The starters for the Western Conference in the 2013 NBA All-Star game have been announced: Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin and Dwight Howard.
Forget for a moment that Howard has no business being a part of this five. That’s not germane to this exercise, though that vote-in has consequences (Hello, Zach Randolph).
What is germane is which seven players will be voted in as reserves, and whether or not David Lee and Stephen Curry are among the subs.
The All-Star reserves will be announced on TNT on Thursday. Reserves are voted on by NBA coaches. But before the official reserves are announced, here are the players I think should make up the West bench:
Two guards: Tony Parker (San Antonio), Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City).
Both of these players are no-brainers, truth be told. Parker has become the most important player on the Spurs, who are 33-11. Parker is the team’s leading scorer, averaging 19.7 points per game while shooting 52 percent from the floor. Parker’s assist-to-turnover ratio is nearly 3-to-1.
Westbrook is having another terrific season and the Thunder have the best record in the league at 33-9. That means something. It also means something that Westbrook is one of the most dynamic offensive players in the league and someone whose decision-making has improvied by leaps and bounds.
Three frontcourt players: Tim Duncan (San Antonio), Marc Gasol (Memphis), David Lee (Warriors).
Duncan is once again the interior anchor – both offensively and defensively for the Spurs – which makes him an easy choice. Gasol, to me, is also an easy choice – if for no other reason than he’s been the most effective center in the Western Conference this year.
Lee is my third choice because if he’s not Reason No. 1 why the Warriors are on a 50-win pace, then he’s Reason No. 1A. Lee has been consistent all season for the Warriors, and is critically important to the team because of his ability to make plays from the power forward position when the ball isn’t in a guard’s hands.
Lee also has been able to score during important times this year for the Warriors – something he didn’t do much of during his first couple of years in Golden State.
Two wildcards: Stephen Curry (Warriors), James Harden (Houston).
The Warriors haven’t had an all-star since 1997, and one of the main reasons is because they haven’t had much success since then. Coaches who vote for the reserves tend to place stock in players on winning teams.
Well, if that’s the case, Curry should be in. He’s the Warriors’ leading scorer, their leading assist man, and most important, he’s done it for a team that is 25-15.
Curry’s statistics might not look a whole lot different than they’ve always looked, but he’s become effective because he’s playing alongside better players … and vice versa.
Harden has been dynamic for the Rockets and is the single-biggest reason they’re hovering around the .500 mark. If you want to nit-pick Harden’s shooting percentage, you’re welcome to do that. Just know that if you take Harden off Houston then the Rockets aren’t a very good team.
Omissions: Zach Randolph (Memphis), LaMarcus Aldridge (Portland), DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento), Damian Lillard (Portland).
Randolph has the biggest gripe, and you could make a case he should go over Lee. Fair enough. It’s a tough call. Aldridge has been his usual solid self but that’s not enough this season. As for Cousins, it’s tough to take a player from a team struggling like the Kings are.
Lillard is a borderline all-star, no doubt. But he’s got plenty of time left.