Saturday, May 17, 2014

2013-2014 NBA All-Blue Collar Team

The NBA is a star-driven league. Players like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Paul George and James  Harden are intensely marketed athletes and All-Star Game fixtures who anchor the offense, sell tickets, grace magazine covers, and haul in awards.

Most teams have at least one star. Some have two. Some are blessed to have three. Every team has blue-collar players who do the dirty work, though, and to give these NBA worker ants some well-deserved recognition, I came up with the "Blue Collar" concept. Last year marked the first edition.

The parameters for eligibility?
  1. The player has never made an All-Star team.
  2. The player has played in at least 50% of the season's games.
  3. The player was not in his team's top-3 for MPG.
I thought long and hard (giggity giggity) of ways to enhance the parameters, reaching out to PSD's Corey and others, but in the end I decided to keep everything the same. Some people really wanted to exclude rookies, citing a lack of experience, but I reasoned that in theory they could also win, let's say, MVP, so it would be unfair to leave them out.

What I did take away from talking to people about my "Blue Collar" concept, is how to identify and describe them.
"A blue collar player is a dependable role player who outworks the players around him, squeezing a ton out of his average talent to help his team win."
With that in mind, I present to you the 2013-2014 NBA All-Blue Collar Teams:

NBA blue collar players
2013-2014 All-Blue Collar First Team
D.J. Augustin, G - Derrick Rose's torn meniscus sent shock waves through Chicago's fan base. It did, however, open doors for former No. 9 pick D.J. Augustin, who consequently was picked from the scrap heap by the Bulls in December. Discarded by the Bobcats, Pacers and Raptors, Augustin put his head down and went to work, being aggressive and making plays.

Thabo Sefolosha, G - It might not seem that way, but Swiss guard Thabo Sefolosha is a key cog for Western Conference powerhouse Oklahoma City. He's a dependable role player who happily does the grunt work so that MVP Kevin Durant can shine. With Russell Westbrook limited to 46 games, Thabo hustled harder than ever.

Robin Lopez, C - Wild-haired center Robin Lopez turns out to be a perfect fit in Portland, fitting like a glove next to LaMarcus Aldridge, Damian Lillard and Nicolas Batum. The energetic 7-footer, drafted at No. 15 by the Phoenix Suns in 2008, does all of the little things, averaging 8.5 RPG and 2.0 SBPG in 31.7 MPG.

Taj Gibson, F - Chicago Bulls reserve forward Taj Gibson should have won the SMoY award. The 28-year old forward regularly closes out games instead of $16.3 million dollar man Carlos Boozer, drawing preference from coach Thibodeau because of his hustle, versatility and toughness. He averaged 13.0 PPG and 6.8 RPG in 28.7 MPG.

Tony Allen, F - That's right. Tony Allen again. He might have been relegated to a bench role due to injuries and the mid-season arrival of Courtney Lee, but he still played a steady 23.3 minutes per game, impacting both ends of the floor. Few players show more grit than the 6-foot-4 veteran, who averaged 9.0 PPG on .494 shooting.

All-Blue Collar Second Team
2013-2014 All-Blue Collar Second Team
C.J. Watson, G - Pacers point guard C.J. Watson is a tough cookie. The 30-year old veteran is nowhere near elite, but he knows how to defend and make plays, which makes Indiana's second unit a lot better. In just 18.9 MPG, Watson really makes a difference, even if his 6.6 PPG, 1.6 RPG and 1.7 APG averages appear pedestrian.

Shaun Livingston, G - When 2014 came around, something clicked for the Brooklyn Nets. They suddenly started notching wins, even though $100 million point guard Deron Williams was out with various ankle injuries. How they righted the ship? I like to believe veteran guard Shaun Livingston was the catalyst, working hard and providing clutch plays.

Mason Plumlee, C - No. 22 pick Mason Plumlee stepped up in a big way when veteran Brooklyn Nets big men Brook Lopez and Kevin Garnet missed time with injuries. The 7-footer is still raw offensively, but he works hard and he plays with a lot of energy, contributing 7.4 PPG and 4.4 RPG in 18.2 MPG.

Terrence Jones, F - With no proven big man to put alongside newcomer Dwight Howard, coach Kevin McHale inserted second-year power forward Terrence Jones into the starting lineup. That proved to be a wise move. The versatile 6-foot-9 sophomore makes life a lot easier for Superman, doing a little bit of everything every time he's out there. 

DeMarre Carroll, F - Atlanta Hawks small forward DeMarre Carroll is a different maker. The "Junkyard Dog", let go by the Utah Jazz in free agency, was a real steal for the Hawks. He hustles, plays with an unselfish attitude, supplies tough defense, and his newly-added three-point marksmanship just goes to show that hard work pays off.


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