With the 2013 NBA All-Star Game fast-approaching, basketball fans have their eyes on the starters for both the Western Conference and the Eastern Conference. However, the starting lineups aren’t the only ones stacked with excellent players; both conference benches boast players who are at the peaks of their games this year.
For the Western Conference, starters include the expected Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, Dwight Howard and Chris Paul. Coming off the bench at the point guard position is speedy Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook.
Westbrook has played even better than normal recently. During OKC’s 97-69 win against Phoenix on Sunday, Westbrook scored 24 points and picked up six assists and four steals in 28 minutes. He scored even more during the February 2 loss against Cleveland, registering 28 points, two rebounds and three steals in 35 minutes.
Westbrook will come onto the floor with energy, power and speed in the place of Kobe Bryant or Chris Paul. With Bryant’s age and Paul’s recent knee troubles, Westbrook certainly has the opportunity to shine over the starting guards.
Also on the Western Conference bench is power forward David Lee of the Golden State Warriors. Lee will come in to replace Clippers star Blake Griffin at the low-post position.
The 29-year-old has been playing well recently despite the Warriors’ four-game losing streak. On February 8, Lee scored 26 points and grabbed six rebounds in an astounding 41 minutes of game play during the Warriors’ 99-93 loss to Memphis. Moreover, his rebounds were higher for the February 6 loss against OKC, as he grabbed 11 rebounds and two steals in 33 minutes.
Lee’s statistics for the 2012-13 season are equally impressive, and they improve upon his career statistics. He averages 19.2 points, 10.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists in 37.3 minutes of game play. Undoubtedly, Lee will provide Griffin with some relief during the game while grabbing the ball off the boards as consistently well as he has this season.
On the other side, the Eastern Conference starters include Dwayne Wade, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Garnett, with the Nets’ Brook Lopez added to the conference’s roster now that starting point guard Rajon Rondo is out with an ACL injury.
Big men Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Garnett will be backed up by center Joakim Noah of the Chicago Bulls. Noah’s play this season could make him a serious candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. For the last 10 games, Noah averaged 13.4 rebounds and 5.1 assists.
During the Bulls’ February 11 loss to San Antonio, Noah grabbed an impressive 15 rebounds and five assists in 38 minutes of game play. These numbers improve upon his already stellar season statistics; for 2012-13, he averages 11.8 points, 11.3 rebounds and 4.1 assists in 38.2 minutes per game.
Even though 36-year-old Kevin Garnett is an extreme force to reckon with, his age will certainly send him to the bench for rest. When that happens, Noah will get the opportunity to come in and play like the defensive powerhouse he’s proven himself to be this season.