Ah, the NBA All-star game. While better than the Pro Bowl, but still a 2/10 event if we’re being quite honest. Nevertheless, it’s always interesting to follow the story-lines leading up to all-star weekend. So, even though all this buildup and hype is leading up to a meaningless game in which the participants give about 20% effort, we must still obsess over it for weeks in advance. Without further introduction, let me give you my (very) early roster predictions for the 2016-2017 NBA all-star game.
Western conference starters:
PG: Russell Westbrook
Do I even need to explain here? No, I’m not even going to waste my time.
SG: James Harden
Harden built off an impressive 2015-2016 campaign and transformed into a whole other beast. He averages 27 points per game to go along with 12 assists per game, he’s led the Rockets are an impressive 22-9, and he’s been a solid defender (yes you heard that right). His stats alone would probably be enough to earn him a spot in the west’s starting 5, but his role in the rockets success this season solidifies it.
SF: Kevin Durant
Wasn’t there supposed to be that whole issue with the Warriors where there was only one ball? No one told Kevin Durant that. He’s averaging a clean 26 points per game on 53-40-87 shooting splits. He’s also averaging his career high in rebounds per game with 8.6 per game. Oh ya, and he’s also the best player on the best team in basketball. Sorry Kawhi, we are done here
PF: Anthony Davis
I really shouldn’t even have to explain this one, AD has been unreal this season. He averages 29.7 points and 11.6 rebounds per game and also leads the league in blocks per game with 2.7. He’s been a one man team this year and is fully deserving of a starting spot in the all-star game.
C: Demarcus Cousins
Say whatever you want about boogie, that man is good at basketball, very good. He averages 29 points and 10.6 rebounds per game while carrying the Kings to (currently) THE 8TH SEED. Keep calling him a locker room cancer, he’ll just keep on proving you wrong. He’s undoubtedly the best center in the league, it’s not even close.
Stephen Curry: It almost feels wrong making the back to back MVP on the subs. His stats are still great and easily deserving of an all-star appearance, but he has not performed better than Russ or Harden so far this season
Chris Paul: Another guy who really doesn’t deserve to be a sub, but he is in the same boat as Steph. He’s been great but not close to the level or either starting guard
Damian Lillard: The Blazers have struggled a bit of late, but Dame continues to have a career year. After being unfairly snubbed last year, Dame’s impressive stats will prevent him from being snubbed once more
Kawhi Leonard: I almost feel bad now. You could argue Kawhi should start over KD but all Kawhi has had over Durant this season is defense. However, Kawhi still remains the second best small forward in the west and will easily clinch an all-star spot.
Karl-Anthony Towns: It was only a matter of time before KAT made the all-star game. He averaging 22-11 and is scratching the ceiling of elite status. He’s not on Boogie’s or AD’s level yet, but he’s not far behind and easily deserving of a spot on the subs bench.
Marc Gasol: Marc Gasol has been quietly putting up quite an impressive season. He averages 20 points per game with elite defense. He carried the load for Memphis while Conley was out and no doubt deserves a spot on the team.
Draymond Green: Now, this is subject to change on when Blake Griffin gets back from his injury, but for now I’m rolling with Draymond. He’s done everything for the warriors this season, averaging 11-9-7-2-1 and is currently the lead candidate for defensive player of the year. As long as Blake is out, Draymond firmly holds on to the last reserve spot for the west.
Honorable mentions: Klay Thompson, Blake Griffin, C.J. McCollum
Eastern Conference Starters:
G: Kyle Lowry: I know I know, BUT KYRIE IRVING. Simply put, Lowry has been better so far this season. He averages nearly 22 points per game to go along with 7.3 assists and is shooting 45.5% from downtown. He’s also the point guard a top 2 offense in the league and is the backbone of the Toronto Raptors. Sorry guys, for now, Lowry>Kyrie.
G: Demar Derozan:
Oooh a Raptors backcourt!! Who predicted this at the start of the season? Derozan has cooled off after an incredibly hot start to the season. Unfortunately for the rest of the league, Derozan’s definition of cooling down is averaging 27.8 points per game on 48% shooting. There really hasn’t been another shooting guard in the east that has challenged Demar for his title and there won’t be for the rest of the season. Derozan will easily lock up this spot, whenever voting ends
F: Lebron James: We both know I don’t have to explain this.
F: Giannis Antekonanouwnhbqk: Yes I spelled his last name wrong on purpose, but don’t let that distract you from how good Giannis has really been this season. He’s averaging a stat-line of 23-5-9-2-2, so uh, there’s that. He’s been doing almost everything for the Bucks this season (hey Jabari) and fully deserves this spot. His combination of speed, strength, and skill make him a force to be reckoned with, and the stats show it. Rest assured all 15 of you Bucks fans, come February, you will be watching Giannis as an all-star starter.
C: Kristaps Porzingis: Kristaps has split time at the 4 and 5 but for the sake of my article, he’ll be the starter at the 5 for the east all-star team. He averaged 20 points and 6 rebounds per game while sending back 1.9 shots per game as well. He’s been a force on both ends of the court and you could argue he’s surpassed Melo as the Knicks best player. There is no one more deserving of this starting spot than Porzingis, and the voters will prove it.
Eastern Conference reserves:
Isaiah Thomas: Isaiah built on his positive season last year and has evolved his game massively. He averages 27 points per game and is leading the Celtics to the 3 seed in the east. He no doubt deserves this spot
John Wall: Poor John Wall, such an incredibly talented player surrounded by a lackluster team and organization. Fortunately for him, he’ll be surrounded by some better players when he is voted to the all-star game. He deserves it too, averaging 24 points, 10 assists, and a league leading 2.3 steals per game. An all-star snub would be criminal, Wall is easily deserving of a spot on the reserves.
Kyrie Irving: If he was leading a team on his own like Wall or Thomas, Irving’s stats might even be more impressive than they already are. He averages 24 points and 6 assists per game on an efficient 48% shooting. It won’t be long until Kyrie earns that starting spot for the East, but for now, he’ll have to settle (rightfully) for a spot on the reserves.
Carmelo Anthony: Even at this age, Melo still averages a clean 22 per game. He may not be the player he once was, but his stats still grant him a sub spot on a weaker East team.
Jimmy Butler: There was a debate during the summer one whether the Bulls would be Jimmy Butler or Dwayne Wade’s team, there’s no debate now. Jimmy averages an efficient 24 points along with 4 assists and 7 rebounds, that goes without mentioning his elite defense. There’s not even a question here, Jimmy easily deserves his spot on the team of the east’s finest players.
Kevin Love: No matter what team you support, you have to be happy to see Kevin Love back to his former self. He’s averaging 22 points to go along with 11 rebounds per game and has finally found his footing with the Cavs. It took a while, but the old K-Love just might be back. His play this season no doubt earn him a spot on the all-star team. Welcome back, Kevin.
Hassan Whiteside: In a season where not much has gone right for the Miami Heat, Hassan Whiteside has been a silver lining. He averages a league best 14.9 rebounds per game to go along with 18 points and 2.4 blocks per game. It’s a shame to see Hassan spend his prime years on a team that is undergoing a rebuild, hopefully an all-star berth come February will make it up to him. There’s no question he deserves it.
Honorable mentions: Kemba Walker, Paul Millsap, Jabari Parker
Follow me on twitter @jackb_32
*all stats acquired from Basketball-reference.com