Last week, the NBA announced who the fans voted to start in this year’s All-Star game. Our very own Chris differed slightly from the rest of the voters and made his own decision on who should start in this year’s festivities. Now it’s time for coaches around the league to vote on the remaining roster spots and I figured I’d do the same. A few quick things before we get started. The NBA redid the lineup format this season, eliminating traditional positions and listing players as either front court or back court. Coaches must vote for three front court players, two back court and two wild cards. We’ll being doing the same here.
Western Conference Reserves
Back Court: James Harden, Russell Westbrook
This is a no brainer for the two former teammates. Since being traded to the Houston Rockets, Harden has answered questions about his value as a franchise player averaging careers in both scoring (25.8 pg) and assists (5.3 pg). Meanwhile, Westbrook has continued his elevation as a player to become at worst the third best point guard in the league. The numbers may not reflect it, but his decision-making has improved and, after beginning the season in a shooting slump, his field goal percentage is back to his career numbers.
Front Court: Tim Duncan, David Lee, Zach Randolph
Duncan has been called by many the greatest power forward to have ever played. This season, he’s only solidified that argument. He’s played well enough to deserve a starting spot, but I seriously doubt he’ll mind coming off the bench. Injuries have cost both Kevin Love and Dirk Nowitzki much of the season yet there’s still a logjam to fill their spots. Lee has been one of the biggest reasons for the Warriors’ resurgent season. His numbers (20 ppg & 11 rpg) are nearly identical to what he averaged when he received his only other All-Star nod in 2010. The fact that he’s now doing it for a legitimate playoff team makes it all the better. Randolph and Marc Gasol form the best big men combo in the league. I’m giving Zach the edge simply because of the 180 turnaround his career has made since arriving in Memphis.
Wild Cards: Stephen Curry, Tony Parker
It’s been a breakout season for Curry. The son of Dell has managed to stay healthy this year (missing only two games) and his shooting (46.4% on three’s) is sure to excite in a game where dunks and 3’s are in demand. Parker continues to impress for the not so new(ly) offensive minded Spurs. Even more so with oft-injured Manu Ginobili in and out of the lineup.
Not This Time: LaMarcus Aldrige, Nicholas Batum, Jamaal Crawford, Marc Gasol, Al Jefferson, Damian Lillard
Back Court: Jrue Holiday, Kyrie Irving
Holiday is, by far, having the best season of his young career. The 4th year guard is averaging career highs in points (19.2) and assists (8.9) while shouldering the responsibility of being the 76er’s leader and best player. Holiday may not yet be an elite point guard, but he’s definitely shown a lot of growth and maturity this years. Normally I would avoid picking a player from a team with an abysmal record such as the Cavs, but with Derrick Rose still out with injury and Deron Williams being fairly underwhelming I’m going with Irving here. His PER of 21.94 puts him in the top five in the league at his position and he is the future of his team.
Front Court: Tyson Chandler, Joakim Noah, Brook Lopez
Fans voted Kevin Garnett ahead of Chandler, but make no mistake, Chandler is more of an All-Star than Garnett. His defense and rebounding are strong enough to allow the Knicks to play Carmelo Anthony at power forward and he’s an offensive threat despite having a very limited repertoire. His unbelievable field goal percentage ( 67.4) is aided by the fact that all of his shots come at the rim, but watch any Knicks’ game and you’ll notice he is a very big part of their offense without needing the ball. Noah isn’t as deadly diving to the rim off the pick and roll as Chandler is, but he’s a much better passer and his helicopter mid ranger jumper has to be respected. In fact, Noah’s improved passing and play making ability in the absence of Rose is the biggest reason he’s here. After missing 61 out of 66 games last season, Lopez has returned back to his regular spot as the Nets’ best player. His numbers (18.5 ppg & 7.4 rpg) are on par with his career and for all the criticism he’s gotten about his defense, the Net’s are actually worse on that side of the ball when he sits.
Wild Cards: Chris Bosh, Luol Deng
Bosh’s true value to the defending champs isn’t really reflected in the numbers. His scoring is down for the 3rd straight season and he’s never going to be a dominate rebounder. Yet, the spacing he provides on the floor allows Lebron to be Lebron and the argument can be made that last season ends differently for Miami if he doesn’t return from injury in the playoffs. I had to flip a coin to decide between Deng and Paul George. Deng won the flip and he gets the nod. His team leading 17.4 ppg means something when you’re missing a former MVP, right? (Paul Pierce was eliminated because the Celtics haven’t been good enough to warrant 3 All-Stars.)
Honorable Mention: Anderson Varejao (out for the season with a blood clot)
Andy was playing at an All-Star level before a leg injury sidelined him until next season. I gave Kyrie Irving his spot partially because of this.
Not This Time: Carlos Boozer, Paul George, Al Horford, Paul Pierce, Josh Smith, David West