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Predicting The All-Star Reserves – West

The NBA released the second wave of All-Star Ballot results, so who should be the reserves in the West?

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The NBA released the second wave of All-Star ballot results yesterday, so we have something of an idea of where the voters are leaning with regards to the Starters for the Western Conference.

Frontcourt  Backcourt
1. Anthony Davis (NO) 732,154  1. Stephen Curry (GS) 755,486
2. Blake Griffin (LAC) 403,415  2. Kobe Bryant (LAL) 694,665
3. Marc Gasol (Mem) 343,587  3. James Harden (Hou) 516,514
4. Tim Duncan (SA) 288,235  4. Chris Paul (LAC) 334,544
5. Kevin Durant (OKC) 254,448  5. Damian Lillard (Por) 147,955
6. LaMarcus Aldridge (Por) 234,290  6. Rajon Rondo (Dal) 137,974
7. DeMarcus Cousins (Sac) 165,456  7. Klay Thompson (GS) 128,542
8. Dwight Howard (Hou) 161,295  8. Russell Westbrook (OKC) 122,134
9. Dirk Nowitzki (Dal) 139,967  9. Jeremy Lin (LAL) 114,286
10. Kawhi Leonard (SA) 101,651  10. Tony Parker (SA) 67,362
11. Rudy Gay (Sac) 75,827
12. DeAndre Jordan (LAC) 58,200
13. Tyson Chandler (Dal) 48,191
14. Nick Young (LAL) 46,323
15. Zach Randolph (Mem) 43,897

*Projected starters are highlighted in bold red.

We asked Jessica Camerato, Alex Kennedy, Nate Duncan, Moke Hamilton and Joel Brigham to make some early predictions on those players that should get the nod from the coaches. Earlier this week they predicted the Eastern Conference Reserves, here are the Western Conference predictions:

Jessica
Camerato
Alex
Kennedy
Nate
Duncan
Moke
Hamilton
Joel
Brigham
Chris Paul Chris Paul Chris Paul Damian Lillard* Chris Paul
Damian Lillard* Damian Lillard* Damian Lillard* DeMarcus Cousins* Damian Lillard*
DeMarcus Cousins* DeMarcus Cousins* DeMarcus Cousins* Dwight Howard DeMarcus Cousins*
James Harden* James Harden* Kevin Durant James Harden* James Harden*
Klay Thompson Kevin Durant James Harden* Klay Thompson Kevin Durant
LaMarcus Aldridge LaMarcus Aldridge Tim Duncan LaMarcus Aldridge LaMarcus Aldridge
Tim Duncan Russell Westbrook Russell Westbrook Russell Westbrook Russell Westbrook

*=Denoted unanimous selection

We asked each of our writers to walk us through their voting process a bit:

Nate Duncan

Let’s start again with the annual plea (first voiced by Memphis Grizzlies Executive John Hollinger in his ESPN days) for the league to divide the voting into point guards, wings and bigs. Those are the positions that actually are interchangeable, and would eliminate the chance of a team having to start three bigs as the West is on track for this year.

Also, as others have noted, Kobe Bryant should be nowhere near this All-Star game. I normally don’t have a problem with past-their-prime legends getting a starting spot if the fans want to see it, but Bryant has been so much worse than so many deserving backcourt candidates that it’s really an issue this year. It’s especially unfair because All-Star appearances coincide with bigger contracts in free agency. Being voted in as an All-Star starter can also directly affect whether a young player is eligible for a larger max contract after his fourth year, as can making an All-NBA team—a quest one would imagine is helped by the publicity of an All-Star appearance since it is voted on by the writers.

With that out of the way, on to the reserves. Remember again the format is three frontcourt, two backcourt, and two wild cards. They are selected by the coaches, who cannot vote for their own players. These also are my picks of who is most deserving, rather than who I predict the coaches will select.

Westbrook and especially Durant have missed time, but they have such a good track record that they absolutely need to be All-Stars if healthy, especially since both have played at such high levels this season. They are such better players than the remaining guys, both when they’ve played this year and over the long haul, that they just have to be in there. Oklahoma City’s awful performance with them out of the lineup only confirms their greatness.

Paul still has an argument for best point guard in the league. He has dropped off slightly from last year, but he’s still piloting the number three offense in the league. Paul is still a top-10 player in the league, at a minimum.

Harden is the best shooting guard in the league, and really the only premium offensive player on the Rockets at this point. He’s even improved his defense from horrendous to passable this year, although reports of him actually being good are a little premature. But he’s still in a different zip code offensively above someone like Klay Thompson due to his ability to create efficient offense for himself and others.

Lillard is the main cog for the league’s number seven offense, and has greatly improved his defense this year. Throw in his awesome clutch shot-making, turnover avoidance, and the way his shooting bends defenses pick and roll coverage, and he needs to be on the squad.

Westbrook gets a wild card slot as a guard over Mike Conley and Klay Thompson. Those players are having great seasons, but Westbrook is a top-10 and possibly top-five player in the league when healthy. The real crime is that Kobe Bryant is preventing either Conley or Thompson from making it.

That leaves five realistic candidates for the remaining two frontcourt slots: Dirk Nowitzki, LaMarcus Aldridge, Dwight Howard, DeMarcus Cousins and Tim Duncan.

Dirk is still a massive force with his shooting gravity offensively, and if anyone deserves a legacy invite it’s he instead of Kobe. But he plays only 29.3 MPG now, and his lateral movement and hops have declined to the point where he is one of the worst defensive bigs in the league now despite his best efforts. His usage is also on the wane while he’s having a poor shooting season by his standards. He doesn’t make it this year.

Howard has missed significant time this year, and hasn’t been quite as effective when he has played. Houston’s defense held up pretty well in his absence, and his usage and offensive rebounding are down this year. He hasn’t quite performed at the level of these other guys.

Cousins has been probably the best of these players on a per minute basis, both in the box score and by comparing the Kings’ results with him on and off the court. But he’s played 10 games less than most other candidates, and his defense has started to regress a bit with the Kings’ faster pace under Tyrone Corbin after a great start to the season. Nevertheless, he’s been so effective that he has to be in.

Duncan is actually playing his most minutes per game in a few years and remains one of the top few defensive bigs by plus-minus metrics. He’s keeping the Spurs afloat as their offense has really struggled at times this year. Unfortunately, he is also at the point now where he is no longer a premium offensive player. His screening is ever solid, but he’s been bricking away from midrange and his postups only really work against weaker defenders now. Nevertheless, his on/off numbers and efficiency are much better than Aldridge’s. He gets the last big spot.

Aldridge’s high PER is based more in usage than efficiency, but his shooting in the midrange still must be guarded. That opens up opportunities for others, despite the fact he himself is not incredibly efficient. One might also think that as a power forward Aldridge has been perhaps the key cog in the Blazers’ unexpectedly potent number two defense with his length and mobility for his size. But that has not really shown up in any defensive metrics.

It’s an agonizing decision between these guys, but I ultimately go with Cousins and Duncan because of their defense at the center position. That leaves us with only one Grizzly, one Spur, one Blazer, one Warrior and no Mavs. That’s life in perhaps the deepest conference in history.

Jessica Camerato

There are more than enough players to fill the Western Conference reserves — take your pick of stars. There will be snubs because of that, and names could be swapped as we get closer to the game.

First up: James Harden. The NBA’s top scorer (27.4 points) has led the Houston Rockets to a hot start in spite of Dwight Howard missing 11 straight games.

Harden should be joined in the backcourt by Damian Lillard, who has become a threat across all categories with 21.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game. Add in Klay Thompson, whose 21.3 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.3 points per game are a key component of the Golden State Warriors league-leading record.

Here’s where it gets tricky. There are several guards that could make a case for the team. It is difficult to leave out Russell Westbrook who, despite missing nearly the entire month of November, has burst back to average 28.0 points, 5.7 rebounds and 7.3 assists while leading the Oklahoma City Thunder in Kevin Durant’s absence. There are guards who have appeared in more games, though, and for that reason I’ll give the nod to Chris Paul (18.1 points, 9.4 assists and 4.6 rebounds).

In the battle of the bigs, LaMarcus Aldridge is averaging a double-double (22.9 points, 10.6 rebounds) with 1.3 blocks. He’s a lock.

When it comes to the last two frontcourt spots, my picks couldn’t be more different: the consummate professional Tim Duncan and the unpredictable DeMarcus Cousins. Duncan continues to post All-Star worthy performances in his 18th season with focus and poise. Cousins has the numbers to earn a spot, too. His challenge will be convincing others to see beyond his reputation and look at his game.

Joel Brigham

It’s entirely unreasonable to have an All-Star team that doesn’t feature any Mavericks or Spurs, particularly because those two organizations have been among the most impressive, cohesive units in the conference this season, but when you look at the names that actually made the list it’s hard to decide which guy needs to be deleted to make room for Dirk Nowitzki, Monta Ellis or Tim Duncan.

Mike Conley definitely deserves to get in with the year he’s having, but there are just too many great Western Conference point guards. When you’re behind Curry, Paul, Lillard and Westbrook your prospects aren’t strong.

Golden State deserves two All-Stars this year, and Thompson is having a banner season, but once again, look at this guard corps and find someone worthy of replacement.

Durant’s inclusion may be controversial because of his injuries this year, but he’s an All-Star Weekend staple and could very easily find himself voted in.

It’s going to be a really strong West squad whoever makes it, but the snubs will sting because there about 18 guys that deserve to fill only 12 spots.

Snubs: Mike Conley, Klay Thompson, the Mavericks and Spurs

Moke Hamilton

This is a task that is absolutely impossible.

The Western Conference is so chock full of good teams and good players that choosing seven All-Star reserves is such a difficult endeavor. It gets even more difficult when you begin putting names on paper and realizing how quickly you’ve run out of spots.

For me, I wouldn’t even entertain the thought of not having both LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard on my reserve list and since the Golden State Warriors have been the best team in the league all season long, I felt they deserved to have a second representative along with Stephen Curry, so Klay Thompson, for me, was in.

James Harden is the league’s leading scorer and is a legitimate MVP candidate, so there was no way to leave him out, either, right?

And just like that, four of my seven reserve spots were taken.

By rule, I had to select two more front court players and the five players for consideration were: Kevin Durant, Dirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan, Dwight Howard and DeMarcus Cousins. I immediately dismissed Durant based on the combination of his team’s record and the percentage of games he has missed. The combination of better team record and better individual numbers than Duncan and Nowitzki told me that Dwight Howard deserved the nod, so I took him.

I gave my third front court reserve spot to Cousins. I would only select a player from a losing team if their statistical production was borderline amazing, and I think Cousins’ is. Plus, if not for his bout with bacterial meningitis or the team’s firing of Mike Malone, the Kings may still be in play for the seventh seed. In effect, I gave him Durant’s spot.

I had one more guard spot to fill and for me, the choice came down to Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook. I deliberated and went back and forth but decided on Westbrook for similar reasons as Cousins. I rationalized snubbing Paul by convincing myself that the underachieving Clippers didn’t deserve two All-Stars and that Westbrook should be rewarded for helping the Thunder stay afloat in Durant’s absence.

Like I said, this was an absolutely impossible task. One could easily make the case that one of the four players I snubbed deserve to be in and I certainly wouldn’t argue.

Alex Kennedy

This was really, really hard.

No matter what, there will be some very talented players left off of the Western Conference team because there simply isn’t enough room for all of the stars who are playing at an All-Star-caliber level.

Last year, the team included four guards, and I think they’ll do the same thing this year because there are just too many talented guards in the conference.

I went with James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Damian Lillard and Chris Paul. There are plenty of other guards who have been excellent this year, but I feel that these players have been the best and contributed the most to their team’s success.

LaMarcus Aldridge, DeMarcus Cousins and Kevin Durant were my frontcourt selections. I think Aldridge and Cousins are locks because they’ve been outstanding this season, while Durant will need to get healthy quickly and remain at 100 percent in order to make it. If he misses more games, he’ll be left out. However, if he’s healthy and playing at a high level – and helps the Thunder climb into the playoff picture – I could see the coaches picking him.

The fact that the team needs a small forward (especially with Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin and Marc Gasol poised to start) and there’s no obvious replacement will help Durant’s chances.

My biggest snubs were Klay Thompson, Dwight Howard, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Mike Conley, Rajon Rondo and Dirk Nowitzki. In a recent video discussing first-time All-Stars, I made the case for Thompson, but there are just too many talented guards here.

Again, it’s almost impossible to pick the reserves in the West because the conference is just loaded with talent. One could argue that the list of snubs in the West is actually better than the list of actual reserves in the East. The West is just that good.

Balloting concludes on Monday, Jan. 19. Starters will be announced live on TNT on Thursday, Jan. 22 with the 64th NBA All-Star Game tipping off Sunday, Feb. 15 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

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Adam Silver Believes Next Year’s ASG Draft Will be Televised

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NBA commissioner Adam Silver said he was pleased with the new format for the league’s All-Star Game and believed that next year’s player draft would be televised.

“I thought it was incredible. I can’t tell you how appreciative I am of the players,” Silver told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne following a 148-145 win for Team LeBron over Team Stephen at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Source: ESPN

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2018 NBA All-Star Sunday Recap

Michael Petrower recaps the All-Star Game from Sunday in Los Angeles.

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The 2018 NBA All Star Game had some added appeal this year, with Captains LeBron James and Stephen Curry selecting playground style from the pool of All-Stars. Although it was not televised, it drew a lot of interest to say the least.

Team Lebron was headlined by Kevin Durant (the alleged first pick), Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook, and Kyrie Irving. Sadly, Team Lebron suffered big losses with John Wall, Demarcus Cousins, Kevin Love and Kristaps Porzingis going down with injuries. Team Stephen was led by Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Harden, Joel Embiid and Demar DeRozan.

NBA fans were ready to indulge on the highlight real of plays to commence…That was, until the NBA inflicted a marathon-like performance that seemed a bit unnecessary, to say the least. Kevin Hart was at the center of theatrics that had NBA fans scratching their heads questioning what was on their television screen. Fergie topped off the saga with what was one of the more questionable national anthems we’ve seen in recent years. However, if you stuck around long enough, the game started at 8:40 PM EST and the flashy plays that we hoped for, began.

Joel Embiid made his first A;l-Star game appearance and kicked off the scoring festivities for Team Stephen with a ferocious and-one dunk. Team Stephen led all of the first quarter and won the quarter 42-31. Karl Anthony Towns led the first quarter scoring with 11 points. Team LeBron, however would storm back and cut the lead to two, 78-76 at half. LeBron came into his 14th straight All-Star game and lead his team at the half with 15 points. Klay Thompson also lead Team Stephen with 15 points at half.

The second half ensued and after some back and forth between the two teams, Team Stephen was leading by three going into the fourth quarter, 112-109. Team Stephen grew their lead to 11 while LeBron and KD got some rest. But after the two came back in, the 11-point deficit was erased after a LeBron three and the teams were now tied at 144 with 1:16 left in the fourth quarter.

DeRozan would make a free throw to put Team Stephen up one point, but Lebron followed with a strong two-pointer to put his team up one. DeRozan tried to answer, but threw away a pass which resulted in an easy two points for Russell Westbrook to ice the game. Team LeBron was the 2018 All Star Game winner with a score of 148-145.

LeBron James went on to win his third All Star MVP after finishing with 29 points to go along with 10 rebounds, eigh assists and a steal on 12-17 shooting. DeRozan and Damian Lillard lead Team Stephen with 21 points each.

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VIDEO: James Harden – 2018 NBA All-Star

Houston Rockets star James Harden talks about speaking out as an athlete, his Rockets team and more.

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Houston Rockets star James Harden talks about speaking out as an athlete, his Rockets team and more.

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