By Rob Peterson, NBA.com
Posted Feb 6 2009 7:19PM
If you want an immediate referendum on which NBA players are playing the best right now, there may be no better way to get it than to look at those named as All-Star reserves.
While the fans have their say with the starters, the NBA's 30 head coaches get to make the call on the final seven spots in each conference. It's the ultimate insiders' fantasy team, with the only restrictions being that coaches can't choose their own players and they must pick two guards, two forwards, a center and two players regardless of position. There is no salary cap, no trade-kickers and no throw-in second-round draft picks in 2032.
|Orlando's Rashard Lewis and Jameer Nelson (as well as Shaquille O'Neal from the hometown Suns) mark the 2009 All-Star Game reserves. Read Full Article|
So it might have been surprising, to some, to see perennial All-Stars such as Ray Allen, Vince Carter and Steve Nash missing among the reserves announced Thursday for the All-Star Game in Phoenix. And then there are the relative newcomers left off the rosters, too, like Cleveland's Mo Williams, Boston's Rajon Rondo, Utah's Paul Millsap, Minnesota's Al Jefferson and Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant. All are having worthy seasons.
Still, it's tough to argue with the coaches' final 14 choices, 13 of which NBA.com's John Schuhmann and Dave McMenamin predicted correctly last week. McMenamin had the only misstep. Millsap lost out on a spot to New Orleans' David West (pictured above).
While some may quibble with the selection of the Hornets' 6-foot-9 forward, he is averaging 20.0 points per game compared to Millsap's 15.6 a game. Add in the fact that the Hornets are five games better than the Jazz and you can see why the coaches turned their eyes toward West.
Team success -- or the lack of it -- also may be the reason Durant, who is averaging 24.8 points per game (sixth in the NBA), wasn't named to the team. The Thunder are 11-35.
WESTERN CONFERENCE RESERVES
Usually, a team's record plays a large part in whether a player is considered All-Star worthy. But in the East, Toronto's Chris Bosh and Indiana's Danny Granger play for sub-.500 teams. And they both made the team.
Bosh fills a need for the East. He'll be the team's backup center and few, if any, big men in either conference can score or rebound as well as he does. Granger, a first-time All-Star, is putting up superlative numbers for the 18-28 Pacers. He's fourth in the NBA in scoring, at 25.8 points per game.
Meanwhile, when the fans selected Allen Iverson as a starter, that may have prevented Carter or Allen from being named to the team. Both are having better seasons than Iverson. They aren't having better seasons than Atlanta's Joe Johnson, Orlando's Jameer Nelson or Carter's teammate, Devin Harris, though, all of whom were rightfully named reserves. Nelson and Harris are both first-time All-Stars.
As for Cleveland's Williams, he has played well lately, but a slow start may have hampered his All-Star chances. Boston's Rondo had been touted as an All-Star candidate during the Celtics 19-game winning streak, but when the Celtics went 2-7 over a nine-game stretch, Rondo's shortcomings -- namely, his shaky outside shot -- were exposed.
In the West, the Suns' Nash, a two-time MVP, will miss the game. But Denver's Chauncey Billups, a legitimate MVP candidate, and San Antonio's Tony Parker have put up better numbers than Nash, who has had difficulty switching from Mike D'Antoni's free-flowing offense to Terry Porter's half-court sets, in which he must feed All-Stars Shaquille O'Neal and Amar'e Stoudemire.
O'Neal was named to his 15th All-Star team. Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has been selected to more (with 19). O'Neal, second in the league in field-goal percentage (.599), held off a late charge from Minnesota's Al Jefferson, who is averaging 22.7 points and 10.5 rebounds per game.
Maybe once Shaq retires, Jefferson will have his day in the sun. It won't be this year, though.
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