It’s that time of year again. The NBA season is over halfway done, and the all-star game is quickly approaching. In three and a half weeks, the NBA’s biggest stars will battle it out on the hardwood. It’s a fun game and a fun weekend every year. Of course, before the game is played, the players must be chosen. This can produce some of the hottest debates of the NBA season, choosing which players deserve to start and which deserve to make the game at all. It’s a fun way to see who have been the best players of the first 40-50 games.
In the real process, fan vote accounts for half of the points in the voting process, and the other half is split between players and the media. The problem is, the fan vote is incredibly stupid. For example, Luka Doncic (who I love and support) has more votes than Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Anthony Davis. He’s second in the West behind LeBron. Meanwhile, Derrick Rose is fourth in the West. As a Bulls fan who still has a soft spot for D-Rose, that’s incredibly ridiculous. Dwyane Wade would also be a starter if it were all up to the fans. he’s fifth in the East. Fortunately, fans only account for 50% of the starters, and 0% of the reserves, who are selected by coaches.
So for my ballot, I’m throwing out the fan vote. This is not a prediction, this is who should be in, who deserves it. Now I should clarify the rules of conferences and positions. Each conference gets 24 players, 5 starters and 7 reserves. The starters must include 2 guards and 3 frontcourt players, and the reserves must include 2 guards and 3 frontcourt players, which leaves 2 spots that can be any/either position. If it were up to me, both conferences and positions would play no role in the selection. Luka Doncic is considered a frontcourt player. Are you telling me he couldn’t be put at the “2” or shooting guard? The NBA is becoming more and more positionless, and it’s about time the league applied the concept to all-stars.
Conferences also should not play a role. We’re not playing East vs. West anymore, so why should the conferences play a part in the selection process? The talent is clearly not even between the East and West, so it’s frustrating that deserving Western Conference players may be left off. Mike Conley will probably retire with zero all-star appearances, only because he always played in the West. There are a clear top eleven players this year: Curry, Harden, Irving, James, Durant, Jokic, George, Embiid, Leonard, Antetokounmpo, Davis (in no order). However, 7 of those are in the West, and 4 are in the East. So 2 of them will have to be reserves, and an inferior player from the East will get to start.
In this article, I’ll give you the starters first, followed by my locks, reserves that have to be in the game, and then you’ll see the players labeled reserve, who deserve a spot but aren’t locks. Anyway, let’s get to it. Here’s my picks.
Starter: Kyrie Irving
Stats: 23.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 6.9 assists, 50% field goals, 41% threes
Kyrie has been solid for Boston, despite the weird leadership quotes, and the not-so-subtle digs at Boston’s young guys. His assists are up, from 5.1 to 6.9 per game, and his defense has been significantly improved, too. He’s been the third-best guard in the NBA, and he’s gotta be a starter, especially in the East.
Starter: Bradley Beal
Averages: 24.7 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 45% field goals, 39% threes
There were a few contenders for this spot, Kemba Walker and Ben Simmons namely. Kemba probably would’ve gotten in two or three weeks ago, but he’s been struggling, and Bradley Beal has been on fire. Check out Beal’s stats since John Wall went down on December 26.
Starter: Kawhi Leonard
Averages: 27.6 points, 7.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 50% field goals, 37% threes
It’s exciting to see Kawhi back and healthy. His drama-filled 2017-18 seems like ages ago. Leonard’s points and rebounds are a career high, and his assists are .4 off. He’s definitely a starter in the East, and he may end up with some 2nd and 3rd place votes for MVP, especially if the Raptors keep winning. The All-NBA forward spots will be insane this year, with Kawhi, Giannis, LeBron, KD, and Paul George all making great cases.
Starter: Giannis Antetokounmpo
Averages: 26.5 points, 12.6 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 58% field goals, 18% threes
Another no-brainer here. Giannis has been incredible. As the MVP race narrows, Antetokounmpo and James Harden may be the top two, at least so far. The Greek Freak has been on another level this year. 26.5, 12.6, and 5.9 is an unreal stat line. In fact, it’s unmatched. No NBA player has ever finished a season with those numbers or better. Wilt Chamberlain is the only guy that’s really gotten close. He’s surpassed each of the three individually, but never in the same season. Coach Mike Budenholzer is largely to thank, but Giannis’s combination of strength, speed, length, and playmaking, is something we’ve never seen before.
Starter: Joel Embiid
Averages: 27.1 points, 13.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 49% field goals, 31% threes
Remember when we used to say things like, “It’s so hard to find centers for the All-NBA teams, there are no good centers in the league anymore”. Well now we have three that are putting up some ridiculous numbers. This season, both Embiid and Anthony Davis are averaging 27 and 13. That’s crazy! For some context, we haven’t seen a 27 and 13 season since Shaq. He and Moses Malone are the only players to average 27 and 13 since the NBA/ABA merger. Shaq only did it once, and Moses only did it twice. Even if you go before the merger, here’s the list:
- Joel Embiid, 2018-19
- Anthony Davis, 2018-19
- Shaquille O’Neal, 1 season (’01)
- Moses Malone, 2 seasons (80’s)
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 7 seasons (70’s)
- Elvin Hayes, 3 seasons (70’s)
- Wilt Chamberlain, 8 seasons (60’s)
- Walt Bellamy, 3 seasons (60’s)
- Elgin Baylor, 4 seasons (60’s)
- Bob Pettit, 5 seasons (50’s)
- George Mikan, 1 season (’51)
- Note: Giannis Antetokounmpo this season is .5 points and .4 rebounds away
So if you consider points and rebounds to be the two big stats for big men, Embiid and Davis are both putting up HISTORIC seasons.
Lock: Blake Griffin
Averages, 26.0 points, 8.1 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 48% field goals, 36% threes
Blake is arguably having the best season of his career. He’s had a very unusual career arc. After a few really good years at the beginning of his career, Griffin struggled with injuries and was shipped to Detroit. He’s had to totally change his game after losing some athleticism. Since then, his playmaking and jump shooting have come a long way, and now he’s about to make his first all-star game since 2015.
Lock: Kemba Walker
Averages: 25.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 44% field goals, 34% threes
As I mentioned earlier, Kemba started off super hot and has struggled as of late. He had a few back problems in mid-December and hasn’t been the same since. 26, 5, and 6 before people. 23, 4, and 5 since. Not a huge difference, but enough to bump him to the reserves. Still, a great season for Walker, probably the best of his career at 28.
Lock: Nikola Vucevic
Averages: 20.5 points, 12.0 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 52% field goals, 38% threes
VOOOOOOOCH! Career high in points, career high in rebounds, career high in assists, career high in three-point percentage, 0.5% behind his career high in field goal percentage. What a season it’s been for Nikola Vucevic. He’s an absolute lock for all-star, and in most years he’d have a case for All-NBA third team. 28 years old, having a career year. Pay this man.
Reserve: Ben Simmons
Averages: 16.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 8.0 assists, 57.6% field goals, has not attempted a three
Simmons has become a relatively controversial NBA character. You can’t have a conversation about Ben Simmons without three-point shooting coming up. And yes, it’s an issue. It’s tough to see Philly playing 4 on 5 at the end of games. However, can we look at everything else? 17, 10, and eight is pretty solid. It’s just Simmons and Russell Westbrook at those numbers. And he’s 22.
Reserve: Victor Oladipo
Averages: 19.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 42% field goals, 34% threes
It sucks to see Oladipo go down with what may be a season-ending injury, but for awhile he was putting up great numbers and hitting clutch shots. Before his first injury this season, whoccurredured on November 17, he was averaging 22.7 and 6.9 rebounds, 44% FGs in 15 games. Since returning on December 12, he’s averaging 17.3 points and 4.9 boards, 40% FGs in 17 games. Hopefully he comes back better next year, but the best player on one of the conference’s best teams has to be an all-star.
Reserve: Jimmy Butler
Averages: 19.6 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 47% field goals, 38% threes
Jimmy has had so much off-court drama throughout the season, it’s almost hard to separate that from the production in the games. He’s actually having a down year. Points are lowest in five years, rebounds are lowest in seven years, lowest assists in four years. However, his field goal attempts are also his lowest in four years, and his field goal percentage is tied for a career high, identical to last year. His minutes are lowest in six years, too with the Minnesota drama and a new system in Philly. Not a career year, but all-star worthy.
Reserve: Kyle Lowry
Averages: 14.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, 9.4 assists, 41% field goals, 32% threes
It’s been a down year for Lowry. This is his first season under 15 PPG in six years, lowest FG% in four years, and lowest 3PT% in nine. However, he’s taking on somewhat of a new role with a new coach and a new All-NBA teammate. 9.4 assists is a career high by far. 7.4 is his previous career high. It’s odd how the assists are the only thing he’s improved, while other stats are down. Regardless, he is very important to the success of the best team in the conference, and he sneaks in here.
Starter: Stephen Curry
Averages: 29.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 49% field goals, 45% threes
Curry is quietly having one of the best seasons of his career. In his unanimous MVP season, 2015-16, Curry averaged 0.8 more points, 0.2 more points, 0.9 more assists. His field goal percentage was 1.6% better, three-point percentage was 0.6% better. And that season, it wasn’t surprising to see him win the MVP unanimously. Steph has to be top five in MVP consideration again, and he’s obviously a starter here.
Starter: James Harden
Averages: 35.7 points, 6.4 rebounds, 8.3 assists, 44% field goals, 38% threes
Wow. What can be said that hasn’t been? Only Jordan and Wilt have averaged more than 35.7 points per game. Harden has scored 30+ in his last 21 games, an NBA record. He just scored 200 points over a 4-game span. He would still lead the league in scoring if free throws didn’t count, and if threes counted as twos. And he’s doing all that with 8.3 assists per game, too. Unreal.
Starter: Kevin Durant
Averages: 28.0 points, 7.4 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 51% field goals, 39% threes
Durant just keeps on producing. He and Curry are 3rd and 4th in the league, really looking like an all-time duo. KD is very close to another season in the 50-40-90 club, 51-39-91 right now. He’s one of the greatest shooters and scorers of all time, and he may be going for a third-straight Finals MVP. He’d join Jordan and Shaq. Bill Russell would be there too, but they didn’t have Finals MVP yet then. But Durant is quickly moving up the list of all-time greats. There’s a real possibility KD gets close to the all-time scoring record. His career average is 27.2 PPG right now, through 11 1/2 years. If he can keep his average above 26.5 for 5 years, he’ll break it. That seems really possible. He’ll be 35 then. LeBron is averaging 27.2 at 34.
Starter: LeBron James
Averages: 27.3 points, 8.3 rebounds, 7.1 assists, 52% field goals, 36% threes
It was a tough call between LeBron, KD, and Jokic for the last two spots in the frontcourt here, but I had to include the best player in the world. We take LeBron for granted, but he continues to put up some insane numbers. A 27, 7, and 7 really should be called “The LeBron”. The All-Star game wouldn’t be the same without LeBron in the starting lineup.
Starter: Anthony Davis
Averages: 29.3 points, 13.3 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 51% field goals, 33% threes
What a season for AD. Remember the list of 27 and 13 guys in the Embiid section? Davis is putting up 29 and 3. The lack of serviceable teammates in New Orleans is becoming egregious. He’s truly carrying the team, putting up historic numbers. Davis is 2nd in the NBA in scoring, and 3rd in rebounding. He has to start.
Lock: Nikola Jokic
Averages: 19.8 points, 10.0 rebounds, 7.8 assists, 51% field goals, 33% threes
Here’s a list of centers who have averaged 7.8 assists: Wilt Chamberlain, Nikola Jokic. That’s it. Jokic’s passing is truly unprecedented from a 7-foot tall human being. He’s not quite going to squeak in as a starter, but that’s just because of the incredible competition in the West frontcourt. Jokic is not only the best player on the Nuggets, he’s the only Nugget in consideration for an all-star spot. Denver has been in first place for the majority of the season, and he’s been far and away their best player.
Lock: Paul George
Averaging: 27.0 points, 7.9 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 44% field goals, 39% threes
It’s crazy that someone with these numbers isn’t starting in the all-star game. And shooting 39% from deep at that volume isn’t easy either. Factor in PG’s top-notch defense, and he’s playing like a borderline top 10 player. It’s too bad he couldn’t sneak into the starting lineup here in the stacked West.
Lock: Damian Lillard
Averages: 26.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 45% field goals, 37% threes
Dame keeps on cranking out these seasons. This is his fifth straight with 25 PPG and 36% from deep. Crazy thing is that he was only an all-star two of those four. Even in a Western Conference stacked with talented gaurds, that’s crazy to look back on. Lillard will definitely make it this year, and he’s gotta be a lock.
Lock: Karl-Anthony Towns
Averages: 23.5 points, 12.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 49% field goals, 37% threes
Towns is finally starting to take charge in Minnesota in the absence of Jimmy Butler. Before Butler started sitting out for the trade/requeset, KAT was averaging 18.3 points, 10.2 boards, 2.2, and 44% from the field on 13.9 attempts per game. Since Jimmy was shipped to Philly, Towns’s numbers are up to 24.0, 13.1, 3.3, 51% on 17.3 field goal attempts. He’s stepping into the role nicely, and he’s a lock.
Reserve: Russell Westbrook
Averages: 21.8 points, 10.6 rebounds, 10.6 assists, 42% field goals, 24% threes
What an incredible season. He’s averaging another triple double, for whatever that’s worth, but this is the worst three point shooting season of all time, and it’s not really close. No one has ever shot 24% from deep on anything close to Westbrook’s 4.8 attempts per game. It really makes all the 2016-17 Russ MVP stans look stupid. “He has to win the MVP because he’s averaging a triple double!” That logic has now been proven idiotic. To be fair, he averaged 30 points per game that season, and his percentages were far better. Still, 22, 11, and 11 is an all-star. Just not an efficient one.
Reserve: Luka Doncic
Averages: 20.0 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 43% field goals, 36% threes
We’ve all seen the stats. Luka is having an absolutely historic season for a 19-year old. He’s one of the best teenagers of all time, and has truly incredible potential. However, that can’t give him a leg up in all-star consideration. We have to compare him with current players of all ages. Luka is a great all-around offensive player. His passing is unbelievable at times, and he can rebound too. That 20, 6.8, and 5.3 line puts him in pretty good company. This season, it’s Luka, LeBron, KD, Giannis, Blake and Russ that are putting up those averages. If you factor in three piont shooting, it’s just Luka, KD, Blake, and LeBron. He sneaks into the 11th spot here.
Reserve: Klay Thompson
Averages: 22.1 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 46% field goals, 38% threes
It was down to Klay, DeRozan, Gobert, and Luka for the last two spots. I was pretty sure Luka was in, and then last night Klay dropped 44 on 10/11 from three. Message taken. He may be having a down year, but he’s set the bar so high in the past, it’s easy to forget that 46% from the field and 38% from three are still really good. Only five of my all-stars are above 38%. And remember, Klay is also guarding the opposing team’s best guard most of the time. That’s an underrated value that he adds, allowing Steph to hide a little on defense. Klay just barely gets the nod.
Honorable Mention: DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gobert
If it weren’t for conference restrictions, these two would be in, and two of Oladipo, Lowry, and Jimmy would be left off.