The 2011 NBA All-Star Game won't tip off until February 20th, but the league will announce the All-Star reserves for both teams tonight on an hourlong edition of TNT's Inside the NBA program at 6 PM Central. We already know the starting lineups, which include Houston Rockets center Yao Ming, so tonight's announcement is all about filling out the squads with bench players, as determined by voting from the league's coaches. Additionally, Commissioner David Stern will name a replacement for the injured Yao, but that will come at a later date.
The coaches must name two guards, two forwards, one center, and two "wild cards"--players of any position--on their ballot, and assign each of the seven players they select a numerical rating from one to seven, which helps break ties if necessary. They may not vote for players on their own team. Their ballots were due Monday at 3 PM Eastern, so games played after that date cannot have affected their decisions.
The Western Conference boasts several All-Star-caliber players, so the coaches' job in picking the reserves for that squad should have been difficult. The field is particularly loaded at forward, with LaMarcus Aldridge, Tim Duncan, Pau Gasol, Blake Griffin, Kevin Love, Dirk Nowitzki, Zach Randolph, David West, and the Rockets' Luis Scola all putting up exceptional numbers. The guard spot is also crowded, as Manu Ginobili, Steve Nash, Tony Parker, Russell Westbrook, Deron Williams, and Houston's Kevin Martin all meriting consideration.
Scola has an interesting All-Star case, as he's posting per-game averages of 19.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 2.4 assists on 50.3 percent shooting. In a lot of seasons, those numbers would probably get him into the game. But this season is not like a lot of seasons. Griffin (23 points, 12.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists), Aldridge (21.3 points, 9 rebounds), Love (21.4 points, a league-leading 15.5 rebounds), and Randolph (20 points, 13.2 rebounds) top Scola in scoring and rebounding, and while West has similar statistics to Scola (18.9 points, 7.4 rebounds), he has the bonus of playing for a New Orleans Hornets team which owns the Western Conference's 5th-best record. Fairly or not, coaches have demonstrated a tendency to let team success factor into their All-Star picks, which further marginalizes Scola.
Martin faces a similar battle. Though not as balanced a player as Scola, Martin's among the league's most potent offensive players, scoring 23.1 points per game in just 31.2 minutes, while shooting 40.5 percent on three-pointers and 88.3 percent on free throws. But because he provides little production in other areas of the game, plays for a middling team, and doesn't have the name recognition of the other players he's battling for a roster spot, the odds of his earning an All-Star berth this year are quite slim.
We'll see how it all shakes out during tonight's edition of Inside the NBA.