue) needs to leave the game, I can plug Pinkston in and be reasonably confident that my frontcourt scoring won’t dry up. Just last week, Pinkston went off for 19 points on 9-of-11 shooting against Seton Hall. Points won’t come as easily against Team Dollinger, but I expect Pinkston to fare well in the limited role he’ll be asked to fill. There’s something to be said for adding a player – no matter how much court time he gets -- who’s a prime candidate to win the non-McDermott Big East player of the year award.
Cameron Bairstow, New Mexico
Johnson: I’ll pair Prather with another breakout senior to round out my roster. Bairstow has saved his best work as a collegian for his final season with New Mexico, scoring 20.3 points, grabbing 6.8 rebounds and averaging one assist per game in Mountain West play. For the season Bairstow has drawn an average of 7.4 fouls per 40 minutes, good for 24th in the country. There are plenty of college basketball fans who probably have never heard of Bairstow; Allow his selection to this team to serve as an official introduction. Whether he plays a lot or a little is beside the point. Bairstow is one of the nation’s top seniors and he deserves the honor of playing in this completely made-up game.
Isaiah Austin, Baylor
Dollinger: The emergency big man. He can guard Embiid, protect the rim and give me five fouls if I need them. All-Star Games tend to be tough habitats for big men to thrive, but the 7-foot-1 center still offers some utility. His length and unique athletic ability will force Team Johnson to gameplan and prepare for yet another look, but little does he know Austin is just a red herring. I’m going to have McDermott shoot 50 times.
|F - McDermott||F - Parker|
|F - Wiggins||F - Fair|
|F - Randle||F - Embiid|
|G - Smart||G - Johnson|
|G - Stauskas||G - Ennis|
|G - Harris||F - Thames|
|F - Payne||F - Patterson|
|F - Early||G - Kilpatrick|
|F- Vonleh||G/F - Anderson|
|G - Smith||F - Bairstow|
|G - Kane||F - Pinkston|
|C - Austin||G - Prather|
Luke Winn on the winner
I don't know what to scold you guys more for: Letting Tyler Ennis and Gary Harris -- who might be my dream starting backcourt -- slip to the sixth round? Or not drafting any elite defense-first forwards (Cincy's Justin Jackson, or Arizona's Aaron Gordon, or Clemson's K.J. McDaniels) to round out your rosters? INEXCUSABLE.
At first glance, it's hard not to like Dollinger's team. Pairing McBuckets with another inside/outside star (Randle) could yield amazing results. Dollinger's depth is incredible; his second team is likely to destroy Johnson's. The one major flaw, though, is at point guard, where he has two score-first options (Smart and Smith) and one even score/pass option (Kane). Smart's ability to create shots for teammates is overrated; and to best showcase McDermott, you need better passers.
As for Johnson's team, nice work on grabbing the three highest-impact freshmen. Ennis can run the show, Parker can carry the offense and Embiid has high value at both ends of the floor. Johnson's draft skimped on shooting, though. Whereas Dollinger has two elite shooters in his starting lineup in McDermott and Stauskas, Johnson's best long-range guys are on his bench (Thames and Kilpatrick). Parker is a decent threat from deep, while Johnson and Ennis are sometimes reluctant to take threes, and Fair is a sub-30-percent guy. In a game between the starting lineups only, I'd give Dollinger a slight edge, but factoring in the huge gap in quality of the second units, I'd make Dollinger's squad a 6-point favorite.