The NBA will announce All-Star reserves Thursday night on TNT. There is a lot of competition this year on both conferences and a number of different directions that the coaches might go. Below is my picks for what I think the All-Star rosters should look like.
Eastern Conference Starters
G - Kyrie Irving
G - DeMar DeRozan
F - LeBron James
F - Jimmy Butler
F - Giannis Antetokounmpo
I followed the same process as the coaches with selecting reserves. There are two guard slots, three frontcourt picks and then two wild card selections.
1. Kyle Lowry
2. John Wall
Voting snubs made the two guard selections easy. There was a case for both Lowry and Wall to be in the starting lineup as both have played huge roles in the success of their teams. No sweat as both are sure to make the roster.
1. Kevin Love
2. Paul Millsap
3. Paul George
Here is where things get a bit dicey. Love is having an outstanding season for the best team in the Eastern Conference. He should be in with no trouble at all.
I have seen some writers suggest that Paul Millsap could end up getting left off the list. Millsap is the best player on a Hawks team that is threatening to crack into the Top 3 in the East despite not having a clear direction. He scores, he defends and he does whatever it takes to help Atlanta win. Most of all, he deserves to be here.
Indiana has had an up and down season but George continues to put up big numbers averaging 22.2 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.2 assists. People seemed to be a bit divided on the Pacers coming into the season but George is still an All-Star performer.
1. Isaiah Thomas
2. Kemba Walker
Here is where I probably get yelled at. Thomas is having an amazing season averaging over 29 points per game for the Celtics who are in third place in the East as of this writing. He has been money down the stretch. Thomas is the root of a lot of Boston’s defensive problems but his clutch play at the other end earns him the nod in my opinion.
Walker has taken his game to an even higher level this season posting career-highs in points, field goal percentage and three-point shooting. He is knocking down 41 percent of his three-point attempts which is four percentage points better than the career-best mark he set last season. The Hornets have struggled of late and that could cost Walker but he’s been too good in my opinion to not make this list.
So why no Joel Embiid? For myself it comes down to his status as a part time player. He is on a strict minutes restriction and is sitting out back-to-backs. When he has been on the court, he has been excellent and the Sixers have been better for it. If he makes it I won’t protest too loudly. Embiid’s time is coming but it isn’t quite here yet.
Western Conference Starters
G - Stephen Curry
G - James Harden
F - Kawhi Leonard
F - Kevin Durant
F - Anthony Davis
I nailed four fifths of the Western Conference starting lineup and the one I missed on is a no-brainer pick as a reserve.
1. Russell Westbrook
2. Chris Paul (Mike Conley)
Russell Westbrook has played in 46 games and has recorded a triple-double in 23 of them. He should be in the starting lineup and that isn’t a knock on Steph Curry who has been good for the best team in the league. It just speaks to the unbelievable nature of Westbrook’s season.
In a normal season, Chris Paul would have been a slam dunk pick for a starting spot. He’s done virtually everything for the Clippers but is out six to eight weeks due to thumb surgery. He still deserves to make the team and I am putting him on there and naming Mike Conley as his injury replacement.
Conley has emerged into one of the best point guards in the game that no one ever talks about. His numbers may not jump out at you especially when compared to the likes of Harden or Westbrook but he is the guiding force for the Grizzlies who are once again in the thick of things in the western conference race.
1. Draymond Green
2. Marc Gasol
3. DeMarcus Cousins
This is where things got tough. Draymond Green is the heart and soul of the Warriors and seems like a no-brainer pick. No one talks about Gasol but he is still one of the best centers in the game and has even added a three-point shot to his arsenal. I’m not the biggest fan of Cousins but it is hard to ignore 28 points and 10.3 rebounds per game despite being the focal point of every opposing defense.
1. Rudy Gobert
2. Gordon Hayward
It would have been really easy for me to put Klay Thompson or LaMarcus Aldridge into one of these two final spots. Thompson is shooting 39 percent from three and putting up perhaps the quietest 21 points per game in the league because he plays for the Warriors. The Spurs are 36-9 and probably deserve more than one All-Star.
Still I elected to go with a pair of Utah Jazz players in Rudy Gobert and Gordon Hayward. Gobert is perhaps hands down the best defensive center in the league. He’s also among the best rebounders in the game and is averaging 2.5 blocks per contest.
Hayward might be the most controversial name on this list but he shouldn’t be. He is averaging a career best 21 points per game while shooting 46 percent from the field and 40 percent from three-point range. The Jazz have been one of the best stories of the first half of the NBA season. Gobert and Hayward are the biggest reasons why.