A pair of fantastic foursomes

Updated: February 7, 2005, 12:14 PM ET
By Chad Ford | ESPN Insider

While the NBA All-Star Game might no longer enamor everyone, GMs still love their all-stars.

I was sitting in Jerry West's office in Memphis last week and the topic turned to the differences between his Grizzlies and the team he built in Los Angeles, the Lakers. The Lakers had the two best players in the NBA – Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant.

The Grizzlies, on the other hand, are a collection of talented players. But with the possible exception of Pau Gasol, they have no all-stars.

While West raved about how gratifying it was to see the Grizzlies play team basketball, when pressed on the issue of whether he'd have a team full of good, but not great players, or a couple of superstars, West didn't hesitate in his answer.

"It's more fun with [an all-star] than without," West told Insider.

"It brings a definite enthusiasm. Fans can't wait to go see the darn game because of those guys because they know they're going to do one or two things. People are going to be waiting on the edge of their seat waiting for it. It brings value to a team. It allows you to make trades because you can put people around them easier. That's why I think it's easier to build teams around a guy like that.

"Kids can grow up with a player like that. If you have someone of that magnitude here in Memphis, Elvis would be in second place."

For years, the conventional wisdom behind building a championship team consisted of finding two all-stars, preferably one big and one guard, and surrounding them with role players. Not only could players like that help you win basketball games, they also helped you win over fans at the box office.

The Pistons challenged that model last year, winning the title with just one all-star, Ben Wallace, on the roster. The Pistons were lauded for playing team basketball, and many GMs went out of their way this summer to pass over stars for veteran role players who knew their role.

But maybe too much is being made of this. If you actually watched the Pistons in the playoffs last season, you knew that Richard Hamilton and Chauncey Billups played like an all-star.

The bottom line?

"Talent is the key in the NBA," West said. "We can talk all we want about coaching, style of play, rule changes and chemistry. But at the end of the day, the team with the best talent usually wins."

Who has the all-stars? Who doesn't? And what teams look to restock the all-star pool in the future? As coaches prepare to select the all-star reserves this week, Insider breaks down where the all-stars are and aren't in Week 14's the Good, the Bad and the Upside.

Chad Ford

ESPN Senior Writer