New All-Star Predictions
The second returns for the NBA’s All-Star voting came out on Thursday afternoon, revealing a lot of the same things that we saw the first time around. Kobe Bryant is still leading the league in votes, which isn’t surprising considering the commanding lead he had built after the first series of entries, and the rest of the Super Friends look like they’ll be getting starting nods as well: Stephen Curry, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Paul George all remain among the league leaders in fan votes so far.
Knowing what we know about how these fan votes are shaping up, now is a perfectly reasonable time to start making some guesses as to which players will end up starting, and which players might get added via the coaches’ vote. Here’s an early look at how the All-Star rosters might shape up next month following this most recent round of votes.
Guard: Dwyane Wade, Miami HEAT – A year ago, Wade didn’t make the All-Star game because, as Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel explains, a Justin Bieber tweet in favor of Kyle Lowry pushed the Toronto Raptors star into that starting role instead. Assuming that’s true, it’s nice to see Wade back atop Eastern Conference guard voting, as he’s exactly the sort of guy that makes these midseason exhibitions so much fun. Plus, any time fans can see Wade and LeBron back together, it’s a win for the NBA.
Guard: Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers – While he has only played in seven games so far this season, that hasn’t stopped fans from pouring in votes for the former All-Star MVP to get him back on a stage where he’s absolutely electric to watch. In a small sample size, he’s averaging career-lows across the board thanks to significantly decreased minutes to ease him back in, but a recent 32-point outing shows he can still score in droves. By February, he should be back to full minutes and production, earning every ounce of the fan support he’s getting so far.
Frontcourt: LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers – The East’s leading vote-getter, LeBron is a shoe-in (and rightfully so).
Frontcourt: Paul George, Indiana Pacers – Arguably the Eastern Conference MVP thus far, George is at the very least the Comeback Player of the Year as he is averaging career-highs of 24.6 points and 7.7 rebounds for an Indiana Pacers team that has been one of the best in the East. Not only is he deserving, he also puts on a good show.
Frontcourt: Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons – Currently only about 5,500 votes ahead of Carmelo Anthony, Drummond’s hold on this third starting frontcourt spot is a strenuous one, but his numbers have been some of the most eye-popping in the league with 17.9 points, 1.8 steals, 1.5 blocks and, of course, a league-leading 15.7 rebounds. There’s no way to keep this kid out of the All-Star game anymore, even if he is the worst free-throw shooter of all-time. Free throws don’t matter in an All-Star Game. His career year and athleticism put him in good position to make the game, and he would be the more deserving and entertaining starter.
Reserve: Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors – It’s been a slow November and December for Lowry, who has seen his shooting percentages plummet as the Raptors have struggled a bit of late. And truth be told, the 25 points his teammate DeMar DeRozan has averaged over the course of the last month and change make him perhaps even more deserving guy at the moment. One way or another, though, a Raptor will make this team, whether it be Lowry or DeRozan, because the hometown fans deserve someone to root for if nothing else. We’ll just have to flip a coin for now as to which Raptor that might be.
Reserve: Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls – As the second-best team in the East, the Bulls deserve an All-Star and Butler is the most likely candidate. His franchise-record 40 points in the second half against Toronto this season earned him some headlines, and his 22.1 points per game for the season is a career-high. With the Bulls winning and Butler killing, he deserves to be there.
Reserve: Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks – Barely behind Drummond, Anthony could still end up starting this game. Either way, the Knicks have improved significantly this season and Anthony looks healthy and as productive as ever. Even if he’s not the starter, ‘Melo looks like a shoe-in for a reserve spot.
Reserve: Chris Bosh, Miami HEAT – Bosh back in Toronto is too good a storyline to leave the guy off of the All-Star roster. Also, he’s putting together a really impressive season following a near-death experience, so it would be reasonable to expect that all the good feelings will play some sort of role in getting him onto the team. Pau Gasol might be his biggest competition for this spot, but Bosh seems more likely to get the nod.
Reserve: John Wall, Washington Wizards – There are so many good Eastern Conference point guards, and the Wizards haven’t been all that good, but Wall is still second in the league in assists and among the top 25 in scoring. That makes him elite enough to play in the All-Star Game and, truth be told, he probably will.
Reserve: Isaiah Thomas, Boston Celtics – Thomas was the last Wild Card player added to this roster and the decision to put him there was a laborious one. Detroit’s Reggie Jackson feels equally deserving, while Gasol is having another borderline All-Star season as well. Ultimately, though, there are snubs, and Thomas has really broken out for a Celtics team that looks legit enough to prove that last season wasn’t a fluke. How fun would it be to see Mr. Irrelevant become All-Star relevant in Canada this winter?
Guard: Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors – Obviously.
Guard: Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder – There isn’t a more intense player in the league to watch, so it will be nice to see Westbrook smile on the court for once. Maybe. Even if he remains his typically aggressive self, there’s no question that he’s an elite player deserving of a starting nod.
Frontcourt: Kobe Bryant, L.A. Lakers – It’s the man’s swan song. The West is full of talent that will get snubbed because Bean got in, but who cares? They can make the All-Star team next season, when this spot opens back up for the first time in almost two decades.
Frontcourt: Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder – Durant is back to his old self after struggling through injuries last season, which means the former MVP is back where he belongs in the starting lineup of the All-Star Game. No one’s arguing with this one.
Frontcourt: Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors – Baby Oscar Robertson is leading San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard for this final frontcourt spot by an extremely slim margin (fewer than 2,000 votes), but Golden State’s increasingly mainstream popularity is trending the right way for one of the league’s most talented all-around players. Of the 22 triple doubles recorded this season, Green has seven of them, including a three-game streak in which he dropped 3Ds every single time. With the Warriors’ historic season and Green’s amazing statistics, he should be starting (however deserving Leonard may be).
Reserve: Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs – And he is totally deserving, for what it’s worth. Leonard is scoring a career-high 20.7 points and leading the league among qualified shooters with a .500 mark from deep. He’s been chipping away at Tony Parker and Tim Duncan as the team’s best player for a couple of seasons now, but this is the year where the torch finally got passed. He’s the top player on the one of the league’s top teams, so his inclusion on this roster is an absolute no-brainer.
Reserve: Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers – While this selection could potentially be a little polarizing because his team isn’t currently in playoff contention and there are so many other worthy players on better teams, Lillard is having a career year in his first season without LaMarcus Aldridge, scoring 24.2 points and dishing out 6.8 assists. Both of those are career highs, and he’s valuable enough despite his mediocre team to get some love from the coaches.
Reserve: Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors – The coaches could vote in the entire Golden State rotation and nobody would complain, but Thompson deserves a spot on this roster not only because of his team’s success but because of his individual success. His 20.9 points per game and 3.3 three-pointers per game are elite numbers, and the Warriors were going to get three All-Stars one way or another no matter what. Any team on pace to have four losses by February deserves at least that much.
Reserve: Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans – Goodness have the Pelicans been atrocious, but Davis has given his best effort at keeping them together, averaging 23.5 points, 11.2 rebounds and 2.6 blocks, all of which are among the league’s leaders. While his team has underwhelmed, Brow has been as good as ever. There’s a great argument between him and DeMarcus Cousins for this spot, but the coaches seem more likely to vote in Davis than Cousins, even if their numbers are practically identical.
Reserve: Blake Griffin, L.A. Clippers – We’ll see if he’ll be healthy in time, but assuming he is, Griffin has been a transcendent talent on the court this year, showing improvement in just about every aspect of his game. Plus, it’s hard to imagine an All-Star Game without him performing his acrobatics on the receiving end of some great alley-oops. If he can’t make it or decides to rest that weekend, the Davis/Cousins debate is over because both guys would make it in that scenario.
Reserve: James Harden, Houston Rockets – Sure, the Rockets are having a tough year, but Harden is the second-leading scorer in the NBA and started this exhibition a year ago. It doesn’t seem likely the coaches will keep him off the roster as a reserve, despite his team’s early struggles.
Reserve: Chris Paul, L.A. Clippers – While it hurts to leave DeMarcus Cousins off of this list considering the numbers he’s put up this year, it’s kind of hard to imagine coaches voting him in over Chris Paul. CP3 always seems to make All-Star Games more enjoyable to watch because he cares more about getting everyone else on the floor scoring opportunities than he does scoring himself, at least in this context.
How do these All-Star rosters look in the wake of this recent round of voting? Do the reserves look fair enough or is there someone worthy of making the team over a player listed above? We’ll get the answer to these questions in about a month, but until then it certainly will be fun debating who deserves these spots. It always is.
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