If you’re reading this article about the All-Star chances for John Wall and Bradley Beal, then there are good odds you care about the Washington Wizards or at traffic in D.C. sports talk.
Considering the (worthy) hype surrounding the backcourt tandem and the Wizards status as Eastern Conference contender, it won’t come as a surprise should both named 2018 NBA All-Stars.
When reserves are revealed Tuesday, just be prepared for a shock if they’re not.
Chances are Beal, Washington’s leading scorer, and Wall, already a four-time All-Star, are selected for the Feb. 18 event in Los Angeles. Just do not assume it’s a lock.
Conference coaches select the reserves and depending on one’s preferences. There are around 13 players vying for seven reserve spots in the East.
While the Wizards maintain contender status based on last season’s playoff performance and the star backcourt, some may struggle to put two players on the All-Star roster from a team that is fifth in the East and among the league’s most frustrating to date.
Here’s a look at the individual cases for Wall, Beal and their competition. First, some details:
- LeBron James (Cavaliers), Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks), Joel Embiid (76ers), DeMar DeRozan (Raptors) and Kyrie Irving (Celtics) were selected as starters via a combination of fan, media and player voting.
- The league shifted from the usual East vs. West format. Instead, James and Warriors star Stephen Curry, the top vote-getter in each conference, will conduct a player draft to determine rosters. Therefore, even if Wall and Beal are selected as reserves, they might be on opposite teams. Intrigue!
- The reserve pool is made up of seven players selected for each conference. Of the seven, three must be front court players and two from the backcourt. The final two “wild card” players chose regardless of position.
As for the candidates, I’d at least consider:
Frontcourt – Andre Drummond (Pistons), Tobias Harris (Pistons), Al Horford (Celtics), Krystaps Porzingis (Knicks), Kevin Love (Cavs)
Reserves – Beal, Goran Dragic (Heat), Kyle Lowry (Raptors), Khris Middleton (Bucks), Victor Oladipo (Pacers), Ben Simmons (76ers), Kemba Walker (Hornets), Wall
From this group, Horford and Porzingis are frontcourt locks. Boston’s veteran big man provides stability for the East’s top team that lost one of its main players minutes into the season and yet is thriving. Porzingis took over as New York’s lead option this season and, in true “Unicorn” fashion, is posting crazy stats for a 7-foot-3 human.
Oladipo is the one obvious call in the backcourt. The former DeMatha product is having a career year in his first campaign with Indiana following the trade with Oklahoma City involving Paul George: 24.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 3.9 apg, 40.2 3 pt. percentage and fourth in ESPN’s Real-plus minus.
The candidacies for Harris and Middleton are dicey considering 1) their respective teams are currently middle-of-the-pack in the East and 2) one of the teammates is a better All-Star option. Walker (21.7 ppg), a 2017 All-Star, ranks among the top-20 scorers in the league, but Charlotte’s leading man is anchored to the struggling Hornets.
That leaves seven for four spots. The Cavaliers are in bizarro mode, but the three-time defending East champs are getting at least two in. Selecting Love (18.6 ppg, 9.4 rbg, 40.1 3 pt percentage) is hardly a pity move.
Let’s make Beal the second guard. The wing threat is averaging career-best numbers in scoring (23.8), rebounds (4.3) and assists (3.7). Yes, the shooting percentages are surprisingly off, but Beal’s leading presence helped keep Washington going when Wall, Otto Porter and Markieff Morris missed time with injuries.
Simmons is the current front-runner for Rookie of the Year. Perhaps enough coaches fell in love with the 6-foot-10 point-forward’s game, but the guess is he falls behind the remaining candidates.
Lowry’s stats are not mind-blowing (17.0 ppg, 6.7 apg), but he’s a three-time All-Star and, along with DeRozan, the leader on the East’s second-best team.
Drummond’s case is almost the opposite of Lowry’s. The power center leads the NBA in rebounding (15.0) while averaging 14.3 points. Don’t forget about his stunning improvement from the free throw line. However, the Pistons are plummeting.
As for Wall, the basic stats are in line with his previous All-Star seasons: Second in the league with 9.3 assists, second on Washington with 19.5 points. His 35.8 3 pt. percentage would set a new career-high. Some view him ahead of Beal in All-Star consideration.
The biggest knock: He missed 11 of the Wizards’ 47 games with injuries. The biggest question: Will voters reward Washington with two spots and give Toronto just one?
In the end, the final two spots go to Lowry and … Wall, who is worthy of becoming a five-time All-Star and one of two Wizards selected. For reasons laid out, just don’t be stunned if this year voters think otherwise.