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The Unicorn Era Has Reached the NBA All-Star Game

And other notes on the reserves and snubs of the 2018 exhibition

New York Knicks v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images

With the All-Star reserves announced, it feels as though we’re officially ushering in a new generation with the fresh infusion of talent in this year’s exhibition.

The unicorns came galloping in: Kristaps Porzingis (East) and Karl-Anthony Towns (West) joined starter Joel Embiid for their first All-Star trips. Victor Oladipo (a non-unicorn, but having a magical season in his own right) was also chosen for the first time to represent the East. It will be LeBron James’s first time riding the Banana Boat alone—Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, and Dwyane Wade all missed the cut.

Unlike the starters—who were voted in by fans, media, and players—the reserves were selected entirely by the NBA’s pool of head coaches. Here they are:

2018 All-Star Reserves

Western Conference Eastern Conference
Western Conference Eastern Conference
LaMarcus Aldridge Al Horford
Draymond Green Kevin Love
Karl-Anthony Towns Kristaps Porzingis
Klay Thompson Kyle Lowry
Damian Lillard Victor Oladipo
Jimmy Butler Bradley Beal
Russell Westbrook John Wall

With the inclusion of Green and Thompson, Golden State will, for the second season in a row, have four Warriors represented in the game—one short of its starting lineup. (You matter too, Zaza.) That’s in stark contrast to Minnesota, which will send two players for the first time since 2004 (coincidentally, the last time the Wolves made the playoffs, wink wink).

And now we mourn those left behind, those who had strong cases and those whose team Twitter accounts couldn’t quite light enough fire via hashtags for. In the East, Andre Drummond, who has played remarkably better this season, was a legitimate candidate. Ben Simmons was a fringe candidate, while Kemba Walker, Goran Dragic, and Tobias Harris were all worthy players who just couldn’t stir up enough buzz for their campaigns.

The dividing line was more obvious in the West. With the exception of Paul George, who might be the only glaring omission, there were valid reasons for most of the other snubs. Blake Griffin and Paul both missed too many games (see, they still have something in common). Devin Booker’s performances, while flashy and occasionally historic, benefit from his circumstance on the sorry Suns. Lou Williams was the hipster pick with little shot of actually happening, DeAndre Jordan’s numbers have remained constant despite being having a bigger role (albeit on a worse team), and Nikola Jokic’s performance thus far on an underwhelming Nuggets team understandably didn’t pop on coaches’ radars. C.J. McCollum and Clint Capela have had excellent seasons, but the former is experiencing a slight dip from last year, and the latter’s numbers largely benefit from his backcourt spoon-feeding him, as Kevin Durant astutely pointed out.

The new All-Star format allows for mixed-conference teams, and captains LeBron and Steph will create theirs gym-class pickup style. Because James had the most overall points (in votes received from fans, media, and other players), he will pick first. Once the two captains are finished picking from the pool of starters, Curry gets first pick of the reserves listed above, which means Curry will have two consecutive picks going from the starter pool to the reserves. From there, picks will alternate as usual until LeBron makes the final pick. (So Love will end up on his team after all.)

The rosters will be announced Thursday. The selections are not going to be televised; commissioner Adam Silver said it would put the players in a “compromising position.” LeBron thought otherwise: “We’re all grown men. It doesn’t stop your paycheck from coming.” Wall agreed, although Silver mentioned concern from other players (who we can safely assume are those who will be teased endlessly for being selected last, right?). But even those picked last for the All-Star teams are still All-Stars, a select group of elite talent that shouldn’t worry about Reddit teasing or Twitter memes.

The final rosters will be amusing to dissect, and the game might even be watchable—if only to ring in a new era of All-Stars.