The only real problem I had with the way the NBA All-Star starters vote turned out last week was the placement of Pelicans center DeMarcus Cousins over the Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns. I thought the final frontcourt spot in the East was a tough call between Joel Embiid (who has missed nine games) and Andre Drummond, but given the way the two teams have played lately, Embiid was the right call.
But now All-Star attention turns to the rest of the rosters from which captains LeBron James and Stephen Curry will choose. Though the teams at this year’s All-Star Game will be jumbled by conference, the process for selecting the reserves remains the same — coaches will pick two backcourt players, three frontcourt players and two wildcards.
Some of those picks will be no-brainers, some will be undeserving and there will be snubs. There are always snubs.
NBA All-Star East reserves
Backcourt: Victor Oladipo, Pacers. Few would have bet that Oladipo’s hot start would be sustainable, but he has kept chugging along as this year’s biggest surprise player. Those 24.2 points per game will get him to LA.
Backcourt: John Wall, Wizards. Wall has not been as good as he was last season, and the Wizards have been frustrating. But they’re still No. 5 in the East, and Wall’s ability to run the offense gives him the nod over teammate Bradley Beal.
Frontcourt: Al Horford, Celtics. Horford’s numbers (13.3 points, 7.7 rebounds) don’t scream for attention, but he also shoots 43.0 percent from the 3-point line and has been underrated in elevating the Celtics’ league-best defense.
Frontcourt: Andre Drummond, Pistons. The Pistons’ collapse in the standings could cost him, but Drummond is still averaging 14.3 points, 15.0 rebounds and a career-high 3.9 assists, while making 62.9 percent from the free-throw line.
Frontcourt: Kevin Love, Cavs. The Cavs’ defense has fallen apart, and they’re 4-10 in their last 14. That could cost Love. But overall, he has had great numbers (18.6 points, 9.4 rebounds, 40.1 percent from the 3-point line), and the Cavs are still third in the East, deserving of two All-Stars.
Wild card: Kyle Lowry, Raptors. Lowry could get snubbed here because his numbers are down overall (17.0 points in 33.0 minutes), but he has been the guy who has most sacrificed in order to make the Raptors' offense work better. Toronto is on pace for 56 wins, and Lowry deserves credit.
Wild card: Kristaps Porzingis, Knicks. Porzingis will benefit from the lack of talent in the East and get a spot on the team, beating out Beal, Ben Simmons and Hassan Whiteside. He is averaging 23.3 points and making 38.5 percent of his 3s, but he’s gotten worse as the season has gone on.
Snubs: Simmons is close, but his offense needs work; Whiteside has missed too many games; Beal’s Wizards have disappointed, and he is one-dimensional.
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NBA All-Star West reserves
Backcourt: Russell Westbrook, Thunder. He’s not averaging a triple-double, but hey, he’s only off by 0.3 rebounds per game — he’s averaging 24.8 points, a league-best 10.1 assists and 9.7 rebounds. Easy pick.
Backcourt: Jimmy Butler, Timberwolves. It was a rocky start for Minnesota, but they’ve recovered and are now on pace for 51 wins. Butler is averaging 21.7 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.0 assists, giving the Wolves just what they needed.
Frontcourt: Karl-Anthony Towns, Timberwolves. Towns had my vote as a starter. His scoring is down, but only because he’s taking fewer shots to accommodate Butler. He takes heat for the Wolves’ defensive problems, but they’ve improved there, and the guy is averaging 20.2 points and 12.0 rebounds while shooting 41.5 percent on 3s.
Frontcourt: LaMarcus Aldridge, Spurs. Aldridge has held the Spurs together through the injury woes of star Kawhi Leonard, with 22.3 points and 8.7 rebounds. He will be a shoo-in for the All-Star team.
Frontcourt: Paul George, Thunder. George has sacrificed on the offensive end, but is still averaging 20.8 points and making 42.9 percent of his 3s. He’s also played elite defense for the No. 4 defensive team in the league.
Wild card: Klay Thompson, Warriors. Thompson is shooting a bit less this year, but making a league-high 45.3 percent of his 3s, averaging a career-best 4.0 rebounds and still maintaining a 20.6 points per game average.
Wild card: Draymond Green, Warriors. Whether Green makes the team will be the big question in the West — he would have to beat out Damian Lillard, Nikola Jokic and DeAndre Jordan. Green averages only 11.3 points, and he is making 31.2 percent his 3s, but he averages 7.9 rebounds and 7.6 assists. As the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, he is vital to the Warriors’ defense, which ranks fifth. He gets the nod.
Snubs: Chris Paul has missed too many games; Lillard is on the cusp, but can’t beat out Green’s overall value; Jokic has not really made strides this year; Jordan (and teammate Lou Williams) would make a nice story representing the scrappy Clippers in LA, but the numbers have not been there consistently.