With the All-Star Game reserves announcements coming later this week, now is the time for experts, fans, players, and coaches to all give an opinion on who deserves those precious few All-Star bench spots.
I’m here to plead the case for not one, but two Memphis Grizzlies to make this year’s Western Conference All-Star rosters.
First, let’s take a look at the frontcourt situation.
Golden State’s Kevin Durant, San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard, and host city New Orleans’ Anthony Davis each were deservedly voted in as the frontcourt starters. That leaves at least three and at most five (but probably just three with the Western Conference backcourt depth) leftover spots for frontcourt players.
If the divisive, yet undeniably impactful King DeMarcus Cousins and Draymond Green, the Warriors emotional and basketball lynchpin, both expectedly grab spots, then there is potentially only one frontcourt spot up-for-grabs out West.
Rudy Gobert has been great as the backline of a standout Utah Jazz defense, which they have ridden to the fifth-best record in the West, and Karl-Anthony Towns has done a little bit of everything for the not-quite-as-successful Minnesota Timberwolves.
However, I think the impact that Marc Gasol has had on both offense and defense for the never-say-die Grizzlies ever-so-slightly trumps Gobert and Towns.
Gobert does not bring quite enough on offense, while I think Gasol’s importance to the firmly-in-the-playoff-race, the Grizzlies beats out Towns’ do-everythingness for the Timberwolves.
The backcourt situation is a little trickier.
MVP Frontrunner James Harden and two-time reigning MVP Steph Curry were voted in as the starting guards for the West, leaving supernova Russell Westbrook out in the cold as the most surprising starter snub this year.
If the man going for the league’s second season-long triple-double average EVER is relegated to backup status, that does not bode well for the remaining Western guard candidates.
Los Angeles’ Chris Paul would have been the no-brainer choice for the second reserve backcourt spot had he not gotten re-bitten by the Clippers injury curse last week. Even if the coaches do ceremoniously, and deservedly, vote him into the second guard spot, a replacement will be needed.
Enter Mike Conley, having his best-ever season prior to an injury of his own and having just successfully returned from that same injury.
It will be hard to fend off a fourth Warrior (assuming Draymond gets a spot) in Klay Thompson, either of the Blazers hot-shooting duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, or the leader of the up-and-coming Jazz Gordon Hayward, who is also quietly putting together a career-best best season.
In the humble opinion of a Grizzlies fan who is obsessed with All-Star Game rosters and who tries his best to be unbiased, my ballot would give the second guard spot to Conley, the two wild card spots to Hayward and Lillard, and send those poor Warriors to New Orleans with only three All-Stars in tow.
It feels dirty to leave Klay off the team, and giving the Warriors four All-Stars would not be a stretch in my mind, but Conley (18.9 points, 6.2 assists, 3.8 rebounds, 1.3 steals), Hayward (22.2, 3.5, 5.7, 1.0), and Lillard (26.2, 5.9, 4.8, 0.7) simply do more for their respective teams than Thompson (21.1, 2.0, 3.7, 0.8) does for the Warriors.