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Analysis: Coaches get it (mostly) right with reserves

By Rob Peterson,
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.

Chris Bosh, Toronto Raptors
Bosh is eighth in the NBA in scoring at 23.2 ppg and will be the East's second center in what will be his fourth straight All-Star Game.
Danny Granger, Indiana Pacers
The Pacers may be 10 games under .500, but Granger has been a bright spot. The first-time All-Star is averaging a career-high 25.8 ppg, which is fourth in the league.
Devin Harris, New Jersey Nets
The Nets built their offense around Harris, who has responded with career-bests (21.6 ppg, 6.5 apg, 3.1 rpg) and was rewarded with his first All-Star spot.
Joe Johnson, Atlanta Hawks
Johnson, making his third All-Star team, leads Atlanta in scoring (21.4 ppg) and has helped the Hawks get in position for home-court advantage in the first round.
Rashard Lewis, Orlando Magic
One of the game's top 3-point shooters, Lewis has made 129 this season. Lewis will make his first All-Star appearance since a 2005 showing with Seattle.
Jameer Nelson, Orlando Magic
Nelson is averaging 16.9 ppg on .504 shooting from the field. The first-time All-Star is stellar from 3-point range as he's shooting 44.6 percent.
Ray Allen, Boston Celtics
Allen replaces the injuried Jameer Nelson. He will be making his ninth All-Star appearance, having also been added as an injury replacement last season.
Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics
The Finals MVP is now a seven-time All-Star with this selection. Pierce is averaging 18.8 ppg and his clutch shooting is one of the reasons the Celtics are 38-9.

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.

Related Story
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'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.

Chauncey Billups, Denver Nuggets
Since his return to his hometown, Billups' Nuggets are leading the Northwest and he's averaging a career-high 19.1 ppg.
Pau Gasol, L.A. Lakers
After making the 2006 Game with Memphis, Gasol makes his second All-Star Game. Gasol is 10th in the NBA in field goal percentage (.549).
Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks
This will make Nowtizki's eighth consecutive All-Star Game. The 2006 Shootout champ's numbers (24.7 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 2.3 apg) compare favorably to his 2007 MVP season.
Shaquille O'Neal, Phoenix Suns
This is the 15th time Shaq's been named an All-Star, second most in history. His .599 field goal percentage is second in the NBA and he's shooting .628 from the line.
Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs
Though he missed nine games with an ankle sprain, Parker's managed to put up career highs in points (20.4 ppg) and assists (6.6 apg). This will be his third All-Star Game.
Brandon Roy, Portland Trail Blazers
The third-year guard had 18 points in his first All-Star appearance last year. This season, the Blazers' leader brings with him to Phoenix a career-high 21.8 ppg.
David West, New Orleans Hornets
West makes his second-consecutive All-Star Game as he leads the Hornets in rebounding (7.1 rpg) and is second in scoring (20.0 ppg) and blocks (1.03 bpg).

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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