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Top NBA All-Star reserve candidates

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OAKLAND, Calif. – The Golden State Warriors had been nervous about Klay Thompson being on the bubble for his first-ever All-Star selection because of a long list of elite Western Conference guards. That list became shorter Thursday after the Los Angeles Lakers learned Thursday Kobe Bryant has suffered a rotator cuff injury that could end his season.

The NBA announced Thursday night that Bryant was named a West All-Star starting guard alongside Golden State's Stephen Curry after the fans voted them in. An extra West roster spot will open if the injury keeps Bryant out of the All-Star Game on Feb. 16 in New York, as expected. That will likely give the Warriors their wish of getting two All-Star selections thanks to the team's NBA-best 34-6 record.

"We deserve two," said Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who will coach the West All-Star team. "The whole of point of what we are doing is trying to win. We have the best record in the league. Steph is an automatic, but I don't know how you couldn't have two All-Stars from a team with that record.

"I know there are a lot of great guards in the West. But winning needs to be a trump card in any tiebreaker."

Houston Rockets guard James Harden replaced Bryant as an All-Star starter last year after Bryant suffered a season-ending knee injury. Harden is again expected to replace Bryant and join Curry in the West's starting backcourt this year. Harden is leading the NBA in scoring with 27.2 points per game.

The Western Conference frontcourt players voted in as starters include the New Orleans Pelicans' Anthony Davis, the Los Angeles Clippers' Blake Griffin and the Memphis Grizzlies' Marc Gasol. In the Eastern Conference, the fans voted in the Washington Wizards' John Wall and the Toronto Raptors' Kyle Lowry at the guard sports and the Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James, Chicago Bulls' Pau Gasol and New York Knicks' Carmelo Anthony as the frontcourt starters.

The NBA head coaches in each conference will begin voting on Friday for the reserves, which include two guards, three frontcourt players and two wild cards on each team. The reserves in each conference will be announced Thursday.

With the West so strong in guards, it wouldn't be a surprise to see the two wild card spots used for that position as well. Four West guards who could make up those four rosters spots in Thompson, the Portland Trail Blazers' Damian Lillard, Clippers' Chris Paul and the Oklahoma City Thunder's Russell Westbrook. The Dallas Mavericks' Monta Ellis, Memphis Grizzlies' Mike Conley and Denver Nuggets' Ty Lawson, who leads the West in assists per game, also deserve consideration.

The Thunder's Kevin Durant, the reigning MVP, is expected to be a lock for one of the West's All-Star reserve frontcourt spots. Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge would have received strong consideration but is sidelined for at least six weeks with a thumb injury. Aldridge's injury increases the chances of Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins making the team.

Houston's Dwight Howard and the Mavericks' Dirk Nowitzki also will compete for a spot.

"It's a loaded conference," Thompson told Yahoo Sports. "There are so many talented players in this league. That's how it's going to be every year. It's not going to be easy."

In the East, the Chicago Bulls' Jimmy Butler and Cleveland's Kyrie Irving are expected to land the two reserve guard spots. The Atlanta Hawks are deserving of multiple All-Star selections by virtue of their East-best 35-8 record. Atlanta's Paul Millsap is a safe bet to land one of the East's three reserve frontcourt spots while other candidates include Atlanta's Al Horford, Miami's Chris Bosh and Cleveland's Kevin Love.

Other East reserve candidates include Miami's Dwyane Wade, the Bulls' Derrick Rose and Atlanta guards Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver.