NBA All-Star 2014: A case for all the reserve candidates

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

SB Nation's NBA bloggers make a case for their team's All-Star candidates.

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TNT's regular Thursday broadcast will included the announcement of NBA All-Star reserves. Kyrie Irving, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony will start for the East, while Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Kevin Love and Blake Griffin will start for the West.

Who will join them?

Here's a roundup of SB Nation bloggers' opinions on the matter. Some reserve candidates are near-locks, while others could be called deserving darkhorses.

Western Conference

Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers

Since Kobe Bryant has been pushing for Lillard to take his All-Star spot before he knew he'd miss the game, it's only logical the second-year point guard makes it, right? Blazer's Edge's Ben Golliber thinks that it's a fair move if the injured All-Stars aren't able to go.

... if Bryant, Paul and Westbrook all wind up as injury scratches, Lillard would be a very, very strong bet to make his first All-Star Game appearance as a reserve selection. This would be a lock, more or less.

DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings

Cousins is posting an off-the-charts PER that's currently 26.58, good enough for sixth in the NBA behind Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Chris Paul, Kevin Love and Anthony DavisAnd as Sactown Royalty wrote in December, that should be enough to put Cousins in the conversation despite the Kings' lack of success as a team.

By all statistical measures, DeMarcus Cousins is playing at an All-Star level. His Player Efficiency Rating (PER) of 26.6 is currently good enough for 6th in the league. Only 28 players in the league's history have attained that high of a PER. The only ones among them that did not make the All-Star game were Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1978 (broken hand kept him out most of the first part of the season) and Shaquille O'Neal in 1999 (no All-Star game due to lockout).

Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans

Davis isn't of drinking age yet, but he's already putting up numbers comparable to the game's greats. He might be the most dynamic player in the NBA as is, according to The Bird Writes.

Now, the only possible barrier to Davis' All-Star bid will be the notion that players from teams towards the bottom of the standings deserve less consideration. That perhaps these players are filling up box scores because they are surrounded by inadequate talent. Several years ago, a lot of voters obviously viewed Kevin Love in this light as he was unjustly snubbed. Thankfully, David Stern added him to the 2011 game to replace an injured Yao Ming, but it shouldn't have come down to that.

Goran Dragic, Phoenix Suns

At Bright Side of the Sun, the biggest piece in arguing for Dragic may come in his impact on the team as one of the top NBA players in win shares in the league. Dragic is competing against players that have credentials from last season changing the perspective of this one, writes Bright Side's Dave King.

A number of well-written articles this week (including this one on si.com) detail in convincing fashion that Goran Dragic will come up just short of being named to play in the game this year.

Mike Conley, Tony Parker and Damian Lillard are all fighting Dragic for one or two spots and their best advantage is having played at All-Star levels before this season began. Conley and Parker have done it in the playoffs.

Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks

The 35-year-old Nowitzki is averaged 21.6 points per game while shooting 48.3 percent overall and 39.3 from deep. Over at Mavs Moneyball, the statistics show that an aging Dirk is still an All-Star worthy Dirk.

He's 4th among Western Conference PFs in points (Love, Aldridge, Griffin) but among those, he's second in FG% to Blake Griffin; first in 3pt% which is two points better than Kevin Love. He has the best FT% by 8 points, over LaMarcus Aldridge. The fact that there's a different guy out of the four in 1st or 2nd in each of these categories, while Dirk is in 1st or 2nd in all of them is as good a sign as there is that what's always been true is still true: that Dirk is one of the best in the league. (He's also right behind Anthony Davis and Love in PER.)

Serge IbakaOklahoma City Thunder

Ibaka's averages -- 14.7 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks -- may not altogether jump out, but it's that blocks per game average representing how dominating of a defensive presence he's been this season. In the eyes of Welcome to Loud City blogger Chris Hanneke, that's what to focus on in the forward's resume.

His defensive rating is seventh in the West among players that have played more than 30 games, and the team's status as a Top 5 defense can be largely attributed to that dominating interior presence of Ibaka.

Perhaps most importantly, Ibaka's team is in first place in a ridiculously competitive Western Conference, and he's been the second-best player in getting them there.

Power Rankings: The Thunder reign supreme

Eastern Conference

Paul MillsapAtlanta Hawks

Millsap is another player who's managed to keep his team churning -- and winning -- without a key cog. Al Horford went down with a shoulder injury, but Millsap's year averages of 17.8 points, 8.2 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game have come with the power forward playing within the flow of Mike Budenholzer's offense.

If there's anything to be said about Millsap's candidacy, Atlanta's 23-21 record heading into Thursday should say that he's the best healthy player on a team that doesn't stink, according to Peachtree Hoops' Kris Willis.

You can't justify taking Afflalo or Drummond by saying the East stinks when you overlook one of the teams that doesn't stink in the process.

Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons

If consistency holds a valid place in All-Star voting, Andre Drummond probably deserves more credit. The Pistons haven't had a smooth-sailing season, but Drummond hasn't tried to act like he's anything more than what he is at this point. He's averaging 12.6 points, 12.7 rebounds and 1.8 blocks a night.

Detroit Bad Boys is still finding themselves convincing people that Drummond deserves an All-Star bid.

I won't try to convince you with the irresistible numbers; I won't go into detail about how he's first in the entire NBA in offensive rebounds, second in double-doubles, third in total rebounds, third in field goal percentage, third in dunks, fifth in production per 48 minutes and seventh in blocks per game. This is a family blog, so I'll stop there. I won't disparage his competition by calling them ugly names. Joakim Noah and Anderson Varejao? Really?

Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia 76ers

There's an argument for Sixers Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner to make the All-Star squad in a weak Eastern Conference, but it actually could be Carter-Williams who is most deserving, according to Liberty Baller's Michael Levin. After all, they've learned just how important he is when the Sixers play without the rookie point guard.

MCW leads all rookies in every category from points to typing speed and has demonstrated with his absences that he's clearly the most valuable player on the Sixers. They have a record that's closer to Michael Martinez's wOBA than an actual win percentage without MCW in the lineup. In a mostly weak guard class in the East, he has maybe the best shot.

John Wall, Washington Wizards

Wall is competing with Raptors Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, Pacers guard Lance Stephenson, Arron Afflalo, Joe Johnson and a few others. Between the Wizards' relative success in the East and Wall's role therein, it always seemed like a lock, believes Mike Prada of Bullets Forever.

There are two backup guard spots and two wild card selections, and it's hard for me to see four Eastern Conference guards who have been better than Wall this year.

Joe Johnson, Brooklyn Nets

Johnson isn't putting up huge numbers, but he's been efficient enough and consistent for the Nets. When it comes down to it, Eastern Conference All-Star coach Frank Vogel wouldn't mind having a player of Johnson's unique skill-set if the game is a close one, Nets Daily surmises.

It will be, as it always is, contentious, but we have to think Frank Vogel ... would want a guy like Joe Jesus who knows just what to do when the final clock ticks down 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 in a close one. Every coach does.

Lance Stephenson, Indiana Pacers

Stephenson could be All-Star No. 3 for the Pacers after starter Paul George and a likely selection of Roy Hibbert as a reserve. He's averaging 14.2 points, 5.3 assists and 7.1 rebounds per game while shooting nearly 50 percent from the floor and playing more-than-serviceable defense. But Tom Lewis of Indy Cornrows wonders if Stephenson's personality might hurt his chances rather than help it.

So the numbers and the prism through which coaches view the numbers will be a factor, but that part about Lance driving opponents nuts may also play a strong role in the voting. We're talking about humans and if a coach doesn't appreciate the way Lance celebrates a play or tries to get under the skin of one of his players, he may cast his vote elsewhere. Some of his players may beg him to do so, as well.

Arron Afflalo, Orlando Magic

Afflalo has put up quite impressive numbers this season, but his Magic are struggling. But when it comes down to it, Afflalo has carried more of a heavy load than many other All-Star candidates like Lance Stephenson, according to Orlando Pinstriped Post's Evan Dunlap.

Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker, Charlotte Bobcats

Jefferson may have a tough time getting into the All-Star game with Roy Hibbert and Joakim Noah filling in the undefined center spot in the East, but he has the numbers and the impact in Charlotte to make a very solid case, writes Ben Swanson of Rufus on Fire.

The same goes for Walker, even though he's currently battling an injury.

Luol Deng, Cleveland Cavaliers

Coaches may reward All-Star reserves for playing on winning teams, and Deng's case took a hit when he was traded from Chicago to Cleveland, according to Fear the Sword's Conrad Kaczmarek.

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Ziller: The 30 biggest moments of David Stern's career

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