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The West reserves: Denver's Billups should lead the way

By Dave McMenamin,
Posted Feb 5 2009 2:32PM

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 Thursday, Jan. 29, during Inside the NBA on TNT.

Related Story's John Schuhmann reviews his list of East reserves and has the Hawks' Joe Johnson leading the way. Read Full Article

First, a quick note on the starters. The West will try to stop the East's recent run of three wins in the last four years by trotting out a starting backcourt of the top two finishers for last season's league MVP, Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul. Depending on how Bryant's ring finger is feeling, we could see him make a ceremonial start like he did last year and then quickly park himself on the bench. Filling out the frontcourt are Tim Duncan, making his 11th All-Star appearance, and Amar'e Stoudemire, making his fourth, this time in front of the hometown fans. Yao Ming will start at center for the seventh time in his seven years as a pro.

So, who else deserves to be wearing the home whites in Phoenix? Remember, the only rule is that when picking the reserves, coaches must choose two guards, two forwards and one center. After that, two wildcard spots fill out the team.

The Guards

Chauncey Billups, Denver (28-15)
18.6 PPG, 6.9 APG, 1.4 SPG

The Nuggets are 27-12 since the Allen Iverson trade returned Billups to Denver, the place where he grew up. Mr. Big Shot has, in turn, returned the Mile High City to a level of success it hasn't reached in three decades. The Nuggets are off to their best start at the halfway point of the season since 1977-78. Billups' numbers don't overwhelm you, but the impact he's had on his teammates' focus and defensive accountability should earn him his fourth All-Star berth.

Brandon Roy, Portland (25-17)
22.3 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 5.2 APG

There have been three transcendent moments for Roy this year that, when coupled with his averages and Portland's record, make him a shoo-in for his second All-Star bid in just his third season in the league. The first was on Nov. 6 against Houston, when he hit a go-ahead 21-foot jumper with 1.9 seconds left in overtime only to have the Rockets come back to tie it, setting the stage for Roy to hit an even more dramatic 30-footer to win the game at the buzzer. The second was on Nov. 28 against New Orleans, when Roy racked up 25 points and 10 assists to Chris Paul's 16 and six in a Blazers win. The third occurred on Dec. 18 when Roy poured in a career-high 52.

Tragic Shaft: Jason Terry (DAL)
Maybe Next Year: Manu Ginobili (SAS)
Team Record Hurt Him: O.J. Mayo (MEM)
The Next Three Out: Jamal Crawford (GSW), Jason Kidd (DAL), Steve Nash (PHX)

The Forwards

Pau Gasol, L.A. Lakers (33-8)
17.5 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 3.5 APG

Back in 2006, Gasol the Grizzly made his first and only All-Star appearance, earning the dubious distinction as the only player on the West's roster not to score a bucket. Now, as the second-best player on the team with the second-best record in the league, Gasol will get a second chance to score. Gasol has been a huge part of the Lakers' success this year. Los Angeles is 13-3 this season when Gasol scores 20 points or more and 13-3 when the mop-topped Spaniard secures 10 rebounds or more.

Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas (24-18)
26.0 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 2.5 APG

Nowitzki's scoring average is ranked fifth in the league. It's the highest he's had since 2005-06. Dallas has needed every one of those points with Josh Howard out of the lineup while it plays musical chairs on a nightly basis with Utah and Phoenix for the final two playoff spots in the West. The trip to Phoenix will mark Nowitzki's eighth All-Star selection. The former MVP is only getting better in his 11th season.

Tragic Shaft: David West (NOH)
Maybe Next Year: LaMarcus Aldridge (POR)
Team Record Hurt Him: Kevin Durant (OKC)
The Next Three Out: Carmelo Anthony (DEN), Ron Artest (HOU), John Salmons (SAC)

The Center

Shaquille O'Neal, Phoenix (23-17)
17.8 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 1.6 BPG

"The demise of Shaquille O'Neal has been greatly exaggerated," Pat Riley said back in January of 2006. Three years later, the Diesel is still motoring along. O'Neal ranks in the top 20 this season in field goal percentage, blocks and double-doubles and his 61.5 percent mark from the free-throw line is the second best percentage of his 17-year career. Aside from the on-court credentials, O'Neal should make his 15th All-Star appearance because the game is in his city. And nobody makes a party a party quite like Shaq does.

Tragic Shaft: Al Jefferson (MIN)
Maybe Next Year: Andris Biedrins (GSW)
Team Record Hurt Him: Marcus Camby (LAC)
The Next Three Out: Andrew Bynum (LAL), Nene (DEN), Mehmet Okur (UTA)

The Wildcards

Paul Millsap, Utah (25-18)
15.5 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 1.2 BPG

With Utah's perennial All-Stars Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams combining to miss 44 games because of injury, the Jazz have thanked their lucky stars that they selected Millsap with the No. 47 pick in 2006. In his third season the bruising 6-foot-8, 250-pound forward has improved dramatically, nearly doubling his averages of 8.1 points and 5.6 rebounds from a year ago. From Nov. 24 to Jan. 7, Millsap had a streak of 19 consecutive double-doubles. Besides, no All-Star roster is ever complete without at least one first-timer. Millsap aptly fits that role.

Tony Parker, San Antonio (28-13)
20.4 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 6.7 APG

Parker is averaging career highs in points and assists per game. His 49.8 percent clip from the field is an inspiration to 6-foot-2 guards everywhere. The eight-year vet and former Finals MVP missed three weeks at the beginning of the season with a left ankle injury, but he's led San Antonio to a 20-7 record since his return on Nov. 28. Parker also holds the NBA high for points in a game this season with a 55-point, 10-assist performance in a double-overtime win against the Timberwolves.

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