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REPORT: Nets’ D’Angelo Russell or Sixers’ Jimmy Butler to replace Victor Oladipo as All-Star reserve

Victor Oladipo, D'Angelo Russell, Jimmy Butler, Pacers, Nets, Sixers

Rosters for the 2019 NBA All-Star Game have been finalized. Well, almost. After seven reserves from each conference were announced on Thursday night, one Eastern Conference spot remained open due to the season-ending right knee injury suffered by Indiana Pacers star Victor Oladipo last week.

Per league rules, the commissioner appoints the replacement for injured players who were nevertheless selected for the All-Star Game.

Who is Adam Silver considering to stand in for Victor Oladipo? D’Angelo Russell of the Brooklyn Nets and Jimmy Butler of the Philadelphia 76ers lead the way, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

D’Angelo Russell making a case for the All-Star is one of the most pleasantly surprising developments of 2018-19.

Considered by most as someone behind Caris LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie in the Nets’ pecking order of promising ball-handlers coming into the season, D’Angelo Russell has instead finally begun living up to the hype on a consistent basis that made him the second overall pick of the 2015 draft.

The 22-year-old guard is averaging 19.5 points and 6.4 assists per game while shooting 37.6 percent from beyond the arc, all career-highs, and numbers that have slowly but surely ticked upward as the season has progressed.

Russell, keeping Brooklyn afloat in the Eastern Conference playoff race amid injuries to both LeVert and Dinwiddie, has been especially good of late, scoring at least 25 points — and thrice eclipsing 30 points — in five of his team’s last seven games.

The case for Jimmy Butler, on the other hand, is more about the player he’s been in the past than the one he’s been since being traded to the Sixers in mid-November. He’s averaging 19.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 2.0 steals per game in a Philadelphia uniform.

Jimmy Butler has shot the ball from deep better than anticipated as well, despite the inherent awkwardness of his fit next to Sixers duo Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid — each of whom have already been selected for the All-Star Game.

How to choose between the two? Butler is the superior player right now, and it’s not particularly close. Not only has he reached the exalted offensive level previously in his career at which Russell is currently playing, but he also remains one of the league’s most dogged, disruptive defenders. Russell, on the other hand, is the weak link in a Nets defense that ranks below-average league-wide.

Silver has tough choice to make here, but why not acknowledge the sunnier narrative? The Nets were left for dead before the season began, but behind Russell’s ever-increasing production and flair for late-game shot-making, sit at sixth in the Eastern Conference standings over halfway through the league calendar.

Butler, meanwhile, created the dysfunction that forced his trade to the Sixers from the Minnesota Timberwolves and almost immediately sparked friction with his new team.

Both players are deserving. Russell, though, is pretty clearly the more attractive pick.