By John Schuhmann, NBA.com
We know the 10 players who will be on the floor as the 60th All-Star Game tips off in Los Angeles on Feb. 20 (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, Feb. 3 during Inside the NBA on TNT.
Fans couldn't have done a better job in selecting Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Amar'e Stoudemire and Dwight Howard as the starters for the Eastern Conference. All five have been mentioned as MVP candidates at one time or another over the last month, and there's not much of an argument for anybody else in those spots.
Choosing seven reserves in the East shouldn't be too difficult either, because there simply aren't that many qualified candidates. There are only six teams above (or even near) .500 in the conference, maybe only three that deserve multiple All-Stars, and nobody putting up huge numbers -- like Blake Griffin or Kevin Love in the West or like David Lee was last season -- on the teams below .500.
As always though, there are a couple of tough decisions to make, especially with some of the best players on the best teams missing multiple games due to injury. To help make the toughest choices, we looked deep into the numbers, both traditional and advanced.
*Efficiency = Pts. + Reb. + Ast. + Stl. + Blk. -- (FGA-FGM) -- (FTA-FTM)
* True shooting percentage = Points/ (2*(FGA + (.44*FTA)))
Without further ado, here are the seven guys, including one first-timer, who should be making the trip to L.A. to represent the Eastern Conference ...
Rajon Rondo, Boston (34-10)
10.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 13.0 apg
Rondo's scoring has dropped and his defense has suffered. He still has no jumper and he shoots free throws worse than Shaq. Yet he's a no-brainer to be selected to his second straight All-Star Game among a solid group of point guards. Rondo has missed 11 games, but still has more assists (426) than anybody else in the Eastern Conference. He's the ultimate facilitator, running a top-10 offense.
Ray Allen, Boston (34-10)
17.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 3.1 apg
Allen is a nine-time All-Star and one of the greatest shooters in NBA history, and he's having the best shooting season of his career at the age of 35. He's above 50 percent from the field (one of only two guards in the East doing so) and 45 percent from 3-point range (fifth in the league) for the first time in his 15 years in the league. It's hard to argue that he's not the second-best two guard in the conference.
Three Hardest Snubs
Raymond Felton (NYK), Joe Johnson (ATL), Jrue Holiday (PHI)
Paul Pierce, Boston (34-10)
19.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 3.3 apg
The Celtics have been without Kevin Garnett for nine games, Rondo for 11, Shaquille O'Neal for 11 and Kendrick Perkins for 43. But they have a three-game lead atop the East thanks to the league's second-best defense and the guys who have been healthy. Pierce is one of them and, at 33 years old, he's shooting career highs from the field (51.4 percent), from 3-point range (42.6 percent) and from the line (85.3 percent). He ranks fifth in the conference in true shooting percentage, behind four guys who have taken far fewer shots than he has. Thus far, he's been the MVP of the best team in the conference.
Chris Bosh, Miami (31-13)
18.6 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 1.9 apg
Bosh is considered to be the third wheel in Miami, but Heat coach Erik Spoelstra will be the first to tell you that No. 1 in your programs has been No. 1 in importance. Bosh allows the team to run its offense through the post. The numbers back Spoelstra up, with Bosh holding a better per-minute plus-minus mark than both James and Wade. And he's one of only four players in the East averaging at least 18 and eight.
Three Hardest Snubs
Carlos Boozer (CHI), Wilson Chandler (NYK), Luol Deng (CHI)
Al Horford, Atlanta (29-17)
16.3 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 3.5 apg
This was a position of strength for the East last season, with Horford, David Lee and Joakim Noah all worthy of consideration behind Howard. This year, Horford is the only reserve center left standing. But that doesn't mean that the Hawks' best player isn't deserving. He's fourth in the conference in efficiency while anchoring an improved defense. And he's led Atlanta to a 29-17 record despite a total of 30 games missed from Joe Johnson, Jamal Crawford and Marvin Williams.
Three Hardest Snubs
Joakim Noah (CHI), Shaquille O'Neal (BOS), Andrew Bogut (MIL)
Kevin Garnett, Boston (34-10)
15.1 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 2.1 apg
Do the Celtics deserve four All-Stars more than the Bulls (just 3 ½ games back in the standings) deserve two? Tough call. But which of Boston's big four doesn't deserve the nod over Carlos Boozer? Boozer has better offensive numbers than KG, but Garnett has played eight more games and is, by far, the superior defender. The Celtics have been five points per 100 possessions better defensively in games he's played.
Josh Smith, Atlanta (29-17)
15.0 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 3.8 apg
If you watch Smith on a daily basis, you probably change your opinion on whether he's All-Star worthy from game to game or even possession to possession. His shooting is down from last season (when he was probably the biggest snub in the East), but he continues to put up defensive numbers (1.8 blocks and 1.3 steals per game) that are unmatched by anyone in the league. And the numbers aren't empty. The Hawks are a much better defensive team with him on the floor than they are with him on the bench.
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