The NBA announced the starting lineups for the 2016 All-Star Game last week and though there were a few surprises, fan voting resulted in more hits than misses.
Sure, Jimmy Butler should be starting over Dwyane Wade in the East and Kobe Bryant isn’t having an All-Star calibre season in the West, but until the NBA changes the process — or weighs fan votes along with players, coaches and/or media votes — the outcome will always be based on popularity. And I’m OK with that. The fans pay the bills, so let them see the stars they want.
That said, the true honour will now come for 14 more players when seven reserves for each conference, as selected by NBA coaches, are named Thursday (live on Sportsnet ONE at 7 p.m. ET). This is the truest recognition of a player’s success and impact.
Here are the reserves I would name for the 2016 tilt in Toronto:
Starters: Kyle Lowry (TOR), Wade (MIA), LeBron James (CLE), Carmelo Anthony (NYK), Paul George (IND)
DeMar DeRozan (TOR) – He could easily be starting alongside Lowry.
Chris Bosh (MIA) – Coming back from his health scare last year to lead the Heat (more so than Wade) to more-than-respectability this year.
Pau Gasol (CHI) – Father time is not knocking; he’s been a huge key to Chicago’s success.
Jimmy Butler (CHI) – He probably should be starting alongside Lowry.
Andre Drummond (DET) – An absolute monster on the glass with a defensive presence that has Detroit eyeing the post-season.
John Wall (WAS) – Ordinarily I reward winning more than personal glory but in the absence of Bradley Beal, Wall has done all he can to keep the Wizards afloat.
Paul Millsap (ATL) – Honestly this was a pick ’em. Millsap or Al Horford will get the call, but not both.
Close, but missing the cut: Kyrie Irving (CLE), Isaiah Thomas (BOS), Al Horford (ATL)
Starters: Bryant (LAL), Stephen Curry (GS), Kevin Durant (OKC), Russell Westbrook (OKC), Kawhi Leonard (SA)
Chris Paul (LAC) – The glue that holds it all together in Clipperland — even with Blake Griffin gone for a month-plus.
Dirk Nowitzki (DAL) – Put your hand up if you had the Mavericks being this good this year? Dirk is the primary reason — the oil in Dallas’s engine.
DeMarcus Cousins (SAC) – Much like Wall in the East, Cousins has done all he can with the Kings. He may be the best all-around centre in the league.
Tony Parker (SA) – My toughest choice in either conference. His numbers are down, but he’s still the leader of a team that is right on the heels of the Golden State Warriors. The Spurs deserve two All-Stars, not just Leonard by himself, and I give Parker a slight edge ahead of teammates Tim Duncan and LaMarcus Aldridge.
Draymond Green (GS) – An absolute no-brainer. He should be starting.
Klay Thompson (GS) – If the Hawks could have four All-Stars last year, the Warriors can certainly have three this year.
James Harden (HOU) – He doesn’t play a lick of ‘D’ but his offence is his best defence and Houston would be lost without him.
Close, but missing the cut: Anthony Davis (NO), Damian Lillard (POR), DeAndre Jordan (LAC)