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51 NBA All-Star Game reserve candidates, ranked

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Yes, your team’s favorite player received consideration.

Fans, players, and the media conspired to elect the 10 NBA All-Star starters for the 2019 showcase in Charlotte next month. Those starters are LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Paul George, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, Joel Embiid, and Kawhi Leonard.

Now, coaches will pick the seven reserves from each conference. Here they are:

Now that those are announced, captains James and Antetokounmpo will draft from among the pool of starters (James has first pick) followed by the pool of reserves (Antetokounmpo will pick first for those).

But who should the reserves have been?

The coaches decided unilaterally, but that doesn’t mean that we cannot make our own suggestions. In lieu of the traditional list of seven picks from each conference, we (in usual fashion) went overboard by ranking the top 51 candidates to be an NBA All-Star Game reserve in 2019. Below you will find our top 23 Eastern and top 28 Western Conference candidates.

Consider the top seven in each my actual picks. Of those 14, 11 were named to the actual All-Star Game. The ones that weren’t: Khris Middleton, Klay Thompson, and LaMarcus Aldridge.

Consider the criteria completely subjective, nebulous, and nonsensical.

East

23. Tim Hardaway Jr.

Hardaway is having a pretty nice season if you can ignore the shooting percentage (38 percent), which admittedly is a very big thing to ignore.

22. Brook Lopez

Lopez is very important to the Bucks’ success, but this is an opportunity to note for the record that importance to a particular style does not indicate all-star status. Like, sauerkraut is very important to the Reuben sandwich, but sauerkraut would never be considered an all-star accoutrement. Brook Lopez is good, but he’s not corned beef or marbled rye or Swiss cheese.

21. J.J. Redick

Redick continues to do really important things for a Sixers team led by a dominant center and a dominant point-forward who won’t shoot. I toyed with ranking Redick higher than Jimmy Butler on this list, but that’s a bit too contrarian (even for me).

20. John Collins

Collins is averaging 19 and 10 while shooting just about 60 percent from the floor. His effective field goal percentage (62 percent) is higher than your favorite’s True Shooting percentage. (If that sentence doesn’t mean anything to you, I envy you.) But he’s missed a bunch of time and the Hawks aren’t ever playing to win.

19. Jayson Tatum

Tatum isn’t exactly worse than he was last season, but he sure isn’t better either.

18. Josh Richardson

Richardson is the Heat’s best player, which is really nice for him and not terribly nice for Miami. He’s like a DIY punk scene version of Hardaway.

17. Pascal Siakam

There’s been a Pascal Siakam all-star push. I am here for Siakam boosterism: he’s really good and really important to the Raptors, who are really good. But you can’t put him above the Bucks’ co-stars or the conference’s other more traditional all-stars.

I will say this: if Kawhi Leonard leaves in the summer, Siakam is the biggest piece of Toronto’s future.

16. Spencer Dinwiddie

Dinwiddie is having a really nice season for a really nice team. That’s the end of this Spencer Dinwiddie as an all-star candidate entry.

15. Andre Drummond

No one likes the Pistons (especially anyone on the Pistons) and Drummond has fallen short of really high expectations under multiple coaches now. Yet he’s still putting up 16 and 15.

14. Aaron Gordon

What if, like, this is Aaron Gordon’s peak? He’s pretty good — an all-star if all-star rosters went 20 deep, not bad! — but certainly not what the Magic or any of us hoped. No one but Nikola Vucevic’s nuclear family wanted Vooch to be better than A.G., but Vooch is unequivocally better than Gordon. What a world.

13. Zach LaVine

The Bulls are absolute trash, but so are the Suns and Devin Booker is getting all-star push. Zach LaVine is Devin Booker with bad press. Show me the lie.

12. D’Angelo Russell

Can we slow down with this D’Angelo Russell all-star thing? Just a bit? Sure, he’s the best Net and the Nets are a playoff team. And sure, he’s now averaging 19 points a game on efficient scoring, with six assists to boot. He’s in the mix.

But other players just have better cases. The Nets’ strength is their depth and their fight, not that they rally behind the undeniable talent of D’Angelo Russell.

11. Khris Middleton

As someone who predicted that Middleton would be an all-star before the season, I’m very cross that he’s the No. 3 Buck in the hierarchy due to Contract Year Eric Bledsoe (we’ll get to him). This is the type of player that keeps D’Angelo Russell out of the real all-star conversation. The counting stats are a bit lower, but the impact is greater.

UPDATE: Middleton did indeed make it, shutting out Bledsoe.

10. Domantas Sabonis

With Victor Oladipo’s injuries, Sabonis has certainly been the most reliable Pacer, and the Pacers are really good! Sabonis is basically John Collins for a really good team.

9. Jimmy Butler

Of all the reasons to not make Jimmy Butler an all-star, the most compelling is that Timberwolves fans were relieved to get rid of him by the end of the saga, despite the Wolves clearly being worse off for it.

Jimmy Butler wasn’t worth it. What an indictment.

8. Al Horford

Under these schema, because the person above him is injured, Horford gets an all-star spot. But no one wants to see Horford in an NBA All-Star Game, not the least of which Horford. Can we develop a system by which Horford officially gets the nod but is replaced in the game by D’Angelo Russell or even Tim Hardaway Jr.?

7. Victor Oladipo

Oladipo is out for the season, but that doesn’t mean he can’t show up to Charlotte with crutches to get his due. His season was a step back compared to last year’s shocker campaign, but he’s still one of the best six guards in the East.

Oladipo indeed made the team, but will be replaced due to his injury.

6. Eric Bledsoe

Bledsoe beats out Middleton for the No. 2 Bucks spot despite very similar numbers. Bledsoe at his best (which is what we’re seeing this season) is just a different level of power. He’s making Milwaukee’s upcoming free agency decisions really hard.

5. Kyle Lowry

Lowry’s scoring has slipped substantially, but he’s averaging nine assists per game and he’s a clear No. 2 in importance to Leonard for a fantastic Raptors team. If both Lowry and DeMar DeRozan make all-star and captains James and Antetokounmpo don’t find a way to get them on the same team, we’re going to have problems.

Lowry did indeed make the team.

4. Ben Simmons

He’s not perfect, he’s not fully formed, but damn if Ben Simmons isn’t really good and really valuable. If he had a jumper he’d be unfair. As is, he’s a pretty clear all-star.

Simmons did indeed make the team.

3. Bradley Beal

Beal has been the bright spot for the Wizards, and it’s telling that with the team fully under his purview, Washington looks like a legitimate playoff threat. I was always a skeptic that Beal would end up better than John Wall, but it’s obvious now.

Beal did indeed make the team.

2. Nikola Vucevic

Vooch is a super legitimate all-star. He remains the most consequential piece from the ages-old Dwight Howard trade.

And the Magic still can’t win. What a bummer. At least Vooch will finally get some big-time shine at All-Star Weekend.

Vucevic did indeed make the team.

1. Blake Griffin

Griffin should be absolutely miserable in Detroit due to the miserable roster around him, but the numbers are superb and he gives the Pistons a chance to win most nights. The investment in Griffin looks safe for now. It’s the rest of the cap sheet that Detroit needs to fix.

Griffin did indeed make the team.

West

28. Derrick Rose

Hell no. What are y’all fan and player voters thinking?

27. Marc Gasol

I just wanted an opportunity to note for the record that leaving Memphis on bad terms is a Gasol family tradition, and I respect Marc’s commitment to narrative.

26. Montrezl Harrell

Harrell’s box scores are outrageous. I don’t know if he’ll ever be much more than this, but this is plenty.

25. Jusuf Nurkic
24. Joe Ingles
23. Steven Adams

Good players for good teams whose contributions extend beyond the box score. Not all-stars. (Sorry, Matt).

22. Draymond Green

No one wants Draymond Green in the NBA All-Star Game. But can we arrange for him and Boogie Cousins to get drafted as designated DNP-CDs for each team, and mic them up for the whole weekend? Thank you.

21. Lou Williams

Top-three reserve ever.

20. C.J. McCollum

Has anyone not named Zach LaVine ever averaged 20 points per game and seen their reputation suffer as much as McCollum this season? Good player. Not close to an all-star this year.

19. Donovan Mitchell

Mitchell is the Westchester County version of Dion Waiters. (That’s a compliment.)

18. Jamal Murray

Many would like to reward the Nuggets’ success with two all-star spots. Give one to Nikola Jokic and the other one to Nikola Jokic’s travel bag, then. Sorry, Jamal.

17. Klay Thompson

Thompson’s shot is back on track, and while the slow start to the season and the Warriors’ odd campaign should have assuredly kept him out of the All-Star Game, he’s still really good.

UPDATE: Apparently, it didn’t. Klay made the team, but I don’t think he should have.

16. Buddy Hield
15. De’Aaron Fox

Hield has been a revelation for the Kings as he becomes more comfortable against NBA defenses; he’s scoring really well on high efficiency. A big reason he’s been able to do that: Fox has quickly become a master conductor for the Sacramento offense. What a duo.

14. Mike Conley

The bad news is that Mike Conley’s entire Grizzlies career will now have gone by without an all-star bid. The good news is that if he gets traded to an Eastern Conference team, he’s a shoo-in for next year.

13. Devin Booker

Forgive me if you feel that I slighted Booker in my comments on Zach LaVine’s all-star candidacy. I mean no offense.

12. Luka Doncic

The rookie has been mentioned as a potential all-star all season. He’s close, but the West is just too tough. There’s a world in which Luka could average a triple-double in five years or so.

11. Danilo Gallinari

The next five players on this list have almost completely equal cases for the last reserve slot in the West. Unfortunately, there’s only one slot. Gallinari has been Tobias Harris’ partner in crime all season and is perhaps the most threatening big man shooter not named Brook Lopez right now.

10. Tobias Harris

This is the platonic ideal of what Harris’ fans always thought he could be in the right conditions: Just an awesome scoring threat for everywhere on the floor. Going into free agency, he sure picked the right time to put everything together.

9. LaMarcus Aldridge

LaMarcus Aldridge is still really damn good. You wonder how much better Portland would have been over the past couple of years had he stayed up there.

UPDATE: Aldridge did indeed make it over the other Spur I had in there instead.

8. Jrue Holiday

Holiday is having another strong season on both ends, despite the Pelicans’ struggles. It would be poetic for him to get another all-star nod given how well he has developed in New Orleans since those Philly days.

7. DeMar DeRozan

This last reserve slot in the West was impossibly hard, but DeRozan gets the nod for shooting 48 percent on two-pointers and giving the Spurs an identity on the court. Every time this season has threatened to really go sideways on San Antonio, Aldridge and DeRozan have brought the ship back on track.

UPDATE: The coaches chose Aldridge instead.

6. Rudy Gobert

The Jazz have quietly stormed back into the West playoff pack, and Gobert is the biggest reason. Not the only reason, but the biggest. Literally and figuratively.

UPDATE: The coaches chose Klay Thompson instead, which was not a good pick.

5. Russell Westbrook

He can’t shoot this season. That’s true. He’s still averaging a 20-point triple-double for a really good team and playing the best defense of his life.

Westbrook did indeed make the team.

4. Karl-Anthony Towns

Towns has had a strong season despite the drama in Minnesota, and he still shows flashes of why he was recently considered the future of the NBA. The prospect of Towns being teamed up again with Butler at all-star is not lost on me.

Towns did indeed make the team.

3. Damian Lillard

Had Stephen Curry missed another week or two, there would have been a really strong case for Lillard to start over him. Of course, fans and players are immensely disrespectful of Lillard, so it wouldn’t happen. Second team All-NBA is in his sights.

Lillard did indeed make the team.

2. Nikola Jokic

Jokic is in a wild fight for All-NBA first team center, so yeah he’s going to be an all-star. Jokic is the top three reasons the Nuggets are awesome, all wrapped into one (large) body.

Jokic did indeed make the team.

1. Anthony Davis

Davis has the numbers of an MVP, and would have been an all-star starter nine out of 10 seasons. He ran into a buzzsaw club of superstars and was narrowly edged by Paul George, a top-10 player who is having the season of his life. It happens.

Davis did indeed make the team.