NBA All-Star reserves include Donovan

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For as deserving as the 14 players chosen to be NBA All-Star reserves this year are, and it’s hard to make an argument against any of them, snubs like Trae Young, Domantas Sabonis and De’Aaron Fox are as noteworthy.

Bench players for the 73rd All-Star Game, set for Feb. 18 in Indianapolis, were announced Thursday on TNT. For the Eastern Conference, Jaylen Brown (Boston Celtics) and Donovan Mitchell (Cleveland Cavaliers); Bam Adebayo (Miami Heat), Julius Randle (New York Knicks) and Paolo Banchero (Orlando Magic); Jalen Brunson (Knicks) and Tyrese Maxey (Philadelphia 76ers) were selected.

For the Western Conference, Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns) and Anthony Edwards (Minnesota Timberwolves); Kawhi Leonard (LA Clippers), Paul George (Clippers) and Anthony Davis (Los Angeles Lakers); Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors) and Karl-Anthony Towns (Timberwolves) were selected.

Young, a two-time All-Star, is 10th in the NBA in scoring (27.0) and second in assists (10.9) behind Tyrese Haliburton. They are the only two players in the league averaging at least 10 assists. But the Atlanta Hawks are struggling, at 20-27 entering Thursday and 10th in the East, and perhaps the league’s coaches were holding the Hawks’ low place in the standings against Young.

The Sacramento Kings, however, are not struggling. The Kings are fifth in a loaded West, at 27-19, and Sabonis is the NBA’s top rebounder at 13.0 boards per game (to go with nearly 20 points per night). Fox, meanwhile, is ninth in the NBA in scoring (27.2).

Other potential All-Stars picked over include Jamal Murray of the Denver Nuggets, Jarrett Allen of the Cavaliers and, potentially, rookie star Victor Wembanyama of the San Antonio Spurs, who leads the NBA in blocks.

All-Star reserves, chosen by the NBA’s 30 coaches, include two guards, three frontcourt players, and two players from any position, per conference.

Last week, the NBA announced starters for the 2024 All-Star Game, as selected by a combination vote of fans, media and the players.

Starting for the East: Haliburton (Indiana Pacers) and Damian Lillard (Milwaukee Bucks); Jayson Tatum (Celtics), Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks) and, for now, Joel Embiid (76ers). Embiid suffered a left meniscus injury Tuesday night, the 76ers said Thursday, and “will be out through the weekend while a treatment plan is finalized.”

Starting for the West: Luka Dončić (Dallas Mavericks) and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Oklahoma City Thunder); LeBron James (Lakers), Kevin Durant (Suns) and Nikola Jokić (Nuggets).

Coaches for the game will be determined by team records through play Sunday. The Celtics hold a commanding lead in the East, but their coach, Joe Mazzulla, cannot coach in Indianapolis because he coached the East in last year’s All-Star Game. The coach for the second-place team will get the nod.

If Embiid, Randle (who is out with a separated shoulder, likely through the All-Star break), or any other All-Star can’t play because of injury, his replacement will be selected by NBA commissioner Adam Silver.

This year’s game reverts back to the old format — last seen for the 2017 All-Star Game in New Orleans — of players playing for the East and West conferences, instead of being picked, playground style, by the top vote-getter from each conference.

The game will consist of four 12-minute quarters, like a regular game, instead of the “Elam” scoring model of a target score for each team in an untimed fourth quarter to determine the winner, which had been in place since the 2020 game in Chicago.

About the reserves

Let’s start with Curry, who is an All-Star for the 10th time but it’s his first trip as a reserve. He is averaging 27.5 points and shooting over 40 percent from 3, but the Warriors have been so bad thus far (20-24) that it was conceivable he could be left out of Indianapolis all together. It would have been a hard All-Star Game absence to manage, given his 1-on-1 3-point showdown against Sabrina Ionescu on All-Star Saturday.

Otherwise, no surprises in the West. The Timberwolves are the best team in the conference and Edwards and Towns are their top two players. The Clippers could soon catch Minnesota, and their regular-season resurgence has been led by the rare occurrence of Leonard and George being healthy and playing often.

Booker scored 152 points in a recent three-game stretch. The Lakers aren’t good, but Davis surely is, as he’s tied for third in the league with 12.1 rebounds to go with his 24.9 points per game.

In the East, Mitchell has been dominant on a Cavs team that, since mid-December, has the best record in the NBA. He’s averaging 28.2 points — seventh best in the league — and is now a five-time All-Star.

Brunson made his first All-Star game. He’s averaging 26.8 points and 6.5 assists per game, and had the Knicks a half game above Cleveland, entering Thursday, for third in the East.

Like Brunson, with whom he was teammates on Team USA last summer at the FIBA World Cup, Banchero is a first-time All-Star. Brown is an All-Star for the third time with averages of 22.6 points and 5.4 boards. He is the second-best player on the NBA’s best team, record wise.

Maxey is another first-time All-Star and is enjoying his best season as a pro, with a bigger offensive role in Philadelphia after James Harden’s departure. Randle started slowly but had been a walking double-double until his recent injury.

Required reading

(Photo: Winslow Townson / Getty Images)

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