Now that the starters for the 2011 NBA All-Star Game have been announced (see here) there will be debates aplenty regarding which players are deserving of a spot on the East/West bench. Some will base their arguments strictly on statistics. Some will site team success as a viable reason to be named an all-star, while others will use pure player popularity as their deciding factor (Yao Ming is a great example of this). I prefer to base my all-star reserve picks on a combination of factors: statistics, team success, consistency and overall excitement level. We can’t forget that the all-star game IS generally an exhibition, unlike in the MLB where the winner dictates World Series home field advantage (which is plain idiotic). So here are my pick for the West squad’s reserves (two guards, two forwards, one center and two more of any position):
Russell Westbrook, Thunder - 22.6 ppg, 8.5 apg, 5 rpg
In just his third season Westbrook is establishing himself as one of the most exciting guards in the NBA. He’s lightning quick, plays defense, hits the glass and dishes the rock. He’s also extremely durable, having yet to miss a game in his NBA career. Westbrook is as much a reason for the Thunder’s success as Kevin Durant.
Manu Ginobili, Spurs – 18.8 ppg, 4.9 apg, 3.8 rpg
Believe it or not, but Manu has been the best player on the top team of the first half. Ginobili leads the Spurs in scoring, has been equally effective both at home and on the road and has hit a number of big shots. Sounds like a strong application for an all-star candidate to me.
Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks - 23 ppg, 7 rpg, 2.5 apg
Even though Dirk’s rebounding numbers have slipped he has still played at a high level the entire first half. He has been slowed by injuries in January but Nowitzki is still one of the top shooting big men in NBA history. Need proof? 52% overall, 40% from the three point line and 87% from the charity stripe = All-Star.
Blake Griffin, Clippers - 22.6 ppg, 12.8 rpg, 3.5 apg
Yes, the Clippers still have a losing record. But if it weren’t for Blake Griffin, would you even check their box scores or search youtube for anything involving the Clips? I didn’t think so. Griffin leads all rookies in scoring and rebounding and is a triple double waiting to happen. And he’ll put your favorite player on a poster. ‘Nuff said.
LaMarcus Aldridge, Trailblazers - 21 ppg, 9 rpg, 1.2 bpg
Aldridge should get the nod here strictly on the fact that he has avoided the knee epidemic that has plagued the Blazers. With Portland’s star Brandon Roy on the mend Aldridge has been HMIC (head man in charge), upping his scoring to 25 per in January and keeping Portland in the 8th seed. I have him down as the impromptu backup center.
Deron Williams, Jazz - 22 ppg, 9.4 apg, 3.7 rpg
Williams gets my vote as the NBA’s top PG right now, but that will be debatable for many years to come. D. Will is also having his best season as a pro, scoring at a career high clip while still finding his teammates to the tune of 9+ assists a night. He also has an overachieving Utah squad in the middle of the playoff hunt, which is quite an accomplishment in itself (see here for details).
Eric Gordon, Clippers - 24.1 ppg, 4.5 apg, 3 rpg
Before going down with a wrist and finger injury Eric Gordon was putting together an excellent season. He’s provided the upstart Clippers with a dependable scoring threat from the perimeter to compliment Blake Griffin’s post presence. Gordon is probably out until after the break but his great season should be acknowledged nonetheless.
Kevin Love, Timberwolves - 21.6 ppg, 15.6 rpg, .445% 3pt (injury fill-in)
Have to give Kevin Love his shine for the “Numb#rs” he’s put up in the first half, which includes a 30-30 game along with six other 20-20 performances. Love is a throwback rebounding machine. And he can and will knock down the jumper, as his 44% shooting clip from 3-point range confirms. With vote-in starter Yao Ming injured that should open a spot for Love as either Dirk, Blake or Aldridge can move into the starting lineup.
That’s how my reserves for the West shape up. A case could be made for a few other players having great seasons (Kevin Martin, Rudy Gay and Monta Ellis come to mind) but there just isn’t enough room on the roster to accommodate everyone. Any counter arguments? Leave a comment or find me on twitter (@A_RamseyLTSB). I’ll have my picks for Eastern Conference reserves tomorrow.