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The Basketball Insiders All-Star Starter Picks

The Basketball Insiders team votes on their All-Star starters.

Oliver Maroney

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All-Star weekend is fast approaching, and as we get geared up for the festivities, we’ve decided to release our starters for the 2017 NBA All-Star Game. We’ve aggregated the totals to create the most voted Western and Eastern Conference team, and then below we’ve listed individual picks from our Basketball Insiders experts.

Western Conference Starters:

Guard – Russell Westbrook

Westbrook could become the first player since Oscar Robertson in 1962 to average a 30 point, 10 rebound and 10 assist triple-double. Westbrook (and Harden) are the leading candidates for the MVP award, that’s why I left neither out. – Michael Scotto

Westbrook has been superb this season. Obviously, he’s still averaging a triple-double and continuing to lead the Thunder to an impressive 24-17 record through 41 games. His team is currently in the playoffs and without him, they’d be looking at the lottery. Westbrook’s efficiency considering his usage isn’t great, but is better than many would’ve expected. There is no way Westbrook can’t be in this game and more importantly, in this starting lineup.

Guard – James Harden

The Mike D’Antoni, James Harden duo has the Rockets as a serious contender and Harden as a legitimate MVP candidate. – Jonathon Concool

Harden continues to top our MVP watch list, leading his team to the third-best record in the Western Conference and putting up historically great numbers. His ability to become a playmaker and scorer while playing improved defense has given his team an edge against nearly every opponent they’ve faced. Harden has become one of the best facilitators in the game, averaging over 11 assists per game. Along with the efficient passing and creation, he’s also scoring 28.4 points per game while shooting 44 percent from the field and 35 percent from behind-the-arc. He could easily be this season’s MVP if the season were to end today.

Frontcourt – Kevin Durant

Durant wasn’t coming into the same situation as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh did in Miami. He came into a historically great team that had a pecking order with defined roles and three All-Stars. Did Durant fit seamlessly? No. But considering the chemistry change, role adjustments and loss of players and continuity, there hasn’t been much of a drop-off, if any with Golden State. Durant is the best player on the best team in the Western Conference. He deserves to be a starter for the West. – Oliver Maroney

Durant has been better than most had expected through the first half of the NBA season. Durant is averaging 26 points, 4.7 assists and 8.6 rebounds per game for the Warriors, but possibly the most surprising statistic is his 1.7 blocks per game. It justifies the way Durant has played on defense this season.

Durant has been superb in almost every aspect of the game, but his chemistry within the team is still questioned at times. He’s learning on the job, but he’s a supreme talent that’s picked up almost every nuance with Golden State instantly.

Frontcourt – Kawhi Leonard

Leonard is averaging a career-high 24.6 points per game and his defense remains on lockdown status on a nightly basis. – Michael Scotto

The Spurs lost their leader in Tim Duncan, yet they didn’t miss a beat. Leonard has taken over in San Antonio and led the Spurs to the second-best record in the Western Conference. He’s been remarkably efficient considering his uptick in offensive field goal attempts, and his team is continuing to coast to another 50-plus win season. Last year’s Defensive Player of the Year, Leonard is still continuing to be a great two-way player, and perhaps the best outside of LeBron James.

Frontcourt – Anthony Davis

As for Davis, while I wouldn’t normally take a player on a team playing less than .500 basketball, he’s second in the league in scoring, sixth in rebounds per game and second in blocks per game. I wouldn’t attribute the Pelicans’ poor season to his performance and also don’t think that either Draymond Green or DeMarcus Cousins are more deserving. – Moke Hamilton

Davis continues to wow despite his team’s unimpressive effort through the first 20 or so games. The team has started to find a rhythm with Jrue Holiday back in the lineup and Davis continues to thrive. He’s averaging about 36 minutes per game and is posting up career-highs in many statistical categories. After sustaining multiple injuries and not living up to the expectations last year, you can clearly tell he’s developed his game even further. By many accounts, he deserves to be at All-Star weekend, but this was a close voting tally for a starter.

Eastern Conference Starters:

Guard – Isaiah Thomas 

Thomas is arguably the best pound-for-pound player in the game. – Lang Greene

Thomas has hit game-winners, facilitated the offense and brought the Celtics back to life. After early struggles due to injuries, the Celtics are sitting at third in the Eastern Conference and Thomas is a big reason for that. The former 60th pick in the NBA Draft is currently averaging 28.2 points, 6.7 assists and 2.7 rebounds. Over the last ten games? Thomas is averaging over 31 points while the Celtics have won eight of the last ten games. Thomas is clearly the number one option on offense, even if his defense leaves something to be desired at times. He’s clearly the most valuable player on the Celtics right now.

Guard – DeMar DeRozan

DeRozan’s game isn’t considered sexy by the analytical crowd but he has been in beast mode all season. – Lang Greene

After an impressive 30-plus point streak to begin the regular season, DeMar DeRozan is still continuing to score at a career-high rate. Currently, DeRozan is averaging career highs in points (28.2) and rebounds (5.4) per game. His Toronto Raptors are second in the East and not far off from the Cleveland Cavaliers, therefore he deserves the nod. His teammate Kyle Lowry may be more valuable, but the Insiders’ crew was split on the decision.

Frontcourt – LeBron James

The Cavaliers are the class of the East and LeBron James is a major reason for that. James continues to fill the stat sheet and win column for Cleveland as the game’s best all-around player. – Michael Scotto

LeBron James has continued to hover near that incredible triple-double statistic. Even without, he’s still the game’s best player and has continued to lead the Cavaliers to the best record in the Eastern Conference. After beating the Warriors on Christmas Day, James has still shown that he can combat any team at any time. Even with the absence of J.R. Smith, James has taken on more of an offensive load and continued to gain momentum for the Cavs. Currently, James averages 25.8 points, 8.3 assists and 7.8 rebounds per game while shooting 51.7 percent from the field. He was a unanimous selection in our picks.

Frontcourt – Jimmy Butler

What can’t Jimmy Butler do? He’s leading a Bulls team that we all thought would be a mess to a .500 record and a playoff berth. Along with that, he’s had four 40-plus point games, and rebounding at a career-best 6.8 rebounds per game. – Oliver Maroney

Even though the Bulls are the eight seed in the Eastern Conference, it’s fair to say they wouldn’t be anywhere near there without Jimmy Butler. The former Marquette star is shooting over 45 percent from the field and continuing to play tremendous defense on the game’s best players. His continued effort and relentless energy is something that many don’t have. Aside from Jabari Davis, everyone on the Basketball Insiders’ team picked Butler in their frontcourt.

Frontcourt – Giannis Antentokounmpo

The Greek Freak has taken the league by storm with his play recently (buzzer beaters, triple-doubles) and has the young Milwaukee Bucks in the middle to upper echelon of Eastern Conference teams. He’s also leading his team in points, rebounds and assists per game. – Jonathan Concool

Antentokounmpo has finally been added to our MVP watch list because of his all-around game and value to his team. The Bucks are at .500 and the big reason for that is Antentokounmpo. His ability play one through five, guard all five positions and score virtually anytime, anywhere has carried the team at times. His athletic ability is probably the most dynamic we’ve seen since LeBron James, and he’s continuing to rack up the stat sheet with triple-doubles. This season, the Greek Freak is averaging 23.4 points, 5.7 assists, 8.7 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 1.3 steals per game.

 

Individual Picks from the Insiders’ Team

“The reason why selecting All-Stars is always such a difficult proposition because there’s no clear-cut consensus as to what the requirements are.” – Moke Hamilton

Steve Kyler

Western Conference                       Eastern Conference                                                       

Guard – Chris Paul                                  Guard – John Wall

Guard – Russell Westbrook                   Guard – DeMar DeRozan

Frontcourt – Kawhi Leonard                 Frontcourt – LeBron James

Frontcourt – Kevin Durant                     Frontcourt – Jimmy Butler

Frontcourt – Anthony Davis                   Frontcourt – Giannis Antentokounmpo

 

Ben Dowsett

Western Conference                        Eastern Conference

Guard – Russell Westbrook                    Guard – Kyle Lowry

Guard – James Harden                            Guard – John Wall

Frontcourt – Kevin Durant                     Frontcourt – LeBron James

Frontcourt – Kawhi Leonard                   Frontcourt – Jimmy Butler

Frontcourt – Marc Gasol                          Frontcourt – Giannis Antentokounmpo

 

Eric Pincus 

Western Conference                         Eastern Conference 

Guard – Russell Westbrook                     Guard – Kyrie Irving

Guard –  James Harden                            Guard – DeMar DeRozan

Frontcourt – Kawhi Leonard                    Frontcourt – LeBron James

Frontcourt –  Kevin Durant                      Frontcourt – Giannis Antentokounmpo

Frontcourt –  Marc Gasol                          Frontcourt – Jimmy Butler

 

Oliver Maroney

Western Conference                           Eastern Conference

Guard – Russell Westbrook                       Guard – Kyle Lowry

Guard – James Harden                               Guard – DeMar DeRozan

Frontcourt – Kevin Durant                         Frontcourt – Jimmy Butler

Frontcourt – Kawhi Leonard                      Frontcourt – LeBron James

Frontcourt – Marc Gasol                             Frontcourt – Giannis Antentokounmpo

 

Michael Scotto

Western Conference                           Eastern Conference 

Guard – James Harden                               Guard – Kyrie Irving

Guard – Russell Westbrook                       Guard – DeMar DeRozan

Frontcourt – Kevin Durant                         Frontcourt – LeBron James

Frontcourt – Kawhi Leonard                      Frontcourt – Jimmy Butler

Frontcourt – Anthony Davis                       Frontcourt – Giannis Antentokounmpo

 

Cody Taylor 

Western Conference                           Eastern Conference 

Guard – Russell Westbrook                       Guard – John Wall

Guard – James Harden                               Guard – DeMar DeRozan

Frontcourt – Kevin Durant                         Frontcourt – LeBron James

Frontcourt – Kawhi Leonard                      Frontcourt – Giannis Antentokounmpo

Frontcourt – Anthony Davis                       Frontcourt – Jimmy Butler

 

Tommy Beer

Western Conference                            Eastern Conference

Guard – Russell Westbrook                        Guard – John Wall

Guard – James Harden                                Guard – Isaiah Thomas

Frontcourt – Kevin Durant                          Frontcourt – LeBron James

Frontcourt – Kawhi Leonard                       Frontcourt – Giannis Antentokounmpo

Frontcourt – Anthony Davis                        Frontcourt – Jimmy Butler

 

Moke Hamilton 

Western Conference                               Eastern Conference

Guard – Russell Westbrook                           Guard – Isaiah Thomas

Guard – James Harden                                   Guard – Kyrie Irving

Frontcourt – Kevin Durant                             Frontcourt – LeBron James

Frontcourt – Kawhi Leonard                          Frontcourt – Jimmy Butler

Frontcourt – Anthony Davis                           Frontcourt – Giannis Antentokounmpo

 

Jabari Davis

Western Conference                              Eastern Conference

Guard – Russell Westbrook                          Guard – Kyrie Irving

Guard – James Harden                                  Guard – Kyle Lowry

Frontcourt – Kevin Durant                            Frontcourt – LeBron James

Frontcourt – Kawhi Leonard                         Frontcourt – Giannis Antentokounmpo

Frontcourt – DeMarcus Cousins                   Frontcourt – Joel Embiid

 

Jesse Blancarte

Western Conference                               Eastern Conference

Guard – Russell Westbrook                           Guard – Isaiah Thomas

Guard – James Harden                                   Guard – Kyle Lowry

Frontcourt – Kevin Durant                             Frontcourt – Jimmy Butler

Frontcourt – Kawhi Leonard                          Frontcourt – LeBron James

Frontcourt – Anthony Davis                           Frontcourt – Giannis Antentokounmpo

 

Jonathan Concool 

Western Conference                              Eastern Conference 

Guard – Russell Westbrook                           Guard – Kyrie Irving

Guard – James Harden                                   Guard – DeMar DeRozan

Frontcourt – Kevin Durant                             Frontcourt – LeBron James

Frontcourt – Kawhi Leonard                          Frontcourt – Giannis Antentokounmpo

Frontcourt – Anthony Davis                           Frontcourt – Jimmy Butler

 

Joel Brigham 

Western Conference                                Eastern Conference

Guard – Russell Westbrook                            Guard – Isaiah Thomas

Guard – James Harden                                    Guard – DeMar DeRozan

Frontcourt – Kevin Durant                              Frontcourt – LeBron James

Frontcourt – Kawhi Leonard                           Frontcourt – Jimmy Butler

Frontcourt – Anthony Davis                            Frontcourt – Giannis Antentokounmpo

 

Lang Greene

Western Conference                                Eastern Conference

Guard – Russell Westbrook                            Guard – Isaiah Thomas

Guard – James Harden                                    Guard – DeMar DeRozan

Frontcourt – Kevin Durant                              Frontcourt – LeBron James

Frontcourt – Kawhi Leonard                           Frontcourt – Giannis Antentokounmpo

Frontcourt – DeMarcus Cousins                     Frontcourt – Jimmy Butler

 

Oliver Maroney is an NBA writer for Basketball Insiders. He is based in Portland and covers the league as a whole.

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NBA Daily: Spurs Enter New Territory After Moving Parker To Reserve Role

The San Antonio Spurs are seemingly entering a new phase as Tony Parker has been moved to a reserve role.

James Blancarte

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San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg made a significant change to his rotation earlier this week. On Sunday, January 21 Popovich placed guard Dejounte Murray into the starting lineup in place of Tony Parker. The Spurs went on to lose the game at home to the Indiana Pacers. The result was the same as a losing effort in Friday’s matchup against the Toronto Raptors in Toronto.

The San Antonio Spurs came into the 2017-18 hoping to bounce back from last year’s playoffs where the team suffered injuries to Kawhi Leonard and Parker and eventually lost to the Golden State Warriors. This season started off with the Spurs surviving without Leonard and Parker as the two continued to rehab from lingering injuries. As of now, Leonard is once again taking time off to rehabilitate after playing in nine games while Parker has been able to stay healthy so far. Unfortunately, being healthy enough to play doesn’t make up for the inevitable decline that comes with age and injuries.

On the season, Parker is averaging a career low in minutes (21.6), assists (4.0) and points (8.2), as well as free throws made and attempted per game. His usage rate, player efficiency rating (PER) and shooting percentages are also all at or around career lows. It’s hard to argue against the notion that Parker, at 35 years old with 17 years of pro basketball under his belt, is in the twilight of his impressive career.

Parker has acknowledged his demotion but seems to be handling it like a true professional.

“[Popovich] told me he thought it was time, and I was like, ‘no problem.’ Just like Manu [Ginobili], just like Pau [Gasol], you know that day is going to come,” Parker said recently. .

Before Sunday’s game, Parker had started 1151 of 1164 games played, all with the Spurs of course.

Popovich was asked specifically if the plan was either to start Murray at point guard moving forward or if this switch in the lineup was a part of some kind of injury management program for Parker. Never known for being overly loquacious, Popovich responded with little detail or insight.

“We’ll see,” Popovich stated.

In the starting lineup, Murray logged eight points, four assists, seven rebounds, three steals and one block in nearly 28 minutes of action. Murray had previously started before Parker returned from injury earlier this season but eventually relinquished that spot to career reserve guard Patty Mills.

Parker also spoke of the benefit of coming off the bench and potentially mentoring Murray’s growth in his new presumed role as the starter.

“If Pop [Coach Popovich] sees something that is good for the team, I will try to do my best,” Parker said. “I will support Pop’s decision and I will try to help DJ [Murray] as best as I can and try to be the best I can in the second unit with Manu [Ginobili] and Patty [Mills].”

If nothing else, this move will allow the Spurs to see if Parker can be more effective in limited minutes against opposing bench units. Additionally, Parker will hopefully benefit from playing alongside his longtime running mate, Ginobli.

Parker’s willingness to mentor Murray may come as a relief to Spurs fans watching the ongoing dismantling of San Antonio’s former Big-3, which began with the retirement of future Hall-of-Famer, Tim Duncan. At 6-foot-5, Murray benefits from greater size and athleticism than Parker, although Murray failed to keep the starting job when given an opportunity earlier this season. Coach Popovich gave another straightforward answer when asked which areas he thinks Murray can improve in.

“He’s 21-years-old,” Popovich declared. “He can improve in all areas.”

After asking for a trade in the offseason, the Spurs have benefited from focusing their offense around LaMarcus Aldridge, who is having a bounce-back campaign. However, Leonard is now out indefinitely and the Minnesota Timberwolves have now caught the Spurs in the standings. The pressure is on for this resilient Spurs team, which has again managed to beat the odds despite an injured and aging roster.

Parker became a starter for the Spurs at age 19 and never looked back. Now all eyes are on Murray to see how well he performs in his second stint with the starters at a crucial point in the season.

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Sources: Milwaukee Bucks Fire Coach Jason Kidd

Basketball Insiders

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The Milwaukee Bucks have fired coach Jason Kidd, sources ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Source: Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN

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Defensive Player Of The Year Watch – 1/22/17

Spencer Davies checks into the DPOY race with his latest list of candidates.

Spencer Davies

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It’s a new year and Basketball Insiders is continuing its Defensive Player of the Year watch with sample sizes widening and new players emerging in the conversation.

There were a couple of names knocked out of the list, but that gives more of a spotlight to those who have really stepped up since our last edition ran on December 29. Without further ado, let’s get into it.

 6. Hassan Whiteside

After missing nearly a month of action with a knee injury, Whiteside has returned with a vengeance. The Miami HEAT were already a good defensive team before he came back, but he’s really bolstered that reputation even further. Since Dec. 26, the 7-foot center has recorded eight multi-block games. In five of those, he had at least four swats, including a six-rejection performance in a win at Milwaukee. Overall in ESPN’s Defensive Real-Plus Minus, Whiteside owns by far the best rating at 4.73. “Agent Block” is back and daring all comers to try him.

5. Anthony Davis

Slowly but surely, the New Orleans Pelicans are creeping away from the bottom of the league in defensive rating. Once ranked in the bottom five a few weeks ago, they’ve shot up to 18th in the league (108.4) rather quickly. While that’s not the most impressive statistic to provide, the obvious reason for their improved standing on that end of the floor is Davis. He’s been an absolute workhorse for Alvin Gentry in the restricted area as an elite rim protector, with a heavy responsibility and a ton of minutes. Without him on the floor, the Pels are allowing 8.9 more points per 100 possessions, which puts Davis in the 96th percentile according to Cleaning The Glass.

4. Josh Richardson

Notice there are two members of the HEAT on this list. It’s because they are on fire right now, no pun intended, so it’s about time they received some love in the conversation for DPOY. Whiteside was addressed first, but if we’re talking about a greater sample size with consistent evidence, Richardson fits the bill. Opponents are attempting over 11 shots per game against him, yet are only making 38.9 percent of those tries. That’s the lowest conversion rate in the league with a minimum of 10 attempts.

Battling injuries a season ago, Richardson has played in all 46 games for Miami this year. While it’s been a team effort, he is the heart and soul of Erik Spoelstra’s defense, taking on the most difficult assignments each game. For that reason, he deserves long overdue recognition on this list.

3. Kevin Durant

This isn’t a case where Durant is slipping because of his performances. He’s only ranked third this time around because of the job others have done outside of him. The Golden State Warriors are still a juggernaut on both sides of the court. He’s still a top-notch individual defender. The numbers don’t suggest otherwise and the eye test certainly confirms it.

In isolation situations, Durant is allowing only 0.53 points per possession, which is second in the NBA to only Tony Snell. When it comes to crunch time, he’s always locking up. In fourth quarters, he is limiting the competition to shooting less than 30 percent—and his defended field goal percentage and field goal percentage discrepancy is the best in the league at -17.2. He’s got as good of a chance as anybody to take home DPOY.

2. Joel Embiid

Everybody loves to focus on the off-court antics and hilarities that come with Embiid, but the man deserves his due when it comes to his reputation in the NBA as a truly dominant big. The Philadelphia 76ers have won seven out of their last eight games and it has started on the defensive end of the floor.

Take the games against Boston, for example. Al Horford is a crucial part of the Celtics offense and has had problems getting going against the 23-year-old. In the 22 minutes per game, he’s been on the floor along with him, Horford has been held to below 30 percent from the field on an average of nine attempts. With Embiid off, he’s converted nearly 73 percent of his tries.

Another matchup you can examine is with Andre Drummond. The two have had their fair share of words with each other, but Embiid’s had the edge one-on-one. Similar to Horford, the Detroit Pistons big man has had a rough time against him. Embiid has limited Drummond to under 38 percent on five attempts per game in an average of over 23 minutes on the floor together. When he’s not playing, Drummond has had close to a 78 percent success rate.

Regarding centers, Embiid ranks second in ESPN’s DRPM and fifth in Basketball Reference’s Defensive Box Plus-Minus. Citing Cleaning The Glass, the Sixers are allowing 10 more points per 100 possessions when he’s sitting, which slots Embiid into the 97th percentile.

He’s altering shots. He’s blocking shots. He’s forcing kick outs. And that’s a big reason why the NBA gave Embiid its Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors. Trust The Process.

1. Paul George

Basketball Insiders was well represented this past Saturday in Cleveland when the Oklahoma City Thunder decimated the Cavaliers in their own building. The focus was on the “OK3” exposing a terrible defense, but the real story in this game was how in-tune and sound George was on both ends of the court. He was sizzling shooting the basketball, but perhaps more defining was shutting down LeBron James on a day that was supposed to belong to him.

Any time 23 got the ball to try and get the Cavs going, George was there. He suffocated him with pressure, forcing James into bad decisions and contested shots. The talk of the day was the 30,000-point mark, but PG-13 had other ideas.

“I was hopeful that it took two games for him to get to that,” George said after the 148-124 win at Quicken Loans Arena. “I actually didn’t know that stat until right before coming into [Saturday]. They told me he needed 25 to go to 30,000. I’ve been a part of a lot of those baskets that he’s had, so that’s an achievement or milestone I didn’t want to be a part of.”

Thunder teammate Steven Adams spoke to his prowess on that end of the floor.

“He’s a really good defender man,” Adams said. “It was like a perfect matchup, honestly. He played LeBron really well in terms of our system and what we want him doing. He did an amazing job there.”

Oklahoma City head coach Billy Donovan is a huge fan as well.

“He really I think puts forth good effort,” Donovan said pre-game. “He’s long, smart. He’s disruptive. He’s got good feet. He’s a physical defender. He’s hard to shoot over. Certainly, with he and Andre [Roberson] on the wings, that’s certainly bolstered our defense.”

That was one performance, but it’s obvious how much George brings to the table as one of the toughest guys to score on in this league. He’s got a league-leading 188 deflections and is tied with Eric Bledsoe at the top of the NBA with 2.2 steals per game.

Recently, the Thunder have allowed 91 points at most in three of their last four games. They are also in the top three allowing just 104.7 points per 100 possessions and George has been a huge part of that.

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