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The East reserves: Hawks' Johnson belongs on this team

By John Schuhmann,
Posted Feb 5 2009 2:33PM

We know the 10 players who will be on the floor as the 58th All-Star Game tips off in Phoenix on Feb. 15 (8 p.m. ET, TNT). Now it's time to consider who the seven reserves should be for each conference. That's exactly what the Eastern and Western Conference coaches will be doing over the next couple of days, with their votes determining the 14 remaining All-Stars to be announced next Thursday, Jan. 29 during Inside the NBA on TNT.

Picking the East reserves will not be an easy task for the conference's coaches. There are a few guys that they can put in ink, but after that, it's time to break out the pencil and eraser.

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Each coach's selections might come down to the guys that have burned them the most this season. How else do you decide who's more worthy? Jameer Nelson, Rajon Rondo or Mo Williams? Andre Iguodala, Rashard Lewis or Paul Pierce? Devin Harris or Vince Carter?

Allen Iverson's selection as a starter makes things more difficult. Based on merit, this should be the year that Iverson's nine-year All-Star run comes to an end. But the fans have spoken, and one worthy candidate will be staying home (or going to the Bahamas instead of Phoenix). The other four starters are more than worthy of their selections. Four out of five ain't bad.

When choosing the reserves, coaches are asked to select two guards, two forwards, one center and two wildcards (any position). Here are the seven guys who most deserve those spots.

The Guards

Joe Johnson, Atlanta (25-16)
22.0 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 6.0 APG

Johnson is the biggest lock of anybody on this list and deserved to be starting next to Wade. To the surprise of many, the Hawks are in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, and Johnson has led them there. He's averaging a career high in efficiency, dishing out more assists while turning the ball over less than in his last two All-Star seasons.

Jameer Nelson, Orlando (33-8)
17.1 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 5.4 APG

There are guards with better numbers than Nelson, but none of them leads the team with the best record in the East. Nelson is playing the best basketball of his career and has been a key to the Magic improvement, shooting 51 percent from the field and 45 percent from downtown.

Tragic Shaft: Mo Williams (CLE)
Maybe Next Year: Rajon Rondo (BOS)
Team Record Hurt Him: Vince Carter (NJN)
The Next Three Out: Ray Allen (BOS), Mike Bibby (ATL), Andre Miller (PHI)

The Forwards

Danny Granger, Indiana (15-27)
26.2 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 3.4 APG

If there's a rule stating that teams that are 12 games below .500 don't deserve All-Stars, Granger is the exception. Granger ranks fourth in the NBA in scoring, fifth in the East in efficiency and has shown a knack for hitting big shots. His numbers have increased in each of his four years in the league.

Paul Pierce, Boston (35-9)
19.1 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 3.7 APG

Pierce's numbers aren't overwhelming. In fact, his efficiency is at its lowest since his rookie season. But he's the team's leading scorer and a leader on a squad that's on pace for 65 wins. He's the Finals MVP and well-deserving of his seventh All-Star selection.

Tragic Shaft: Andre Iguodala (PHI)
Maybe Next Year: David Lee (NYK)
Team Record Hurt Him: Antawn Jamison (WAS)
The Next Three Out: Josh Smith (ATL), Hedo Turkoglu (ORL), Gerald Wallace (CHA)

The Center

Chris Bosh, Toronto (16-28)
23.3 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 2.6 APG

Bosh isn't really a center, but he's the only true big that deserves real consideration. And the coaches elected him as a center last year. The Raptors have been disappointing, to say the least, but it hasn't been Bosh's fault. He's averaging career highs in both points and efficiency.

Tragic Shaft: Andrew Bogut (MIL)
Maybe Next Year: Al Horford (ATL)
Team Record Hurt Him: Troy Murphy (IND)
The Next Three Out: Now we're really reaching.

The Wildcards

Devin Harris, New Jersey (19-23)
21.8 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 6.4 APG

Vince Carter is just as deserving as Harris, so flip a coin to pick the Nets' representative. Carter has been the better overall player, the better leader and the healthier of the two, but Harris has been the engine that fuels the Nets' rather potent offense. With a green light from his coach and an improved game, Harris is putting up career numbers.

Rashard Lewis, Orlando (33-8)
19.1 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 2.6 APG

This last spot should come down to Lewis and Mo Williams. Do the Magic deserve three All-Stars more than the Cavs deserve two? No, but that's not how it works. Lewis is Orlando's second leading scorer and rebounder while playing out of position at the power forward spot.

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