The NBA All-Star rosters have finally been released in their entirety, and while just about all of the players are deserving, this type of announcement will never come without debate.
After the game's starters were announced last week via fan vote, the coaches did the rest, selecting seven reserves from each conference to fill out the rosters. There needed to be at least two backcourt players and three frontcourt players, but beyond that, the rest was up to the coaches.
While there were likely plenty of debates about individual numbers versus contribution to winning teams, here is a look at the final breakdown and reaction from those involved.
|2016 NBA All-Star Game Rosters|
|Starter||Kyle Lowry (TOR)||Stephen Curry (GS)|
|Starter||Dwyane Wade (MIA)||Russell Westbrook (OKC)|
|Starter||Carmelo Anthony (NYK)||Kobe Bryant (LAL)|
|Starter||Paul George (IND)||Kawhi Leonard (SA)|
|Starter||LeBron James (CLE)||Kevin Durant (OKC)|
|Reserve||Jimmy Butler (CHI)||James Harden (HOU)|
|Reserve||DeMar DeRozan (TOR)||Chris Paul (LAC)|
|Reserve||Isaiah Thomas (BOS)||Klay Thompson (GS)|
|Reserve||John Wall (WAS)||LaMarcus Aldridge (SA)|
|Reserve||Chris Bosh (MIA)||DeMarcus Cousins (SAC)|
|Reserve||Andre Drummond (DET)||Anthony Davis (NO)|
|Reserve||Paul Millsap (ATL)||Draymond Green (GS)|
Arguably the most notable exclusion from this list is Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard. The point guard is putting up the type of numbers you just can't ignore, ranking sixth in the NBA with 24.3 points per game and seventh with 7.1 assists per game. While his team hasn't been great, the fact it is even contending for a playoff spot is impressive.
Despite his incredible start to the year, he is on the outside looking in, something that apparently didn't even surprise the 25-year-old player:
With Chris Paul, James Harden and Klay Thompson all solid bets in the backcourt, many will argue the reason Lillard was left out was the fact Kobe Bryant got a starting nod despite poor numbers this season. However, even the future Hall of Famer believes the Trail Blazer deserved a spot.
When asked last week whether Lillard was an All-Star, Bryant responded, "Why’s that even a question? Of course he should be," per Cody Sharrett of NBA.com.
So who was the least deserving player who made the cut? One could argue former teammate LaMarcus Aldridge was a bit of a question mark, considering his numbers at just 15.9 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. However, a drop in production should have been expected when he signed on to play for the San Antonio Spurs. The truth is he is the second-best player on the second-best team in the NBA.
Dave Zirin of the Nation explained why Aldridge made the cut:
Coaches care more about what a player can do to help a team than his actual numbers, which gave him the edge in this vote.
Another questionable selection was Anthony Davis, who is clearly one of the more talented players in the sport but plays on a team that is just 17-28. Despite this, head coach Alvin Gentry expected his superstar to get a reserve spot before the picks were announced, per Jim Eichenhofer of NBA.com:
I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t (get picked). I’d be very much surprised. Obviously our record is not where we anticipated, (but) injuries have to do with that. But as far as his play, he’s playing at a real high level. When you look at what he brings to our team and what he means to our team, the level he plays at, I’d be very shocked if he wasn’t on the All-Star team.
Frank Isola of the New York Daily News disagreed, though, saying the spot should have gone to Lillard:
Dirk Nowitzki was another possible selection but didn't make the cut. However, there were a few players who required little debate, such as versatile forward Draymond Green. The former second-round pick doesn't put up big scoring numbers but averages of 9.4 rebounds and 7.2 assists per game to go with elite defense make him plenty worthy of being among three Golden State Warriors in this game.
Green also sent a message out to his fans after getting word of his first All-Star appearance:
Jimmy Butler followed a similar path as Green as someone who started out as a role player before becoming a defensive stopper and eventually a star. This makes it no surprise he earned a spot among the Eastern Conference reserves. Interestingly, the shooting guard didn't seem too excited about the possibility of going to the midseason showcase.
"If I’m an All-Star, God meant for it to happen. If I’m not, I’m going on vacation with my brothers," Butler said before the announcement, per Vincent Goodwill of CSN Chicago.
Now that he is part of the roster, however, something tells me the excitement will kick in a bit more.
Isaiah Thomas had an even tougher route to this game. According to Chris Forsberg of ESPN, the 5'9" guard is one of only nine players listed under six feet tall to be named All-Stars. He was also the 60th pick in the 2011 draft, making him the latest selection heading to the All-Star Game since the draft format changed in 1989.
He sent out a series of tweets after hearing the news, thanking just about everyone he ever knew, including his fans and teammates:
With Wade getting in via the fan vote, this duo has been to six straight All-Star Games as teammates, proving they don't really need LeBron James in Miami.
While there might be some adjustments because of injuries and other factors, this is still a loaded group of players on both rosters, and fans should be treated to a great game and weekend overall.
Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for year-round sports analysis.