NBA All-Star reserves picks: Damian Lillard a lock, but the rest not so easy

Picking NBA All-Star starters is easy.

Selecting the reserves is difficult, and it’s up to NBA coaches to make the decisions.

When the 2021 All-Star reserves are announced Tuesday on TNT, worthy players will be rewarded for the seasons they are having. We see you, Damian Lillard.

Also, players who are having All-Star seasons won’t be named to the team because it becomes a numbers crunch. Gordon Hayward, Tobias Harris and Mike Conley could be left out.

For the Western and Eastern Conference reserves, coaches pick two backcourt players, three in the frontcourt and two wildcards.

USA TODAY NBA writers Jeff Zillgitt and Mark Medina select their reserves:

Damian Lillard (0) and Donovan Mitchell (45) are likely shoo-ins to make the All-Star team as reserves. (Photo: Jeffrey Swinger, USA TODAY Sports)

Eastern Conference

Backcourt

Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics: Brown didn’t have a lot of time to work on his game between the bubble and the start of this season, but steady improvement is noticeable. He’s averaging a career-high in points (25.5) by more than five points above his previous high, a career-high in assists (3.9) and shooting career-bests from the field (49.7%) and on 3-pointers (40.9%). This would be his first All-Star appearance.

James Harden, Brooklyn Nets: The Nets are 13-5 with Harden, who seems to have found a nice spot alongside Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Harden averages 24.9 points, 11.1 assists and 7.3 rebounds on strong shooting splits, including 50.2% from the field and 41% on 3s with Brooklyn.

Frontcourt

Julius Randle, New York Knicks: The Knicks haven’t had an All-Star since Kristaps Porzingis in 2018. Randle should get the nod this season for his role in making the Knicks an improved team. Career-year stats across the board for the 26-year-old big man: 23.3 points, 11 rebounds, 5.5 assists per game and shooting 48.1% from the field, 41% on 3s and 80.5% on free throws.

Nikola Vucevic, Orlando Magic: One of the NBA’s underrated – and perhaps underappreciated – stars, Vucevic is also having a career season with a personal-best 24.1 points per game and personal-best 40.5% on 3s. He’s also averaging 11.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists and shooting 48.1% from the field. He is tied for third in double-doubles with 22.

Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks: Forget Milwaukee’s comparatively slow start. This is what Middleton gives the Bucks on a nightly basis: 20.5 points, six rebounds, 5.7 assists, 1.1 steals and 50.5% shooting from the field, 43.1% on 3s and 89.5% on free throws. Not flashy, but All-Star worthy.

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