Kelly Dwyer

The should-be Western All-Star reserves

Kelly Dwyer
Ball Don't Lie

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On Tuesday at 3 p.m., the NBA's (assistant) coaches were asked to turn in their ballots featuring their choices for the reserves for this month's All-Star game. And, in the grand tradition of selecting Wally Szczerbiak(notes) (because the Timberwolves are good!) and Jamaal Magliore (because you gotta have a backup center!), we're about to see this thing go terribly wrong. At least, that's what we assume.

So, before the news hits on Thursday night, as the TNT crew reveals the reserves, we're going to offer up our choices as to who should make this year's All-Star team, beyond the players that were voted in by fans who don't appear to be paying much attention (Yao Ming(notes) and Carmelo Anthony(notes)? Seriously?).

We bring this noise at the NBA's behest. The league asks its coaches to submit choices for a reserve center, two forwards, two guards and two "wild cards." This is pretty daft, because it forces All-Star teams to boast depth at positions that really aren't rife with All-Star players. But because these are the rules, hopefully for the last time, we'll follow them.

Click the jump, for a look at the West.

CENTER

Pau Gasol(notes), Los Angeles Lakers

The rumor -- the hope -- is that the assistant coaches can get this wrong on purpose, and run Gasol as a center. And Pau has played two-thirds of Los Angeles' minutes in the pivot this season, as opposed to just 11 percent of his team's minutes at power forward, despite being (rightfully) listed as a power forward on the All-Star ballot.

This is also the part where you wonder if Gasol has been good enough to make it after fading a bit following a hot start to the season. And this is the part where you check his season splits, and realize that he was putting up about 16.5 points with 9.5 rebounds a contest in December and January (the "fading-a-bit" era) while making half his shots with plenty of assists and nearly two blocks a game. Add that to the man's early season dominance and you've got an All-Star.

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FORWARDS

Dirk Nowitzki(notes), Dallas Mavericks, and Kevin Love(notes), Minnesota Timberwolves

Stupid Carmelo Anthony.

Carmelo's having an All-Star season. I can't get away from that. But there are so many other forwards that are having an even better All-Star season that I can't help but rue Anthony's selection as an All-Star starter.

Dirk was dominant to start this season. He missed a good chunk of games with that sprained knee, and while I usually don't like going down this route (especially as the Mavs lost Caron Butler(notes) soon after), the team's awful play following Dirk's injury nearly said it all. Even if Dirk isn't dropping 32 a game, the Mavs play off him. That spacing is so crucial, and even if he doesn't touch the ball in a possession, he affects the game in such a significant way. There's also the whole "23-points-per-game-on-52-percent-shooting" thing.

Love is an All-Star and he should be starting. The man is shooting 44 percent from behind the arc while leading the NBA in rebounds, which would remind us of Bill Laimbeer if he wasn't averaging a ridiculous 15.6 rebounds per game while dropping over 21 points a night (as opposed to a Laimbeer-ish 11 and 11). It's not his fault that the Minnesota Timberwolves are completely botching yet another rebuilding project. Kevin Love is an All-Star.

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GUARDS

Russell Westbrook(notes), Oklahoma City Thunder, and Manu Ginobili(notes), San Antonio Spurs

Westbrook has been brilliant. He's not quite on par with Kobe Bryant(notes) and Chris Paul(notes), but he's not far off, and that's saying quite a bit. He's averaging 22.6 points on a team featuring the league's leading scorer, alongside 5.2 rebounds and 8.5 assists.

Ginobili is a tough call over Deron Williams(notes) and Steve Nash(notes), but he's a disruptive force who has put too many games away for me to discount. Especially in relation to Williams, whose early game struggles have cost the Jazz too many wins this year.

I would have absolutely no problems sticking Williams and (to a lesser extent) Nash into Ginobili's spot. Each player is as deserving. I just prefer Manu's consistent effort over DW's up-and-down game and Nash's iffy defense.

WILD CARDS

Blake Griffin(notes), Los Angeles Clippers, and LaMarcus Aldridge(notes), Portland Trail Blazers

Again, Charlie Kelly (NSFW). Just because he, forever, has changed the way we think of the phrase "wild card."

It's not only that Griffin's nearly 23 points and 13 rebounds have won the Clippers a good chunk of games of late, it's that his production early in the season almost gave Los Angeles a half-dozen more wins in games they couldn't pull out (something about a converted shooting guard -- a rookie no less -- having to run the show at point guard). There's no way Griffin hasn't been amongst the seven-best players in the Western Conference not voted onto the All-Star team.

LMA, I'm sorry for sounding so flighty, but Tuesday's 40-point performance pushed it over the top for me. The Blazer big man is averaging over 25 a game since Brandon Roy(notes) went down, with more than 21 points and nine rebounds overall. I wouldn't be too upset if he were left off the team -- the first month of the season counts as much as January did -- but I'm sticking him on my list of reserves.

Ahead of Deron Williams, who is having an All-Star season.

Ahead of Nene, who is having an All-Star season.

Ahead of Eric Gordon(notes), who is having an All-Star season.

Ahead of Steve Nash, who is having an All-Star season (defense, if you're wondering. It's his defense).

Ahead of Lamar Odom(notes), who is having an All-Star season.

Ahead of David West(notes), who is having an All-Star season.

Ahead of Luis Scola(notes), who is having an All-Star season.

Ahead of Kevin Martin(notes), who is having an All-Star season.

Ahead of Zach Randolph(notes), who is having an All-Star season.

And ahead of Monta Ellis(notes), who is having an All-Star season.

Each of these men deserves to play in Los Angeles later this month. Hopefully you'll find the reasons behind my choosing of other players sufficient, but understand that I recognize and appreciate the contributions offered from all the players who missed my particular cut. This has been a pretty righteous year out West, which only makes me look forward to Wednesday night's slate of 11 games much more than I'm looking forward to an All-Star game that precludes the significant list of All-Stars listed above.

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