2011 WNBA All-Star Starters Announced: Who Are The Top Candidates For Reserves?

The WNBA has announced its 2011 All-Star starters tonight, with the following players being selected to the Eastern and Western Conference teams by the fans. 

Eastern Conference Western Conference
F- Tamika Catchings F - Swin Cash
F - Angel McCoughtry F - Maya Moore
C - Tina Charles C - Candace Parker
G - Katie Douglas G - Sue Bird
G - Cappie Pondexter G - Diana Taurasi

 

For the most part, these selections aren't unreasonable, even though it ends up amounting to the Big East - SEC Challenge (plus Purdue) - the good thing is that even the most questionable selections are defensible.

Every All-Star game in every sport is a popularity context and the WNBA is no different and that's not necessarily a bad thing in this case.

Maya Moore led all Western Conference forwards with 21,379 votes and although I would not have made that selection, you cannot debate that having her in the game is probably a good thing for league publicity. McCoughtry might not be everyone's first choice, but certainly has a strong argument to make the team and is one of the league's most exciting one on one players.

However, Moore's selection could also cause a very deserving Western Conference forward to be left out after the coaches pick reserves.

The process for coaches picking the six reserves is as follows:

  • Each coaches will vote for two guards, two forwards, a center, and a "wild card" player in their own conference.
  • Coaches are not permitted to vote for players on their own team.
  • Coaches are bound by the same positional designations that fans were in the voting process.
  • The reserves will be announced on ESPN2 on July 19 at 7 p.m. EST.
  • Of course, Parker will have to be replaced and that replacement will be named by WNBA President Laurel J. Richie but the starter in place of Parker will be determined by the Western Conference head coach.

So who should those reserves be?

Let's jump right to the Western Conference forwards because that's where there's a bit of a logjam.

Bear in mind that Maya Moore might not even rank as the top rookie forward right now, so that means there are quite a few players who might rate higher than her. Here's a list of the top forwards in the Western Conference, with MEV and plus/minus numbers:

WC Forward Name MEV +/-
Penny Taylor 21.15 18.1
Candice Dupree 16.93 14.9
Rebekkah Brunson 15.14 13.5
Sophia Young 16.65 12.7
Swin Cash 14.58 3.0
Danielle Adams 12.01 22.4
Kayla Pedersen 12.79 12.9
Maya Moore 12.65 6.5

 

Suffice it to say the following: there have been a number of strong Western Conference forwards this year and that wild card coaches' selection will almost certainly have to be a forward and an argument could be made for the presidential replacement selection being a forward to make sure  the most deserving players get in.

Independent of starters and reserves, the top five on that list above is hard to argue against. But with Cash and Moore in as starters, Young looks like one candidate to get left out if Parker is replaced directly with a center.

And unfortunately, the centers in the Western Conference is a bit of a weaker bunch after Parker:

WC Center Name MEV +/-
Liz Cambage 10.95 3.6
Kara Braxton 10.15 8.0
Taj McWilliams-Franklin 9.7 18.9
Ruth Riley 8.3 -12.9

 

All of these centers are pretty close and two of them could make the game. If one replaces Parker, Taj probably stands out with her plus/minus rating.

After that, it's a choice between Cambage and Braxton. Cambage is the better shot blocker, Braxton the better offensive rebouder.

The reserve guards in the West shouldn't require much discussion: Becky Hammon and Lindsay Whalen both have claims as MVP of their teams and deserve to be in this game.

Moving to the Eastern Conference, McCoughtry's spot is the one that you could quibble with:

EC Forward Names MEV +/-
Tamika Catchings 18.55 6.5
Crystal Langhorne 15.36 4.6
Plenette Pierson 11.60 5.3
Angel McCoughtry 10.41 -6.1
Asjha Jones 10.25 4.8
Michelle Snow 10.19 8.4

 

Obviously, McCoughtry has a strong case to be in the game. But so do the two players listed above "beneath" her.

That's made even tougher by the fact that the centers in the Eastern Conference are deeper, with one not getting votes as she wasn't on the ballot.

EC Center Name MEV +/-
Sylvia Fowles 19.42 0.6
Tina Charles 16.74 1.4
Jessica Davenport 12.13 16.8
Nicky Anosike 11.72 14.2

 

You could go either way on Charles and Fowles, but Davenport has played well enough to get in as the wild card selection from the coaches, although there are a few guards that might deserve a look. Especially if you consider point guards worthy of two of those guard spots.

EC Guards MEV +/-
Cappie Pondexter 18.13 22.3
Katie Douglas 16.40 4.0
Renee Montgomery 16.71 -6.1
Epiphanny Prince 15.82 -5.8
Kara Lawson 13.08 7.1
Essence Carson 13.34 -2.1
Courtney Vandersloot 10.56 8.1

 

You could go multiple ways with this.

First, the argument could be made for choosing a guard for that extra spot on the reserves although Davenport has such a big impact on the Fever that it's hard to overlook her.

Second, do you go with Vandersloot off the bench as a point guard or a more productive scoring guard with a negative plus/minus? Again, stats never reflect the extent of what a point guard does so Vandersloot could justifiably get the benefit of the doubt.

All in all, the starting selections weren't terrible, but make for some really interesting decisions for the reserves.

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