The All Star reserves have been announced by the NBA, and Blake Griffin has been chosen to the team, the first time that a rookie has made the cut in 13 years, when a guy named Tim Duncan did it. ([Note by Steve Perrin, 02/03/11 6:18 PM PST ] Yao Ming was an All Star starter as a rookie in 2003; so it's the first time in 13 years that a rookie has been chosen as an All Star reserve by the coaches, but the first time in eight years that a Rookie has been an All Star. Just to clear that up.) Griffin was the only player from a team with a losing record, from either conference, to be named an All Star. The coaches who voted for him overcame the inherent prejudice against teams with losing records because of multiple factors no doubt: the excitement that Griffin has brought to the league this season, the highlights he creates every time he plays which are ideal for the All Star Game setting, and of course the fact that he is really, really good.
The other Western Conference reserves named along with Griffin include Pau Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki, Deron Williams, Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan and Russell Westbrook. As I wrote on SBNation LA yesterday, there are simply too many players having All Star worthy seasons in the Western Conference this year, and lots of really worthy candidates were guaranteed to be left out. The most difficult omissions have to be Kevin Love, Steve Nash and LaMarcus Aldridge. Eric Gordon of the Clippers, having a terrific season that looks All Star worthy on paper, never really had a chance given the other candidates. Of course David Stern will get one last opportunity to correct an oversight when he names Yao Ming's injury replacement; it probably boils down to Love (having a season for the ages and clearly sporting the best statistics of any non All Star) or Steve Nash (a two time league MVP and icon, you could choose him either as a 'lifetime achievement award', or based on this season alone, which is still one of his best even at age 36). I would think he would replace big with big and choose Love.
The inclusion of Duncan may raise a few eye brows, and it is likely that there was an element of 'lifetime achievement award' included in his selection, but it's not as out of place as it may seem. Duncan's raw numbers may be a bit below those of some of the other All Stars, but on a per minute basis they stack up very well. For instance, per 36 minutes Timmy is putting up 16.7 points, 11.5 rebounds and 2.4 blocks; Gasol is averaging 17.7 points, 10.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per 36. Given that the Spurs have far and away the best record in the NBA, it was inevitable that Duncan would join Ginobili on the All Star team. The Spurs are keeping Duncan's minutes down (he's the only All Star averaging less than 30 minutes per game), but don't be fooled - he's still very productive.
The Western reserves join starters Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony and Yao, who as we mentioned is injured and will be replaced.
In the Eastern Conference, the reserves came from three teams: the Celtics (Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen), the Hawks (Al Horford and Joe Johnson) and the Heat (Chris Bosh). They join starters Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Amare Stoudemire and Dwight Howard. In the top heavy East, all 12 All Stars come from the six teams with winning records, and nine of them come from the Celtics, Heat and Hawks. By contrast, the West players represent nine different teams, and no team has more than two players (the Lakers, Spurs and Thunder have two each).
The inclusion of four Celtics, all as reserves, is reminiscent of 2006, when four Detroit Pistons were chosen as reserves.
As of today, there are two teams in the league with a winning record that do not have a representative in the game: Portland (26-23) and Memphis (26-24), though it should be noted that Memphis only recently got their record above water, and the votes were turned in several games ago.
As I discussed in the earlier post, the East, again in stark contrast to the West, really doesn't have enough players that are truly deserving of a spot on the All Star team. Joe Johnson is the most questionable selection. It will be Johnson's fifth consecutive All Star game, and one suspects that he was chosen based at least partly on reputation. It's not a terrible choice, but Johnson is only shooting 45% from the field and 31% from three - yes, he's averaging over 20 points per game, but he's not doing it in a particularly efficient manner. Still, it's not as if there were significantly better choices available. Carlos Boozer's numbers are solid, but he's missed a lot of games to injury.