The NBA All-Star reserves were announced on Thursday. The players were selected in their conferences, but they will all be put into on pool to be drafted by LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo in the All-Star Draft.
Players still being selected by conference causes issues. Conferences are thrown out the window when the captains draft, and it keeps some players out of the All-Star game who deserve to be there.
There are others who miss out through peculiar decision making. Each year there is controversy, a wave of social media posts and analysis of the All-Star teams. It’s significant, players take pride in making the roster, but most of all it is meant to be fun.
The game takes place in Charlotte later this month. LeBron and Giannis will select their teams in three rounds on 7th February. The two captains pick from the starters first, then from the reserves. There is then a special extra round for Dirk Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade, who were added to the game as special roster additions.
Here are a few players who may feel aggrieved about missing out on the midseason showpiece.
Gobert has made no secret of his All-Star disappointment, saying “It’s my legacy. I don’t play for money, I don’t even care about that bonus to be honest. It’s about my legacy. I just want to win.”
He’s got a good point too. Utah have been on a brilliant run of late, and Gobert has played a massive part. The reigning Defensive Player of the Year makes the paint a no-go zone for opponents. The Jazz are one of the league’s best defensive teams, but they are ordinary when Gobert is off the court.
Only James Harden ranks higher in Basketball Reference’s win shares than Gobert. The seven-foot Frenchman deserves a spot in the All-Star game – it was a surprise to see LaMarcus Aldridge named ahead of him.
Doncic is already a worldwide fan favourite. The fan vote had the Mavericks rookie starting in the nominal West team, though he was bumped out by Harden with the player and media vote.
While a starting berth would have been over-the-top, Doncic’s case as an All-Star is compelling. He ticks the ‘star’ box better than many who made the reserve lists, and he has the numbers to back it up.
Averaging over 20 points per game along with seven boards and nearly six assists, Doncic is playing at an All-Star level. He might have made it in the East, perhaps ahead of Khris Middleton or Kyle Lowry. Doncic lost out because of the silly conference rule, but maybe they should have found a way to get a player with his popularity in the game anyway.
Lowry’s inclusion also raises the Siakam question. The 24-year-old power forward has had a breakout year, contributing to Toronto’s stellar defence and proving a versatile offensive option.
The coaches may have wanted to get two Raptors in because of Toronto’s record. That’s understandable, of course, and Lowry is the number two on the team after All-Star starter, Kawhi Leonard. Lowry has missed 11 games through injury while Siakam has been available throughout.
Durability is Siakam’s best argument against Lowry, who transforms Toronto on both ends. Maybe Siakam could’ve pipped Middleton to a spot, but it makes sense to want two Bucks on the roster considering their league-best record.
Victor Oladipo’s injury means Indiana do not have an All-Star. D’Angelo Russell replaced Oladipo, and few could argue about that.
Turner’s case for a spot on the roster is primarily defensive. Like Gobert and Utah, Turner takes Indiana’s defence from good to great. He leads the NBA in total blocks, ahead of Gobert, and is a possible Defensive Player of the Year finalist.
Positions are not relevant for the reserves, so Turner could have got in ahead of anyone. Nikola Vucevic’s big year in Orlando is probably what prevented the 22-year-old becoming an All-Star this season, however. Other than giving Indiana an All-Star after Oladipo’s season-ending injury, there’s not a strong argument to include Turner.
Harris is having a career year ahead of what will be a very interesting free agency this coming offseason. Shooting over 42% from three, scoring over 20 a game and grabbing nearly eight boards, he has played a big role in the Clippers’ impressive season.
The 6”9’ forward would be forgiven for bemoaning the conference split (so would most players in the West). He’s a definite All-Star if the conferences are mixed and would make the team if he was in the East, maybe even ahead of Blake Griffin.
Harris should have been ahead of Aldridge for a spot in the West. The Clippers’ depth probably worked against him, despite his very strong season to date.