The All-Star Starters have been announced: Kobe, Kawhi, Westbrook, Durant, and Curry for the West and Lebron, Wade, Carmelo, Lowry, and George for the East. Every year it’s the same thing when it comes to the NBA All-Star Team. Who got voted in that didn’t deserve it? Who are the snubs? Who got in because of team success and not really because of their performance? What good teams were not honored with a selection? As a purest, the question I ask every year is why do the fans have a say in this process? Fan voting is the reason why Kobe Bryant will be an All-Star this year despite being one of the least efficient players in NBA history. Inevitably, 10 years from now Kobe fans will be arguing why Kobe is a better player than Jordan/Lebron/West/Bird (pick your favorite) because he has more All-Star Game selections. Who cares if he didn’t deserve the spot, the fans wanted to see him…blah, blah, blah. The fan vote drives me crazy because it means that some more deserving player will NOT go to the All-Star Game because Kobe at 16.3 points/3.5 assists/4.0 rebounds on 34.6 percent shooting has stolen his spot. This popularity contest means that Dwyane Wade at 18.1/4.6/4.1 and Carmelo Anthony 21.7/7.6./4.0 are both stealing starting spots from other more deserving players.
My selections are not a prediction of who actually will be named to the All-Star Team, but those players who should make the team this year. I do not give lifetime achievement awards or sympathy selections. I will follow the voting format of 3 frontcourt players and 2 backcourt players to start and 3 and 2 on the bench with 2 wildcards.
The records for the middling Eastern teams have gotten better, but the All-Star level talent has not improved dramatically. If anything, the drop-off of a few of the older players has opened up an opportunity for several younger players to join the ranks of All-Star. Here are the most deserving selections and why:
Backcourt-Kyle Lowry, Raptors
Raptor fans may be the only ones not surprised watching Lowry do his thing in the All-Star game. They are used to Lowry’s play. The rest of the league may be a little surprised that Lowry has transformed his body and now averages 21 points, 6.4 assists, and 5.1 rebounds, levels that only Westbrook, Harden, and Curry have reached this season.
The clear leader of the Bulls now that Derrick Rose is officially…well, Derrick Rose. Butler has suffered a few bad games, but when he is good, he is getting himself into Bulls record books next to a guy known as MJ. He is one of the top two-way players in the game.
Frontcourt-Lebron James, Cavs
Leading the first place Cavs, Lebron has been the only player on his team playing at an All-Star level. Love and Kyrie may get in based on their reputations, but they have not played like All-Stars so far this season. This shows why Lebron should get that much more credit than usual for leading a first-place team.
Frontcourt-Paul George, Pacers
George has cooled off from his hot start, but he is still the next best forward in the East next to Lebron. He has shot the three ball efficiently and at a high volume while increasing his points, rebounding, assists, and steals to career high levels and leading his Pacers back into the playoff picture.
Frontcourt-Andre Drummond, Pistons
Drummond anchors the surprising Pistons. He leads the league in rebounding at 15.5 RPG, one of the highest averages since “the Worm” patrolled the glass. Unlike Rodman, Drummond also scores at a clip of 17.6 points per game.
Paul Millsap, Hawks
Millsap contributes to the Hawks in so many ways. Not only is he their top scorer, but he leads the team in rebounds and steals and can step out and shoot from outside. His versatility keeps the Hawks in contention despite some struggles this season.
John Wall, Wizards
Wall has kept the Wizards competitive even though his roster on some nights looks like a D-League team. He is 20-10 and among the league leaders in steals at 2.2 per game. In this Eastern Conference 20-10 is too good NOT to make this team.
Quietly having a career year, this will be special to play in the All-Star game with his teammate Lowry in front of the home crowd. Like Lowry, DeRosen may rank among the better kept secrets in the league and most people don’t realize that only Harden gets to the line more than this fearless wing.
Hassan Whiteside, Heat
Chris Bosh or Dwyane Wade is more likely to make this team, but if Whiteside doesn’t make the team when leading the league in blocks (by huge margin), 4th in rebounds, and 3rd in FG% it would be almost as sad as DeAndre Jordan NOT making it last season. Whiteside is the Heat’s most impactful player and deserves to go to the big game.
Pau Gasol, Bulls
His 16.7 scoring average is a career low, but he is also averaging a career best 2.3 blocks and a more than respectable 10.8 rebounds. His veteran leadership, professionalism, and consistency have kept the Bulls on track despite the in-and-out Rose and the this-is-my-team Jimmy Butler drama.
It doesn’t seem to matter what jersey Thomas is wearing, how many teams write him off as being too small, or how often he is banished to the bench, this guy can just flat-out play. He forces coaches to play him and with Danny Ainge giving him a shot in Boston (another gritty, clutch performing guard in his day), Thomas has become the Celtics best player and he and his 21.7/6.7 averages are deserving of a first playoff appearance.
Carmelo Anthony, Knicks
Had Kyrie played more games, he may take this last spot, but I’m going to go with Melo in a down year. He has a slight edge on Reggie Jackson, Kemba Walker, and Dwyane Wade, but the Knicks are respectable and even in a down year Carmelo’s performance is still All-Star worthy. He shouldn’t be starting, but he still deserves a spot on the team.
Walker, Wade, Jackson, Bosh, and Kyrie
Walker is having a career year and had an impressive performance earlier this week with 52, 9, and 9. Wade’s snub is more a function of other players doing more and Wade still has not figured out how to play with Dragic. The Wade, Bosh, and the Heat are blowing an opportunity to move up in a conference with room for another good team at the top. Reggie Jackson has been huge for the Pistons, but it’s tough to justify two all-stars for the Pistons. Kyrie simply hasn’t played in enough games and even the ones he has played he hasn’t looked like an all-star.
No Wade, no Bosh, no Rose and instead Drummond, Whiteside, and Thomas. The East is experiencing a changing of the guard and it seems that only Lebron is deserving from the old East stalwarts to start and Melo almost doesn’t make this team. Because of the fan vote we still get Carmelo and Wade as starters, but hopefully that won’t last forever and some of this new blood can get a chance to shine.
The All-Star table in the West just keeps getting more crowded. The old guys are still playing well (except Kobe of course) and Dirk is the best player on a surprising Mavs team and Duncan leads the league in defensive efficiency somehow at age 74. Other than the starters (who to me are clear) it’s very tough to determine who is deserving and who is not. By my count there are at least 19 West players deserving of an all-star selection this season and Kobe Bryant is not one of them. Unfortunately, I can name only 12 to my team.
Backcourt-Steph Curry, Warriors
One of the few easy decisions. He is the best player on one of the best teams in NBA history. He’s the first half MVP, electrifying the league and changing the way the game is played in the process.
Backcourt-Russell Westbrook, Thunder
Another easy selection. Westbrook is a triple double machine, ranking among the league leaders in scoring, assists, and steals and is the top rebounding guard in the NBA. He and Durant are the only ones keeping the West interesting beyond the Warriors and Spurs.
Maybe some would take Anthony Davis over Leonard because Leonard’s stats are not as impressive, but Leonard has taken over as the go-to guy on a historically good Spurs team. He somehow dramatically improved his efficiency from the floor and from deep and is shooting among the league leaders from beyond the arc and is the premiere perimeter defender in the game. He’s deserving of a starting spot.
Frontcourt-Draymond Green, Warriors
Many first All-Star selections are iffy, but Draymond has been so good this year that he deserves to start. He may be in the top 5 for MVP of the first half. His ability to make plays on and off the ball and shoot from deep make him the ideal pick-and-roll partner for Curry (just ask Kevin Love) and his ability to guard big men is what allows the Warriors to play small. Losing his starting spot to Kobe is tragic.
Frontcourt-Kevin Durant, Thunder
After a small injury set-back, Durant has been consistently great for the Thunder. He is hundredths of a point on his Free Throw Percentage away from another 50/40/90 season. If he can pull that off he would join Larry Bird and Steve Nash as the only players in history with multiple 50-40-90 seasons.
Few players are as explosive as Klay when he gets rolling. When he locks in, he is simply unguardable. He is also one of the top wing defenders in the league and one of the keys to the Warriors record-setting start. Harden used to clearly be the top 2-guard in the league, now it’s not so clear.
Anthony Davis, Pelicans
Injuries to Davis and his teammates derailed Davis’s MVP chances, but Davis is still putting up All-Star numbers. His 23.1points/10.4 rebound/2.4 blocks statline is still one of the best in the game, but Davis is settling for far too many jumpers as reflected in his drop in FG% to 49.1% from last year’s 53.5%.
James Harden, Rockets
Harden still doesn’t play defense, but his offensive accomplishments are too hard to ignore. He is second in the league in scoring and still averages 6 boards and almost 7 assists per game. His efficiency numbers are terrible, probably a function of not getting the help he was hoping for when the Rockets brought in Lawson this last off-season.
DeMarcus Cousins, Kings
Cousins may be the most talented big man in the game. The Kings are a different team with him in the line-up. His 26.2/11.2 averages make him the most productive Center in the West.
Gordon Hayward, Jazz
This last front court spot was the hardest. Griffin, Hayward, Aldridge, and Jordan all get consideration here. In the end, I’ll take Hayward. Maybe a homer pick for me, but the Jazz are still in the playoff picture despite injuries to Exum, Burks, Favors, and Gobert and Hayward has been the one constant for a rag-tag Jazz team. His 20/5/3.5 statline is not bad either. Obviously, Hayward will likely not get the spot because Kobe Bryant will take one spot on the West team.
Chris Paul, Clippers
Paul has been the Clippers best player and has stepped it up a notch since Griffin went out. His 18.2/9.6/3.8 line with 2.1 steals is ho-hum for Paul but should not be taken for granted. Once Griffin returns, the Clippers are one of the few teams with a chance to make the West playoffs interesting before the Warriors-Spurs showdown.
Damian Lillard, Blazers
Similar to the way Hayward is carrying the load for Utah, the Blazers lost four starters from last year’s team and Lillard has stepped up his game to keep the Blazers in the discussion for a playoff spot. He is 6th in scoring, 8th in assists and 3rd in 3PTM per game. He is creating virtually all of the Blazers offense.
Griffin, Aldridge, Jordan, Gasol, Rondo, Duncan, Nowitzki
The West is just so tough. Griffin and Jordan miss out because the Clips were so inconsistent when they were both in the line-up. The Clips deserve only one All-Star and that is Paul. Griffin has been hurt and Jordan’s numbers have dipped from last year’s snub, but it is tough to leave them out. Aldridge and Duncan have both been huge for the Spurs, who quietly are off to the best first half start in Spurs history (and if you haven’t noticed, they’ve had some decent teams), but the Spurs system just doesn’t produce the individual performances that fit All-Star Game selections (which is why Parker has made only 5 all-star teams in his brilliant career). Gasol doesn’t make it because of the step back Memphis has taken, especially defensively. Rondo has bounced back nicely from the Dallas debacle to prove to everyone that he is still one of the best playmakers in the game, but the Kings can’t get two all-stars either. It pains me to leave Dirk off the team because he has played so well for a team many experts were predicting would finish near the bottom of the division.
Because of the fan vote, this list will never be a reality. My intention was not to predict the all-star rosters, but rather identify those players deserving of spots. This is tough with so many deserving players only so many spots to go around.