The All-Star reserves have been announced, which is traditionally a day of mourning for Golden State Warriors fans. This season, however, things are different. On the heels of an all-time great calendar year, the Dubs were honored with a league-high three all-star berths.
Still, the league didn't get everything right. Here's what we think...
I respect the fact that the coaches named Klay Thompson to the team. An all-star starter a year ago, Thompson recovered from a slow start to return to quintessential Splash Brother form (see: his 45-point performance against the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday). Still, Klay Thompson isn't as deserving as another Oakland guard: Damian Lillard. The former Weber State standout has carried a surprisingly not-that-bad Portland Trailblazers squad out of the Western Conference basement. Despite losing quality players in Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews, Robin Lopez and all-star LaMarcus Aldridge (can you say fire sale?), Rip City is currently holding the eighth seed in the playoff picture at 21-26.
Lillard has set new career-highs in points per game (24.3), assists per game (7.1), player efficiency rating (21.7 PER), and he's done so while keeping his true-shooting percentage roughly the same. He's still a traffic cone defensively, but some numbers (ESPN's Real Plus-Minus, basketball-reference's VORP and Box Plus-Minus) like Lillard better than Thompson, despite that. You want to reward the historic, amazing, perfection that is Warriors basketball by inviting an NBA-leading third player. But in all fairness that invite should have gone to Damian Lillard. He's just been the better player so far.
I've heard people mention that the west's big men have been a bit below par this season. And because of that, it makes sense to reward the red-hot San Antonio Spurs with a second all-star berth. It all sounds reasonable until we get to a name that just doesn't belong.
LaMarcus Aldridge has not been an all-star player in any way, shape, or form this season. Even in a (so-called) down year, Dirk Nowitzki, Dwight Howard, Zaza Pachulia, Rudy Gobert, DeAndre Jordan and even Tim Duncan have had years more deserving of all-star recognition! All of those players easily best Aldridge in the advanced metrics, and some are better in traditional box score stats (they've all played comparable minutes). I just can't figure out the rationale behind this selection, and I don't think I ever will. Terrible choice (and the fact that he gets in over Lillard is just plain unfair for Portland fans).
Tyronn Lue and Luke Walton
This is an all-star game for the coaches, you know. And due to surprising circumstances, the NBA had a bit of an all-star head coaching dilemma. Sadly, I think they got it wrong. Twice!
Tyronn Lue is factually the least qualified head coach to be coaching the eastern conference all-stars (I'm pretty sure Chip Kelly would make more sense). He's dead last. He's got the fewest games coached in the entire NBA, and the fewest wins, and the fewest sound bites, and the fewest years of experience. The only thing he does have is a super photoshoppable meme floating around the interwebs. So why's he getting the honor instead of Dwayne Casey (coach of the second place Toronto Raptors)? Couldn't tell you.
Meanwhile, Luke Walton actually coached the Warriors to the best start in NBA history (by like a ton), and remains on the roster as the associate head coach. He is literally not Steve Kerr, who cannot coach two consecutive all-star games by rule. So what's the problem with him coaching? Hell if I know.
Lue versus Gregg Popovich (the one coach in the NBA who really doesn't want to be at an all-star game) makes less sense than just about any realistic combination of coaches I could come up with. So how did the league get it so wrong? I have no idea.
Kobe Bryant and the fan vote
Full disclosure: I was a "Kobe guy." If you don't know what that is, then you might be a Tracy McGrady guy (or gal). Basically, when folks had a discussion of him-or-him? I'd inevitably lean towards Bryant...at least once he started binging on points like I do House of Cards. The 81-point game was one thing, but how about the February when he averaged 40-points per game!? All while enduring the highest degree of difficulty shot selection the league has ever seen (until this Stephen Curry fella came along).
Despite all of that, he doesn't deserve a national farewell tour. He deserves respect, yes, but I'm not sure why that turns into gifts, video tributes and speeches in rival arenas. He's absolutely an all time great player, but that doesn't mean we have to water down our all-star exhibition with one of its worst starters in history. This is a game for the fans, and I get that. But some fans are standing in the way of a game we can all enjoy. And that should be the goal.
Plus, it's not like seeing Kobe chuck up 14-of-16 clanky 22-foot turnaround jumpers is going to give anyone the warm fuzzies. Can we at least agree on that?
Well, that's enough negativity from me. What did you think of the 2016 all-star selections?