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NBA AM: Updated All-Star Predictions

Joel Brigham predicts what the East and West All-Star teams will look like based on the latest returns.

Joel Brigham



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.

Eastern Conference


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?

Western Conference


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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Fred VanVleet is Finding Success in the NBA

David Yapkowitz speaks to Toronto’s Fred VanVleet about his unheralded path to the NBA and more.

David Yapkowitz



Fred VanVleet is used to being the underdog. Prior to the NBA, he spent four seasons at Wichita State, a school that hasn’t always been in the national spotlight when it comes to college basketball. Even after he finished his college career in impressive fashion, leading the Shockers to the NCAA tournament every year he was there, he went undrafted in the 2016 NBA draft.

But despite the lack of recognition from national media outlets, VanVleet always knew that he was good enough to play in the NBA. He knew that his path to the league was going to be much different than many other top prospects, but he was confident. He put his trust in NBA personnel to recognize what was right in front of them.

“If you can play, they’re gonna find you. That’s the best thing about the NBA, you can’t hide forever,” VanVleet told Basketball Insiders. “You just got to try to wait and keep grinding for the opportunity, and when it comes be ready to make the most of it and that’s what I did.”

Making the most of his opportunity is definitely what he’s done. After he went undrafted in 2016, he joined the Toronto Raptors’ summer league team in Las Vegas. He put up decent numbers to the tune of 6.2 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 54.5 percent shooting from the three-point line.

He also showed solid defensive potential as well as the ability to run a steady offense. The Raptors were impressed by his performance and they invited him to training camp for a chance to make the team. They already had 14 guaranteed contracts at the time and had invited five other players, in addition to VanVleet, to camp.

VanVleet did his best to stand out in training camp that year, capping off the 2016 preseason with a 31 point, five rebound, five assist performance against San Lorenzo de Almagro of Argentina. The Raptors were in need of another point guard after Delon Wright was ruled out to start the season due to an injury.

Not only did he make the Raptors’ opening night roster, but he ended up playing some big minutes for the team as the season went on. This year, he started out as the third-string point guard once again. But with another injury to Wright, he’s solidified himself as the backup point for the time being.

“You just want to grow each year and get better. I had a smaller role last year, I’m just trying to improve on that and get better,” VanVleet said. “It’s a long process, you just try to get better each game on a pretty good team, a winning team. Being able to contribute to that is what you work for.”

VanVleet’s journey to the NBA is one that is not very common anymore for players coming out of college. More and more players are opting to spend one, maybe two years at most in college before declaring for the NBA draft.

Players like VanVleet, who spend the entire four years in college, are becoming more of a rarity. Although for him, he feels like the additional time spent at Wichita State helped him make more of a seamless transition to the NBA than some of his younger peers.

“I think more so off the court than anything, just being an adult, being a grown man coming in the door,” VanVleet said. “A pro before being a pro, being able to take care of your business. Coming in every day doing your job and being able to handle the things that come with the life off the court.”

The NBA season is a long one. Teams that start out hot sometimes end up fizzling out before the season’s end. Similarly, teams that that get off to a slow start sometimes pick it up as the season progresses. The Raptors have been one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference the past couple of years and this season looks to be no different.

Even with the Boston Celtics’ hot start, the Raptors are only three games back of the top spot in the East. They’re only one game back in the loss column. There was a time when mentioning the word ‘championship’ was unheard of around this team. Things are different now.

“We’re trying to contend for a championship. Obviously, we’ve been at the top of the East for the last few years,” VanVleet said. “We’re trying to get over that hump and contend for a championship, that’s definitely our goal. It’s a long year and still pretty early, but we’re just trying to grow and build and get better each game.”

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NBA DAILY: Tyrone Wallace Is Breaking Out in His Own Backyard

On his second G-Leauge team in two years, Tyrone Wallace is putting up numbers close to home, working towards his NBA shot.

Dennis Chambers



Located in the heart of Southern California, Bakersfield sits just on the cusp of Los Angeles’ shadow.

In terms of size, it’s not easy to overlook this Californian destination. Bakersfield is the ninth most populated city in the state. But it doesn’t hold the glamour that its contemporary two hours south down Interstate-5 possesses. Instead, Bakersfield rests its laurels on the farming past that made it the city it has become today, with three of the four top employers in the city either being farm or produce companies.

Working for a produce company doesn’t interest Tyrone Wallace, though. He’d much rather spend his time on the hardwood. Wallace grew up in Bakersfield. He’s Bakersfield High School’s all-time leading scorer and two-time Bakersfield Californian Player of the Year.

Wallace has sown his oats with a leather ball as opposed to some vegetables.

Growing up in Bakersfield is crucial to Wallace’s story, however. On the outskirts of Los Angeles, Wallace grew up a hardcore Lakers fan, caught up in the generation of kids who idolized Kobe Bryant. It’s Kobe, and Wallace’s brother, Ryan Caroline, who led him to where he is now.

Where that is, exactly, is playing professional basketball in the NBA G-League for the Agua Caliente Clippers. About another 45 minutes down Interstate-5 from his hometown.

For Wallace, getting an opportunity to work towards his dream of playing basketball at the highest level so close to home is a blessing.

“It’s been really fun for me,” Wallace told Basketball Insiders. “You know (Bakersfield) is a smaller city, not too many guys make it out, especially for basketball. It’s more of a football city, but the support there is awesome. Everybody’s behind me you know. Good games, bad games, guys are treating me, and you know the whole city is, I feel the whole support from the city. So to be so close to home is definitely a treat. I have friends and family that will come out to our games quite often. During preseason I had friends and family come out and watch. It’s been a blessing.”

Playing in front of familiar faces isn’t new territory for Wallace. After making his mark in Bakersfield, the 6-foot-4 guard went on to play his college ball at the University of California. Amid his four years at Cal, Wallace finished first-team All-Pac 12 his junior year, along with being named a finalist for the Bob Cousy Award, given to the nation’s best point guard.

Sharing the court with the likes of other NBA players like Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb in college, Wallace joined the professional fraternity himself at the eleventh hour on draft night in 2016 when the Utah Jazz selected him 60th overall.

Pick one, or pick 60. It didn’t matter to Wallace that night in June. He was just happy to get the first chance he worked his whole life for.

“It was emotional, man,” Wallace said. “You watch everybody and see them go, I had Jaylen (Brown) earlier in the first round who I was really excited for. Just sitting there, pick after pick you’re waiting there hoping you get called. But it was a dream come true, better late than never. Very few people get the opportunity to say that they were drafted so it was emotional. But after I was finally selected, I was happy, there was tears of joy. There was a lot of family with me watching throughout and we were just sitting there hoping to be called, and it happened, so it was a dream come true.”

After being selected by the Jazz, Wallace experienced his first summer league action. His performance at the time was marginal, and didn’t warrant an invite to the big league club. Instead, Wallace found himself down in the minors for Utah, with their G-League affiliate, the Salt Lake City Stars.

During Wallace’s first taste of professional basketball, he displayed some flashes of why, as he put it, he was one of 60 guys drafted in 2016. His first season in the G-League was promising when he posted per game averages of 14.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 1.3 steals on 27 minutes of action a night.

Alas, that wasn’t good enough for the Jazz organization. On July 18, 2017, just over a year after being selected with the last overall pick on draft night, Utah renounced Wallace’s draft rights, leaving him free to sign with any team.

For some, being let go after what could be considered a productive developmental year may have been a derailing let down. Not Wallace, though.

“I think in every situation you always reflect,” Wallace said. “And look back and say what could I have done better, on the court or off the court. So I think you know you always do that, but I’ve always stayed confident in myself, and I believe in myself. I kinda let that as a new opportunity that I was gonna have to go somewhere else and prove that I can play, and that I can belong. So I wanted to continue. I look at everything as a chance to learn and grow so I was just excited for the new opportunity that would be coming for me.”

New opportunities did come for Wallace. More than a few actually. But it was the opportunity that allowed the California native a chance to return to the place that led him to professional basketball initially, that has really allowed the second-year guard to flourish.

On Sept. 27, Wallace inked a deal with the Los Angeles Clippers. They weren’t his childhood favorite Lakers, but they were the same distance down Interstate-5 from his hometown. Most of all, they represented a chance to keep chasing his dream.

After playing in the preseason, Wallace was one of the last players cut from the NBA roster, and he again found himself in the G-League. This time with Agua Caliente.

Wallace’s second go-around in the G-League so far this season feels different than his last, though. Almost as if the comfort of playing in his own backyard, something he’s been accustomed to for the majority of his basketball life, is easing him out on the court. Whatever it is, it’s reflecting itself in his performance. This year, Wallace upped his averages from last season to 22.5 points, 6.2 rebounds, and five assists per game.

“I worked really hard this summer,” Wallace said. “Just going to the gym, hitting the weight room. I don’t think I necessarily changed anything. I just think being a year in, another year of experience playing in the G-League, I think that helped within itself. Then I think the system here that we run in LA helped a lot, fits my game,  more uptempo. Trying to get out on the break, a lot of pick and rolls. So I think everything just took off at once. I definitely feel like I got better in the offseason, but also just playing in this system where it helps my game.”

It’s been an interesting journey for Wallace since he left college. With the way things have shaped out, especially during this season where he seems to do no wrong on the court, it’s imperative he stays focused on his own goals. Instead of looking at others across the league who may be getting a shot he feels he deserves, Wallace wants to just “stay in my own lane.” Patience and hard work are what Wallace believe will ultimately deliver the goals he’s after.

“I know it’s coming,” he said.

When that opportunity does come, whether it’s near home in Los Angeles, or somewhere else across the country, Wallace will be happy to just be wanted. Just like the way Bakersfield has always treated him.

“Man, I’ll tell you any team for me it would be great,” Wallace said. “I haven’t really had a real NBA deal, and so for me just getting to that level on a team would definitely be a dream come true. I don’t have a specific team I would like to play for. Whoever wants me, I’ll want them.”

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NBA DAILY: Lou Williams Stepping Up For Injured Clippers

The Clippers have been hit by injuries again, but Lou Williams is doing everything he can to keep the team afloat.

Jesse Blancarte



The Los Angeles Clippers have been decimated by injuries this season. Blake Griffin is sidelined until approximately February of next year. Danilo Gallinari has been sidelined for an extended period of time with a glute injury and will continue to be out of action for some time after suffering a second glute injury recently. Patrick Beverley underwent season ending microfracture surgery in November. Milos Teodosic suffered a foot injury in just the second game of the season and only recently returned to the lineup. Austin Rivers just suffered a concussion and could miss some time as well.

With so many injuries, the Clippers currently find themselves in the 10th seed in the Western Conference with an 11-15 record. This isn’t what the Clippers had in mind when they brought back a solid haul of players last offseason in exchange for Chris Paul.

Competing with the top teams in the Western Conference was always going to be difficult for this Clippers team. Los Angeles has plenty of talent on the roster and added a few younger prospects to develop. However, key players like Griffin and Gallinari are injury prone and both needed to stay on the court for the Clippers to have any hope of staying in range of the West’s top teams. The Clippers lost 9 games straight in the middle of November and it looked as though they were on course to be competing for a top lottery pick in next season’s draft.

However, despite all of the injuries and setbacks, Lou Williams, along with iron man DeAndre Jordan, has picked up the slack and has done more than his fair share to keep the Clippers’ playoff hopes alive. This season, Williams is averaging 20 points, 4.8 assists and 2.7 rebounds per game, while shooting 45.2 percent from the field and 40 percent from three-point range (on 6.2 attempts per game). Williams is sporting a healthy 21.2 Player Efficiency Rating, which is a near career best rating (Williams posted a 21.4 PER last season). His True Shooting percentage (59.3) is tied with his career high rating, which Williams posted last season as well. Williams’s free throw rate has taken a dip this season, but his ability to draw timely (and often questionable) fouls has been a valuable asset to his team once again. Simply put, Williams has been particularly efficient on offense this season for the Clippers – a team that has lost its most reliable scorers and playmakers.

“We’ve had some guys go down with injuries and somebody has to step in and fill that scoring void,” Williams said after helping the Clippers defeat the Magic. “I’ve been able to do it.”

Williams has also hit plenty of big shots for the Clippers this season. Most recently, Williams knocked down a go-ahead three-pointer in the final seconds against the Washington Wizards that sealed the win for the Clippers. The Clippers are used to having a natural born scorer coming off the bench to act as a sparkplug as they had Jamal Crawford on the roster for the last five seasons. Similar to Crawford, Williams struggles to hold his own on the defensive side of the ball. But Williams has been more effective defensively so far this season for the Clippers than Crawford was for the majority of his time in Los Angeles. Williams isn’t going to lock down the Russell Westbrooks of the world, but he isn’t giving back the majority of the points he scores either.

In addition to his scoring, Williams is a solid playmaker and has managed to facilitate the Clippers’ offense at various points of the season. Williams isn’t exactly Chris Paul in terms of setting up his teammates for easy baskets, but he has been notably effective in this role, which is very important considering how many playmakers have falled to injury this season. Williams is now, arguably, the team’s best offensive weapon and one of its most effective floor generals. Now that we are nearly two months into the NBA season, it seems as though Williams and his teammates are starting to find a little more chemistry with one another.

“I think these guys are just starting to be more comfortable. They understand we’re going to have some injuries and guys are going to be down,” Williams said recently. “So they’re just playing with a lot of confidence. I think at first you’re kind of getting your feet wet and guys don’t want to make mistakes. Now guys are just going out there and playing as hard as they can.”

Williams will need to continue building chemistry with his teammates if they are to keep pace until players like Gallinari and Griffin make it back onto the court.

The Clippers have won six of their last 10 games and are starting to steady what had becoming a sinking ship. Smart gamblers and predictive algorithms would caution against betting on the Clippers making the playoffs this season, but they are in much better shape now than they were in the middle of November — an accomplishment that Williams deserves plenty of credit for.

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