Last week, the NBA announced their starting rosters for the 2011 NBA All-Star Game taking place at Staples Center in Los Angeles on February 20th. While the starters are all great players and deserve their spots for the most part, the fun comes with seeing what reserves were selected by the coaches from each conference. The reserves are typically a less predictable bunch that are chosen for the game strictly based on their performance. Let’s take a look at who made the cut this year.
Guard – Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics
Highly criticized in the earlier stages of his career, Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo has emerged as one of the league’s best floor generals. Playing unselfish ball with a cast full of capable scorers, Rondo is leading the league in assists, averaging 12.5 a night. Rajon isn’t just a distributor on a team full of stars – he makes big contributions elsewhere. His 19 double-doubles rank him within the league’s Top 20, and he’s only .11 steals away from catching Chris Paul for the league lead. This marks Rondo’s second time being selected as an NBA All-Star.
Guard – Ray Allen, Boston Celtics
“Sugar” Ray Allen returns to the All-Star Game for the 10th time in his career. Thought to be declining last season, Ray signed an extension with the Celtics over the summer and has come back with a fury. Ray has increased his scoring average to 17 per game, while shooting what would be a career high of 51 percent. He’s also seen increases in categories like rebounds, assists and steals, all while his turnovers have decreased. At 35 years of age, Ray is defying Father Time and has helped the Celtics finish the first half of the season with the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
Guard – Joe Johnson, Atlanta Hawks
Over the summer, Atlanta Hawks shooting guard Joe Johnson signed a six-year deal worth a reported $120 million dollars. When a team pays All-Star money, they expect All-Star performances, and Joe Johnson has done exactly that for the Hawks. Quietly, Johnson will be playing in the All-Star Game for the fifth consecutive year. He currently leads the Hawks in both scoring and assists, a testament to his versatility as a swingman and a big reason the Hawks are currently seeded in the top half of the East.
Forward – Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics
“The Captain” has been selected as an Eastern Conference All-Star for the ninth time in his 13-year Celtics career. Once again, Pierce is Boston’s leading scorer and go-to offensive weapon down the stretch. A player who notched his 20,000th career point this season, Paul is on pace for career highs in both field goal percentage and three-point percentage. He’s also increased his rebound and assist averages from a year ago, a sign that Boston’s team philosophy can keep this team contending for a few more years.
Forward – Chris Bosh, Miami Heat
No viral video campaigning needed this time. The least heralded member of the Miami Heat’s new “Big Three” is actually making an impressive sixth trip to the All-Star Game. With two All-Star starts under his belt, Bosh’s role as a reserve this year is fitting considering how he’s had to scale back his own game in Miami for the sake of team success. His numbers are down across the board for obvious reasons, but he has the most realistic shot at an NBA Championship of his career, and his sacrifice will play a large role in Miami’s chances to hold up the big trophy at the end.
Forward – Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics
Whether or not Kevin Garnett is Boston’s best player is up for debate. He is, however, without question the most important Celtic due to how much he changes the landscape of the team defensively. KG will be making his 14th trip to the All-Star Game in 16 seasons. This will be his first time coming off the bench since the 2005-2006 season. The future Hall of Famer is healthier than he’s been in about two years, and it’s paying off. Garnett has boosted his scoring, rebounding and steal averages, helping guide the C’s to 37 wins in 48 games.
Center – Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks
Taking the backup center role for the East is Atlanta Hawks big man Al Horford, who is making his second straight trip to the All-Star Game. Nearly averaging a double-double for the season, Horford’s presence in the middle has Atlanta in a prime position to return to the playoffs. He’s increased his offensive output, field goal percentage, maintained his rebounding average from a year ago and become a more efficient passer in the process. His 3.6 assists per night easily bests his previous career high.
Guard – Deron Williams, Utah Jazz
Arguably the game’s best point guard, Deron Williams has been named a Western Conference reserve for the second straight year. He’s scoring at a career high rate, averaging nearly 22 points a night, all while still being Top Five in assists. Behind Deron’s leadership, the Jazz have come back to win games after trailing by double-digits an amazing 12 times, including wins against the Lakers, Heat, Magic and Hawks. His resiliency has kept Utah afloat in the typical tough Western Conference playoff race.
Guard – Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
With Kevin Durant emerging as one of the league’s best overall players, it’s sometimes easy to overlook the rest of the Oklahoma City Thunder roster. Things have changed a little this season, as point guard Russell Westbrook is leaving his imprint on the game as well. After a summer in which he contributed to a Gold Medal-winning effort for Team USA in the FIBA World Championship, Westbrook has stormed through the first half of the NBA season by averaging career highs in every major statistical category. He’s been rewarded with his first ever All-Star selection.
Guard – Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs
Remember last season when many people thought Manu Ginobili was washed up and that the Spurs were crazy for signing him to that big extension? Well, being an MVP candidate and helping his team win 41 of their first 49 games abruptly shut up the critics. Manu will surprisingly only be making his second All-Star appearance in a nine-year career. He’s enjoying one of the best statistical seasons of his career, averaging nearly 19 points, five assists and four rebounds, helping the Spurs maintain the league’s best record heading into the break.
Forward – Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks
For the 10th time in 13 seasons, Dirk Nowitzki will be in the All-Star Game lineup. The former NBA MVP is in line to average 20 or more points for the eleventh straight season. Already pegged as one of the league’s best shooters, Dirk is currently shooting a would-be career high of 53 percent. Prior to going down with a knee injury, Dallas was neck and neck with San Antonio for the league’s best record. Now that he’s back, Dirk is finding his form again, and the Mavericks are back to their winning ways.
Forward – Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
Perhaps the most exciting player in the entire NBA, Clippers forward Blake Griffin becomes the first rookie to be selected for the All-Star Game since Yao Ming in 2003. Blake has become known for his signature highlight reel dunks, throwing it down with an aggression we probably haven’t seen since the days of Shawn Kemp. However, Blake isn’t a one-trick pony. He’s complimented his eye-catching 23 points per game by grabbing 13 rebounds a night as well. Along with Eric Gordon, Blake is making the Clippers both respectable and entertaining for the first time in years.
Forward – Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs
The old man is still getting it done. Despite averaging career lows in several statistical categories, Tim is the cornerstone of a Spurs team that currently boasts the league’s best record. On the average night, Tim will now take a backseat offensively to Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, but still get it done defensively and on the boards. Duncan will be making his 13th All-Star appearance in 14 seasons. The only time he hasn’t made an All-Star team was when the game didn’t take place during the NBA’s lockout season in 1998-1999.
Center – Pau Gasol, Los Angeles Lakers
Since Pau Gasol joined the Los Angeles Lakers three years ago, they’ve made three straight trips to the NBA Finals. It’s no coincidence that Gasol is prepping to make his third straight All-Star Game appearance, this time at his home arena in Los Angeles. After failing to average a double-double for the first eight years of his career, Pau is on pace to accomplish the feat for the second straight season. He ranks Top Five in overall double-doubles, recording 27 in 50 games, while also blocking two shots a night. Playing Robin to Kobe’s Batman, Gasol will team up with Bryant at the All-Star Game.
images via ESPN