Damian Lillard, James Harden highlight NBA All-Star reserves
While there is always a little dust-up over the All-Star Game starters — such as Luka Doncic getting the start over Damian Lillard thanks to the fan vote — the controversy tends to be limited because those “snubs” will still make the team.
With All-Star reserves, guys who are left off will stay home. In a shortened NBA season that may not bother them much, but having All-Star Game nods is one of those big resume items that the best players want to rack up.
Who racked up the rewards this year? Here are the 2021 All-Star Game reserves, as selected by a vote of the coaches:
• Damian Lillard (Trail Blazers)
• Chris Paul (Suns)
• Paul George (Clippers)
• Donovan Mitchell (Jazz)
• Rudy Gobert (Jazz)
• Zion Williamson (Pelicans)
• Anthony Davis (Lakers)
• James Harden (Nets)
• Jaylen Brown (Celtics)
• Jayson Tatum (Celtics)
• Julius Randle (Knicks)
• Zach LaVine (Bulls)
• Ben Simmons (76ers)
• Nikola Vucevic (Magic)
Here are some notes on the selections:
• One of the “snubs” from the West will get Anthony Davis’ spot. The Lakers have already announced he would be out past the All-Star Game with a calf strain.
• Out West, the biggest snub is Devin Booker of the Suns, who was an All-Star last season but essentially got supplanted by his teammate Chris Paul this year. Mike Conley from Utah — the reigning “best active player never to make an All-Star team” champion — could get Davis’ spot as well, as he has had a bounce-back strong season. Ja Morant of Memphis and De’Aaron Fox in Sacramento both have had strong seasons but were longshots to make the cut and just missed out, in part because their teams have struggled.
• The East was much tougher.
Miami’s Bam Adebayo, who is having a fantastic season after being critical to Miami’s run to the Finals in the bubble, did not make the cut. Neither did Jimmy Butler from the Heat, who has missed more time this season but has played well when active and was the heart and soul of Miami’s Final run also should be in the mix.
Other players who can legitimately feel snubbed are Khris Middleton (Milwaukee), Trae Young (Atlanta), Fred VanVleet (Toronto), plus both Domantas Sabonis and Malcolm Brogdon from Indiana.
• Part of the challenge for selecting the All-Star team and reserves is this: How much (if at all) do voters weigh the second half of last season and the playoffs? How much should voters weigh “Player X is simply better than Player Y?” By going with LaVine and Randle over players like Adebayo and Butler, it’s clear the East coaches weighted this season heavily and last season not much at all.
• If you’re going to argue that a player should have been on the All-Star team, then you have to say who you would take off. (For the record, my selections had Adebayo and Butler in, LaVine and Randle out, but I tend to weigh success in the last playoffs more heavily).
• For the record, the starters from each conference are:
• Stephen Curry (Warriors)
• Luka Doncic (Mavericks)
• LeBron James (Lakers)
• Nikola Jokic (Nuggets)
• Kawhi Leonard (Clippers)
• Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks)
• Bradley Beal (Wizards)
• Kevin Durant (Nets)
• Joel Embiid (76ers)
• Kyrie Irving (Nets)
• As the leading vote-getters from each conference, LeBron and Durant will be the team captains. Those two will pick their All-Star teams in a playground-style draft the NBA has used in recent years. First, the pair will choose their starters from that group, and then they will pick their reserves.
• Zion Williamson, Jaylen Brown, Zach LaVine, and Julius Randle will make their All-Star Game debuts.
• The All-Star Game takes place March 7 in Atlanta. It’s a one-day event with the Skills Competition and Three-Point Contest before the main game, and the Dunk Contest at halftime.