Chris Paul was named a Western Conference All Star reserve by the coaches tonight, joining teammate Blake Griffin on the All Star team for the third consecutive year. The fact that the coaches had to step in and put Paul on the squad when he's pretty clearly the best guard in the entire league is a bit surprising, but chalk it up to the irrational popularity of the injured Kobe Bryant and the meteoric rise of Stephen Curry -- and maybe a bit to Paul's injury that has caused him to miss the past four weeks.
There was always a bit of a risk that the coaches would likewise omit Paul because of the injury, but two things probably ensured that didn't happen. (1) Paul let it be known that he wanted to play and that he thought he was on track to be physically able to play and (2) the game is in New Orleans where Paul began his career and where he is still a local hero. Of course, playing New Orleans didn't help Anthony Davis who has far and away the best statistics of any player left off the team; but with so many good players and good teams in the West, Dirk Nowitzki of the 26-21 Mavs is the only player from a West team with a record under .600.
The remaining west reserves come from Portland (LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard), Houston (Dwight Howard and James Harden) and San Antonio (Tony Parker). The Phoenix Suns at 27-18 are the only NBA team currently in a playoff position to not get a spot on the All Star team.
Likewise in the West, the coaches appear to have just looked at the standings and decided to take one player from each of the most reasonable teams. With LeBron James and Dwyane Wade of the Heat and Paul George of the Pacers already in the game as starters, the seven East reserves come from the top seven East teams in the standings -- one a piece. The inclusion of Chris Bosh brings the total for the Heat to three and Roy Hibbert brings Indiana's total to two, but as far and away the best teams in the conference, that's not surprising. Picking DeMar DeRozan over his Raptors teammate Kyle Lowry is a surprise to me, as is the inclusion of Joe Johnson who has been pretty mediocre this season (a shooting guard averaging less than 16 a game is an All Star? Really?) But it really just looks like the coaches spread their votes across the best players on some deserving teams and that was that. The other East All Star reserves are Paul Millsap of the Hawks, Joakim Noah of the Bulls, and John Wall of the Wizards.
The Clippers' DeAndre Jordan missed the cut as we suspected he would. As it happens, the coaches used both of the "wild cards" in the West on guards, picking just three bigs (Howard, Nowtizki and Aldridge) who all have solid ASG cases. It's worth noting that at least one more player will make the west squad, when newly minted commissioner Adam Silver picks a replacement for Bryant, and it's possible that other players will opt out between now and the game to rest major or minor injuries. So Jordan could still make the team -- but almost certainly not before Davis.
And while Paul was not selected as the starter, it's fairly certain that he will wind up starting in the game in place of Bryant. Head coach Scott Brooks gets to pick the starting lineup if any of the fans choices can't play, and Paul is the obvious choice both from a talent level and for the fans, so if Paul is indeed ready to play, odds are he'll be starting next to Griffin for the third season in a row.