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These are the players that desere the All-Star Reserve roster spots.
NBA All-Star starters were announced last week and reserves are going to be announced later today. Here’s who should be selected. We'll also list a couple of injury replacement choices because we already know a few players are injured and won't participate.
As a reminder, here are the starters for each conference:
|Eastern Conference Starters|
|Western Conference Starters|
|Eastern Conference Reserves|
|BC||Zach LaVine||Zach LaVine||Zach LaVine|
|BC||James Harden||James Harden||James Harden|
|FC||Jayson Tatum||Jimmy Butler||Jayson Tatum|
|FC||Nikola Vucevic||Jayson Tatum||Jimmy Butler|
|FC||Jarrett Allen||Jarrett Allen||Jarrett Allen|
|WC||Fred VanVleet||Fred VanVleet||Darius Garland|
|WC||Darius Garland||LaMelo Ball||LaMelo Ball|
|IR||LaMelo Ball||Domantas Sabonis||Fred VanVleet|
|IR||Jrue Holiday||Darius Garland||Miles Bridges|
|IR||Domantas Sabonis||Jrue Holiday||Domantas Sabonis|
Note: BC = Backcourt, FC = Frontcourt, WC = Wildcard, IR = Injury Replacement
Andrew: I start out by saying that being available for your team is of huge importance. I immediately weeded out big names because they haven’t played in many games (Bam Adebayo, Jalen Brown, Jimmy Butler, Jerami Grant). Also, every year we walk the fine line between good players on bad teams vs 3rd or 4th option guys on good teams. One NBA executive once said that in an NBA game, regardless of who is playing, the losing team is going to score somewhere between 80-100 points (plus have 30+ rebounds and 15+ assists). Someone is going to have to score those points and grab those rebounds. Are Jerami Grant or Domantas Sabonis only putting up their numbers because they are the big fish in a small pond, or are they really good?
For my actual picks, Zach Lavine and James Harden are in for sure as the leaders of top teams. Jayson Tatum averages the highest points per game of any non-starter (26.0), while also averaging a career high 8.5 rebounds. That left 2 forward spots and 2 wild cards. For the forwards, I think Nikola Vucevic and Jarrett Allen are worthy. The only other forward or center I would even consider is Domantas Sabonis, but as mentioned above, I opted to go with better players on top teams. Vucevic is the 3rd option (and 3rd all-star) for Chicago, but he’s averaging 16.8 ppg and 11.4 rpg (good for 3rd in the East). Jarrett Allen puts up similar numbers and is the primary defender for the Cavs. He’s a poor man’s Rudy Gobert with better hair. For the wild card slots I have another Cavalier, Darius Garland. He leads the team with 19.8 points and 8.2 assists and an average +/- of 7.2 per game (2nd in the west behind George Hill). Cleveland would not be where they are without him. And the final selection is Fred VanVleet, a first-time all-star. He has increased his points, rebounds, and assists per game every year of his 6 year NBA career. He averages 21.5 points, 7.0 assists, and 4.7 rebounds while shooting 39.1% from 3. He is carrying Toronto to the brink of a playoff spot.
My first 3 injury replacements are, in order, LaMelo Ball, Jrue Holiday, and Domantas Sabonis. LaMelo does a lot and is very much a popularity star, but he shoots a respectable 42.3/35.7/88.2 to go along with 7.7 assists and 19.5 points per game. Jrue Holiday is just behind on points and assists, but shoots better (49.5/39.2/75.5) and is just behind Garland with an average +/- of 6.6.
Terry: Four locks: James Harden, Jimmy Butler, Jason Tatum and Zach LaVine. Yes, I know that Butler has only played 33 games but his numbers and impact in those games are enough for me. The other three spots are up for debate, but for me Jarrett Allen, LaMelo Ball and Fred VanVleet are more deserving than others. Allen is averaging a double-double (16.1 points/10.8 rebounds/1.9 assists/23.02 PER) on 67.7% shooting. Add to that his stabilizing presence on defense (arguably one of the best rim protectors not named Gobert) and Allen deserves to be named to the team. VanVleet and Pascal Siakam have kept the Raptors in the playoff race, but I give the nod to VanVleet whose 3.9 3PM per game is second only to Steph Curry. The next four worthy options, in this order, are Domantas Sabonis (19.1/12.5.0/23.18), Jrue Holiday, Darius Garland and Pascal Siakam.
Zach: This year feels hard because lots of guys have missed time or just aren't playing, including lots of prominent and popular players that would likely be All-Stars (Butler, Irving, Simmons). So there are, in my opinion, fewer "locks." But I think that's good, too, since it allows for other deserving players to get spots.
I only see 3 "locks" for reserves with 4 spots up for debate. The 3 locks are the 2 backcourt spots, LaVine and Harden, and 1 frontcourt spot, Tatum. And that's it. I wouldn't tell you you're wrong if you want to leave out anyone else. LaVine's numbers are nearly identical to teammate DeRozan's, and he remains one of the most fun players in the league. Harden is the constant in Brooklyn. Tatum's efficiency is down, but he's still averaging 26 points per game.
Cleveland is good and hosting the All-Star game, so they have to get somebody on the team. I didn't really want to pick Allen, but I really couldn't find any other frontcourt players that I thought were more deserving. Miles Bridges or Domantas Sabonis are the closest contenders, but Sabonis's team stinks (though also has dealt with a lot of injuries). Bridges is having a career-best season in all the counting stats: 20 points, 7 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1 block and 1 steal. He's also taken on more self-creation responsibility, decreasing the share of his shots that are assisted from 75% to 63% (still more finisher than creator, but a step in the right direction). But LaMelo is the likely Charlotte All-Star: his style of play was made in a lab for the All-Star game and now he has the production to carry him there: nearly 20 points, 7 rebounds, 8 assists and the engine behind the highest scoring offense in the league.
I didn't want to choose two Hornets and only one Cavalier, and I didn't want to choose a player on a bad team (Indiana) before a player from a better team (Cleveland, Charlotte, or Toronto - Van Vleet), so I give the tiebreaker to the host and choose both Allen and Garland. Garland is nearing 20 points and 8 assists on 47/37/91 shooting to lead the resurgent Cavs, who are without any other dependable guards, to the best point differential in the East. Cleveland's strength, though, is their third-ranked defense, and that's largely due to Jarrett Allen.
That makes Van Vleet my toughest cut. But he's my first choice to replace KD.
|Eastern Conference Reserves|
|BC||Devin Booker||Devin Booker||Devin Booker|
|BC||Chris Paul||Chris Paul||Chris Paul|
|FC||Karl-Anthony Towns||Karl-Anthony Towns||Rudy Gobert|
|FC||Anthony Edwards||Rudy Gobert||Luka Doncic|
|FC||Rudy Gobert||Luka Doncic||Karl-Anthony Towns|
|WC||Luka Doncic||Donovan Mitchell||Donovan Mitchell|
|WC||Donovan Mitchell||Paul George||Dejounte Murray|
|IR||Jonas Valanciunas||Dejounte Murray||Dejounte Murray|
|IR||Dejounte Murray||Christian Wood||Anthony Edwards|
|IR||Desmond Bane||Brandon Ingram||Desmond Bane|
Andrew: I’ll start with the 2 best players on the league’s best team, who have the best backcourt in the NBA right now, Devin Booker and Chris Paul. They are 6th and 7th right now in Vegas for league MVP odds and lead the best clutch time team we’ve seen in a while. Paul leads the league at 10.4 assists per game and has a crazy average +/- of 6.8. Booker is averaging 32.0 points per game in his last 10 games, all wins, shooting over 50% from the field in half of them. Moving to the front court, we find locks Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert. Towns has Minnesota fighting to make the playoffs outright, and is putting up guard-like shooting numbers 51.8/40.9/81.0. If he would make more free throws he’d be the first center ever to make the 50/40/90 club. The only other big man to do that was Dirk Nowitzki. Gobert averages a crazy 16 points, 15.1 rebounds, and over 2 blocks per pame with an 8.2 +/-. From there we have 1 forward/center slot to fill and 2 wild cards. I’ll vote for KAT’s teammate, Anthony Edwards. He’s a little big of a ball hog, shooting more than anyone else on his team, but he’s not a bad shooter (44.3/36.3/80.7) and seems to play with a chip on his shoulder like he thinks he should be the #1 option. Not a bad trait to have as long as you don’t let that unrealistic self-belief ruin your team chemistry.
As my wild cards I have Luka Doncic and Donovan Mitchell, both of which are option 1 on their teams, and both of whom will be in the playoffs. I’m surprised Doncic isn’t getting more attention nationally. He is the lone star on the team and is continuing to put up similar numbers for the 3rd year in a row. Teams are realizing that they can blitz Doncic and the rest of the guys around him are very streaky. If they’re on then Dallas is hard to beat. If they aren’t, Dallas is a one trick pony. If he had better helpers and a better record he’d be in the MVP conversation.
For the injury replacements, I have Jonas Valanciunas, 3rd in the west with 12 rebounds per game to go along with 18.2 points per game. He’s also converted into a stretch 5 player, shooting 40.2% from 3 on almost 2.5 attempts per game. He’s more Pau Gasol than Rudy Gobert though, with less than 1 block per game. Next I’ll go Dejounte Murray. 2nd in the west in assists per game at 9.1, with a Chris Paul-like 2.5 turnovers per game. My final spot is Desmond Bane. His numbers are almost identical to Andrew Wiggins, who is the only all star starter that I don’t think is deserving of that recognition. Both Wiggins and Bane can get hot and carry their team, but are not expected to do so on a nightly basis, playing behind Curry and Morant, but they both play their role great and are not liabilities on offense or defense.
Terry: Five locks: Luka Doncic (who should start in place of Andrew Wiggins – his 25.6/8.9/8.9/22.76 stats are LeBron-like), Chris Paul (who should be getting MVP love like Jokic and Embiid), Devin Booker, Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert. For the final two spots, I’ll take Donovan Mitchell (25.5/4.0/5.2/21.90) and Paul George. PG13 was in the middle of an impressive season but now is injured so I’ll take Dejounte Murray (19.6/8.5/9.1/21.89) to replace him. Whether George gets named to the team and Murray takes his place or Murray gets named to the team and George does not, the net result is the same with Murray as an All-Star and PG13 not playing because he is injured. Murray’s scoring is six points lower than Luka but otherwise his numbers are All-Star worthy in every way. The next two worthy candidates are Christian Wood (17.7/10.4/2.1/18.65) and Brandon Ingram (22.5/6.0/5.6/18.47). Draymond Green has an amazing “Basketball IQ” but accepting your limitations, playing to your strengths and minimizing your weaknesses does not tip the scales in your favor when there are other players who are having good years. Plus, Green’s inclusion would be a 3rd All-Star for Golden State and I don’t think that looks good for those of us who don’t follow K-pop.
Zach: Again, lots of the usuals have missed too much time (Davis, Lillard, George, Kawhi) or are underwhelming (Westbrook). That leaves 4 "locks" for me in the west: Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Rudy Gobert, and Luka Doncic.
Booker and Paul are the best backcourt duo in the league, best clutch duo, and leaders of the best team in the league. CP3 has his highest assists per game average (10.4/game) since the 2013-2014 season, the height of Lob-City's powers. And Booker this year added off-the-dribble and side-step threes to an already overwhelming offensive package. He's up to 38% 3FG% this year. This year Booker finally gets some recognition and makes the team outright in a backcourt sport. No more injury replacements for him.
Gobert is still the most impactful rim-protector in the NBA, and though he doesn't have much in the way of self-creation on offense, he's as good as it gets as a finisher. All the All-Star guards still need someone to throw alley-oops to. And his impact is undeniable with how much Utah has struggled in his absence (20th defensive rating in the league over the last three weeks while being a virtual lock for a top-5 defense when Gobert plays).
Dejounte Murray is having the best season that nobody is talking about. He's approaching 20 points, 9 rebounds, 9 assists, and 2 steals with an assist to turnover ratio of 3.6, comparing favorably to fellow potential All-Star LaMelo Ball. A couple more shots and free throws per game and he's got the same stats as Luka and LeBron while also being an All-Defense candidate. If that's not an all-star, I don't know what is. The Spurs are the current 12 seed, which works against him, but they are still within striking distance of the play-in game.
While he's not quite there yet, in my opinion, Anthony Edwards will join this party before too long. This year he's improved in every category vs last year and is up to 22 points, 5 rebounds, and almost 4 assists with 44/36/80 shooting splits. If he can further improve his three point shooting and playmaking (to prove he's not just a scorer), he'll move past borderline All-Star and enter the MVP conversation.