Chris Paul was voted an All-Star starter for the Western Conference and Jeremy Lin, after being in contention based on early returns in the NBA’s annual popularity contest, was not. Order has been restored.
That means the West opening lineup went according to what would have been easy preseason predictions — Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin and Dwight Howard in the frontcourt, Kobe Bryant and Paul at guard — and that means the coach’s vote on the reserves won’t have to use a roster spot to right a wrong at the level of Lin ahead of CP3.
It will be down to the usual hard choices to fill out the roster. This year, that could mean picking between teammates (Stephen Curry or David Lee in Golden State), between teammates at the same position (Memphis reps Zach Randolph or Marc Gasol for the frontcourt), and whether the newest test for a rookie (Damian Lillard) will be patience.
There are always cases to be made. But here are the seven most-deserving selections for the West All-Star bench. (For Steve Aschburner‘s look at the East, click here.)
There are several names. Russell Westbrook. James Harden. Tony Parker. Curry. Lillard. Jamal Crawford. There just isn’t much room for debate for the two picks.
Harden is fourth in the league in scoring at 26.3 ppg and the leader of the sudden recovery in Houston, the host city. Westbrook is top five in assists and steals.
My picks: Westbrook and Harden.
Now we’re talking debate. (And now we’re also talking a little strange to have a year without Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol or Kevin Love.)
Randolph (16.4 ppg, 11.6 rpg) and Lee (19.7 ppg, 10.9 rpg) are double-double power forwards for teams in or pushing for the top half of the playoff race. Gasol (13.2 ppg and 7.4 rpg) and Serge Ibaka (14 ppg, 8.3 rpg) can’t keep up statistically, but defense is a major reason their teams are winning at a brisk pace. Tim Duncan, usually a popular pick for coaches in years he is not voted a starter by fans, is at 17.1 ppg and 9.6 rpg in just 30.1 minutes. LaMarcus Aldridge (20.6 ppg, 8.6 rpg) has helped push the Trail Blazers into playoff contention ahead of schedule. Denver’s Kenneth Faried (12.3 ppg, 10.0 rpg) and Utah’s Al Jefferson (17.4 ppg, 9.8 rpg) may get support.
My picks: Randolph, Duncan and Lee. Randolph likely breezes in. It would be a surprise if Duncan does not make it to Houston, either this way or via the wild card, but it will be interesting to see if Duncan and Parker split votes among coaches around the West for San Antonio representation. The Spurs could get both and deserve both, but some voters may prefer to get more teams involved rather than have two subs from the same team. Lee could be a close call to make it.
THE WILD CARDS
Two players chosen by coaches regardless of position. Some voters may be weighing the other picks — starters and their previous selections by position — and some may simply go for most deserving and not care if the roster is guard-heavy. But everyone mentioned above but not added specifically as frontcourt or guard will be a candidate here.
My picks: Parker and Curry. Parker for sure. If some coaches are debating whether to pick one from Golden State’s Lee-Curry option, Curry deserves a slight edge. The position breakdown could make that moot, though.