The 2014 NBA All-Star Game is just around the corner, but we still aren’t exactly sure of what the rosters will look like for each conference.
While the starting fives for both the East and West have been revealed, we’ll have to wait until Thursday night, Jan. 30, to catch the highly anticipated unveiling of the All-Star reserves.
The league’s 30 coaches will be selecting 14 bench players to augment the fan-selected starting lineups, and the decision will likely be rife with controversy and debate.
It’s an event that no self-respecting NBA fan could possibly miss, so let’s take a look at where you can catch the announcement, make some predictions on who will make the All-Star Game as a reserve and more.
When: Thursday, Jan. 30 at 7 p.m. ET
Announcers: Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal and Kenny Smith
The announcement will take place during a one-hour NBA Tip-Off special prior to a thrilling double-header that will feature the New York Knicks hosting the Cleveland Cavaliers, followed by the Los Angeles Clippers renewing their burgeoning rivalry with the Golden State Warriors.
It’s a must-see event, as there is sure to be plenty of snubs and surprise selections—especially in the loaded Western Conference. There are too many deserving candidates and not enough roster spots for the game, so it’ll be interesting to see how the coaches elected to cast their ballots.
Here’s a look at which players should be penciled in to fill out the rosters for both conferences. Drop a line in the comments with which stars you believe should make it in.
|Projected 2014 Eastern Conference All-Star Reserves|
|Backcourt||John Wall||Washington Wizards|
|Backcourt||Lance Stephenson||Indiana Pacers|
|Frontcourt||Roy Hibbert||Indiana Pacers|
|Frontcourt||Joakim Noah||Chicago Bulls|
|Frontcourt||Chris Bosh||Miami Heat|
|Wild Card||Paul Millsap||Atlanta Hawks|
|Wild Card||DeMar DeRozan||Toronto Raptors|
If you haven’t noticed by now, the East’s well of quality reserves isn’t exactly overflowing.
The backcourt should undoubtedly feature John Wall, as he’s leading a solid Washington Wizards team to a respectable record this year. He’s playing the best basketball of his career and more than deserves this spot.
Lance Stephenson has a decent chance to earn a trip to New Orleans as a reserve guard, considering his play has boosted the Indiana Pacers to new heights and added a whole new dimension to an already great team. He is a stat-sheet stuffer and can do a bit of everything, making him a logical All-Star selection.
The frontcourt will almost certainly feature fellow Pacer Roy Hibbert, as the big man is the heart and soul of Indiana’s league-best defense. He’s not going to blow anyone away with raw stats, but his defense is more than worthy enough to land him a spot on the roster.
While Noah has been forced to step up in the wake of Derrick Rose’s injury and Luol Deng’s trade, Bosh has been subtly working on his range and has added a deadly three-point shot this year. Don’t be surprised to see him use it often during this All-Star showcase.
The wild-card spots in the East are a bit tougher to nail down, with a handful of worthwhile stars in the running to nab one. I'm going with Paul Millsap and DeMar DeRozan, two emerging talents that are arguably the best players on their surprisingly competitive franchises.
DeRozan’s high-flying antics make him a perfect substitute in the Big Easy, while Millsap is finally getting some recognition for his standout career away from the spotlight.
|Projected 2014 Western Conference All-Star Reserves|
|Backcourt||James Harden||Houston Rockets|
|Backcourt||Chris Paul||Los Angeles Clippers|
|Frontcourt||LaMarcus Aldridge||Portland Trail Blazers|
|Frontcourt||Dwight Howard||Houston Rockets|
|Frontcourt||Dirk Nowitzki||Dallas Mavericks|
|Wild Card||Tim Duncan||San Antonio Spurs|
|Wild Card||Damian Lillard||Portland Trail Blazers|
The West is absolutely stacked this year, which isn’t a surprise considering its overall record compared to the East's.
As of Thursday, Jan. 23, the Western Conference was a collective 350-281 (.555 winning percentage) and currently boasts 10 teams above the .500 mark. In comparison, the Eastern Conference was a mere 279-348 (.445) and only has four teams above .500.
The disparity in star power in the conferences is one major reason for this massive differential. The West is simply oozing with talent, as general managers realized they needed to stock up in order to have a chance at breaking through in the playoffs.
It’s going to make the coaches' job of voting tough, which is why it’s doubtful that these projections turn out to be anything close to what is actually decided. I'll give it a shot, however, and the names listed are assuredly deserving of an All-Star spot.
James Harden and Chris Paul are a dynamic backcourt duo that should be in this year. Harden can score from anywhere and is thrilling to watch, but his defense is suspect. Considering teams generally only turn on the “D” in the last minutes of a close All-Star Game, it’s hard to find a more perfect guard for this event.
CP3 is also a key cog in making the showcase more exciting for fans. His incredible passing ability is highlighted even more when defenders aren’t giving full effort to lock it down. Expect to see his dimes at the start of a ton of highlight reels focusing on the contest.
Howard was in the running for a starting spot, but missed out by a few votes and was edged by Kevin Love. However, he’s having a great rebound season with the Houston Rockets and is undoubtedly one of the best pivots in the league.
Aldridge has been a borderline All-Star for much of his career and should be a shoo-in during a season in which he’s averaging career highs all over the board and carrying an elite Portland Trail Blazers team.
Nowitzki is still a star at the age of 35 and is currently having the finest shooting season of his long career. With so many worthwhile candidates, the coaches can’t be faulted for voting in the big German for the collective work he’s put in during his career.
The wild-card candidates should include at least one member of the San Antonio Spurs, as they are unsurprisingly still winning games at a high clip and look poised for yet another deep playoff run. Tim Duncan gets the nod, as he’s instrumental on defense and still improbably carrying the team at age 37.
The last spot goes to Damian Lillard, whom Kobe Bryant personally singled out when talking about whom fans should vote for instead of him. As per Matt Moore of CBS Sports, the Mamba had this to say about his slim chances of playing in the game and who should be his substitute:
I probably won't be able to come back (to the Lakers) soon enough to be able to make my stamp or be able to make my mark on a game. So my advice would be to focus on younger players, the Damian Lillards of the world, because they're more than deserving to be out there and playing that weekend.
Don’t be surprised if the coaches listen to the future Hall of Famer and vote Lillard in as the final wild card.