TIME flies when you’re having fun. It seems like just yesterday that we were talking about Gordon Hayward’s injury, Lonzo’s triple-doubles and Giannis as the runaway MVP. Two months later and 792 games of basketball into one of the most entertaining seasons in recent memory, some forgotten crusaders are leading unlikely teams up the standings. Those players coupled with a few young prodigies make my list of eight players who are in line to be first-time All-Stars in 2017-18.
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Honourable mentions: Aaron Gordon (Magic), Tobias Harris (Pistons), Eric Gordon (Rockets), C.J. McCollum, (Trailblazers), Andrew Wiggins (Timberwolves)
Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers
2017 stats: 24.5 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 4.0 APG
PACERS Oladipo is the type of player we thought we would see the former 2nd overall pick become. It took two trades and 72 games playing as a glorified spot-up shooter, but Dipo has arrived. One of the surprise packets of the early season, Indiana is nestled in the 5th seed out East right now thanks to the heroics of the explosive, clutch, push-up friendly guard. If he keeps it up he will be playing in LA come All-Star time.
Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves
2017 stats: 20.1 PPG, 11.6 RPG, 1.3 BPG
EVEN though he has his work cut out for him to make the team in the LOADED West, that doesn’t mean that KAT isn’t deserving. If you are a regular reader you will remember that just days ago I was ripping into Towns for his lack of defensive growth this year. It might not all be his fault though and if Thibs realises he is allowed to play more than eight players a game, then a rejuvenated Towns could increase his already impressive per game averages. That would translate into a better Towns and in turn, help him play his way into a spot on the squad.
Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers
2017 stats: 18.0 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 7.7 APG
WE’VE all been there. You’ve played so much 2K that you want a different experience, so you max the stats and abilities of a rookie and see what it would be like if you could average a triple-double from day one. Ben Simmons is that 2K cheat code. The dude is unreal. Before his arrival, everyone wondered how he could survive in the NBA without a jump shot, well this is how, by playing to his strengths, knowing his weaknesses and dunking on anyone in his way. He should be a shoe-in come February.
Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
2017 stats: 23.5 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 2.0 BPG
OF course, you can’t mention one without the other. We need to find a nickname for the 76ers star youngsters with PB & J already taken by two guys with much more impressive resumes. For the second time in as many seasons though Joel Embiid making the All-Star team is purely health-dependent. He has already missed five games this season including the last two, but he still managed to play a career-high 36 minutes against the Lakers the other day. Please basketball gods, do the right, fair thing.
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Kristaps Porzingis, New York Knicks
2017 stats: 25.5 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 2.0 BPG
SPEAKING of gods, do you think that Porzingis has paid for a drink in New York at all this year? The Latvian has given Knicks fans hope that their playoff drought can end sooner rather than later with the team on his back. He has cooled off slightly after his bonkers start to the season, and it’s no coincidence that the wins have dried up too for New York. Still at 25+ points, half a dozen rebounds, one emphatic block and ‘an offensive move that shouldn’t be capable from someone his size’ a night I can’t wait to see him in the All-Star game.
Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns
2017 stats: 24.3 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 4.1 APG
A recent injury will keep Booker out for another two weeks plus, hampering his chances of being an All-Star this year. You best believe that when he returns he will fill up the box score though. In two of the last three games before he went down he scored 38 and 46 points and he won’t stop there. Shooting career-best numbers from the field, 3-point line and charity stripe, means more high point totals are on their way.
Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
2017 stats: 23.8 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 4.0 APG
WHILE the Wizards have been struggling without John Wall, Bradley Beal has been flourishing. While there have been nights when his numbers haven’t looked as flattering, Beal has also had nights where he has looked like one of the best players in the league (see: game vs. Portland). Finally enjoying a healthy season, don’t be surprised if Beal’s production continues to rise as he gets more and more confidence in his now injury free body, so much so that he plays his way onto an All-Star team.
Tyreke Evans, Memphis Grizzlies
2017 stats: 18.2 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 4.0 APG
FACING the toughest task of any Western Conference player on this list Tyreke Evans still warrants a spot in the discussion of All-Star rosters. If it wasn’t for an injury to Mike Conley, it’s likely that Evans would have continued to thrive in his role off the bench and average closer to 20 points an outing. Given the injury to Memphis’ star guard though Evans has been forced to start the last eight games. Still, after his injury interrupted start to his career, another big, consistent scoring binge could sway voters.
Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
2017 stats: 15.5 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 4.6 APG
DENVER’S big man has battled an injury lately that has seen him miss the last five matches. Before then he was a walking 15/10/5 as he led the young Nugs to one of the best records in the West. One of the most versatile bigs in today’s league, Jokic’s return will no doubt lead to a larger number of W’s for Denver and more impressive dimes that force you to keep your head on a swivel. Still, only 22 year’s old, Nikola Jokic will be in line for plenty of All-Star nods in his career and his first one could very well be on its way.
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