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Thursday, February 9, 2012
Time to turn in your All-Star ballots

ESPN.com and the TrueHoop Network

The reserves for the NBA All-Star Game are going to be announced Thursday. Our 5-on-5 crew weighs in with its choices.


1. Which East and West point guards should be chosen as All-Star reserves?


Henry Abbott, TrueHoop: East: Rajon Rondo, Deron Williams, Brandon Jennings. West: Russell Westbrook, Steve Nash. Probably all of the East point guards have people scratching their heads a bit -- none are from teams soaring in the standings. But they can all play their brains out nonetheless.

Kevin Arnovitz, ESPN.com: East: Deron Williams. West: Tony Parker, Russell Westbrook (WC).

Ryan DeGama, CelticsHub: East: Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo (WC) -- Years ago, his contributions were dismissed as a product of his teammates' excellence, but there's an argument to be made that Rondo's strengths are actually muted by his aged team today. Williams wishes he had it that good. He's being outright sabotaged by the team around him.

West: Russell Westbrook, Steve Nash (WC) -- Westbrook still has more gaps than you'd like in terms of shot selection, but his overall contributions are undeniable, even if the aesthetics of his game sometimes aren't. Nash, of course, is bionic.

Zach Harper, Daily Dime Live: East: Deron Williams, Brandon Jennings (WC) -- Deron Williams had a tough start to the season, but for the most part he's been back to his old self on the court. It's not his fault that his team is playing four or five 12th men in its regular rotation. For the Jennings' selection, I was trying to decide between him and Kyrie Irving and I flipped a coin.

West: Steve Nash -- The hardest part in this whole thing for me was keeping Tony Parker off of the team. With Manu Ginobili's injury, he's been the best player on the Spurs this season, but Nash's lack of help on his team makes his numbers and play all the more spectacular.

Noam Schiller, Hardwood Paroxysm: East: Rajon Rondo, Deron Williams, Kyrie Irving (WC) -- Rondo's health hurts in a short season but isn't enough to take away from an elite floor general working in a conference short on quality guard play. Williams has bounced back from a bad start to lead a team whose second-best player is Kris Humphries within striking distance of a playoff spot, albeit in a terrible conference. And Irving may be a rookie, but he's also scoring with elite efficiency while working as the top offensive option for a team heavily burdened by past pain and inexperience.

West: Russell Westbrook, Steve Nash, Tony Parker (WC) -- Six All-Star point guards. That's just how deep the position is. Westbrook's contract extension has freed him up to play perhaps the best basketball of his career on the league's No. 1 seed. Nash is somehow leading the league in assists, posting a career-high PER and boasting shooting percentages of 56-46-87 despite being 38 years old. Parker narrowly edges out an impressive James Harden campaign by striking the perfect balance between finding his teammates and carrying the scoring load for a scorching-hot Spurs team without its best player.


2. Which East and West shooting guards should be chosen as All-Star reserves?


Abbott: East: none (three point guards instead!). West: James Harden. Harden is playing intense minutes on a phenomenal team, and his efficiency scoring the ball is ridiculous. A very special player.

Arnovitz: East: Joe Johnson. West: James Harden.

DeGama: East: Luol Deng -- I know he's not a shooting guard, but irregularities abound this season, so I'll slip Deng in the backdoor. One reason: he's fourth in the league in minutes played, and those minutes are of the high-octane Tom Thibodeau variety.

West: James Harden -- Harden's leap this season is titanic (in a good way).

Harper: East: Ray Allen -- Paul Pierce's return has been huge for the Celtics' turnaround, but Allen has been the reason they stayed afloat this whole time.

West: James Harden (WC) -- Harden is accepting the role of Manu Ginobili in being the best player off the bench in the NBA. He brings a sense of playmaking in the half court that OKC struggles to find, and his scoring has been incredible.

Schiller: None. Between Ginobili and Eric Gordon going down with injuries and depth at point guard the likes of which I doubt we've ever seen, somehow Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant remain the only shooting guards worthy of an Orlando trip. Only James Harden and Joe Johnson even come close.


3. Which East and West small forwards should be chosen as All-Star reserves?


Abbott: East: Andre Iguodala, Luol Deng. West: None (look out for power forwards instead). Two fantastic defenders and above-average offensive players who are winning a lot of games, and whose teams suffer a lot in their absence.

Arnovitz: East: Andre Iguodala, Paul Pierce (WC). West: Danilo Gallinari (injured).

DeGama: East: Paul Pierce, Andre Igoudala (WC) -- Pierce's PER is his highest since before the Big Three were assembled in Boston, a tribute to his ability to run the team from the point-forward spot. Igoudala's power-three skill set is no more important than the leadership he's shown on that surprising Philly team.

West: Paul Milsap -- It's a cheat to start him here, but you try to keep his 24.28 PER off the roster.

Harper: East: Andre Iguodala, Luol Deng (WC) -- I keep getting asked questions about which player should make it over the other between Deng and Iggy. I would just put them both on the roster because they're both helping fuel the defense of their respective teams.

West: Rudy Gay -- Gay's ability to play minutes at the 4 and really stretch out the defense while Z-Bo has been out is a big reason the Grizzlies didn't completely fall apart.

Schiller: East: Andre Iguodala, Paul Pierce (WC) -- Iguodala has been one of the league's best defenders for years, but the lack of scoring chops to complement his otherwise robust offense, as well as his team's middling record, has thrown him out of the chase for years. With Philly acting as the league's biggest surprise, that should no longer be a problem. Pierce, meanwhile, started the season injured but played himself into shape as his Celtics seemed ready for the grave, yet he has somehow recovered to the point that he's having his best season of the Big Three era. Boston is nothing without Pierce.

West: None -- too many power forwards, though Danilo Gallinari was a tough omission made easier by injury concerns.


4. Which East and West power forwards should be chosen as All-Star reserves?


Abbott: East: Chris Bosh. West: Kevin Love, Paul Millsap, Pau Gasol. I feel really dirty leaving Dirk Nowitzki off this list. Presumably it's an award to honor a body of work since the last All-Star Game, and late last season he was essentially the MVP. But this is the most competitive spot on the roster, and others have been much better.

Arnovitz: East: Chris Bosh, Ryan Anderson (WC). West: Kevin Love, Paul Millsap (WC).

DeGama: East: Chris Bosh -- Even his detractors seem to be coming around to Bosh's quiet proficiency and ability to adapt his game to Miami's needs.

West: Kevin Love, Pau Gasol (WC) -- Love's production is nothing short of absurd and easily allows me to overlook his limitations on defense. Gasol's lost nothing but the odd shot attempt in crunch time.

Harper: East: Chris Bosh -- This is what happens when fans vote players in who probably shouldn't make the team. You end up wasting a reserve spot on someone who should be starting.

West: Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Paul Millsap (WC) -- Let's get as many power forwards on the West roster as humanly possible! All of these guys deserve a nod this season. Can you imagine the mess we'd have if Dirk had been Dirk, Pau had been aggressive and Z-Bo had been healthy?

Schiller: East: Chris Bosh -- the former franchise player seems much more comfortable in his second year as third wheel, filling the seams between Wade and LeBron with his deft scoring touch and underrated defense.

West: Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Paul Millsap (WC) -- Love's scoring game continues to evolve next to the once-in-a-generation rebounding skills, as does his still lacking defense. Similarly, Aldridge is adding facets to a game already worthy of franchise-player status. The two should be no-brainers. The surprise here is Millsap, who has his Jazz deep in the playoff picture as he continues to refuse to either miss shots or turn the ball over.


5. Which East and West centers should be chosen as All-Star reserves?


Abbott: East: Tyson Chandler. West: LaMarcus Aldridge (stealing an idea from John Hollinger). If seeing Aldridge out of position makes you queasy, swap him with Gasol. Chandler, on the other hand, really did make a very bad defensive team into a so-so defensive team, which is exactly what he was supposed to do. He's also ridiculously efficient on offense. Guys like that win championships ... and then go join a team like the Knicks.

Arnovitz: East: Tyson Chandler. West: LaMarcus Aldridge.

DeGama: East: Tyson Chandler: He's everything New York expected on the defensive end and putting up a career-high PER despite the slodgy New York offense.

West: LaMarcus Aldridge -- Aldridge is an increasingly dominant player, a no-brainer All-Star, and somehow still remains undervalued. Neat trick, that.

Harper: East: Tyson Chandler -- Just because his team has underperformed doesn't mean Chandler should take a hit for it. He's helped this team become good defensively ... the Knicks!

West: Marc Gasol -- You could make some serious arguments that Marc Gasol should be starting this game over Bynum.

Schiller: East: Tyson Chandler -- even before there was "Linsanity," Chandler was the only member of the Knicks performing up to standard. Somehow, despite the shaky personnel around him, Chandler's defense has only gotten better, and he has overcome the lack of a decent pick-and-roll partner to post seemingly impossible numbers offensively.

West: Marc Gasol -- while I'd still pick him second in a "who's the best Gasol?" contest, Marc is having a better season than his brother, Pau. He's the anchor of the Grizzlies defense and has been efficient offensively despite being asked to carry a huge, Z-Bo-less load.