We already know who will be starting the 2014 NBA All-Star Game, but we will have to wait until Thursday night to figure out how the rest of the roster will shake out.
The league has been mum on who its 30 head coaches have voted into the remaining 14 roster spots, but will finally reveal the benches for both the Eastern and Western Conferences during an hour-long special presentation of NBA Tip-Off.
Let’s take a look at where you can catch this highly anticipated announcement of the All-Star reserves, make some predictions on who will earn this lofty distinction and more.
When: Thursday, Jan. 30 at 7 p.m. ET
Watch: TNT (One-hour NBA Tip-Off special before CLE vs. NYK, LAC vs. GSW double-header)
Live Stream: TNT Overtime
Announcers: Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal and Kenny Smith
|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|
The Eastern Conference isn’t the most talented collection of teams this year but should still be able to field a somewhat competitive group when the superstar starters take a breather. However, if inter-conference record is any indication of performance in the All-Star Game, this could get out of hand in a hurry.
As of Jan. 29, the West has been collectively dominating the East and holds a 159-83 record in head-to-head matchups. It’s no surprise that—as of the same date—the West also hosts 11 teams that are at or above .500 on the season, while the East fields just six such franchises.
It’ll be interesting to see if the weaker conference can hang in this matchup, so let’s take a look at who will be out on the court when the starters sit.
John Wall, who is having a strong year for the Washington Wizards, will likely lead the backcourt substitutes. Even if the conference wasn’t so weak, Wall would be deserving for helping lead his squad into playoff contention and putting up the best numbers of his career along the way.
Lance Stephenson should join him in the backcourt, as the Indiana Pacers guard has undoubtedly taken the leap to stardom in 2013-14. He’s a deadly weapon coming off the pine and will be a major X-factor for the team come playoff time.
Roy Hibbert should be subbed in quickly to stop the West from constantly attacking the rim against the East’s immensely small starting lineup. The 7’2” center may not be filling the stat sheet this year, but his presence as the best defender on the best defensive team should make him a shoo-in for a reserve spot.
Does the East have enough firepower to beat the West?
Look for Joakim Noah and Chris Bosh to join Hibbert in the frontcourt. Noah is doing more than ever now that he’s entered his prime and lost his two best teammates, Derrick Rose and Luol Deng, in the midst of the season. Bosh has added a deadly three-point shot to his repertoire and continues to tweak his game in a new ways as he approaches 30.
For the wild-card spots, don’t be shocked if Paul Millsap and DeMar DeRozan get the nod. These two aren’t exactly superstars, but they are arguably the best players on playoff-bound teams in the East.
The high-flying DeRozan will be thrilling to watch in this type of showcase, while Millsap finally gets a nod for his steady contributions since entering the league back in 2006.
|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 Western Conference reserves are likely going to get an additional body now that fan-voted starter Kobe Bryant is expected to miss the annual exhibition contest as he recovers from a left knee injury.
However, the coaches will not decide on whom to replace the Black Mamba with, as that is up to the league.
The head coach, who will be whoever oversees the team with best record in the conference at the All-Star break—with the exception of San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, who is ineligible after coaching last year—will get to decide on who starts from his pool of players.
If it were up to Bryant, it appears that Damian Lillard would be elected the starter. He mentioned the Portland Trail Blazers star by name on multiple occasions when asking fans not to vote for him, as per CBS Sports’ Matt Moore:
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.
Lillard will almost certainly be elected to the game in a reserve capacity, as he’s been critical for a great Portland Trail Blazers team. Teammate LaMarcus Aldridge is also a shoo-in for the bench, as the big man is putting up career numbers and narrowly missed being voted in as a starter by the fans.
Which team will win?
Another pair of teammates should also be heading to New Orleans as reserves, that duo being James Harden and Dwight Howard of the Houston Rockets. The Beard may not be playing great defense, or even capable of it, but he’s the type of player the league wants in an All-Star event due to his ability to score from anywhere on the court.
D12 was expected to earn a starting nod, but a last-minute surge of votes for Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves leaves Howard’s streak of seven consecutive All-Star appearances in jeopardy. However, because of his rejuvenated play this year, the center is definitely going to show up wearing an All-Star uniform in the Big Easy.
Don’t be surprised to see a few familiar faces on the West bench either. Dirk Nowitzki and Tim Duncan have a combined 25 All-Star appearances between them and may each make another in 2014. The Big German is pacing the Dallas Mavericks with his best shooting season ever, while The Big Fundamental is still carrying the Spurs on defense and averaging close to a double-double in less than 30 minutes per night.
Rounding out the roster would be Chris Paul, the superstar point guard that makes everyone around him better. He’s an assist machine and his dimes are exactly what the West needs to put on a show in NOLA on Feb. 16.