The NBA announced the reserve selections for next month's All-Star Game in Atlanta on Tuesday night, a list headlined by Brooklyn Nets star James Harden as well as center Rudy Gobert and guard Donovan Mitchell from the league-leading Utah Jazz.
Harden, the NBA's Most Valuable Player in 2018, is representing Brooklyn for the first time in what will be his ninth consecutive All-Star appearance. The previous eight came with the Houston Rockets, who traded Harden to Brooklyn as part of a four-team deal last month. Since the trade, Harden has averaged 24.9 points and 11.4 assists in 18 games with Brooklyn. He will join teammates Kevin Durant -- one of two captains, alongside Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James -- and Kyrie Irving, both of whom were voted in as starters last week.
In addition to Harden, the six other selections from the Eastern Conference were: guard Jaylen Brown and forward Jayson Tatum from the Boston Celtics; New York Knicks forward Julius Randle; Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine; Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons; and Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic.
Brown, the front-runner for the NBA's Most Improved Player Award this season, is averaging career highs across the board for the Celtics, including points (25.5), assists (3.9) and all three shooting percentage categories: field goal (49.7), 3-point (40.9) and free throw (76.6), helping him earn his first All-Star selection. Tatum, meanwhile, is averaging a career-high 26.4 points, and is making his second straight appearance in the league's midseason showcase.
Vucevic will make his second All-Star appearance, having made his first two seasons ago, and is averaging a career-high 24.1 points per game and shooting a career-best 40% from 3-point range. Simmons will make his third consecutive All-Star appearance; the well-rounded guard is, alongside starter Joel Embiid, a huge reason the Sixers entered Tuesday with the Eastern Conference's best record.
They will be joined by two first-time All-Stars from two of the league's flagship franchises in Randle and LaVine, both of whom are having career years. Randle, who has helped lead the 15-16 Knicks into surprising contention for a playoff berth, is averaging career bests in virtually every category playing under Tom Thibodeau, while LaVine is averaging career highs of 28.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.1 assists.
Over the past few weeks, there has been intense debate over who would merit the final couple of spots in the East, with a deep pool of candidates garnering support. Ultimately, though, the league's coaches wound up leaving off several of them, including: Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo and forward Jimmy Butler; Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton; 76ers forward Tobias Harris; Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet; Indiana Pacers guard Malcolm Brogdon and forward Domantas Sabonis; Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young; and Charlotte Hornets forward Gordon Hayward.
Out West, Gobert and Mitchell were the headliners, as they were the two representatives for the streaking Jazz, who go into Wednesday's showdown versus the Lakers on ESPN with the NBA's best record, and having won 20 of their past 22 games. Gobert, who is positioned to win his third Defensive Player of the Year award, makes his second straight All-Star appearance this season after a couple of near misses in previous seasons. It also is the second straight appearance for Mitchell, who is averaging career highs of 24.5 points and 5.2 assists this season.
They were joined by: Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard; LA Clippers forward Paul George; Lakers forward Anthony Davis; Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul and New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson.
Lillard easily could've been a starter, as he's having another stellar season, averaging 29.8 points and 7.7 assists and keeping Portland in the playoff picture even though guard CJ McCollum and center Jusuf Nurkic are out with long-term injuries. George, meanwhile, is back in the All-Star Game for the seventh time after missing it last year, his first in Los Angeles, after injuries delayed the start of his season. Davis, on the other hand, is all but certain to be replaced by someone ahead of the All-Star Game because of the calf strain that currently has the Lakers star sidelined.
The final two spots out West went to one of the league's oldest stars in Paul and one of its youngest in Williamson. Paul, whom Phoenix acquired before the season, makes his 11th All-Star appearance and his second in a row after making the roster last year for Oklahoma City. Williamson, the top overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft, makes his first appearance after averaging 25.1 points and shooting over 60% from the field.
Those two beat out a field of candidates for the final couple of spots that included: San Antonio Spurs forward DeMar DeRozan; Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander; Jazz guard Mike Conley, who continues to hold the unofficial title of best player never to make an All-Star team; Suns guard Devin Booker; and Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram.
Like in recent seasons, the NBA will combine the All-Stars into one pool, which will be divided into two teams by captains James and Durant. Jazz coach Quin Snyder will coach James' team, while Sixers coach Doc Rivers will helm Durant's squad.
The game will also, like last year, feature the Elam Ending, in which the teams play to a final score as opposed to a timed fourth quarter. Like last year, that final score will be determined by taking the combined score of the team that's ahead through three quarters and adding 24 points -- in honor of Kobe Bryant -- to that total.