With the NBA season at the midway point, the NBA All-Star weekend is almost upon us. The game is scheduled the weekend of Feb. 13-15. The starters for the East and West teams were released last week.
As one would expect, the starting roster for both sides are filled with familiar names. The East’s starting five is Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Pau Gasol, John Wall and Kyle Lowry. The West’s starting five is Blake Griffin, Marc Gasol, Kobe Bryant, Anthony Davis and Stephen Curry. Bryant tore his rotator cuff that required surgery so he will not participate in the game.
In a flawed system, fan voting decides the starters so players who do not perform at an All-Star level often make the All-Star team because of their past achievements and popularity.
For instance, Carmelo Anthony and Kobe Bryant made it instead of James Harden and Paul Millsap who clearly deserved to be in the starters. Harden will more than likely start for the injured Bryant.
But who does deserves to occupy the rest of the reserve spots for the All-Star game?
Starting with the West, Curry is getting much of the attention as the Golden State Warriors stand with the best record in the NBA at 36-7. Curry is a big reason for the team’s first half success, but his splash brother Klay Thompson should get recognized for his contributions.
Thompson is having a career year averaging 21.9 PPG, shooting 47.2 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from deep. As the best team in the NBA, the Warriors should definitely bring the splash brothers to the All-Star game at Madison Square Garden.
The Portland Trail Blazers are currently sitting at the third place in the Western Conference, thanks to Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge. Lillard is one of the most clutch players in the league, an assassin in the fourth quarter, deadly from behind the three point line and he is averaging 22 points and 6.2 assists per game.
It would be a huge snub if he is not selected as an All-Star reserve.
Harden will be a starter when the game comes around, but for now he’s a lock for the reserves list as he is putting out MVP-like numbers by leading the league in scoring with 27.2 points and is also chipping in 6.7 assists and 5.5 rebounds per game.
He carried the team single-handedly to the sixth spot in the highly competitive West when Dwight Howard was out with injury.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook definitely deserve to be there as they usually perform at high level, but it is hard to tell if the coaches would pick them both since they are out of the playoff picture right now and have both missed time with injuries.
For the third spot, DeMarcus Cousins is more than deserving to be picked. He’s having a monster year and is probably the best center in the league right now. He has the ability to 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 a hard time controlling his temper.
For the last spot, Monta Ellis is deserving as he is having a great year and the Dallas Mavericks need at least one representative in the All-Star game. Dirk is the anchor of Dallas, but Ellis is the most valuable player for them this year. He edges out Chris Paul for the last spot because of his team’s success compared to Paul’s Clippers.
For the East, the Atlanta Hawks, the hottest team in the NBA right now, are leading the Eastern Conference with a 35-8 record and should be represented in the All-Star game. However, since they are so team oriented, playing like the Spurs of the East, no single player is putting up monster that screams All-Star. But Paul Millsap, Jeff Teague and Al Horford are each individually playing at All-Star level, despite not having the numbers.
Millsap was an All-Star last year and he is having another solid year, averaging 16.8 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. Horford is the anchor of the team on defensive end and his versatility on the offensive end speaks volumes as well as he averages 15.1 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. Horford’s intangibles are what makes him special, but that is not reflected in his numbers.
The Hawks are simply better when he is playing on both ends of the floor. He makes them a contender in the East as opposed to a bottom seed playoff team, which they were last year with him sidelined with an injury.
Teague is probably the most deserving of the bunch to be an All-Star. Teague is having a career year by averaging 17.2 points and 7.5 assists per game. Teague has gone head-to-head with the best point guards in the league and he has won nearly every individual matchup. He is orchestrating the Hawks’ offense and his well-timed passes are providing open looks for Kyle Korver, Millsap, Horford and others.
Jimmy Butler 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 this season. His numbers are terrific and it’s surprising to see Butler leading the Bulls on the offensive end of the floor, especially while sharing the court with two All-Star-caliber players 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 just 14 shots per game, that number is remarkable. Known for being a lockdown defender as well, his all-around game makes him more than deserving to be an All-Star.
It’s difficult to pick players for the last two spots when Brandon Knight, Dwyane Wade, Kyrie Irving, Demar DeRozan, Derrick Rose, Bradley Beal and Nikola Vucevic have all had great years.
But Brandon Knight deserves to be in as Milwaukee Bucks are in the playoff race, sitting at the sixth spot in the East when almost everyone wrote them off when they lost the No. 2 overall pick in Jabari Parker to injury early in the season.
Knight, also a candidate for most improved player, is easily the best player for the Bucks. He is performing at a very high level, game in and game out. He is averaging 18.2 points and 5.1 assists per game, while 44.5 percent from the field.
He has taken on more responsibility on both ends of the floor and is never afraid of taking a big shot or who he is matched up against. With the team success, the Bucks definitely need a representative in All-Star game.
The coaches on both sides definitely have their hands full with deciding who’s in and who’s out.