Snubs aside, who will actually make it to New Orleans?
All that's left to be decided is who will replace Kobe Bryant in the starting lineup, who will take that new vacancy among the reserves and, perhaps, who will take Chris Paul's spot if he ultimately doesn't play. And there are only two guys, Thunder coach Scott Brooks and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, that get a say in those decisions.
The way I see it, there are only a few options for what the West team will look like come Valentine's Day Weekend.
Historically, injured players are usually replaced by guys that play the same position -- or at least guards are replaced with guards and bigs with bigs. Following this model, Kobe would be replaced in the starting lineup with one of the reserve guards (CP3, James Harden, Tony Parker, Damien Lillard). Then another guard -- perhaps two more guards if CP3 doesn't play -- would be added to the team as reserves.
But who should take over Kobe's starting slot? Over the past few years, All-Star coaches have been eager to replace injured starters with their own guys. Last year Eric Spoelstra threw the whole position balance thing out the window when he replaced an injured Rondo in the starting lineup with Chris Bosh, giving the East a one-guard starting lineup. In 2011, Coach Pop replaced Yao Ming in the starting lineup with Tim Duncan. But Scotty Brooks has no Thunder players he can throw into the starting lineup, so who gets the call?
I think he should pull a Spoelstra and forget about lineup balance. Throw LaMarcus Aldridge in their to start with Steph, Durant, Love, and Blake. Go big or go home!
I think he should because Aldridge has been the best player on one of the best teams, but I think he will make that choice because it's a better option for him than the alternatives. There could be some politics involved here; Brooks may not want to name Tony Parker, the best player on the team that could be his Thunder's biggest threat, or James Harden, an ex-Thunder star, as a starter. Picking Aldridge gives Portland the respect they deserve (I guess he could take Lillard over Aldridge, but that would be cruel) and lets him avoid naming a rival to the starting unit.
If he selects Aldridge to start, the next step is easy. Anthony Davis, come on down!