Who Should Be an All-Star Starter, Jeremy Lin or Chris Paul?

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJanuary 16, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 04:  Chris Paul #3 of the Los Angeles Clippers directs the offense during a 107-102 Clipper win over the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on January 4, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

As the voting closed on Monday for the 2013 NBA All-Star Game, eight of the 10 All-Star starters appeared set in stone.

For the Western Conference, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard and Blake Griffin all held comfortable leads in the most recent returns (via nba.com).

The same held true for LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo in the Eastern Conference.

But two spots were left up for grabs, including the starting point spot for the West.

Chris Paul held a 46,000-plus vote advantage over Jeremy Lin in those returns, although a late surge of Lin votes was to be expected given the past overwhelming support granted to former Houston Rockets stars Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady.

If the NBA weren't already reconsidering its fan-picked approach, surely this cried in disastrous tones.

While Lin's Houston Rockets (21-18) were one of the league's most surprising first-half postseason contenders, Paul's Los Angeles Clippers (30-9) had joined the ranks of the NBA elites. The Rockets had posted a respectable plus-2.1 scoring differential (10th in the NBA), but it was nothing close to the Clippers' blistering plus-8.9 margin (second).

And let's not forget the Clippers' season and franchise-best 17-game winning streak they compiled earlier this season.

So the team comparison leaves Paul with a clear advantage over Lin.

But the arguments don't stop there.

In terms of individual efforts, it's tough to even keep the two players in the same discussion.

Both players have logged nearly identical playing time (Paul's played 33.4 minutes per game, Lin has averaged 33.5 minutes of action), but that's where the similarities stop.

Paul's statistical advantage over Lin stretches across every statistical category.

There's his nearly six-point advantage in field-goal percentage (48.1 to 42.6), his nearly five-point edge in scoring (16.8 to 12.1 points per game) and his better than 3.5 lead in assists (9.7 to 6.3).

Lin has failed to post even the average 15.0 player efficiency rating mark (14.0), while Paul has nearly doubled it (26.6).

The NBA All-Star Game is a spectacle with no actual repercussions from the game (save for an incremental increase in bonus pay for the winners), so the league needs its most electrifying playmakers to bring excitement to this glorified exhibition game.

Style points matter, much more so than actual points scored in the contest.

Unfortunately for Lin, herein lies yet another nod Paul's way.

Paul is the architect of a team dubbed "Lob City." He has yo-yo handles, a grittiness to his drives and the best court vision in the conference.

Lin doesn't play a boring style by any stretch, but his highlight reel is built largely on the strength of his penetration and ability to finish through contact. He doesn't end those drives with poster-worthy throwdowns, and won't find that same contact patrolling the largely defenseless interior.

What's even worse for Lin, though, is the fact that he's not even the most deserving All-Star candidate on Houston's roster. That title falls on the shoulders of fellow first-year Rocket James Harden (the NBA's fourth-best scorer at 26.5 points per game).

Harden's statistical edge over Lin is nearly as great as that of Paul's. Not to mention his offensive arsenal is full of the exclamatory plays that fans will expect to see when they tune in on Feb. 17.

The voting drama will cease on Thursday night, with TNT's 7 p.m. ET unveiling.

If the fans got it right this time, though, there shouldn't be any drama in the announcements.