The NBA All-Star reserves were recently announced. The reserves include first-timers John Wall of the Washington Wizards (East) and Damion Lilliard of the Portland Trailblazers (West). And it also includes veterans like Chris Bosh of the Miami Heat (East) and Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks. But names that you won’t find in the All-Star game are New Orleans Pelicans big man Anthony Davis and Indiana Pacers guard Lance Stephenson. Both of these guys have become names that everyone has recognized even more this year. But yet the coaches, who vote for the All-Star reserves, deemed them not worthy of being in New Orleans on All-Star Sunday. Well, I will be the first to tell them they got it wrong. Both should be getting their recognition right now.
Who would have thought last season the absence of forward Danny Granger would eventually make the Pacers a better team? Well, leave it to Lance Stephenson to take advantage of his opportunity. The young man out of the University of Cincinnati was afforded a chance to make a difference for Indiana when he was inserted in the starting lineup to begin the 2012-2013 season. And he has been a fixture in the starting lineup ever since. Last year Stephenson was a ball of energy that was a little reckless and out of control some games. The led to some of the inconsistencies that plagued him at times last season. Well, it seems like he has definitely taken the time to work on slowing down a little bit more this season. He now is a consistent jump shooter (he was hit or miss last season) and he is leading the Pacers in assists. He has been one of the most consistent players for the Pacers all season long and had played his way into being an All-Star in my eyes. But instead, the coaches decided they wanted to pick a guy like Nets guard Joe Johnson over him. Even though the veteran out of Arkansas has been the leader of the Nets offense over the last month, there was no way the impact he had on his team was that of an All-Star. How quickly coaches forget the moments where the Nets couldn’t throw it in the ocean and they looked like the biggest disappointment in the NBA. He may be averaging more points than Stephenson (17.2 to 14.2) but Stephenson does more in the other areas like rebounding and assists. Stephenson is the more complete player and has been one of the main reasons the Pacers are playing as well as they are.
Another player that has come into his own this season is Anthony Davis. After a somewhat inconsistent rookie season, Davis has come out with a vengeance this season. He is hitting the outside jump shot with consistency. And to go along with that, he is also beating other big guys off the dribble with his guard-like dribbling skills. At 6’10”, he is one of the most difficult covers in the NBA right now. But even with his breakout season, the coaches felt it was right to keep him out of the All-Star game. Honestly, he earned his roster spot more than Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki. The veteran from Germany was named an All-Star again this season, but can we really say that he earned it over the young man from Chicago? Dirk has had another good season. He is putting up points again as he continues to make that awkward-looking fadeaway jumper with precision. But even with his points edge on Davis (21.6 to 20.4), Dirk is not having the effect on his team that Davis is. Davis is one of the few players in the NBA that is averaging a double-double. The only advantage Dirk has over Davis is in the win total. And last I checked, not all the All-Stars were picked by who was winning and who was losing. They were picked on who earned it and Davis has definitely earned his shot to represent New Orleans in the All-Star game.
Both Stephenson and Davis outplayed their counterparts. But honestly, the seniority of those players is what cost them their spot in the All-Star game. I believe if you were to blindfold the coaches that voted Dirk and Joe Johnson into the game, they would see that Stephenson and Davis were better this year. Both may still end up in the All-Star game though, but coaches would need to choose them as replacements should Kobe Bryant (knee) and Dwyane Wade (knees) not be able to play in the All-Star game. But it should not come down to this at all. Maybe one day the coaches and the players will get it right on All-Star starters and reserves. But for now, the coaches have dropped the ball.