The NBA announced this year’s All-Star reserves on Thursday, and for the most part, they got them right. LaMarcus Aldridge was the only one that seemed to come out of nowhere, but if the idea is to reward winning, the Spurs should have more than just Kawhi Leonard in the game. Still, every year there are players who deserved to get in and didn’t. Here are just a few from this year’s crop:
Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers): It’s an absolute shock that Lillard didn’t get in, even with the number of good point guards in the west. The Blazers were supposed to be one of the worst teams in the league this season after losing four of their five starters, and instead they find themselves in position to make the playoffs. Lillard’s usage has skyrocketed from 26.9 to 31 percent and his shooting efficiency has seen only a minor drop-off despite the increased responsibility. He should have made it.
Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas Mavericks): This Mavericks team wasn’t supposed to be this good. A lot of that can be attributed to Rick Carlisle’s coaching (he has to be the Coach of the Year frontrunner at this point), but Nowitzki has been as solid as ever. He’s shooting 39.8 percent from three-point range on 4.4 attempts per game, his most since the 2002-03 season. His defense is lacking, which you’d expect at his age, but offensively, he’s still a force.
DeAndre Jordan (Los Angeles Clippers): The Clippers have kept winning without Blake Griffin, and Jordan’s impact on the defensive end is a big part of why. He’s unstoppable around the basket, leading the league for the fourth straight year in field-goal percentage.
Marc Gasol (Memphis Grizzlies): The Grizzlies have flown under the radar despite rebounding from a horrendous start to the season, but Gasol is having yet another excellent year. Statistically, he’s right in line with where he’s been the last few years, and he’s still an outstanding defender.
Kevin Love (Cleveland Cavaliers): Usually, the best team in a conference gets more than one representative in the All-Star game. Kyrie Irving has only been healthy for a month, which we knew would cost him if he wasn’t voted in as a starter, so Love is the pick here. Despite the concerns about his long-term fit in Cleveland, he’s putting up solid numbers, averaging 15.7 points and 10.8 rebounds in just 32.3 minutes per game, his fewest since his second year in the league.
Al Horford (Atlanta Hawks): With the Hawks’ out-of-nowhere No. 1 seed finish last year, it seemed like the narrative that Horford was “underrated” was permanently put to rest. Not so much. Horford was a clear All-Star last season, and his stats this year are virtually identical. The Hawks are in position to get a top-four seed in the east.
Nicolas Batum (Charlotte Hornets): The Hornets couldn’t ask for more than Batum has given them, especially in the wake of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist‘s season-ending injury during training camp. Batum has rebounded from a couple of down years in Portland to have a career-defining season in Charlotte, averaging career highs in points (14.9) and assists (5.3). He may not have made the All-Star team, but he’s going to get paid this summer, be it by the Hornets or someone else.
Pau Gasol (Chicago Bulls): Gasol hasn’t been quite as good as he was last season, when he was a deserving All-Star starter, but he’s having a solid statistical year and the Bulls are a top-four team in the East. This isn’t a truly egregious snub, but putting him in would have been totally defensible.
Reggie Jackson (Detroit Pistons): Andre Drummond was always going to be a lock to make it, but his pick-and-roll partner deserves some consideration too. Jackson has backed up an $80 million contract that some questioned when he signed it, helping to propel Detroit into the playoff conversation for the first time since 2009.