Sam Smith's 2014 NBA All-Star picks

With NBA All-Star voting ending Monday, the starters will be announced this week with the reserves being named next week. Sam Smith discusses the selection process and provides his picks to play in the game on Feb. 16.

Monday is the final day of fan voting for the 2014 All-Star teams. The starters will be announced Thursday on the TNT pregame show. The coaches then will select the reserves, to be announced January 30 also on TNT.

It seems likely the starters are set with the fan voting and isn’t likely to change unless there is an injury.

It looks like LeBron James, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Kyrie Irving in the Eastern Conference. It will be Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, Blake Griffin, Kobe Bryant and Stephen Curry in the Western Conference.

So who are the 12 who should represent each team if the coaches do their job as well as the fans?

Yes, Bryant has been injured. But he should be back before the game. And it’s an exhibition. The fans want to see Bryant and should. He’s the player of the last decade in the NBA. He’s a star, and that’s what All-Star games are about. Same with Wade. He isn’t having a great season with all the time off to rest his knees for the playoffs. But he’s a star as well, one of the dominant players of the 2000s. Plus, it’s not like any other Eastern Conference guard deserves it much more with all the injuries.

But first a word about the voting and this nonsense that keeps getting perpetuated about All-Stars only from winning teams. Yes, there is a big value to winning. But you aren’t an All-Star, say like Lance Stephenson, because you are on a winning team. It’s a game about the best talent in the NBA--the best individual talent.

It shouldn’t matter much in the Eastern Conference since only the Pacers and Heat are truly winning teams. There’s no difference if you are 20-19, like Toronto and Atlanta, or a game or three under like the Bulls, Pistons and Nets. At this point in the season that easily could be unequal scheduling. The Hawks or Raptors don’t get an All-Star by being barely over .500 compared with a few games under. It’s not a team game in New Orleans. It’s a show of stars.

And taken a step further, Michael Jordan would not have been selected for his first three All-Star games as the Bulls were under .500 those seasons. LeBron would have missed his first along with Kevin Garnett. Oscar Robertson wouldn’t have played in four or five of his All-Star games. Plus, he was MVP in two of the games his team wasn’t above .500. Wilt Chamberlain also would have sat out an All-Star game based on team winning percentage.

Yes, let’s get to watch as much as possible of Roy Hibbert and David Lee in All-Star games. Winning matters. That gets you to the playoffs. The eye test ought to get you on the All-Star team.

Eastern Conference:

LeBron James: Having another brilliant do everything season with Wade in partial retirement.

Paul George: The Pacers believe they can win with one star, and he’s it. They’ll get maybe two more players on the All-Star team. But he’s the star.

Carmelo Anthony: The Knicks are far from winners. But he should be there. He’s probably the best pure scorer after Kevin Durant.

Dwyane Wade: The fans like him, the Heat is winning, so there should be no real debate. He deserves it for multiple titles alone.

Kyrie Irving: Not having his best season, though the East is suffering in the backcourt and it’s a justifiable choice even with the Cavs under .500.

The reserves:

Chris Bosh: He’s still the most ineffective rebounding big man in basketball--OK, after Kendrick Perkins.--but he got the biggest rebound of the decade in Game 6 last season. He’s always there and has picked it up with Wade out. Two-time champions get three. So winning does count some.

Roy Hibbert: Perhaps the antithesis of an All-Star with his wild stork moves in the post. But he’s become a defensive presence and a strong factor for the winning Pacers. You don’t want to watch him in that game, but he’s deserving.

David West: There’s a new outpouring for Lance Stephenson, who would put on a heck of a show in introductions. But they haven’t won anything yet. And if they do it will be in large part because of his presence.

Joakim Noah: It didn’t look like the Bulls would get anyone after trading Luol Deng. But it would be a crime to pass over Noah not only with the Bulls closing on .500 but with Noah on perhaps the best run of his career and among the league leaders in rebounding and double-doubles, the assists leader among centers and one of 11 players averaging a double/double. Sorry, but Deng doesn’t get to go. You can’t have two players from a team 10 games below .500. You draw the line somewhere.

John Wall: The East guard ranks have shrunk without Derrick Rose and Rajon Rondo is just returning. Deron Williams has been in and out and the Raptors still aren’t sure if they’re trading Kyle Lowry. Wall has finally developed a shot and the Wizards continue to have a shot at .500. Plus, he could be fun in an All-Star game with that speed.

Paul Millsap: The Hawks have done a nice job hanging in there after the loss of Al Horford, and even at about 6-5, Millsap continues to bang with the bigger guys and make big plays. I take him ahead of Jeff Teague.

DeMar DeRozan: OK, winning gets some acknowledgement. The Raptors are hanging around .500 as well, though that’s a long way from their plan to lose 60 games. DeRozan has become a 20-point scorer and a big play maker.

Western Conference

Kevin Durant: Having a truly amazing season with the three highest scoring games of the season and averaging close to 40 a game since Westbrook went out to keep the Thunder with not much of a roster otherwise in the hunt. He’s also likely the midseason league MVP leader.

Dwight Howard: Probably hasn’t made as big an impact as predicted. And losing some of his reputation as a team changer. But they’re now a contender and they weren’t before. As long as no one fouls him and he doesn’t have to shoot free throws. Plus, he’s always good for a laugh that weekend when it doesn’t matter that he prefers to play the clown.

Blake Griffin: He and Howard had been running barely ahead of Kevin Love for the starting spots. Griffin deserves it the way he’s improved this season with his shot and especially with Chris Paul out. He’s no longer just the dunker.

Stephen Curry: The coaches have been trying to make up for their mistake from last year of picking Lee over him. What were they thinking? It shouldn’t even have been close last season. There’s no doubt now as the fans took the decision over so the coaches don’t embarrass themselves again.

Kobe Bryant: Hardly an All-Star season, but there’s nothing wrong with lifetime achievement. Only a few deserve it, and he’s one. Good for the fans.

The reserves:

Kevin Love: He’s put up amazing statistics. But something’s wrong there as they continue to lose close games and it probably didn’t help the team when he began pointing fingers. He’s really not a No. 1 guy, which is their problem. But he’s an All-Star.

LaMarcus Aldridge: The Trail Blazers have been the big contending surprise of the season and he’s even in the MVP discussion. He’s not that good. But he is having a terrific season after pretty much giving up the end of last season.

Chris Paul: He should return from injury by the time of the game and he could have been voted in if he weren’t hurt. He might still be, though Curry deserves it more. He does lead the league in assists and perhaps his leadership credentials get tested a bit as the Clippers continue to do well without him.

Damian Lillard: The motor that has been driving a good Portland team. He’s become a big time clutch shooter in his second year and a big reason for their surprise season.

James Harden: Durant is right. He’s better than Wade. And a lot of other guys. He might try a little harder, or at all, on defense. Though he has played through a lot of injuries and continues to be the big player on the Rockets even with Howard.

Tim Duncan: The Spurs have to get someone, so the choice generally falls to leading scorer Tony Parker. But Duncan continues to amaze. He continues to be among the league leaders in rebounds and blocks even with limited minutes. The All-Star game should recognize both players having great years and the greats of the game. Duncan fulfills enough categories.

Anthony Davis: The Pelicans have been a bit of a disappointment, though mostly because of injuries. But not Davis, a rare 20/10 player and on a team where now they are basically only guarding him. You can make cases for Parker, Zach Randolph and teammate Mike Conley, Dirk Nowitzki, obviously given the Duncan definition of good season and great player. But this is a kid who is a star and should be in that game.

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