The NBA announced the reserve selection for next month’s All-Star Game in Atlanta on Tuesday night, a list with the headline from Brooklyn Nets star James Harden as well as center Rudy Gobert and guard Donovan Mitchell from the league-leading Utah Jazz.
Harden, the NBA̵
In addition to Harden, the other six choices from the Eastern Conference were: guard Jaylen Brown and striker Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics; New York Knicks forward Julius Randle; Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine; Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons; and Orlando Magic Center Nikola Vucevic.
Brown, the frontrunner for the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award this season, averages career highs across the board for the Celtics, including points (25.5), assists (3.9) and all three shooting percentage categories: field goal (49.7), 3-point (40.9) and free throw (76.6) that help him earn his first All-Star pick. Meanwhile, Tatum averages a career high of 26.4 points and plays his second straight appearance in the league’s mid-season.
Vucevic comes to his second All-Star appearance after making his first two seasons ago, averaging a career-high 24.1 points per game, shooting a career-best 40% from 3-point range. Simmons makes his third appearance in the All-Star; the well-rounded guard along with starter Joel Embiid is a huge reason why the Sixers came in on Tuesday with the Eastern Conference best record.
They are joined by two first-time stars from two of the league’s flagship franchises in Randle and LaVine, both of which have career years. Randle, who has helped lead the 15-16 Knicks in a surprising battle for a playoff spot, has an average of career-best in virtually every category playing under Tom Thibodeau, while LaVine averages a career-high 28.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.1 assists.
Over the past few weeks, there has been intense debate about who deserves the last few spots in the East, with a deep pool of candidates receiving support. Eventually, however, the league’s coaches resigned, leaving several of them, including: Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo and striker Jimmy Butler; Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton; 76ers forward Tobias Harris; Toronto Raptors guards Fred VanVleet; The Indiana Pacers protect Malcolm Brogdon and attack Domantas Sabonis; Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young; and Charlotte Hornets forward Gordon Hayward.
Out West, Gobert and Mitchell were the headlines as they were the two representatives of the striping Jazz that go into Wednesday’s showdown against the Lakers on ESPN with the NBA’s best record and have won 20 of their last 22 games. Gobert, positioned to win his third Defensive Player of the Year award, is playing his second straight All-Star appearance this season after a couple of near-mishaps in previous seasons. It’s also the second straight appearance for Mitchell, who averages career highs of 24.5 points and 5.2 assists this season.
They were joined by: Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard; LA Clippers forward Paul George; Lakers forward Anthony Davis; Phoenix Suns protect Chris Paul and New Orleans Pelicans striker Zion Williamson.
Lillard could easily have been a starter as he has another star season averaging 29.8 points and 7.7 assists, keeping Portland in the playoffs, though guard CJ McCollum and center Jusuf Nurkic are out with long-term injuries. Meanwhile, George is back in the All-Star Game for the seventh time after missing last year, his first in Los Angeles, after injuries delayed the start of his season. Davis, on the other hand, is almost excluded from being replaced by anyone in front of the All-Star Game because of the leg strain that currently has the Lakers star sidelined.
The last two spots out west went to one of the league’s oldest stars in Paul and one of its youngest in Williamson. Paul, who Phoenix acquired before the season, is playing his 11th All-Star appearance and his second in a row after making the list last year for Oklahoma City. Williamson, the top overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, appears for the first time after averaging 25.1 points and shooting over 60% off the field.
These two knocked out a field of candidates for the final couple of spots that included: San Antonio Spurs forward DeMar DeRozan; Thunder Guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander; Jazz guard Mike Conley, who continues to hold the unofficial title of best player, never creating an All-Star team; Suns guard Devin Booker; and Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram.
As in recent seasons, the NBA will combine the All-Stars into a pool divided into two teams by captains James and Durant. Jazz coach Quin Snyder coaches James’ team, while Sixers coach Doc Rivers coaches Durant’s team.
Like last year, the game will also feature Elam Ending, where the teams play to a final score as opposed to a timed fourth quarter. Like last year, the final score will be determined by taking the overall score for the team that is ahead through three quarters and adding 24 points – in honor of Kobe Bryant – to the overall.