Below are six takeaways from Thursday’s announcement of the 2022 NBA All-Star reserves, as voted by NBA coaches for the 2022 All-Star Game. That will take place on Sunday, February 20 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.
1. Injury replacements await
Save the commentary on the NBA’s “snubbed” players. At least for now. It appears likely NBA Commissioner Adam Silver will have to choose a replacement player for both the Eastern and Western Conference. Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant, selected as both a starter and the team’s captain, is not expected to play after missing the past nine games because of a sprained MCL in his left knee. Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green, who was selected as a reserve, said on the TNT telecast that he will not participate in the All-Star Game after missing the past 14 games because of a lower back injury.
Since Durant is a starter, he will be replaced by an All-Star reserve from the same conference and same position group that received the highest votes among All-Star starters. In this case, Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum will move up as a starter because he ranked fourth overall in total voting among Eastern Conference frontcourt players. Incidentally, Tatum became Durant’s replacement for last year’s All-Star Game because he nursed a left hamstring injury. Silver will then decide on a subsequent replacement player as a reserve. Since Green was selected as a reserve, Silver will simply choose a player to replace Green’s vacant spot.
The Eastern Conference candidates could include Cleveland Cavaliers big Jarrett Allen, Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball, Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown, Milwaukee Bucks guard Jrue Holiday, Miami Heat guard Kyle Lowry and Indiana Pacers center Domantas Sabonis. The Western Conference candidates could include Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis, San Antonio Spurs guard Dejounte Murray, Memphis Grizzlies guard Jaren Jackson Jr., Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton, Suns guard Mikal Bridges and Minnesota Timberwolves forward Anthony Edwards.
2. Suns’ starting backcourt headlines reserves
The NBA’s best team in the Western Conference has become properly represented in the All-Star game, even if the Suns don’t have any starters. I voted Chris Paul ahead of Ja Morant as a starter because of his strong role in ensuring the Suns have maintained their excellence from last season’s Finals run. But it’s not exactly a snub that Paul lost out to Morant, who has made the Memphis Grizzlies transform from an exciting young team into a serious contender. Nor is it a slight that Suns guard Devin Booker missed a starting slot instead of Warriors guard Stephen Curry, who entered the MVP conversation before last month’s shooting slump.
But there was no question that Paul and Booker at least deserved to be voted as All-Star reserves. Paul has averaged 14.9 points on 48.9% shooting while averaging a league-leading 10.4 assists. Booker has ranked second among shooting guards in points per game (25.4) on 44.5% shooting along with 4.2 assists.
3. Fred VanVleet a deserving first-time All-Star
Upon further review, I regretted omitting VanVleet among my initial reserves. I had favored Miami’s Kyle Lowry and Milwaukee’s Jrue Holiday over Charlotte’s LaMelo Ball and VanVleet since they struck a good balance between complementing their star teammates, absorbing team injuries and contributing to winning basketball. But VanVleet deserves to be a first-time All-Star for reasons beyond the feel-good story of becoming the fourth undrafted player in the NBA’s modern era to receive such a nod.
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) February 4, 2022
The Raptors and Hornets would be lottery teams if not for VanVleet and Ball. In VanVleet’s case, he is on pace to finish with career-highs in points (21.5), rebounds (4.7) and assists (7.0) while playing a league-leading 38.6 minutes per game. VanVleet has always lived by the mantra on betting on himself. It has paid off with a championship ring, a max contract, and, now, an All-Star nod.
4. Cleveland rocks!
Cleveland should be excited to host the All-Star game for reasons beyond the presumed economic benefits. Point guard Darius Garland has become the Cavaliers’ first All-Star since James and Kevin Love played in 2018. The third-year guard has played a significant role in catapulting the Cavaliers into the Eastern Conference elite after toiling in the NBA lottery the past three seasons since James’ departure to the Lakers.
Garland has joined Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic as the only two NBA players to average at least 19 points and seven assists while shooting 46% from the field. Will teammate Jarrett Allen join Garland on the All-Star team as an injury replacement? Time will tell. But at least the Cavs have at least one All-Star representative while serving as the host city.
5. Multiple teams with multiple All-Stars
Some coaches have often based their All-Star reserve vote based on those candidates played for a winning team. So it isn’t surprising that the Brooklyn Nets, Golden State Warriors, Chicago Bulls, Phoenix Suns, Milwaukee Bucks and Utah Jazz have multiple All-Stars. Those are all teams at the top of the standings.
The Warriors technically have three All-Stars in Curry, Green and Andrew Wiggins, marking the first time in 2019 the team had so many All-Stars. But with Green planning to skip, the Warriors will have two active All-Stars to join the Bulls (DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine), the Suns (Paul, Booker), the Bucks (Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton) and the Jazz (Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert). Meanwhile, the Nets will likely only have James Harden representing them because of Durant’s aforementioned injury.
6. Will Mitchell & Gobert avoid another draft snub?
Among the reserves, it will be interesting to see if James and Durant avoid last year’s scenario from happening again. They inadvertently selected Mitchell and Gobert with their last picks despite the Jazz then owning the NBA’s best record. James didn’t do himself any favors with his explanation afterwards.
“There is no slander to the Utah Jazz,” James said. “You guys got to understand. Just like in video games growing up, we never played with Utah. Even as great as Karl Malone and John Stockton was, we never picked those guys in video games. Never.”
James might deserve scrutiny for that snub or how he has influenced the Lakers’ front office to assemble this season’s roster. But James has a 3-0 record as an All-Star captain. He has earned some trust with picking from a roster full of All-Stars.
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