This past Thursday, the NBA All Star starters were announced with some controversy. Assembling the lineups becomes even more difficult when you go a level deeper and try to differentiate who deserves to make the team and who doesn’t. Here are the remaining players from each conference that deserve to make their respective teams.
Starters: Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Anthony Davis, James Harden
Russell Westbrook (5-time All Star, 30.6 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 10.4 apg)
The ultimate All-Star Starter snub, Westbrook leads the league in scoring while averaging a triple double, a feat only Oscar Robertson has accomplished (in case you haven’t heard that enough). He’s the most exciting player to watch in the NBA, regardless of how you feel about his style of playing at one speed: being the most angry and vengeful player on the court every night. Sure, he’s shooting 42% from the field and 32% from 3, but do you really care? He’s going to be playing on the same team as KD for the first time since they split, OKC and Golden State play the week before the All Star Game (so Russ will still be charged up after taking another blowout loss), KD’s teammate Steph Curry stole Russ’ starter spot, AND we’re fresh off Zaza Pachulia standing over Westbrook after he sent him to the floor after a hard foul. This screams a 43 points 17 rebounds 3 assists on 12-40 shooting night for Russ as he takes home MVP and doesn’t once look at KD or any Warriors player the entire weekend.
Klay Thompson (2-time All Star, 21.1 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.0 apg)
Draymond Green (1-time All Star, 10.8 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 7.7 apg, 2.0 spg, 1.4 bpg)
DeMarcus Cousins (2-time All Star, 27.8 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 4.3 apg)
He’s never seen 30 wins in a season as a pro, but Cousins still gets another All Star appearance. He’s a good player on a bad team putting up stats, but the stats are too hard to ignore. His overall shooting percentage is a little lower than you’d like at 45%, but he’s now taking almost five 3s a game and making them at nearly 38%. Boogie gets in and enjoys the one weekend a year when he’s surrounded by players better than Omri Casspi.
DeAndre Jordan (12.6 ppg, 13.9 rpg, 1.8 bpg)
Damian Lillard (2-time All Star, 26.2 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 5.9 apg)
Chris Paul (9-time All Star, 18.7 ppg, 9.7 apg, 5.3 rpg)
Paul won’t play, as he was recently injured and will miss the next 6-8 weeks, but he’ll still get a nod, making him a 10-time All Star.
Marc Gasol (2-time All Star, 19.8 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 4.3 apg)
Gasol gets in because of the Paul injury. Mike Conley may deserve this spot more than his teammate, but Gasol has played in 10 more games and is a previous All Star, so he may get the benefit of the doubt.
CJ McCollum: More efficient than Dame, but just doesn’t have the same star power.
Gordon Hayward: The Jazz are 5th in the West and are the best defensive scoring team in the league by almost 4 points…
Rudy Gobert: …….and are a bad second round matchup for the Warriors…….
Karl-Anthony Towns: Still too young to get the benefit of the doubt as a good player on a, for now, bad team.
Starters: DeMar DeRozan, Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jimmy Butler
Isaiah Thomas (1-time All Star, 28.7 ppg, 6.0 apg, 2.7 rpg)
Speaking of snubs, Isaiah deserved to be a starter just like Russ did. Thomas has been the second leading scorer in the NBA behind Russ and is the heart of a Celtics team hanging on to the 3 seed in the East. At 5’9” (in shoes), Isaiah has become one of the most exhilarating players to watch, not to mention he’s become a cold-blooded killer in the fourth quarter. He’ll get another All-Star appearance, but he should’ve been a starter this time.
John Wall (3-time All Star, 23.1 ppg, 10.3 apg, 4.5 rpg, 2.3 spg)
Kyle Lowry (2-time All Star, 22.3 ppg, 7.0 apg, 4.8 rpg, 1.7 spg)
Paul George (3-time All Star, 22.0 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 3.3 rpg, 1.8 spg)
Kevin Love (3-time All Star, 20.7 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 1.7 apg)
Andre Drummond (2-time All Star, 14.5 ppg, 13.6 rpg, 1.5 spg, 1.2 bpg)
The East leader in double-doubles, the young center (still only 23 years old) has been playing slightly fewer minutes and shooting less, but has become more efficient in every part of his game, including raising his FT% from a grotesque 35.5% to a slightly better, but still putrid, 43.5%. The Pistons have underperformed thus far, but with an increasingly active Andre on defense (he had 7 blocks and 3 steals in a recent game) coupled with an easy schedule the rest of the way, they should have a good chance to push for a playoff spot as the season goes on.
Joel Embiid (19.8 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 2.1 apg, 2.5 bpg)
The Process!!! Embiid has been spectacular, but his limited playing time slightly hurts his case. I’m willing to overlook that; in 25 minutes a game, he’s leading the East in blocks per game, putting up incredible numbers per 36 minutes (28/11/3.5 bpg) and the Sixers have been on a tear, winning 8 of 10 and sitting a few games behind the 8 seed. The playoffs are possible in Philadelphia, at least until an impending long losing streak that seems inevitable given Philly’s recent history. Plus there’s a lot on the line for young Embiid that should be considered, as he has claimed Rihanna won’t date him unless he becomes an All-Star. He gets in over other big men like Porzingis and Whiteside.
Kemba Walker: Gets left out, as the East can’t possibly have 5 point guards on the roster.
Hassan Whiteside: Similar stats to Drummond, but playing on a cellar dwelling team.
Kristaps Porzingis: PorzinGod gets beat out by his created-in-a-basketball-lab counterpart The Process, although I’d love to see a lineup with Isaiah, LeBron, Giannis, Porzingis, and Embiid on the floor at the same time. It would be absolute mayhem.
Game Prediction: 202-187 West with every scoring and 3 point All Star record being shattered.
MVP: Russell Westbrook
Most memorable plays/highlights: besides all the times Russ ices out KD (if Steve Kerr even dares to play the two of them together), Giannis will provide the most highlights and it might not end up being close. It’s entirely plausible he tries to dunk after picking up his dribble at half court and jumping from 18 feet. He’s a dark horse MVP if the East can somehow stay in the game against the barrage of 3s the West should be taking (and making).