Exactly one week after the NBA announced the fans' selections for the 2013 NBA All-Star Game starting lineups, the league revealed the reserves for the exhibition on Thursday’s Inside the NBA broadcast on TNT.
Selected by coaches from across the Association, reserve selections are meant to honor those players having seasons that fans oftentimes forget in their voting process. After all, it stands to reason that players on large-market teams like the Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat and New York Knicks get honored.
Your 2013 NBA All-Star Western and Eastern Conference reserves twitter.com/BleacherReport…— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 25, 2013
Of the players selected by the coaches, most were expected. Those who lamented leaving players like Tim Duncan, Tyson Chandler and James Harden off the starting roster now have their fears quelled, as all three will be making the trip to Houston.
With that in mind, let's take a look at a complete breakdown of the full rosters, highlighting the most deserving reserves and taking a stab at an early MVP prediction.
2013 NBA All-Star Game Lineups
Eastern Conference All-Star Starting Lineup
BC Rajon Rondo (PG, Boston Celtics)
BC Dwyane Wade (SG, Miami Heat)
FC LeBron James (F, Miami Heat)
FC Carmelo Anthony (F, New York Knicks)
FC Kevin Garnett (F/C, Boston Celtics)
Eastern Conference All-Star Reserves
BC Jrue Holiday (PG, Philadelphia 76ers)
BC Kyrie Irving (PG, Cleveland Cavaliers)
FC Chris Bosh (F/C, Miami Heat)
FC Tyson Chandler (C, New York Knicks)
FC Joakim Noah (C, Chicago Bulls)
WC Paul George (SF, Indiana Pacers)
WC Luol Deng (SF, Chicago Bulls)
Western Conference All-Star Starting Lineup
BC Chris Paul (PG, Los Angeles Clippers)
BC Kobe Bryant (SG, Los Angeles Lakers)
FC Kevin Durant (SF, Oklahoma City Thunder)
FC Blake Griffin (PF, Los Angeles Clippers)
FC Dwight Howard (C, Los Angeles Lakers)
Western Conference All-Star Reserves
BC Tony Parker (PG, San Antonio Spurs)
BC Russell Westbrook (PG, Oklahoma City Thunder)
FC Tim Duncan (F/C San Antonio Spurs)
FC Zach Randolph (PF, Memphis Grizzlies)
FC LaMarcus Aldridge (PF, Portland Trail Blazers)
WC James Harden (SG, Houston Rockets)
WC David Lee (PF, Golden State Warriors)
Most Deserving Reserves
Tyson Chandler, C, New York Knicks
Carmelo Anthony rightfully gets most of the credit for the Knicks' ascent into second place in the Eastern Conference, but it's Tyson Chandler who allows this offense to stay on an efficient path.
In crediting Anthony for New York's first half, many point out how he moved "out of position" to the power-forward spot. Well, it's been Chandler's excellence on both ends of the floor that's allowed Mike Woodson to employ that system.
With the Knicks oftentimes playing undersized with mediocre defenders protecting the perimeter, Chandler is the man protecting the rim at all times. He's an expert at defending the pick-and-roll, alters far more shots than his 1.0 block per game would indicate and is averaging five more rebounds per game than any of his teammates.
What's more, Chandler has also re-morphed into the pick-and-roll menace we saw during his time in New Orleans, where he and Chris Paul lit up defenses on a regular basis. He's shooting a league-high 67.4 percent from the field this season—over seven percent higher than second-place Tiago Splitter—and has taken 86.2 percent of his shots at the rim, per Basketball-Reference.com.
When pointing out veterans who know how to help their teams win, Chandler should be at the top of that list all the time, every time.
James Harden, SG, Houston Rockets
When Rockets general manager Daryl Morey traded a superstar-worthy package of players for James Harden, he assumed a cavernous risk. That a player who had one great professional season (as a sixth man, no less) could evolve into a face-of-the-franchise type talent. That Harden would be the guy Morey spent the years following Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady's departure compiling these assets to acquire.
Well, halfway through his first season in Houston, Harden has exceeded anyone's wildest expectations. The unquestioned leader of the NBA's most exciting offense, Harden is averaging 25.8 points, 5.4 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game while seemingly locking up the Most Improved Player Award in mid-November.
Harden, along with a surprisingly spry cast of young talent, has the Rockets at 22-22 heading into Thursday night and hanging onto the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference. Per Basketball-Reference.com, Harden ranks seventh in win shares (6.0) and is the only Rockets player inside the top 60 in the statistic.
All told, Harden's rise is quite explainable. He's taking five more shots per 36 minutes than he did with the Thunder and getting to the free-throw line at an alarmingly high rate. But he's also just a better player, freed from the restraints of being an offensive third wheel.
Granted, there is definitely some work left to be done in Harden's game. He's prone to bad shots and has only shot 43.4 percent from the field this season, including 28.9 percent in the past five games.
Once Harden becomes a more efficient shooter, however, the sky is the limit for his potential. An easy All-Star selection this year, perhaps an MVP candidate next. One thing is for certain: Morey should be thankful he isn't all that concerned with Jeremy Lamb's D-League stat line.
Kevin Durant, SF, Oklahoma City Thunder
Though he isn't the NBA's best player or shouldn't be the MVP this season (both those distinctions still go to a certain talent-taking man in South Beach), it's hard to argue against the 2012-13 season belonging to Durant.
His Thunder team has survived the loss of James Harden to have the best winning percentage in the NBA, somehow becoming an even more efficient club in the process. Oklahoma City is the NBA's most efficient offense by a full point and ranks sixth in defensive efficiency—and that's still with the oft-maligned Kendrick Perkins getting 25 minutes per night.
The overarching reasons have (obviously) been the play of Russell Westbrook and Durant, particularly the latter. Durant, almost unarguably the best shooter of his generation, has taken every previously shown skill and somehow amplified it to never-before-seen levels.
Coming into Thursday night, Durant is on pace to become the eighth member of the 50/40/90 Club, and most would probably (unfairly) vote him MVP at this point just to avoid another LeBron-fest. He's also wildly improved as a passer and defender, going from a liability in both facets to one of Oklahoma City's most vital assets.
With his game at peak form and every narrative pointing in his direction this season, how could Durant not win the All-Star Game MVP? He has shown a penchant for excellence in exhibitions, both regulated and at Rucker Park, and has the shooting prowess that always leaves a big game waiting to happen.
Considering the Western Conference roster looks far superior to its Eastern brethren, look for Durant to win the MVP en route to a victory for his side.