The reserves for the All-Star game will be officially announced on Thursday, and once the rosters are filled the real debate begins.
Give the fans credit for choosing Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Kevin Garnett to start for the East and Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, and Dwight Howard to start for the West. Hard to argue with those selections. If you had all 10 players on your fan vote cue, you could have cashed in on NBA futures odds at Topbet.
To fill out the 12-man rosters for the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference, OneManFastBreak.net picks the 14 reserves who could punch their tickets to All-Star Weekend on Feb. 17 in Houston:
GUARDS — Russell Westbrook (Thunder), James Harden (Rockets), Tony Parker (Spurs), Stephen Curry (Warriors)
Westbrook is averaging 23 points, five rebounds, and eight assists this season. Find another point guard in the league with those statistics! Westbrook’s 8.2 assists matches his career high, and he’s one of only nine players in the NBA scoring over 20 points. Westbrook’s former OKC teammate James Harden is having a breakout season and should be a lock to represent the host team on All-Star Weekend. Harden is fifth in scoring (25.9) and his 10.1 free throw attempts is the best in the league. The Spurs are now Tony Parker’s team. The Spurs will only go as far as Parker takes them. Normally you’d take just three guards, but this year you should be able to carry four and make room for Warriors point guard Steph Curry. When he’s healthy — and he has been for the most part — there is no better shooting point guard in the NBA that Dell Curry’s son. Steph is making 46% of his 3-pointers, which is the best in league.
FORWARDS — LaMarcus Aldridge (Trail Blazers), Zach Randolph (Grizzlies)
Even though rookie point guard Damian Lillard has gotten all the attention this season for his sparking play, LaMarcus Aldridge remains the anchor of the Portland Trail Blazers. The Grizzlies really have three worthy All-Stars on the their team (Gay, Zach Randolph, and Marc Gasol), and you can’t really go wrong picking any of those three. Randolph is a double-double machine, and his role will expand should Memphis decide to move Gay by the trading deadline.
CENTER — Tim Duncan (Spurs)
At 36, Tim Duncan is certainly past his prime but he remains one of the best two-way players in the NBA. Duncan (17 points, nearly 10 rebounds) may not be the focal point of San Antonio’s offense, but if you ask Gregg Popovich who is his most indispensable player he’ll say it’s Timmy because he’s not only San Antonio’s best low-post scorer, but he’s still the team’s defensive anchor. And you can argue that Duncan should be the starting center for the West instead of Dwight Howard.
GUARDS — Kyrie Irving (Cavaliers), Jrue Holiday (Sixers), Paul George (Pacers)
LeBron James recently endorsed Irving as an All-Star, and after Kyrie’s 40-point outburst against the Boston Celtics he should be making his first All-Star Game appearance. The Sixers have had a tough season without injured center Andrew Bynum, but Philly is still within striking distance for a playoff spot thanks in large part to point guard Jrue Holiday (19 points per game). Where would the Pacers be without Paul George? Take away George (17 points and eight rebounds) and Indiana could easily be a lottery team. George has been that good this season.
FORWARDS — Joakim Noah (Bulls), Chris Bosh (Heat), Al Horford (Hawks)
The Bulls are in the playoff hunt despite not having superstar Derrick Rose because of their defense and the energy of Joakim Noah (12 points and 11 rebounds). Very few big men can guard all five positions and Noah is a first-team all-defense candidate. Bosh may not be enjoying a career season, but he remains a solid pick to make another All-Star appearance. The third forward reserve will come down to Hawks forwards Josh Smith and Al Horford. Both are All-Star worthy, but team leader Horford gets the slight nod to represent the surprising Hawks, who are five games out of first in the East. Two former Florida Gators — Noah and Horford — in Houston! Tells how how good Billy Donovan’s Gators were.
CENTER — Brook Lopez (Nets)
Where would the Nets be without Brook Lopez? The 7-footer has, for the most part, stayed healthy this season and is enjoying arguably the best season of his young career. The big fell from Stanford University is averaging 18 points and seven rebounds, shooting 51% from the field, and his 2.1 blocks per game is the best of his career. People laughed at Shaquille O’Neal when he said Lopez is the second-best center in the NBA. No one is laughing now.
Joel Huerto is the editor and publisher of OneManFastBreak.net. Follow him on Twitter @onemanfastbreak.