This week, Basketball Insiders will be sifting through each division for first-time All-Stars. Yesterday, we looked at the Central Division. Today, we’ll be delving into the Pacific Division, which is made up of the reigning champion Golden State Warriors, the Los Angeles Clippers, the Phoenix Suns, the Sacramento Kings and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Barring either a significant injury or bizarre drop-off in production, the following players are practically guaranteed to represent the Pacific Division in the All-Star game (either by fan vote or on the court production), causing there to be fewer spots for up-and-coming players.
This list includes:
- Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)
- Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors)
- Chris Paul (Los Angeles Clippers)
- Blake Griffin (Los Angeles Clippers)
- Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers)
- DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings)
Cousins has made just one All-Star game – last year as an injury replacement. This year, expect him to make the game from the fan or coaches vote, as he has emerged as arguably the best center in the league with averages of 24.1 points, 12.7 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game.
A number of young, up-and-coming players from the Pacific Division are already known commodities with an All-Star appearance already under their belt. However, there are some talented individuals who haven’t made the big game due to the abundance of stars in the Western Conference.
Potential first-time All-Stars in 2015-16
Eric Bledsoe (Phoenix Suns)
The Suns are Bledsoe’s team. He ignites Phoenix’s offense with his blistering speed and toughness in the paint while more than holding his own on defense. He seems to have finally started to mature as a leader now that he realizes that he’s the focal point of the team and they will go only as far as he propels them. He averaged 17 points, 6.1 assists and 5.2 rebounds per game last season and those should only improve this upcoming year. The 25-year-old should continue to improve since he still has untapped potential. He might have some trouble getting in with so many great guards in the Western Conference, but there is a chance.
DeAndre Jordan (Los Angeles Clippers)
Jordan sure had an interesting summer. One thing we heard quite a bit throughout the offseason is that Jordan sees himself as a potential All-Star and wants to be more involved on the offensive end. It seems like the Clippers will give him more touches moving forward, which could help him have a breakout year. He already averaged pretty good numbers last year: 11.5 points, 15 boards and 2.2 blocks per game. Those stats put him in pretty exclusive company, so it’s not hard to imagine him making his first All-Star appearance. Jordan might not get in if the likes of Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki get sort of a “lifetime achievement” selection by coaches, and he’ll need the Clippers to be near the top of the West standings come All-Star selection time (since he’d likely be their third selection, after Paul and Griffin).
Rudy Gay (Sacramento Kings)
Some players are late-bloomers or just need the right situation to flourish in the NBA. It’s looking like that could be true for Rudy Gay. The 29-year-old swingman finally has some good pieces around him and can take a role suitable to his skill set. He didn’t have any teammates on the level of DeMarcus Cousins all those years in Memphis or in his short stint with the Toronto Raptors. It may take some time for this new Sacramento team to jell, but this year the argument can be made Gay could sneak onto the All-Star team out West if everything works out. His numbers last season were solid: a career-high 21.1 points, 5.9 rebounds and 3.7 assists. Now, if Rajon Rondo can get him some more easy buckets and if Gay thrives in George Karl’s system, it’s possible his numbers improve enough to get him in the conversation.
Down the line…
Draymond Green (Golden State Warriors)
As he showed during Golden State’s regular season and amazing run to the championship, Draymond Green is very valuable. He brings so much on both sides of the court. Next year, he should be able to refine his offensive game even more (he’s still just 25 years old), and he could eventually produce the numbers to warrant an All-Star berth. Last season, he averaged 11.7 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.3 blocks as the ultimate stretch-big for the Warriors. Down the road, he could earn one of the frontcourt spots in the All-Star game.
Brandon Knight (Phoenix Suns)
It may be a bit of a stretch considering how many great guards there are out West, but by the winter of 2016-17, Knight could be in the conversation for an All-Star berth. His averages of 17 points, 5.2 assists and 3.9 rebounds don’t seem too spectacular. The context surrounding those numbers is more intriguing.
He was on his way to being a breakout player with the surging, youthful Milwaukee Bucks and even had some All-Star buzz last year. Then, he was traded to Phoenix shortly after. He only played a handful of games for the discombobulated Suns, who had a huge roster shakeup at the trade deadline. Knight couldn’t even get settled much before he got injured, sidelining him for the reminder of the year. He’s only 23 years old, so his numbers should trend up the next couple years, especially in coach Jeff Hornacek’s guard-oriented system. By then, a spot might open up for him.
Which Pacific Division players are future first-time All-Stars? Let us know your opinion in the comments and follow along all week for the rest of our series.
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