NBA All-Star voting is in the books. Yesterday marked the last day that you could vote for your favourite player to appear in this year’s mid-season to be played in Charlotte a little less than a month from now. So with voting closed it’s time for me to pick my 24 All-Star representatives, with some slots tougher to peg than others. This isn’t how I think the teams WILL unfold, rather how I think they SHOULD. Also, can we finally put an end to this 12 players from each conference BS? No offense to the likes of Pascal Siakam and D’Angelo Russell, but you should not be higher up on the list over the likes of Tobias Harris and Jrue Holiday because of the geographical location of your team. It’s borderline embarrassing. Rant over.
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LET’S start with the inferior Eastern Conference. No shade being thrown here it’s just a fact, some players who will make the All-Star team this year from the East aren’t as deserving as some players who will miss out in the West. That being said, the creme of the crop is fairly similar across the conferences.
G: Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtics
G: Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
F: Kawhi Leonard, Toronto Raptors
F: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
F: Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
THE three frontcourt spots are locks in my eyes. All three of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard and Joel Embiid have been in the MVP conversation for large chunks of the season with Giannis clinging on to the award by the thinnest of margins over Harden right now. The guard spots are a bit more complicated with Kyrie Irving sewing up a berth, but the second spot much more competitive. If Victor Oladipo had been healthy all year it’s likely that the spot would be his, but regardless Bradley Beal will be an All-Star this season. He’s averaging a shade under 25/5/5 on the year and since John Wall has gone down he’s led the Wizards to a 7-4 record going at over 28 points a game.
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Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets
Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers
Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers
Nikola Vucevic, Orlando Magic
Blake Griffin, Detroit Pistons
Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors
Eric Bledsoe, Milwaukee Bucks
Just Missed the Cut: J.J. Redick (Sixers), Kyle Lowry (Raptors), Khris Middleton (Bucks), D’Angelo Russell (Nets), Jimmy Butler (Sixers)
IN the East I have five locks for the reserves squad. Ben Simmons, Kemba Walker and the aforementioned Victor Oladipo are unlucky to not earn a starting nod and all three of them should feature in the reserves. Next up is Nikola Vucevic who is one of five players averaging 20.5 points and 12 rebounds a night, causing some teams to contemplate making a trade for him. Last, but not least is Pistons forward Blake Griffin, who is thriving under Dwane Casey’s tutelage scoring at the highest clip we have seen in his nine pro seasons.
THE last few spots are tricky with Toronto and Milwaukee rewarded for owning the top-2 records in the conference right now. For the Raptors the case for Kyle Lowry is pressing, but Pascal Siakam has been a more reliable player through their first 48 games. It might be a tad harsh for Lowry, who is averaging career-best assist figures (9.4 per) good for the second most in the league. Having missed nearly a quarter of the Raptors games though I’m giving Spicy P a slight nod as he shapes up as the runaway winner for Most Improved this season.
I’M penalising Jimmy Butler for forcing his way out of the Timberwolves and the fact that he’s only played 28 games as an Eastern conference member. That leaves just one spot for Bucks duo Eric Bledsoe and Khris Middleton to fight over. Honestly, you could convince me to go either way here, with neither player standing out over the other. However, I sided with Bledsoe who has a slightly better true shooting percentage and net rating than Middleton. Bledsoe is also turning the ball over his lowest rate in years and while it’s almost a coin flip call I gave him the last spot out East.
TURNING my attention to the West and this is where things get interesting. There are only three spots in the frontcourt for Paul George, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant and Nikola Jokic and I swear to god I changed my mind 307 times before finally settling on three. Here goes…
G: Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors
G: James Harden, Houston Rockets
F: Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder
F: Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors
F: Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
LET’S get the easy ones out of the way. Steph Curry and James Harden are easy picks for the two guard spots and another combination would utterly shock me. LeBron James would have likely slotted in at one forward spot on reputation alone, but missed time has me sending him to the bench. On the other side of the ledger, Nikola Jokic is on track to only be the second center to ever average over 7.5 assists a game (Wilt Chamberlain did it twice) and is the most important player on the second best team in the conference. The pudgy Serbian hasn’t missed a game all year as well, keeping the injury-ravaged Nuggets going and I won’t accept any other argument, Jokic HAS to be an All-Star starter.
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NOW things really get tricky. With George, Durant and Davis fighting for two places the decision likely boils down to a bit of personal preference. I had a hard time not awarding PG for his stellar season emerging as the best two-way player in the league right now (don’t tell Kawhi I said that). So Durant and Davis are the last two standing and while the poor New Orleans Pelicans have battled to stay healthy, I’m harshly knocking Davis for his team’s record. Yes, it’s unfair that a guy averaging 28.5 points and 13 rebounds a game has to come off the bench, but win more than 50% of your games and we can talk.
Jrue Holiday, New Orleans Pelicans
Damian Lillard, Portland Trailblazers
Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
Just Missed the Cut: Tobias Harris (Clippers), DeMar DeRozan (Spurs), De’Aaron Fox (Kings), LaMarcus Aldridge (Spurs), Luka Doncic (Mavs)
THE two players who miss out on a starting spot in the frontcourt (no matter which way you lean) have to be the first reserves picked. Damian Lillard, Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert in my mind also have to be deemed as virtual locks after their stellar individual campaigns to date. That leaves two spots for the likes of Russell Westbrook, Tobias Harris, Jrue Holiday and Spurs duo DeMar DeRozan/LaMarcus Aldridge.
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YOUNGSTERS De’Aaron Fox and Luka Doncic deserve honourable mentions, but their time will come. In my eyes, Jrue Holiday has to get one of the spots given his production across the board. He is putting up personal best numbers in a wide variety of categories (points, assists, steals, minutes to name a few) and is helping the Pelicans stay in the playoff mix. DeRozan and Aldridge are in the conversation, but honestly, both players have had better seasons and fall victim to San Antonio’s team-orientated play spreading the workload around.
THAT means, Russell Westbrook, yes, the former MVP Russ is vying for the final spot going head-to-head with Tobias Harris and honestly, I’m torn. Look at both players per game averages and you tell me who is more deserving of a spot?
Westbrook (38 games): 21.6 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 10.5 APG; 41.5 FG%, 24.2 3P%, 64.6 FT%
Harris (46 games): 21.0 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 2.4 APG; 50.2 FG%, 44.3 3P%, 87.6 FT%
FOR those of you who get turned on by triple doubles the answer might be obvious, but Westbrook is clanking shots perhaps doing more bad than good for the Thunder. That being said, there is a certain competitive aura that Westbrook brings to the court every night, making him a near impossible task for a defender to fully contain. Harris’ best individual year to date deserves special recognition and if you pick him over Russ I tip my cap to you. I just can’t do it, even if it isn’t right.
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