With the 2022 NBA All-Star Game just over a month away, it's time to make some more predictions as to who will be representing the league's best. In this article, I will be providing my selections for this season's Western Conference reserves. A disclaimer—the All-Star Game follows a draft format, so the players you see below won't all be playing together on February 20. With that being said, let's discuss some of the NBA's best approaching the 2021-22 season's halfway point.
Mitchell’s fifth season in the league has been his most well-rounded one yet. He’s an explosive finisher, as evidenced by his 11.2 points per game off of drives (fourth in the league). He’s scoring inside the arc efficiently, converting 54.4 percent of his two-point attempts, good for ninth among guards. But he’s also comfortable behind the arc, converting 3.3 threes per game (fourth in the league).
The Louisville alum's offensive versatility has resulted in a nightly output of just under 26 points, boosted by a hot month of December (30.2 PPG, 50.2 FG%, 37.7 3PT%) that earned him Player of the Month honors. He’s the primary weapon on a Jazz squad that looks primed to make another deep playoff run.
Gobert is enjoying yet another stellar all-around season. The 29-year-old Frenchman excels at crashing the boards and finishing at the rim, as seen by his league-leading 15.1 total rebounds per game and an effective field-goal percentage of 70.6 (also first). He’s the defensive anchor of a Utah Jazz roster that’s third in the Western Conference.
Teams have used a bevy of strategies in attempts of conquering the “Stifle Tower,” but few have succeeded. Gobert is one of the best interior defenders the NBA has seen in recent years.
Despite producing the fewest points per game in his career (14.0), Paul is still one of the most skilled players in the league. He’s a master facilitator, leading the league with 10.1 assists per game. Paul has always made it imperative to establish rapport with his big men: David West in New Orleans, DeAndre Jordan in Los Angeles, and now Deandre Ayton in Phoenix. And that connection has shined brighter than ever this season—Paul’s pick-and-roll expertise has helped Ayton to lead the league in points and field goals made per game when scoring as a roll man.
Paul has continued to be a disruptive presence on defense as well. His steal percentage of 2.9 ranks seventh in the league. The six players in front of him are just over 25 years old on average; Paul is 36. The future Hall-of-Famer is the engine that powers a lethal Suns team looking to make their second consecutive Finals appearance.
Booker’s scoring numbers (23.4 points per game) might not look as gaudy as years past, but he’s been as instrumental to Phoenix’s offense as ever before. The Suns are thriving as a balanced attack from the top down, as eight players are averaging double figures this season. They don’t need Booker to go off every night to win—they have a trustworthy core and a reliable bench unit.
This season has been strange in terms of Booker’s efficiency. He’s converting just 45.3 percent of his shots inside the arc (lowest since 2017), but he’s hitting a career-high 40.6 percent of his 3-pointers. He’s averaging his fewest turnovers per game since his rookie year and grabbing a career-high 5.4 rebounds per game. This new shot distribution could be a transformation to watch in year seven of Booker’s career.
It’s been an up-and-down season for the Mavericks, but one thing remains true—Doncic remains a triple-double threat every time he steps onto the hardwood. He does it all on the court, sporting a usage rate of 35.9 percent (first in the NBA), an assist percentage of 47.1 (second), and a total rebound percentage of 13.0 (first among guards).
Doncic is just one of two players averaging at least 20 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists per game despite entering the season 30 pounds overweight. This will be Doncic’s third All-Star selection at just 22 years old, and his statistical production will only soar as he takes his conditioning more seriously.
The name of the game in Towns’s seventh season is defensive improvement. His defensive rating of 108.3 is the best mark of his career, and he’s been a stalwart at the center of Minnesota’s lineup.
Towns is averaging a career-low 9.3 rebounds, but he’s having his best season from range, hitting 42.2 percent of his deep attempts. Playing next to the board-snatching Jarred Vanderbilt has allowed “KAT” even more space to roam outside the paint. Towns is 14th in the league in true-shooting percentage, a figure made even more impressive considering his height. In a Western Conference marred by injuries, Towns stands out as one of the better choices for a frontcourt reserve spot.
Wiggins has faced plenty of criticism throughout his career, being one of the more underwhelming first overall picks in recent memory. But this season, he has blossomed into one of the league’s best complementary players. Wiggins is ninth in the league in 3-point percentage (minimum of five attempts per game) and has become Golden State’s go-to catch-and-shoot threat.
Beyond his improved deep accuracy, the former Jayhawk is notching career-high figures in effective field goal percentage (56.2), box plus/minus (1.5), and defensive rating (100.5). That latter figure has endeared Wiggins to his teammates and head coach Steve Kerr, as he has shown his grit and determination on both sides of the ball. Wiggins’s first All-Star selection would be a well-deserved honor.