EVERY year, over the first few months of a new season we often see players and teams get off to a furious start, raising the eyebrows for the NBA community. Sometimes these flash in the pan performances turn out to be more than a fluke, with the best case scenario leading to players soaring to career-best heights. Coupled with some up-and-coming stars of tomorrow, here are eight dudes who could feature in the All-Star game in a few months time for the first time in their pro careers.
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Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks
KHRIS Middleton has quietly been the perfect Robin to Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Batman this season. Second in scoring (18.9 PPG) on the team, Middleton’s success is partially due to new coach Mike Budenholzer and his emphasis on the 3-ball. Under his tutelage, Middleton has made 64 three’s so far, good for the 5th most in the NBA. If Middleton can get his average a hair closer to 20 points a night, then he seems destined to snag one of the final wildcard spots IMO.
Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
AFTER the first 10 games there would have been little doubt in anyone’s mind that Nikola Jokic is an All-Star. Inconsistency over the past fortnight, however, has led to some people second guessing that assumption. Jokic is averaging just 13.9 points over his last 14 games, shooting 42.9% from the field and under 27% from downtown. As bad as that sounds, he has also managed to average an impressive 7.1 assists in that span, which includes seven near triple doubles and a 37 point, 21 rebound game against Brooklyn. Jokic’s passing brilliance alone would make him a fun watch in the All-Star game, hopefully, the rest of his box score doesn’t keep him out of the game.
Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers
THE reigning Rookie of the Year might be the safest player on the list to appear in the All-Star game this year. Posting almost identical numbers to a season ago, Philadelphia’s sophomore sensation is an exciting player to watch, currently one of only two dudes (Russell Westbrook is the other) averaging over 15 points, 8.5 boards and 7.5 assists a night. Injury or a poor streak of games from the Sixers could throw some doubt over his All-Star certainty, but that’s about the only thing that’ll stop Simmons from appearing on the court in North Carolina come February.
Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls
I’VE always been a Zach LaVine supporter, who is finally able to showcase his talents. An ACL tear and trade later and LaVine burst out of the gates, scoring the ball at a clip commonly associated with another Chicago guard by the name of Michael Jordan. Only twice throughout his first 21 games has LaVine failed to top 20 points, which is a big reason why he is one of 11 players averaging at least 25 PPG. His defensive shortcomings might cause some to doubt him as a complete player, but that won’t keep him out of the midseason classic.
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Nikola Vucevic, Orlando Magic
NIKOLA Vucevic is currently shooting over 55% from the field, 40% from three and 85% from the free throw line. Just let that sink in for a minute. These absurd shooting numbers are destined to dip eventually, but Vuc deserves all the credit he’s getting for his hot start. Orlando’s center is one of only five players averaging 20 points and 11 rebounds per at the moment, with the other four (Karl-Anthony Towns, Giannis Antetokpunmpo, Joel Embiid and Anthony Davis) all destined to be All-Star shoe in’s. Should Vucevic keep up these averages, there isn’t a scenario where he’s excluded from that group.
Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz
DESPITE a slow start for Donovan Mitchell and the Jazz I still have faith in their ability to figure things out. Mitchell’s shooting numbers are slightly down from a season ago, but there’s no doubt that he is Utah’s go-to man. A few niggles have held him back early on, and it’s clear that he needs more support if Utah wants to stay a threat in the West. That probably won’t keep him out of the All-Star lineups, but he needs to get his act together sooner rather than later.
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Tobias Harris, Los Angeles Clippers
SOMEONE on the Clippers has to get in right? Easily one of the surprises through 20ish games of the new season has been the Los Angeles Clippers storming to a Western Conference best 14-6 mark. A balanced team-orientated approach has been a big reason they are where they are, but Tobias Harris’ career-best form has definitely aided L.A. so far. Entering his first full season as a Clipper, Harris has taken on the team’s No. 1 scoring role, leading to a career year across the board statistically. The biggest pro in Harris’ case is the Clipper W/L record and if they can stay hot for the first half of the season Harris should be rewarded.
Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
IF I compiled this list in the preseason then Jayson Tatum would have been one of the first few names added. However, a sluggish start from the Celtics has stopped Tatum from entering the All-Star convo with too much seriousness. Chucking up a bunch of mid-range jump shot (Mamba Mentality?) has seen his scoring number increase, but not by as much as people might have first thought. His time will come, there’s no doubt about that. Year two might just be a bit too soon for Tatum though.
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