With the NBA set to announce its reserves for the 2017 All-Star Game after announcing the starters last Tuesday, who should grab the remaining spots? The league’s coaches, whose vote will determine the rosters, must vote for two guards, three frontcourt players and two “wild cards” to fill things out, so I will do the same.
Let’s start with the West. First thing’s first, pencil in Russell Westbrook. Westbrook, who leads the league in PER (player efficiency rating) and is putting up a season for the ages, should have been a starter. I know it, you know it, the whole league knows it. I mean, he’s averaging a triple-double and over 30 points-per-game, what more could he possibly do? Alas, the fans said it wasn’t meant to be, but he deserves an All-Star spot more than anyone else this year.
In my second backcourt nomination, I will go with Mike Conley of the Memphis Grizzlies, the league’s highest paid player. He’s having a career season and if the West wasn’t so much more talented than the East, this wouldn’t be his first All-Star nod. He’s earned it.
Moving to the frontcourt, Rudy Gobert of the Jazz, Marc Gasol of the Grizzlies and Draymond Green of the Warriors garner selections in my opinion. Gobert has been tremendous for Utah this season, and is in the front running for Defensive Player of the Year right now. Gasol, like his teammate Conley, is having a spectacular year and has added a little outside game to his arsenal. The advanced metrics bare him out as an All-Star and if this were the East it wouldn’t be a question. As for Green, he doesn’t stuff the stat sheet, but it’s tough when you’re on a super team where you’re the fourth option. However, his well-rounded game is unquestionably one of the 12 best in the West.
The Wild Card was a tough choice as the NBA is supremely talented right now and it’s certainly imbalanced in favor of the West. I went with DeMarcus Cousins and Damian Lillard. Cousins may be on a poor team, but so is starter Anthony Davis, and Cousins might be the best traditional big man in the NBA right now. As for Lillard, he was snubbed last year and very well may be snubbed again this year. I think his scoring ability is among the league’s most elite, playing in a small market on an underperforming team where he isn’t getting his due. But the talent is that of an All-Star for sure and his play has continued to improve.
In the East, Isaiah Thomas, like Westbrook, was wronged of a deserved starting spot. Irving may have the edge in pure talent, but he’s nowhere close to the season IT is having. Thomas is currently second in the league in points per game and has been lethal in the fourth quarter this season. Give the man his due. The other backcourt member is Kyle Lowry. There is a solid contingency of NBA analysts out there who believe Lowry got snubbed in his own right and should be starting over fellow Raptor Demar DeRozan. His efficiency numbers are some of the best in the league, better than DeRozan’s, and out of all likely All-Stars (he’s basically a lock), he has the highest three point percentage.
In the frontcourt, the East is a little weaker, hence why Giannis Antetokounmpo is effectively the starting center. Kevin Love, Paul George and Joel Embiid take up the remaining front court spots. Love and George virtually seem like no-brainers. Love has been sniping from three this year, improving his game, and with the Cavaliers’ dominance in the East he warrants a spot. George seems to be quieter this season, maybe because his Pacers squad is underwhelming, but he is still averaging statistics among the league’s best and has always been strong defensively. As for Embiid, I can understand people’s reservations, with his minute restrictions and recent injury. But ESPN’s Marc Stein asked the question best in his own All-Star column: “Has Embiid been one of the East's 12 most impactful players this season?” The answer is a resounding “yes” and he’ll definitely bring a special excitement to the game.
The Wild Card goes to a pair of point guards in the Wizards’ John Wall and the Hornets’ Kemba Walker. Wall is right up there with Irving, Thomas and Lowry; he could easily be starting and has been a man on a mission this season, helping lead the Wizards back into the East’s playoff fold. Walker has really broken through this year, and exceeded most expectations. He is the catalyst for all Charlotte’s success this season and has contributed more while actually seeing his minutes per game decline from last year.
Obviously, there are some notable big names not present. Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, Karl Anthony-Towns and Klay Thompson all nowhere to be found. The All-Star game should be an exciting mix of talent in New Orleans on Feb. 19, but when you look at who couldn’t make the cut, you realize how good of a place the NBA is in right now.
Matt Barresi is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.