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Villanova's Kyle Lowry should be an all-star
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The annual NBA All-Star festivities will be held in New Orleans this weekend. Joe Johnson will be there. Kyle Lowry won’t. That’s a special kind of absurd.

It’s an exhibition, and the selection process is subjective, but the Philadelphia native and Villanova product should be dribbling and dishing all over the court come Sunday. He deserved it. Instead, he’ll have to watch the proceedings along with the rest of us.

The case for Lowry is pretty easy to make. The case for Johnson isn’t.

We’ll start with Lowry. He’s thrived in Toronto this season, and he’s played particularly well since the Raptors unloaded Rudy Gay on the Sacramento Kings. Lowry is averaging 16.7 points, 7.6 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game. The points, assists and steals are all career bests or tied for career bests, and the rebounds are close. He’s taking 6.3 threes per game and making 2.4, by far the most in both categories in his career. And he’s hitting a career-best 38.8 percent from distance.

Even if the Raptors aren’t interested in paying Lowry this offseason, someone will – though the 27-year-old soon-to-be unrestricted free agent might not end up in the $40 million neighborhood currently occupied by Ty Lawson, Jrue Holiday and Steph Curry. (About 10 teams figure to have $10 million or more in cap space this offseason, but many of those organizations already have point guards.)

But the All-Star game isn’t about personal bests or fat stacks of future earnings. It’s about what you’ve done relative to your peers. (Or at least that’s what it should be about but frequently isn’t.) Lowry has a 20.14 player efficiency rating. Kyrie Irving (20.42 PER) is the only other Eastern Conference point guard with a better mark in that metric, and just barely. Among all Eastern Conference guards, Only Irving and Dwyane Wade (21.34) have better PERs. Both will be in New Orleans. Lowry won’t.

Lowry also has the best value added (estimated number of points above replacement) among Eastern Conference point guards. He’s good. Really good.

Johnson has been not as good. He is averaging 15 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists. None of those are career highs. He’s shooting 39 percent from three and 43.8 percent from the field. Also not career highs. But, again, making the All-Star game isn’t about what you’ve done in your career, it’s about what you’ve done this year versus the performance of your peers (or, once more, that’s what it should be about but frequently isn’t).

Johnson has a 13.97 PER. That’s 77th among all Eastern Conference players, well off the pace set by Lowry (or even Lance Stephenson, who also deserved to be in the All-Star game more than Johnson). Johnson doesn’t even have the best PER on his team. Andray Blatche (19.84), Mason Plumlee (18.01), Deron Williams (16.86), Paul Pierce (16.45), Mirza Teletovic (14.60) and Shaun Livingston (14.36) have all been better.

Among Johnson proponents, a narrative was adopted that Johnson carried the Nets after Brook Lopez went down for the year and Williams was out for a while with yet another ankle issue. That’s a big part of the Johnson-as-an-All-Star propaganda. It’s flimsy stuff. Johnson scored at least 25 points in five of six games during an early-January stretch. The Nets won all but one of those contests. But the Nets winning streak predated Johnson’s hot shooting, and it outlasted those performances as well. Between Jan. 2 and this past Thursday, the Nets have 14 wins and six losses. Joe Johnson was the high scorer in exactly two of those games.

Johnson is headed to the All-Star Game. Lowry isn’t. If it was a meritocracy, the reverse would be true. But the selection process isn’t a meritocracy. Never has been and probably won’t be soon. Lowry will just have to deal with that reality – though it sounds like he’s already over it. According to TSN, Lowry said he might not even watch the game because he’ll probably be “on a beach somewhere hanging out.” Maybe he made out after all.