The All-Star reserves will be released tonight, and as is the case every year, they are selected by coaches around the league but each coach is unable to choose for a player he coaches.
The starters have already been announced, as solely voted on by the fans. The Eastern Conference will start Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade, Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Garnett. The Western Conference will counter with Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin and Dwight Howard.
I have an opinion of who should but I’ll restrain myself and simply offer who I believe will get selected tonight.There are seven remaining All-Star spots for each side, and it is usually split up as two guards, three frontcourt players and two wild cards, who can be of any position.
For the West, Russell Westbrook should be a lock. Despite playing next to the best player in the Western Conference, he averages almost 23 points, 8 assists, 4 rebounds and 2 steals. With the absence of James Harden, Westbrook was expected to not only pick up his scoring production, but also become more of a pure point guard. This is seen in his 8.1 assists per game, up from 5.5 last season. His assist to turnover ratio has also risen from 1.53:1 to 2.31:1 in the same span. The only possible knock is his poor shooting numbers but he is still definitely worthy of an All-Star appearance. The team with the best record has to have at least two All-Star representatives in my book.
The third member of the former OKC Big 3 should also be heading to Houston in February, or rather, simply should remain there. James Harden has gone from 6th man and third option on offense with the Thunder to a being the main scorer for the Houston Rockets. He is now scoring almost 26 points per game by getting to the free throw line over 10 times a game, the highest number in the league. He has taken a Rockets team that was expected to be near the bottom of the Western Conference before the trade and turned it into a likely playoff team.
A Gasol will be flying to Houston a month from now but it will not be Pau. Most did not expect the Memphis Grizzlies to own a top four record in the brutal Western Conference, but Marc Gasol has led the best defensive team in the West, according to defensive efficiency. His per game numbers are impressive, but a top 4 team deserves a member on the All-Star team and Gasol is the most likely choice because of his defensive reputation.
For the big men, Tim Duncan sticks out of the crop. Like clockwork, the Spurs own one of the best records in the NBA in January and Duncan has been the team MVP, despite only playing 30 minutes a game. He is almost averaging a double-double and his reputation and career achievements will almost assuredly win him a roster spot for the All-Star team. For the same reason, Tony Parker will join him as a wild card, with a line of 20 points and over 7 assists per game. There are more worthy candidates but the coaches tend to choose familiar names.
Rounding out the team may be a duo from possibly the most surprising team in basketball. Stephen Curry has fought ankle injuries his entire career but is in the top 25 of the league in minutes played this season. He is an accomplished distributor and creative shooter, and his game lends itself to a more free-form style of play. This and his 20 points and 6.6 assists per game makes him a great candidate to earn his first All-Star appearance. David Lee can accomplish the same things because of the success of the Golden State Warriors. He is averaging a monster double-double and shooting .522 from the field (.561 TS%).
For the Eastern Conference, the choices are not as clear. To break it lightly, I do not see an Atlanta Hawk making the team, possibly due to their recent slide.
Chris Bosh is having a fantastic year and would be more celebrated were it not for his future Hall of Fame teammates. Despite matching up with centers on a nightly basis, he has still proven himself as one of the best offensive big men in the league. His field goal attempts and USG% are down but his efficiency is way up (.606 TS% and .552 eFG%). Throw in over 17 points and 7 rebounds per game and you have Bosh’s 8th straight All-Star appearance.
Like Russell Westbrook, Jrue Holiday is another athletic former UCLA guard and is just now putting it all together. Without the services of the departing Lou Williams and Andre Iguodala, as well as the injured Andrew Bynum, he has shouldered the load of both the Philly offense and defense and has put together a career year thus far. He is averaging 19 points and 9 rebounds while guarding the opponent’s best wing player every game. Though the 76ers may not make the playoffs, Holiday is having an outstanding year.
Paul George, like Jrue Holiday, has been the focal point of a Pacers team missing Danny Granger. He fills up the box score every night like Atlanta’s own Josh Smith with 17 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assist, 2 steals and a block a night. Like the Memphis Grizzlies, the Pacers deserve an All-Star for being in the top 4 of their conference.
Without Derrick Rose, many Chicago Bulls are logging insane numbers of minutes but they have remained a top 3 defense all season long. The cog of that defense is center Joakim Noah, teammate of Al Horford at the University of Florida. He is averaging a double-double and plays more than 38 minutes a game. In a similar fashion, Tyson Chandler acts as an anchor for an otherwise underperforming New York Knicks defense. He shoots a ridiculous .674% by taking a high number of shots at the rim and also averages a double-double. However, his otherworldly defense is Chandler’s signature and it is time for the All-Star team to better recognize defensive accomplishments.
Brook Lopez, on the other hand, will never be mistaken for a dominant defense center, although he does block 2 shots a game, but his offensive talents in the post have kept the Brooklyn Nets afloat in the Eastern Conference. In only 30 minutes a game, he averages almost 19 points per game on .521% shooting. It would be his first All-Star appearance. Paul Pierce will most likely get a bid as well, but neither he deserves it nor do the Celtics to have 3 All-Stars. However, he is a recognizable name and isn’t exactly having a poor season.
Like stated before, it seems unlikely that either Al Horford or Josh Smith will be able to represent the Hawks in the All-Star game. Should the opportunity be there, Horford would probably get the nod over Josh, but the Hawks are not concerned with All-Star appearances regardless. Look for the focus tomorrow to be on getting revenge on the Boston Celtics, disregarding tonight’s results.