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The NBA unveiled the 10 2013 All-Star starters on Thursday. A week from now, the league will announce its reserves as chosen by coaches. We offer up our suggestions herein.
Picking NBA All-Star Game reserves often isn't an easy task -- there are a ridiculous amount of deserving players with seemingly cast-iron cases, and everyone has a different value system in judging those players. Luckily, the fan voters did a solid job in choosing starters in 2013. There are no egregious names among the starters, so there are few reserve slots that need to be dedicated as make-up spaces.
Mike Prada and I share below who we'd vote for as NBA All-Star reserves this season. Let's start with the
Prada: Kyrie Irving and Jrue Holiday.
With Derrick Rose injured and Deron Williams playing like a man worth a third of his contract, the crop of All-Star quality guards in the East is incredibly weak. Irving is an obvious choice despite his injury and the Cavaliers' own struggles because he's still just as good as he was during an incredible rookie season. He should have made the All-Star team last year and he'll rightfully get his chance this year.
After that, it falls off pretty quick, leaving Holiday to earn the second guard spot by default. Williams has played better recently, but I can't give an all-star nod that is shooting just 41 percent from the field, has seen his assist numbers drop and still makes mind-bogging decisions in key situations. Brandon Jennings is always sort of in the picture, but he's still fundamentally the same player that has always fallen short in the past. That leaves Holiday, who, to be fair, has emerged as a legitimate candidate to make the team. He's upped his efficiency despite a massive jump in usage and kept the 76ers afloat despite not having Andrew Bynum.
Ziller: Kyrie Irving and Jrue Holiday.
Like Prada, I found the East guard options wanting. There are basically three options after Irving: Holiday, Brandon Jennings and Deron Williams. Williams might actually have been the best, if not for those abysmal shooting numbers at the utter disappointment his performance has been. Jennings' efficiency, though, isn't exactly better. And even Holiday isn't too efficient, himself. But he's been a more consistent threat for Philadelphia, is the best defender in the group and is bar none the best, most willing passer of the three. So he gets a reluctant nod. (Can't we just call Paul George a guard one more time?) If you really loosen up all games played standards, you could wedge Kyle Lowry in here.
Prada: Tyson Chandler, Chris Bosh and Paul Pierce
Three pretty obvious choices here. Pierce has been rejuvenated again and is leading the Celtics in the way we all expected Rajon Rondo to lead them this year. Chandler has fallen off a bit since a ridiculous start to the year, but he's still the league's most efficient player while also being a top-five defender. Bosh has his well-publicized issues on the glass, but he's also having the most efficient shooting year of his career.
Ziller: Brook Lopez, Bosh and Chandler
For me, Lopez is the first big man off the bench and the closest competitor to Kevin Garnett for the starting lineup. Lopez has been exemplary for the Nets through 32 games, and what we've learned to date is basically that Brooklyn cannot do without him. Bosh has been as good as ever (which is really, really good) and while the Knicks' defense has struggled, imagine where it'd be without the best defensive center in the NBA who also happens to be quite adept at throwing down Jason Kidd alley-oops still.
WILD CARDS (2)
Prada: Paul George and Lopez
George wasn't an especially difficult choice. His numbers are a bit underwhelming compared to his peers, but a lot of that has to do with his slow start. He has emerged so thoroughly that it's honestly saved Indiana's season after the seemingly devastating Danny Granger injury. David West has been solid and George Hill continues to play well, but without George's ability to move without the ball, be a top offensive option and also be arguably the best defensive wing in the East, the Pacers' season would have been torpedoed.
The choice of Lopez was much more difficult. I debated for a long time between Lopez and Joakim Noah and ultimately chose Lopez's offense over Noah's defense. Lopez is deadly efficient offensively despite a lot of usage, especially under P.J. Carlesimo, and he's gotten his rebounding back up to the respectable level it was at when he was a rookie. Noah's defense has been very good, but Lopez has been the best offensive center in the league. He gets my vote for that.
Ziller: Joakim Noah and Pierce
My tough decision was between Pierce and Al Horford, a two-time All-Star who didn't get my nod because he's no longer a high-efficiency scorer. His defense remains superlative, and he's a versatile weapon that always makes the Hawks better. He'll be No. 1 on my injury replacement list. Pierce just continues to be the excellent scorer and all-around player that Boston desperately needs. It feels odd to give Boston three All-Stars while a couple much better teams (Pacers, Hawks) get none, but what can you do?
Noah's a no-brainer for me. Based on what we've seen since 2009, I think that if Tom Thibodeau told Noah to develop a three-point shot, he could do it. What a fantastic learner and a player who is so much better than when he entered the league.
Prada: James Harden and Russell Westbrook
Two obvious choices here. One interesting question: which player has been better this season? I lean to Harden, but Westbrook has quietly improved his court vision, even if his decision-making can still be an issue. It's closer than you think.
Ziller: Harden and Westbrook
This is not even a question. Fact to know: Westbrook is just barely behind Chris Paul in assist rate, which is the the percentage of a player's used possessions that are assists. Russell Westbrook! They said as recently as a year ago that he wasn't a real point guard!
Prada: Tim Duncan, David Lee and Marc Gasol
Duncan is having one of his most efficient seasons and probably should be the West starter. Lee has been lights-out offensively and surprisingly competent defensively for the West's surprise team. Gasol has been one of the league's best defensive centers on one of the league's best defenses and very much deserves another berth over any of his Grizzlies teammates.
Ziller: Duncan, Serge Ibaka and Andrei Kirilenko
Duncan is a no-brainer and should be the starter over Dwight Howard. Ibaka vs. Lee is an interesting comparison: Lee scores more per-minute, plays more and is a much better passer. But Ibaka is more efficient and the defensive comparison is totally imbalanced. I'd like to reward the Warriors and Lee, but Ibaka, in my mind, deserves the nod more.
Then there's Kirilenko, who I posit needs more support for an All-Star bid based on a whirlwind effort this season. Despite dealing with his own injury and trying to work with a butchered roster befallen with serious maladies, he's been the biggest reason the Timberwolves are still afloat without Kevin Love. He's shooting 51 percent from the floor with a True Shooting percentage of .589, he's offering up solid numbers on the boards, in assists and in the usual blocks and steals. There's an argument that excepting Love, who was around for less than half of the season, Kirilenko has not only been Minnesota's best defender, but its best offensive player, too. He gets my nod here.
WILD CARDS (2)
Prada: Tony Parker and Ibaka.
Parker was an obvious pick here. Last year, he was a dark horse MVP candidate. This year, he's upped his True Shooting percentage to above .590 and has improved his on-ball defense. He just keeps getting better and better.
The last pick was very difficult, and I decided to go with Ibaka because of his impact on both ends. He's become automatic from mid-range, has improved as a pick-and-roll finisher, flashes some post moves and has developed a much better understanding of angles and positioning defensively. Without his emergence, we'd still be talking about how much the Thunder miss Harden. Because of his emergence, we're talking about the Thunder as an all-time great team.
Ziller: Parker and Stephen Curry.
As Prada notes, Parker was a legit MVP ballot candidate in 2011-12 and is better in 2012-13. So are a number of other players, but Parker deserves recognition for holding down the fort in San Antonio as Manu Ginobili (who has been excellent when on the court) has fought injuries.
I took Curry over any of the Grizzlies, Lee, the Jazz big men, LaMarcus Aldridge, Jamal Crawford, Damian Lillard or any other candidate out there. Lee was the closest competitor. I picked Curry over Lee because he's more efficient and works really with any of the Warriors' other guards (Klay Thompson, Jarrett Jack). It's close, though: he and Lee are basically the same player, one in big man form and the other a guard. All apologies to Marc Gasol, but seriously, the Grizzlies are good more because every starter is really good, not because any are truly excellent.
The All-Star reserves will be announced Thursday, January 24. Stay tuned to SBNation.com for full coverage.