The NBA announced the reserve selections for next month’s All-Star Game in Atlanta Tuesday night, a list headlined by Brooklyn Nets star James Harden, as well as center Rudy Gobert and guard Donovan Mitchell from the league-leading Utah Jazz.
Harden, the NBA’s Most Valuable Player in 2018, is representing Brooklyn for the first time in what will be his ninth consecutive All-Star appearance. The prior eight all came with the Houston Rockets, who traded Harden to Brooklyn as part of a four-team deal last month. Since the trade, Harden has averaged 24.9 points and 11.4 assists per game in 18 games with Brooklyn. He will join teammates Kevin Durant — one of the two captains, alongside Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James — and Kyrie Irving, both of whom were voted in as starters last week, in Atlanta.
In addition to Harden, the other six selections from the Eastern Conference were: guard Jaylen Brown and forward Jayson Tatum from 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 front-runner for the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award this season, is averaging 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), helping him earn his first All-Star selection. Tatum, meanwhile, is averaging a career-high 26.4 points per game, and is making his second straight appearance in the league’s midseason showcase.
Vucevic will make his second All-Star appearance, having made his first two seasons ago, and is averaging a career-high 24.1 points per game and shooting a career-best 40 percent from 3-point range. Simmons, meanwhile, will make his third consecutive All-Star appearance, as the well-rounded guard is, alongside starter Joel Embiid, a huge reason why the Sixers entered Tuesday with the Eastern Conference’s best record.
They will be joined by a pair of first-time All-Stars from two of the league’s flagship franchises in Randle and LaVine, both of whom are having career years. Randle, who has helped lead the Knicks into surprising contention for a playoff berth, is averaging career best in virtually every category playing under Tom Thibodeau, while LaVine is averaging career-highs of 28.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game.
Over the past few weeks, there has been intense debate over who would merit the final couple of spots in the East, with a deep pool of candidates garnering support. Ultimately, though, the league’s coaches wound up leaving off several of them, including: Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo and forward Jimmy Butler; Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton; 76ers forward Tobias Harris; Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet; Indiana Pacers guard Malcolm Brogdon and forward Domantas Sabonis; Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young; and Charlotte Hornets forward Gordon Hayward.
Out West, Gobert and Mitchell were the headliners, as they were the two representatives for the streaking Jazz, who go into Wednesday’s showdown with the Lakers on ESPN with the NBA’s best record, and having won 20 out of their last 22 games. Gobert, who is positioned to win his third Defensive Player of the Year award, makes his second straight All-Star appearance this season after a couple of near-misses in prior seasons. It also is the second straight appearance for Mitchell, who is averaging 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 guard Chris Paul and New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson.
Lillard easily could’ve been a starter, as he’s having another stellar season, averaging 29.8 points and 7.7 assists as he has kept Portland in the playoff picture despite guard C.J. McCollum and center Jusuf Nurkic both being out with long-term injuries. George, meanwhile, is back in the All-Star Game for the seventh time after missing it last year, his first in Los Angeles, after injuries delayed the start of his season. Davis, on the other hand, is all but certain to be replaced by someone ahead of next month’s All-Star Game due to the calf strain that currently has the Lakers star sidelined.
The final two spots out West went to one of the league’s oldest stars in Paul, and one of its youngest in Williamson. Paul, whom Phoenix acquired before the season, makes his 11th All-Star appearance, and his second in a row after making it last year for Oklahoma City. Williamson, the top overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, makes his first appearance after averaging 25.1 points and shooting over 60 percent from the field.
Those two beat 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 to never make an All-Star team; Suns guard Devin Booker; and Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram.
Like in recent seasons, the NBA will combine the All-Stars into one pool, which will be divided into two teams by captains James and Durant. Jazz coach Quin Snyder will coach James’ team, while Sixers coach Doc Rivers will helm Durant’s squad.
The game will also, like last year, feature the “Elam Ending,” in which the teams play to a final score, as opposed to a timed fourth quarter. Like last year, that final score will be determined by taking the combined score of the team that’s ahead through three quarters and adding 24 points — in honor of the late Kobe Bryant — to that total.