NBA All-Star Reserves - Possible contenders
Once again NBA All-Star weekend is upon us, less than a month left for the big show at Madison Square Garden between 13-15 February. The starters who were picked by the users with internet voting were announced yesterday,
Frontcourt: LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Pau Gasol
Backcourt: Kyle Lowry, John Wall
Frontcourt: Blake Griffin, Anthony Davis, Marc Gasol
Backcourt: Stephen Curry, Kobe Bryant
Every year we have everlasting arguments about who should make the All-star team and who should not. Since the reserves are selected by the coaches it’s fair to say the players who are participating in the All-Star team is deserving it but the never-ending arguments are about who do not make the starting team.
Fan voting decides the starters but one thing is for sure; players who do not perform at the All-star level often make the All-star team because of their past-achievements and popularity. For instance, Carmelo Anthony and Kobe Bryant, instead of them James Harden and Paul Millsap deserved to be in the starters.
Unwritten rules for picking All-Star Reserves
There are unwritten rules – standards – when picking players for All-stars and one of those is the individual performance of an NBA player in that particular season. If a player is performing very well, then he deserves to be an All-star no matter how good or bad his team is doing. But the unwritten rule suggests that All-stars should be selected from winning teams, even though a player is playing phenomenal for an underachieving team he shouldn’t make the All-Star team automatically. There are some players who are in that situation but we can accept them as an exception as they perform at top 3, top 5 level in their position like Anthony Davis and De Marcus Cousins.
This article is about who deserves to participate in the All-star match as a resreve not necesarily whom I pick for All-star reserves. It will be subjective as any opinion is but I’ll put logic and reasoning behind it to make it as objective as possible.
Let’s start from the Western Conference leaders, Golden State Warriors. Klay Thompson is having a career year averaging 21.9 points per game with 47.2 FG% and 44.4 3P% from the floor in 32.3 minutes per game. Klay’s numbers are incredible and his contribution to the Warriors is impeccable this season.
Participating in World Cup 2014 did wonders for him as he matured his game and he is effective in both ends of the floor usually guarding the best perimeter attacker of the opponent. Klay Thompson is a lock for All-star reserves.
Portland Trail Blazers are currently sitting at the 3rd place in the Western Conference, thanks to Damien Lillard and La Marcus Aldridge. Lillard is one of the most clutch players in the league, an assassin in the 4th quarter, deadly from behind the three point line, he is averaging 22 points and 6.2 assists from 36.3 minutes per game. It would be a very big surprise if he is not selected as an All-star reserve this year.
Another lock for the All-star reserves list as he is putting out MVP-like numbers by leading the league in scoring with 27.2 points, 6.7 assists and 5.5 rebounds per game with 88.9 FT%. He carried the team single handedly to 6th position in the highly competitive league, when Dwight Howard was out with injury.
The Last 4 Spots?
There are 4 more players left to be picked up for the reserve spot. I would have easily picked La Marcus Aldridge on top of the list but he’s out with injury for 6-8 weeks. It’s being rumoured that Kobe Bryant may not participate in the All-star match due to injury but we don’t know it for sure yet. So with La Marcus Aldridge out, the candidates for last 4 spots are : Mike Conley, Monta Ellis, De Marcus Cousins, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Dirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan ( No Spurs in All-star competition? ), Chris Paul and probably Goran Dragic.
Westbrook, Durant, Cousins and Ellis
Personally I think Durant and Westbrook definitely deserves to be there as they usually perform at high level ( Westbrook is playing like a strong MVP candidate ) but I’m not sure if the coaches would pick them both since they are out of the playoff picture right now. I think coaches would be fair in their choice and get at least one of those guys. The teams’ being out of playoff picture is due to the injuries they had in October and November.
For the third spot I think DeMarcus Cousins should be picked. He’s having a monster year – World cup 2014 doing wonders for him as well – and he is my ‘exception pick’. He is probably the best center in the league right now, he would carry a contender on his shoulders. His team is not playing at a good level and he suffers because of them. But he’s no longer the same Cousins of old who had bad off-court habits and had hard time controlling his nerves.
Tim Duncan is a hall of famer and some may argue that he should be selected instead of Cousins. I will respect that. But, Duncan is not having an All-star year as his minutes are quite limited and 15 & 10 are quite good for a 37 year older. Still, DeMarcus Cousins is averaging 24 points and 12.7 rebounds per game. That’s just incredible.
?For the last spot I’d take Monta Ellis as he is having a great year and his team need at least one representative in the All-Star match. Dirk is the anchor of Dallas but Ellis is the most valuable player for them this year. Why I put Ellis in front of Paul is that because Clippers have one player for the All-Star team and since they don’t do as well as they are expected, I believe Clippers should not have two players in the match. Also Paul is playing at 3rd or 4th gear, saving himself for the playoffs.
Why these 4 and not others?
I wish there was more room for Mike Conley, Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki but only 12 players can make it. Also, anyone can make a case for Bledsoe or Dragic as Phoenix Suns are 8th spot in the west but I believe that there are multiple guys playing at similar levels for them, no-one is carrying the team by himself by putting out an All-star performance level.
Dragic and Bledsoe are the engines for the team, right but they still have Isaiah Thomas, Morris twins, Gerald Green who contribute to team’s success a lot. I don’t think without Dragic or Bledsoe they’d fall down a lot. An All-Star should atleast have 15+ wins for a team and I don’t think Dragic or Bledsoe are that good right now. Certainly, Conley is having a better year than those two.
Paul Millsap, Jeff Teague and Al Horford
Atlanta Hawks, the hottest team in the NBA right now is leading the Eastern Conference with 35-8 and are second in general standings. They are playing as a team which means they share the success equally. But Millsap, Teague and Horford are individually playing at All-star level. Millsap was an All-Star last year and he’s having another solid year averaging 16.8 points, 7.9 rebounds per game.
Al Horford is the anchor of the team on defensive end. His versatility on the offensive end speaks volumes as well as he averages 15.1 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. Horford has intangible effects on the team which are not reflected in numbers. Hawks are simply better when he’s on both ends of the floor. He makes them a contender in the East as opposed to a playoff team.
Jeff Teague is another guy who deserves to be an All-star. Teague is having a career year in numbers by averaging 17.2 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. Teague went head to head with best point guards in the league and he never backed down from anyone. He is orchestrating the Hawks offense and his well timed passes are providing good shots for Korver, Carroll, Millsap, Horford and others.
He played 5, he played 4, he went to the post, shot 3, shot long twos, drove to the rim, protected his rim, he did what his team needed for him to do. Plus, without Lebron he has increased his production, averaging 21.3 points and 7.7 rebounds in 35.5 minutes per game. His point per game average is the highest in his Miami career so far.
Bosh is shooting about 4 shots per game more than last year since Lebron left and he needs to carry the team with Dwyane Wade on offensive end. Bosh totally deserves to be an All-star reserve although his team is below .500.
He should be a lock for All-star reserves. He is arguably the most improved player of the year and best offensive player for Chicago Bulls so far in this season. His numbers are terrific and it’s surprising to see Butler leading the Bulls on offensive end of the floor where they have All-stars in Rose and Gasol.
Butler is averaging 20.5 points per game (13.1 per game last season) and if you consider the fact that he’s shooting 14 shots per game it’s not an easy task to average 20+ points per game. Butler totally deserves to be in All-star match and the coaches would pick him up 99%.
Last two spots- Brandon Knight and Kyrie Irving
Again, it’s difficult to pick two players for the last 2 spots where Brandon Knight, Dwyane Wade, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, Demar DeRozan, Derrick Rose, Bradley Beal, Nik Vucevic all are in contention. I personally think Brandon Knight deserves to be in there as Milwaukee Bucks are in the playoff race, standing at 6th position in the East -very surprisingly- even though they lost their rookie talent Jabari Parker to injury early in the season.
Knight who is also a candidate for a most improved player is currently the best player for the Bucks. He is performing at a very high level, game in game out. He is averaging 18.2 points and 5.1 assists per game with 44.5 FG%. It’s pretty good number-wise but he performs more than the stats show. He is taking more responsibility on both ends of the floor, never afraid of taking a big shot and never afraid of his match-up. Bucks definitely need a representative in All-Star match and Brandon Knight is deserving to be there.
For the last spot I’d take Kyrie Irving over others as he is having a good year with Lebron James and Kevin Love on his team. Okay, he and Love did not elavate the team when Lebron was out, they were 1-9 at one stretch without him and that’s a knock on Kyrie, I know that.
But still, he is very talented and can take over games – he does – offensively and is currently one of the best point guards in the league – talentwise – in the east, where the competition is not at the level of west, there’s no Paul or Conley or even Lawson trying to make All-Star in the East which makes Irving a rather automatic pick for All-star reserves.
Why no Dwyane Wade?
I think Wade is deserving to be in the All-Star match with Bosh. But Wade and Bosh could not elavate their team as they are 6 games below .500. It’s not very common or logical to pick two All-stars from a team that is performing that bad. Otherwise, Wade’s numbers are All-star numbers but as I said you can’t pick two from Miami and if you take one from there it should certainly be Bosh not Wade.
Injuries are a factor too!
Beal and DeRozan probably deserved to be up there but they missed too many games due to injury. Kevin Love is not having a good year in his standards, he did not adapt to the Cavs as quickly as we expected which caused him to underperform in first 30 games of the season. Rose was in and out with injury and his minutes were limited and when you take Butler and Gasol from Chicago, it’s over. You can’t take three from Chicago, they don’t deserve three All-Stars.
Vucevic is having an enormous year in Orlando Magic averaging 19 and 11 but the knock against him is his team’s position. He is in De Marcus Cousins category but if he performs that way consistently, Orlando would be in playoff picture in years to come.
So these are who I believe are deserved to be in the All-Star match this february. In a league full of talents like NBA, it’s very hard to pick 12 players from each conference but the fans and coaches make their picks every year and this year will be no different. I’m sure we would have lots of arguments about who made the All-Star and who did not.