HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — You didn’t really think we’d be able to wait until Thursday did you?
The ballots are due this afternoon for the coach’s selections for reserves for the Eastern and Western All-Star reserves. No one asked for our picks, but we’re providing them anyway.
Just in case some of the coaches need a helping hand in making their selections, we figured we’d get these out there this morning so they don’t have any excuses for botching these picks.
Our hard and fast rule of rewarding stellar seasons by players on the best teams (to this point in the season) had to be rearranged a bit this time around, blame it on the compressed schedule (everyone is blaming everything on it anyway). We stepped outside of our comfort zone a bit. And as important as it is for everyone that votes to get the starters right, it’s even more important that the coaches get the reserves absolutely right.
A little help for any of them feeling the pressure (and before you go crazy about it, we took a few liberties with the strict position designations to put our own stamp on this list):
*** The All-Star reserves will officially be announced Thursday night on TNT ***
Luol Deng, Chicago Bulls — 16.2 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists
The way Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau leans on Deng makes it hard for us to ignore him when it comes time to handing out these bids. His value to this Bulls team goes beyond just the numbers. The fact that he’s suffered from the injury means little here. He earned his way here last season but was snubbed. Not this time around. Derrick Rose doesn’t do all the heavy lifting.
Josh Smith, Atlanta Hawks — 15.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 2.1 blocks
Losing Al Horford for the season with a torn pectoral muscle forced Smith to readjust his game and take on some different responsibilities. Smith and Joe Johnson helped keep the Hawks among the East’s best in the aftermath of that news. Smith’s ability on both ends gives him an edge.
Chris Bosh, Miami Heat — 19.7 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.2 assists
Third wheel? So what. Bosh has played great under the circumstances. When Dwyane Wade was out with an injury Bosh stepped his game up dramatically, same as LeBron James. Statistically, he’s not in the same league as the Chris Bosh we were used to seeing in Toronto. But who cares. He’s been a consistent force for the Heat all season.
Andre Iguodala, Philadelphia 76ers — 12.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5.2 assists
The most valuable performer in an ensemble cast that has morphed from a playoff hopeful to one of the best teams in the East in a matter of months deserves his spot in that locker room in Orlando. Iguodala’s versatility and ability to play at a high level on both ends of the floor separates him from the pack.
Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics — 18.6 points, 5.5 assists, 5.5 rebounds
The Celtics’ recent revival can be traced directly to the return and resurgence of Pierce, who even at this advanced stage of his career remains one of the most diabolical competitors in the game. He’s putting up the numbers you’d expect from him and the Celtics (winners of four straight) are rallying around their captain.
Roy Hibbert, Indiana Pacers — 13.7 points, 9.7 rebounds, 1.8 blocks
Hibbert could have made this team as the center and no one could have complained. Horford going down with that torn pectoral muscle helps his cause but so too does the Pacers party crashing of the top of the standings. Hibbert outplayed Western Conference starter Andrew Bynum in a win over the Lakers and has had some of best performances in big games.
Joe Johnson, Atlanta Hawks — 18.6 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.6 assists
Johnson’s January surge and the Hawks’ record minus Horford helped him edge Deron Williams and Brandon Jennings for this final spot (Rajon Rondo was on pace early but missed a third of the Celtics’ games and Lou Williams coming off the bench in Philly is just a problem for us) for this final spot on the list.