The NBA announced its all-star starters Thursday night, as well as the two players — LeBron James and Stephen Curry — who will be the captains tasked with selecting who will be playing on each team. Each of their first four picks will come from the other eight starters announced Thursday night — James Harden, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Kyrie Irving, DeMar DeRozan, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid.
Seven more players from each conference will be selected by the league’s 30 head coaches over the next few days, with the results to be unveiled Tuesday.
To aid the coaches, here are The Washington Post’s selections for the reserves, using the same criteria they employ in making their decisions. There can be two guards, three frontcourt players and two “wild cards” — either guards or frontcourt players — selected.
One significant note: Players who credibly can be considered either a guard or a forward, most notably Minnesota Timberwolves star Jimmy Butler, can be selected at either position. This will have ramifications.
And with that, on to our selections:
Eastern Conference guards:
Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers
Oladipo is the surprise not just of the Eastern Conference, but of the NBA this season. After being traded to the Pacers for Paul George last summer, Oladipo has been outstanding, averaging 24.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.0 steals, making him an obvious choice to be the first reserve guard in the East.
Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors
Lowry’s shooting numbers aren’t quite where they’ve been in years past, but he’s still putting up stats across the board (16.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, 6.9 assists). More importantly, he plays for the second best team in the Eastern Conference, and remains an integral part of Toronto’s success. He should be an all-star for a fourth straight season.
Eastern Conference frontcourt:
Al Horford, Boston Celtics
Because of his understated game and incredibly consistent performance, it’s easy to overlook Horford’s contributions on a nightly basis. But he’s a huge reason that Boston is one of the best teams in the NBA, and has the best record in the Eastern Conference. He’s a lock.
Kristaps Porzingis, New York Knicks
The Post’s only reserve from either conference not on a playoff team, Porzingis earns a spot for becoming the Knicks’ go-to man in the wake of Carmelo Anthony’s departure and for keeping New York within shouting distance of a postseason spot. It’s unlikely the Knicks will remain that close, which isn’t his fault considering they shouldn’t even be where they are. That makes him deserving of his first all-star nod.
Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers
There has been plenty of talk about the Cavaliers’ dysfunction. But imagine where they’d be without Love’s 19.2 points, 9.6 rebounds, 46 percent shooting and 41 percent from three-point range. James remains the best player in the world, but it’s the combination of him and Love keeping the Cavs afloat.
Eastern Conference wild cards:
Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
Beal has backed up last year’s breakout season with another impressive campaign this year, averaging 23.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists. And while the Wizards have been up and down, Beal hasn’t missed a game, carrying Washington when John Wall was sidelined. As such, he gets the first of the two wild card spots, and his first all-star appearance.
Goran Dragic, Miami Heat
This was a difficult decision, with six players getting some degree of consideration. In the end, Dragic wins out because of his solid production across the board (17.3 points, 4.2 rebounds, 4.9 assists) and because he’s the best player on a Heat team that sits in fourth place in the East despite myriad injury issues. Dragic’s consistency is a big reason Miami is in that spot, giving him the edge.
Also considered: John Wall, Washington Wizards; Andre Drummond and Tobias Harris, Detroit Pistons; Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks; Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers
Western Conference guards:
Jimmy Butler, Minnesota Timberwolves
If Butler had been considered a frontcourt player among voters, he likely would have received the nod as the West’s fifth starter. Either way, he’s an easy choice as its first backcourt player, thanks to his 21.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game. It also should not go unnoticed that he’s lifted the Timberwolves, a young team that hasn’t made the playoffs in more than a decade, to a potential top-four playoff seed.
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
No, Westbrook isn’t playing at the same level he was last season, even if he is on the verge of averaging another triple-double (24.8 points, 9.7 rebounds, 9.9 assists). But the Thunder is a staggering 12 points per 100 possessions better with Westbrook on the court than when he is on the bench.
Western Conference frontcourt:
LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs
Kawhi Leonard, one of the league’s five best players, has missed almost the entire season, so the Spurs have needed Aldridge, and he’s delivered an MVP-worthy season, averaging 22.7 points and 8.5 rebounds while again ensuring San Antonio is among the league’s best teams.
Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
Green remains a stat-stuffing machine, averaging 11.1 points, 7.9 rebounds, 7.6 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.3 blocks per game. While some think he’s taken a step back defensively, Green still is having a significant impact; the Warriors are more than three points better when he’s on the court. That he also plays for the league’s best team makes him an all-star once again.
Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves
Questions remain about Towns’s defense, which is improving. But there are zero questions regarding his offensive ability since he’s turned himself into maybe the most complete offensive big in the league. Just look at these stats: 20.1 points, 12 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.5 blocks, 53.8 percent shooting overall, 41.9 percent from three and 83.8 percent from the line. Combined with Minnesota’s success, that gets him the final West frontcourt reserve spot.
Western Conference wild cards:
Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors
On a team with so much star power and personality, the understated Thompson usually gets overlooked. But he’s been Golden State’s most consistent player, missing just one game (and that was when the team rested him) while averaging 20.9 points and career highs of 48.9 percent shooting, 45.4 percent from three and 88.1 percent from the foul line and consistently guarding the opponent’s top perimeter threat. That’s an all-star résumé.
Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
This last spot was as difficult as in the East, with the choice coming down to Lillard, Chris Paul, Paul George and Nikola Jokic. Paul was eliminated because he’s missed 17 games. Jokic has a tendency to disappear at times.
It comes down to either Lillard or George, and in the final analysis, it goes to Lillard. This is partly because Lillard is the Trail Blazers’ clear leader, whereas George has more talent around him, and yet still the Thunder are only a game better in the standings. But the Thunder are three points per 100 possessions worse with George on the court than when he’s on the bench. While much of that may not be his fault, it’s enough to ensure that — at least in this ballot — Lillard won’t be snubbed for a third season in a row.
Also considered: Chris Paul, Houston Rockets; Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder; Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
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