John Hollinger of ESPN.com compiled a list of potential first-time All-Stars in 2013 and Utah Jazz center Al Jefferson made the cut. Jefferson, Hollinger writes, could sneak in to the spot held by Portland Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge in 2012.
Right now Jefferson has everything in his favor for a fringe All-Star pick -- he's playing on a team that's likely to be slightly above .500 by then, which has an insanely dramatic impact on his chances; he's seen as a go-to guy for his club, and he's already led Utah to a playoff appearance. Basically, he passes all of the coaches' little "tests."
More importantly, he doesn't have as much competition for scarce spots for two reasons. First, the center and forward positions have been combined in the West. More importantly, the West doesn't offer quite as much competition for frontcourt slots, with Nowitzki out, Pau Gasol slipping, Randolph down from his peak and LaMarcus Aldridge on a bad Blazers team.
Jefferson's biggest competition is likely to come from Memphis Guy No. 2 (either Conley or Randolph), but any injury will re-open the door for him. After that, his toughest competition is probably Kenneth Faried (who won't pass a lot of the coaches' eye tests) and Jefferson's teammate Paul Millsap. Sum it up, and this could be the year for him.
Jefferson, 27, is averaging 16.7 points, 10.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.1 steals, 1.1 blocks and shooting 47.2 percent in 33.1 minutes for the Jazz, who are 9-10. Jefferson is No. 10 among centers in PER at 20.21.
Aldridge, 27, is averaging 20.6 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.1 blocks and shooting 44.5 percent in 38.2 minutes for the Blazers, who are 8-10. Aldridge currently ranks No. 19 among power forwards in PER at 17.70.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter