It’s All-Star time and as per usual the depth of talent that the NBA is blessed with will see some worthy players miss out on a chance to represent their conference at the Mecca of basketball, Madison Square Garden, this year. As the starters have already been named, let’s take a look at the players most likely to be voted in by the assistant coaches of the NBA as reserves, keeping in mind this list follows the same rules coaches must follow in nominating players: two backcourt players, three frontcourt players and two players regardless of position.
Chris Paul: The perennial All-Star and leader of Lob City is third in the league in assists, averaging just under 10 a game. Commonsense will see Paul participate in his eighth straight All-Star game.
James Harden: I’m not going to lie, fans made a mistake at the two-guard when it came to voting for the starters. Harden is one of two front-runners for the MVP this year and deserved to be named a starter. Only an act of God could stop the league’s assistant coaches from selecting ‘The Beard’ as an All-Star. Harden is leading the league in scoring with over 27 PPG and has stepped up as the premier shooting guard in the league. (Apologies to Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade but that’s a statement of fact.)
Kevin Durant: The league’s reigning MVP has put his injury troubles behind him and, along with running mate Russell Westbrook, has begun the process of pulling the Oklahoma City Thunder into the playoff picture. In 21 games Durant is averaging 25.6 PPG, which would be good for third in the league behind Harden and LeBron James if his number of games played had qualified him amongst the league leaders. It is hard to believe a player of Durant’s calibre could miss out on an All-Star selection.
LaMarcus Aldridge: Coming off a career year in 2013/14, Aldridge looks like he is going to have another career year. The guy was just made to play the game of basketball. Averaging a cool 23.3 PPG and 10.2 RPG, Aldridge is a key reason the Portland Trail Blazers currently sit third in the Western Conference, aka Hell. If this thumb injury he’s playing with isn’t as severe as first thought, I’d put my money on him being named an All-Star yet again.
Zach Randolph: The man they call ‘Zeebo’ is tearing it up this season. Averaging 16.7 PPG and 12.0 RPG (fourth in the league) Randolph is performing at a high level on a team that is currently second in the Western Conference. This season should see Randolph join frontcourt teammate Marc Gasol in the Western All-Stars line-up.
Klay Thompson: Do I really need to explain why Klay Thompson should be selected as an All-Star for the first time in his career? If you aren’t convinced of his necessary inclusion, please refer to his recent third quarter performance against the Sacramento Kings. Thank you.
Tim Duncan: Remember how there was talk that Michael Jackson slept in a hyperbaric chamber? Well, I think Tim Duncan has found himself one because there is no other way to explain his ability to perform at such a high level for such a long time. The 38-year-old future Hall of Famer is still balling like a man with a chip on his shoulder. Averaging another double-double (14.8 PPG/10.0 RPG) this season, ‘The Big Fundamental’ and his San Antonio Spurs are on a mission to achieve that ever elusive back-to-back championship. If TD gets the nod, this will be his 15th All-Star appearance. Incredible!
Honourable Mention – Damian Lillard: With Kobe Bryant’s torn rotator cuff, a spot may open up at one of the guard positions. Insert Damian Lillard. In a stacked Western Conference, Lillard has proven he is one of the league’s finest point guards. Perhaps a bit of bad luck for the ‘Black Mamba’ could be the window Lillard needs for another All-Star selection.
Jeff Teague: If I could name the entire starting five of the Atlanta Hawks as All-Star reserves, I would. But let’s be real, that is not happening. Jeff Teague is a key contributor to the success the Hawks have been experiencing this season and should be called upon for his first career All-Star appearance. Teague is averaging 17.1 PPG and 7.5 APG and has helped the Hawks to a franchise record 16 straight victories.
Jimmy Butler: A massive what-if has played on my mind when it comes to Jimmy Butler. Imagine if Carmelo Anthony had gone to the Chicago Bulls. Would we see the same Jimmy Butler we have seen this season? I highly doubt it! Butler has taken the lead for the Bulls as Derrick Rose attempts to find his previous MVP form. Butler is leading the team in scoring (20.1 PPG) and minutes (39.5 MPG) while guarding the opposition’s best perimeter threat every night.
Paul Millsap: Millsap scored his first All-Star call-up last season and has again proved he deserves to be considered as one of the league’s most consistent frontcourt players. Millsap’s play, along with aforementioned teammate Jeff Teague, has been pivotal in the process of making the Atlanta Hawks a genuine contender for the title.
Chris Bosh: After the departure of LeBron James from South Beach, Chris Bosh was given more offensive responsibility and has taken this opportunity with both hands. Bosh is currently in position to average over 20 PPG in a season for the first time since the 2009/10 season (his last in Toronto). With the Miami Heat currently sitting in playoff position, Bosh should be rewarded with his 10th straight All-Star selection.
Al Horford: I changed this spot about four times before deciding to go with yet another Hawk. A healthy Al Horford has always been a positive difference maker in Atlanta and this season is no exception. Horford has played in all but two of the Hawks games this season and the team is safely atop the Eastern Conference. Horford’s consistent presence on both ends of the floor is invaluable to the Hawks’ chances of making some noise in the playoffs.
Dwyane Wade: Dwyane Wade’s health has been questioned over the last couple of seasons and his performance in last year’s playoffs indicated his storied career may be drawing to a close. This year has seen Wade play exceptionally well so far. Wade is top-15 in the league in scoring and is fourth in assists amongst shooting guards. The Heat are in the playoff race and Wade should be rewarded with an 11th straight All-Star selection.
Kyrie Irving: Kyrie has taken a back seat to ‘King James’ but has still been performing at a high level with less of the ball. Last year’s All-Star MVP is averaging just under 21 PPG on a Cleveland team that seems to be getting into a nice rhythm with the All-Star break in sight. In a weaker Eastern Conference, Irving should do enough to secure another All-Star berth.