NBA All-Star Game 2012 Reserves: Who Should Be In, Who Should Be Out

 
on February 10 2012 9:32 PM

The 2012 NBA All-Star Game rosters are complete!

The 14 reserve players selected -- seven each from the Eastern and Western Conferences -- were announced Thursday on TNT, chosen by the 30 NBA head coaches who were asked to vote for two guards, two forwards, one center, and two players regardless of position. They were not permitted to vote for players from their own team.

As is the case every season, some reserves are more deserving of a spot than others. Any combination of factors -- from team record to individual stats to historical resume to a player's name itself -- can either help the player get in or get snubbed.   

That said, this year's selections had a fair amount of questionable selections and snubs. What is notable is that five players will be going to the game for the first time. That's a step in the right direction, a sign that despite a shortened season, all the coaches truly considered all factors and rewarded players for their total body of work for this season.

The
The rosters for the 2012 NBA All-Star Game have been finalized. The game will be played in Orlando, Fla. on Feb. 26.(Wikipedia)

What is also notable is the pool of talent in the NBA coupled with the compressed schedule, which has understandably made it harder get the selections right -- at least those from the Western Conference. The Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, and Houston Rockets all have winning records, but no player from those respective teams was voted in.

Here are all the players that did get voted in:

Eastern Conference

Chris Bosh, Miami Heat, forward

Luol Deng, Chicago Bulls, forward

Roy Hibbert, Indiana Pacers, center

Andre Iguodala, Philadelphia 76ers, forward

Joe Johnson, Atlanta Hawks, guard

Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics, forward

Deron Williams, New Jersey Nets, guard

Western Conference

LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers, forward

Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies, center

Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves, forward

Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks, forward

Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs, guard

Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder, guard

Steve Nash, Phoenix Suns, guard

The East starters are Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard, Bulls guard Derrick Rose, Heat guard Dwyane Wade, New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, and Heat forward LeBron James.

Many would argue that Anthony, despite being a top-five scorer by the time he was selected, should not have been a starter, and that Bosh should have taken his place. The Knicks were a mere 8-14 by the time Anthony was announced a starter, while Bosh averaged 20 points and eight rebounds per game -- including 27 and seven while his teammate Wade was injured -- until that point.

So, if Bosh were to have been named starter, could Anthony have been a reserve given New York's recent success? The answer is probably not mainly because he missed several games this season due to various injuries. 

That would leave Anthony completely off the roster, which leaves a spot open and none more deserving of it than one of two guys -- Hawks forward Josh Smith and Milwaukee Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings.

Yes, Smith is overshadowed by his teammate Johnson, but since center Al Horford went down with an injury, he has stepped it up defensively, averaging more rebounds (9.3) and blocks (2.3) per game than his season averages. Meanwhile, since Jennings's teammate center Andrew Bogut went down with an injury, Jennings is averaging only 16 points and five assists per game, down from his season averages. However, considering he also leads his entire team in scoring, and the Bucks are clinging on to the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, Jennings's body of work seems more valuable than Smith's. Plus, the Hawks are currently the fifth seed Eastern Conference seed and might be a lock for the playoffs.

But wait! Doesn't Deron Williams also seem like a head-scratcher, maybe the biggest among all the reserves?

OK, he is averaging about 21 points and nine assists per game, but the Nets are at the bottom of the Atlantic division at 8-19. Williams may have also been indirectly receiving a statistics boost because he has been playing on a bad team where he handles the ball most of the time. It seems like the coaches, then, overlooked that and also failed to evaluate all the factors mentioned before, bypassing team record in favor of all the others.

Therefore, put Smith in alongside Jennings.

The West starters are Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, his teammate center Andrew Bynum, Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin and Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant.

Griffin has been nothing short of a stud this season, high-flying dunking and all. But up to the point he was selected, Love was putting up better numbers, despite not being so above-the-rim. Griffin averaged 21.4 points and 10.9 rebounds a game, while Love averaged 25.3 and 13.6, respectively.

The same way many would argue for Bosh replacing Anthony as starter, the same could be true for Love replacing Griffin. However, unlike Anthony possibly not even being worthy of a reserve spot, Griffin probably would, that is, if he were not in the starting lineup.

Now, as far as scratching your head about West reserves, Nash and Nowitzki might most prompt that. 

Nash, despite averaging 10 assists and shooting 56 percent from the field, plays for a Suns team with a losing record that is in the midst of rebuilding. Here's another case where team record may have been overlooked by the league's coaches in favor of other factors. The 38-year-old is only averaging 15 points per game, so individual statistics aren't as notable as they can be. However, Nash being near the end of his career, winning two MVPs and going to eight previous All-Star games-all factors of historical resume that have made Nash a popular name-could have been major influences. 

Nowitzki's case is similar, aside from his team's record. Dallas is above .500, but coaches may have overlooked his lowest scoring average (18 points per game) since his second NBA season in favor of his long-term excellence-he won the NBA MVP in 2007 and the NBA Finals MVP last season, and has also been to the All-Star game 11 times.

If Nash and Nowitzki had not become reserves, then is a deeper set of players who could have replaced them because the Western Conference is deeper in talent. As mentioned before, the Nuggets (15-12), Jazz (13-11) and Rockets (16-11) all have winning records, but no player each team was voted in:

  • Guard Kyle Lowry has led a well-balanced Rockets team in assists (7.6) and steals (1.96) and has been third in scoring (14.8).
  • Forward Paul Millsap and center Al Jefferson have led a well-balanced Jazz team in both points (18.5 for Jefferson, 16.5 for Millsap) and rebounds (8.9 for Jefferson, 9.7 for Millsap).
  • Guard Ty Lawson and center Nene for the Nuggets are also on a team with depth. Lawson is first on the team in steals (1.5), first in assists (6.7) and second on the team in points (15.3), while Nene is first in rebounds (7.9) and fifth in points (15.3). Both are among six players who are averaging double figures in points.

One could also make the case for Grizzlies forward Rudy Gay, who is averaging 18.4 points per game in the absence of forward Zach Randolph and helping to keep Memphis in the playoff hunt.

Taking all the factors mentioned before into consideration, Lawson and Millsap seem like the biggest snubs. Here's why:

  • Both the Nuggets and Grizzlies are playing better than or at .500.
  • Lawson is fifth or better for the Nuggets in major statistical categories that are notable for a point guard. For Gay, he leads the Grizzlies only in points, but in relation to compensating for a key injury to a teammate, it becomes much more notable.
  • Compared to last season, Lawson is not only playing eight more minutes a game, but he is also averaging about four more points, one more rebound, two more assists and one more steal. Gay is only up in rebounds and steals, but for the past four seasons, he has guaranteed 19 points and six rebounds.

To recap the snubs: Jennings, Smith, Lawson and Gay. This year, that would equate to an all-star roster that's only 83 percent right.

That isn't perfect, but no one should have expected NBA coaches to have their voting down-packed. A 66-game schedule combined with the wide array of worthy players would almost always result in a handful of snubs. However, all difficulties aside, some players were more undeserving, while others would have been a more perfect fit.   

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