The NBA released the names of the reserves who'll round out the rosters for the 2014 All-Star Game in New Orleans on Thursday, proving once and for all that justice is dead.
I'm joking of course, but that'll be the cry from supporters of the many deserving candidates who will have to watch the Feb. 16 exhibition from home. It's impossible to please everybody.
But if you think about it, shouldn't we be glad that so many great players missed out on an All-Star berth? After all, it's supposed to be hard to earn a spot among the league's elite. And on the flip side of every snub, there's a surprise.
So now, a handful of players whose credentials might not scream "All-Star" will get a chance to prove they belong. That's exciting, right?
Anyway, the results are in, as voted on by coaches around the league.
Prepare your righteous indignation or unmitigated joy as necessary. Here come the biggest snubs and surprises from this year's All-Star reserves.
We'll call this a mild surprise.
Damian Lillard is an integral part of the NBA's best offensive team, and he's putting together a remarkable season from long distance that could threaten the single-season record for made three-point shots.
But the competition for the limited number of guard spots out West is fierce, and picking the Blazers' floor general over so many worthy candidates was far from a sure thing.
Defensively, he has improved in his second season. But Lillard is still a long way from ever being mistaken for a stopper. Toss in his recent slump and a snub was actually a bigger possibility than it might have seemed.
Apparently, the coaches saw fit to reward Lillard's contributions to his team's terrific offense. It also probably didn't hurt his chances that he has been a fantastic clutch performer all season long. By putting together a half-season resume that features as many game-winners and late-contest daggers as Lillard has, he made it too hard to ignore his candidacy.
Congratulations, NBA coaches; you've stolen Goran Dragic's dream.
Per Greg Esposito of Suns.com, Dragic gushed about the possibility of being named to the West's All-Star roster earlier this month:
It would mean a lot. When you’re a kid you’re dreaming to play in first division, Euroleague and then NBA. You get all excited when you watch the All-Star game… This is my wish, someday to play. It is hard. The competition is really big.
He told Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic something similar:
If they put me there, I’ll probably be the happiest guy in the whole world. For the first five seasons, I couldn’t even imagine or think about that I could be there. If that happens, I think I’m going to cry or something.
It's hard to understand how the coaches could have left Dragic out. Lillard is having a great year, but the Phoenix Suns' point guard has been better. Per NBA.com, Dragic boasts a higher true-shooting percentage, rebound rate and assist rate than Lillard.
Plus, the crafty Slovenian is a better defender and has to shoulder a much heavier load on a team that lacks the kind of star support LaMarcus Aldridge offers Lillard with the Portland Trail Blazers.
Dragic's exclusion hurts because he deserves to be among the West reserves. His performance this season has been nothing short of All-Star worthy.
The added stinger: Dragic will miss out on a $1 million incentive in his contract that would have kicked in if he'd been named to the team.
Here's hoping he sneaks in via Kobe Bryant's injury-replacement slot.
Don't get me wrong, DeMar DeRozan has had a fantastic year—especially since Rudy Gay skipped town.
But naming him to the East reserves ahead of teammate Kyle Lowry is difficult to comprehend.
The counting numbers are there for the Raps' shooting guard, but it's hard to look at a 42.8 field-goal percentage and a 30.8 three-point percentage and come away saying, "Yeah, that guy's one of the 12 best players in his conference."
It's great that DeRozan will be in New Orleans, but it's pretty stunning that he'll be there ahead of some more deserving candidates.
Lance Stephenson's All-Star case looked pretty strong this year. His growth from a serviceable role player into a do-it-all force on both ends fit the kind of narrative coaches often reward when making their selections.
It also doesn't hurt that he's become an invaluable part of the best team in the NBA.
With Hibbert already named to the reserves and Paul George a member of the East's starting lineup, it didn't seem unreasonable to give the dominant Indiana Pacers a third honor.
But Stephenson didn't quite make it, despite one of the most, um, enthusiastic promotional campaigns.
Don't worry, Lance. You're a rising star who'll cash in as a free agent very soon, and you've got a championship chase to keep the sadness away.
Stephenson missed out this time, but I'm guessing this won't be the last time he joins the All-Star conversation.
High fives all around!
Paul Millsap's selection is as big of a surprise as any, but credit the coaches for getting this one right.
Perhaps Andre Drummond's rebounding numbers and blocked shots were worth a longer look. And Lowry's all-around excellence definitely should have warranted a spot.
But Millsap has helped keep the Atlanta Hawks right in the thick of the race for the No. 3 spot in the Eastern Conference despite the loss of Al Horford for the season and the recent ankle injury that has hampered Jeff Teague.
All-Stars can carry a team through adversity, and Millsap has done exactly that.
Thanks to the addition of a reliable three-point stroke and the freedom to fire away in head coach Mike Budenholzer's free-wheeling offensive system, Millsap's game has undergone significant growth this season. His rebounding prowess remains formidable, and his effort level never drops below the "relentless" setting.
This is a pleasant surprise and a well-deserved honor for Millsap.
If you've read this far, you're well aware that Lowry didn't make the cut.
That's a real shame, and is easily the biggest snub among East reserves. But it wasn't unforeseeable.
Many analysts were ready for this one, including Grantland's Zach Lowe: "One Eastern Conference guard has a higher PER than Kyle Lowry, and that player (Wade) has missed 13 games. (Yes, I'm preparing my snub rant)."
Apparently, Lowry's reputation for crankiness and allegedly difficult personality really came back to bite him. If he were being judged on statistics alone, there wouldn't be a way to justify his exclusion.
Any time you have a one-dimensional, low-efficiency scorer averaging 15.7 points per game on one of the most disappointing (albeit really hot right now) teams in the NBA, you've got to give that guy an All-Star nod.
Clearly, that was the flawed logic that led to Joe Johnson's selection to the East reserves.
Either that, or Johnson peeled off a few million bucks from his bloated salary and distributed it to the voting pool.
Seriously, there is no sensible way to defend Johnson's inclusion among the Eastern Conference backups. He can't defend, has numbers that look nothing like those belonging to an All-Star shooting guard and hasn't played with any kind of consistency this year.
Technically, this counts as a surprise. But if verbal accuracy matters at all, we have to term this a "joke."
I don't even know where to start.
Anthony Davis has been one of the best players in the entire NBA this year. He's been a statistical monster, passes the All-Star eye test with flying colors and seems to be getting better by the nanosecond.
B/R's own Ethan Norof asked the question on everybody's mind when the reserves were announced: "Anthony Davis: 20.4 points, 10.4 rebounds, 1.5 steals, 3.3 blocks. 20 years old. Not an All-Star. What do these coaches watch?"
Maybe the New Orleans Pelicans' unsightly record hurt AD's case. Maybe there was a league-wide blackout that prevented Davis' games from reaching television markets around the country. Or perhaps coaches around the league are still somehow unhip to his dominant play.
I get it: The West is loaded. But Davis is more deserving than Lillard, Howard and possibly even LaMarcus Aldridge. The numbers bear it out, and if you've seen him, Davis' play makes it inconceivable that he's not an All-Star.
According to Arash Markazi of ESPN, CP3 very much wants to play in the All-Star Game but might be prevented from participating because of his bum shoulder. Nobody's wishing any ill health on Paul, but if he were to sit out it'd open up another injury spot for the Brow.
Here's hoping Paul opts for a cautious approach in his recovery.