The rosters for the East and West squads in the 2012 NBA All-Star Game in Orlando were finalized Thursday night when the reserves were announced on TNT.
Joining starters Kobe Bryant (Lakers), Chris Paul (Clippers), Blake Griffin (Clippers), Kevin Durant (Thunder), and Andrew Bynum (Lakers) on the West team are guards Steve Nash (Suns), Russell Westbrook (Thunder) and Tony Parker (Spurs), forwards Dirk Nowitzki (Mavericks), LaMarcus Aldridge (Blazers) and Kevin Love (Timberwolves), and center Marc Gasol (Grizzlies).
Joining LeBron James (Heat), Dwyane Wade (Heat), Derrick Rose (Bulls), Carmelo Anthony (Knicks) and Dwight Howard (Magic) on the East team are guards Deron Williams (Nets) and Joe Johnson (Hawks), forwards Paul Pierce (Celtics), Luol Deng (Bulls), Andre Iguodala (76ers) and Chris Bosh (Heat), and center Roy Hibbert (Pacers).
The entire selection process is an imperfect system, which leads to a lot of second-guessing on the part of fans, writers, former and current players. There are only 12 spots on each side so there will be some glaring omissions. Here are four who should have been selected:
MONTA ELLIS (Warriors)
For the past three seasons, you can argue that Ellis has been the third-best shooting guard in the league behind only Bryant and Wade. Ellis gets downgraded for playing on a team under .500, but that didn’t stop voters from picking 38-year-old Steve Nash who plays for an 11-15 Phoenix squad. Of the 12 players who are averaging more than 20 points per game, Ellis (22.2) is the only player on the list who did not make the All-Star game. It’s time for the coaches to recognize Ellis as a bonafide star. Drop Nash and add Ellis on the West squad.
RUDY GAY (Grizzlies)
Why do we need a second center on the West squad? Bynum is the ONLY center who deserves to be in the game. Marc Gasol is a good center, but he’s not an All-Star. He’s not even better than his older brother, Pau. His teammate, Rudy Gay, on the other hand deserves to be in Orlando. After a slow start, Gay is finally shaking off last season’s shoulder injury by leading the Grizzlies in scoring (18.4). Gay would be far more entertaining in a glorified pick-up game than the plodding Gasol.
JOSH SMITH (Hawks)
The Hawks wouldn’t be where they are without J-Smooth. When Al Horford went down, Smith has stepped up his game and arguably is Atlanta’s most valuable player this season. Smith’s true value lies in the hustle board: 8.9 rebounds, 1.5 steals, and 2.0 blocks. His scoring statistics (15.6) may not be as sexy as the other players, but the intangibles that he brings to the court is what sets him apart from other forwards. You can make a strong case for Smith to be on the East squad over his teammate Joe Johnson.
BRANDON JENNINGS (Bucks)
The Bucks are three games under .500, but they would be a lot worse without Jennings. The 6-foot-1 point guard is enjoying his best season as a pro, averaging career highs in points (18.9), steals (1.6), and shooting 42% from the field. And Jennings has been at his best against some of the East’s best teams. His signature moment came in a victory over Miami on Feb. 1, finishing with 31 points, eight assists, and seven 3-pointers. It wouldn’t be a terrible idea to exclude Deron Williams off the team and add Jennings instead because Williams’ Nets team (8-19) has been absolutely horrendous.