All-Star reserve picks: East team
Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Garnett already have been voted Eastern Conference starters by the fans. Which players should join them in Houston for the big game? Our crew hands in their reserve ballots.
1. Who should fill the East's first backcourt spot?
Danny Chau, Hardwood Paroxysm: Kyrie Irving. Very little has gone right for the Cavaliers this season, but Irving has been the soma to help fans forget. He's so young. He's so consistently brilliant. He's already one of the best point guards in the league. He has to be a lock for the spot.
Beckley Mason, ESPN.com: Kyrie Irving. Irving has been the East's best point guard, so he should be starting. As good as he's been, his team has focused on amassing draft picks rather than useful players. That's too bad, because he's good enough to take a team to the playoffs now.
Darius Soriano, Forum Blue and Gold: Kyrie Irving. The second-year pro is not only having a fantastic season statistically, but he also offers the type of dazzling offensive skills that make the All-Star Game what it is.
Tom Sunnergren, Philadunkia: Kyrie Irving. "Kyrie Irving happened," Doc Rivers told reporters after the NBA's sixth-leading scorer -- if he didn't miss qualifying by just a hair -- dropped 40 on him last night. When "Player X happened" becomes a perfectly plausible excuse for losing a basketball game, suffice it to say, you're dealing with an All-Star.
Brian Windhorst, ESPN.com: Jrue Holiday. He's having far and away his best season, with huge increases in scoring, assists and shooting numbers over last year and making his big extension look prudent. He has been a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing season thus far in Philly.
2. Who should fill the East's second backcourt spot?
Chau: Jrue Holiday. After a disappointing step back last season, Holiday has exceeded expectations this season, compensating for a glaring absence at the center position. His game has always been aesthetically pleasing, but his actual production always left something to be desired. No complaints this season.
Mason: This could very well be Kyle Lowry's spot if he had been healthy and playing longer minutes (big ifs, I know). But it goes to Jrue Holiday for overcoming a team offense and pace that doesn't do him any favors to consistently contribute solid production.
Soriano: Jrue Holiday. The 76ers have fallen back in the standings, but that has little to do with Holiday. He has been fantastic on both sides of the ball and has put up worthy numbers while carrying a team that was supposed to be built around Andrew Bynum.
Sunnergren: Jrue Holiday. That the Sixers aren't reflexively mentioned as one of the worst teams in the Association is a fact they owe almost entirely to the efforts of their young point guard. No one who scores more passes better, or vice versa, and Holiday is defending as well as anyone at his position.
Windhorst: Kyrie Irving. How many players in the East are averaging 20 points and 5 assists a game? Two: LeBron and Irving. The Cavs are struggling indeed, but Irving is on his way to stardom -- especially if he learns to even mildly defend -- and he's one of the most entertaining players to watch in the league.
3. Who should fill the East's first frontcourt spot?
Chau: Brook Lopez. Staying healthy can really do wonders. Heading into the season there were plenty of jokes about his rebounding, and doubts as to how he'd perform after his history of injuries, but he has emerged as one of the best (if not the best) offensive centers in the league.
Mason: Brook Lopez. Lopez can play with his back to the basket, but his real talent is finding cracks in the defense and cutting to open spots to receive the ball and dump it in. His defense is solid -- the man is enormous and lurks near the rim -- and when he's playing, the Nets shoot better from every area on the court.
Soriano: Brook Lopez. While Deron Williams and Joe Johnson have the name recognition, Lopez has been the Nets' best player this season. He continues to be a fantastic offensive player and has shown enough improvement defensively and on the glass to easily make this team.
Sunnergren: Tyson Chandler. He's shooting 67.4 percent (his third straight season over 65 percent), is fourth in the league in rebounding and protects the rim like it's a young child who he loves dearly. He should be starting in this game.
Windhorst: Brook Lopez. Another guy, refreshingly, who is playing up to his new contract. He has been the most potent offensive center in the league thus far and his value to the Nets is without question. He's also seventh in the league in blocks.
4. Who should fill the East's second frontcourt spot?
Chau: Tyson Chandler. Even though Carmelo Anthony scores nearly a third of the Knicks' points per game, Chandler has a legitimate claim to being the team's most valuable player. His merits as one of the league's top defenders and as a low-maintenance offensive weapon should secure him a spot.
Mason: Tyson Chandler. Despite his reputation, he's been more vital to the Knicks' offense than to their defense this year. But considering that New York has the second-best offense in the NBA, that works too.
Soriano: Paul George. Not only is George one of the league's elite wing defenders, but he's also carrying a heavy burden on offense with Danny Granger injured. Without his stellar two-way play, the Pacers wouldn't be playing as well as they have this year.
Sunnergren: Joakim Noah. Though his increased shouldering of the scoring load has come with a downtick in efficiency, Noah is arguably the best defensive player in the sport, leads his position in assists and, despite the absence of Derrick Rose, has kept the Bulls within three games of the East's top seed.
Windhorst: Chris Bosh. By his standards, Bosh isn't having that great of a season, especially rebounding the ball. But he's willingly playing out of position at center almost full-time and he's also having the best shooting season of his career. He's a deserving All-Star.
5. Who should fill the East's third frontcourt spot?
Chau: Paul George. Yes, he had a shoddy start to the season, but George has been so good in the past two months, I'm willing to ignore that. His performance coincides with Indiana's massive surge up the Eastern Conference standings. He has developed into a true all-around talent, and developing into a star. If not this year, then very soon.
Mason: Chris Bosh. Bosh isn't rebounding like many think he should, but it's tough to get position when -- on both offense and defense -- he spends so much time by the 3-point line. He's shooting 54.5 percent from the floor, and when Wade was struggling, he picked up the slack in a big way.
Soriano: Joakim Noah. His offensive numbers don't jump out at you (though the four assists a night are fantastic), but he's the anchor for the league's fourth-ranked defense and a fantastic teammate who gives his all each and every night.
Sunnergren: Andre Drummond. The Pistons are reportedly brooding over whether to try to win now or hazard a youth movement. The fact that they think these two ideas are in conflict tells you a lot about the state of the organization. In just 19.8 minutes a night, their rookie center is 11th in the NBA in PER and leads all qualifying players with .363 wins per 48 minutes.
Windhorst: Tyson Chandler. He's not just a defensive weapon anymore. Teams have started to game plan for Chandler because he's devastatingly effective playing off the Knicks' guards, shooting a wicked 67 percent. He's having his best rebounding season in five years and his best scoring season ever.
Bonus No. 1: Who should fill the East's first wild-card spot?
Chau: Joakim Noah. He's the anchor of an elite defense, and probably the Bulls' best facilitator with Derrick Rose out. Noah has unfailingly led the team with enthusiasm, but it has never been as important as what he has done this season. The Bulls have overachieved this season, and Noah is the main reason why.
Mason: Paul George. If you wipe away the first couple weeks of the season, this is an obvious pick. George will also be one of the only East players capable of pulling off some sweet in-game dunks, so there's that to consider as well.
Soriano: Tyson Chandler. He may not be playing as well as he did to start the season (much like his team), but his high efficiency offensive contributions mixed with his top shelf defensive impact deserve all-star recognition.
Sunnergren: Jason Kidd. A lot of the credit Carmelo Anthony has vacuumed up for the Knicks' surprising start rightfully belongs to the 18-year veteran Kidd. Despite the liability he poses on the defensive end, Kidd has played uber-efficient basketball and galvanized an offense that has jumped from 19th in the NBA to third.
Windhorst: Paul George. This was a tough selection with Al Horford, who is deserving, as well as teammate David West. George is proving to be an excellent two-way player who has jump-started his game to give the Pacers a lift without Danny Granger.
Bonus No. 2: Who should fill the East's second wild-card spot?
Chau: David West. His teammate George may have most of the limelight, but West is the old reliable. With Roy Hibbert struggling to regain last season's form, West has picked up the slack and done an admirable job keeping the Pacers as a threat.
Mason: Apologies to David West and Paul Pierce, but this spot goes to Joakim Noah. If he keeps up his current statistical profile (12 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks), he'll be just the second player to post those numbers for a season since 1999.
Soriano: Chris Bosh. In a difficult choice between Paul Pierce and Bosh, I go with Bosh for his overall production on the conference's best team. Even though he's Miami's third option, his statistics are right in line with Lopez's and he is playing very efficiently.
Sunnergren: Paul George. The best candidate from the troika of very good Pacers with very boring names (If you read a book with characters named Paul George, George Hill and David West, you'd wish the author thought longer about what to call them), George has made a leap in his third season, improving each month and pacing the Pacers with around 19 points and 10 rebounds per game in their 8-3 January.
Windhorst: Joakim Noah. He's having the best season of his career, averaging a double-double while leading all East centers at four assists a game. There's a spot on this team available because Derrick Rose is out and a Bull deserves it. They have overachieved, and one could give this nod to Luol Deng or Carlos Boozer just as easily.