Article Written by Hudson Stewart (@hudson_stewart6)
The fan voting for the 2019 NBA All-Star game recently opened, so i think it’s a good time for me to give my picks for this year’s event. In total, there are 24 players that make the game; 12 from each conference. The format is no longer East vs. West, but you still need 12 players from each conference to make the game. As for the positions of the players, you need 2 guards and 3 forwards in the starting lineup, and then I’ll also do that for 5 of the reserves, which leads 2 spots for players of any position.
Note: -Stats are as of January 2nd
-Stats are in order of Points/Rebounds/Assists
Eastern Conference All-Stars
PG: Kyrie Irving, Celtics
Despite the Celtics underachieving to this point in the season, Kyrie Irving has been outstanding for them, and has gotten them a few wins that they probably didn't deserve. Kyrie normally takes the big shots late in the game for Boston, and he’s currently one of the most clutch players in the entire league.
SG: Kemba Walker, Hornets
The Hornets are currently in a playoff spot, with a record of 18-18, and most of those wins have come as a byproduct of Walker’s outstanding play. He’s the team’s main scoring option, and really their only reliable one, which should definitely be enough put him in this spot.
SF: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks *Captain
The Bucks currently hold the NBA’s best record, and they’re being driven by the MVP level play of Giannis. He still hasn’t developed a jump shot, but when he drives to the paint, there’s really no one who can stop him. He’s also drawing more free throws than he ever has in his career, with 9.1 attempts per game.
PF: Kawhi Leonard, Raptors
A lot of people say that Kawhi isn’t yet playing at his 2016-17 level - when he was a top-3 MVP candidate, -but when you look at his stat line, you can see that he’s actually playing better than he did that season. He’s averaging career highs in points and rebounds, while leading the Raptors to the 2nd-best record in the NBA. Kawhi has missed 9 games this season due to rest and a few minor injuries, but that really shouldn’t devalue his season. When he has played, he’s been absolutely dominant on both ends of the floor.
C: Joel Embiid, 76ers
Embiid has put together a ton of ridiculous stat lines this year, which has lead to him averaging upwards of 13 rebounds per game at this point in the season. Embiid has had to adjust to playing with Jimmy Butler, but it hasn’t affected him that much, and it’ll only get better from here. Embiid’s two-way game is unbelievable, and in my opinion he’s on his way to becoming the best centre in the NBA.
Reserve 1: Kyle Lowry, Raptors
Just like his teammate Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry has been battling injuries this season. But, when Lowry has played he’s shown to be one of the best passers in the NBA and a nightmare to play against. Lowry went through a brief stretch of poor shooting but then bounced back by beating the Warriors on the road without Kawhi. Many people thought Lowry would struggle without his friend DeMar DeRozan, but his play has been just as good if not better without him.
Reserve 2: Victor Oladipo, Pacers
One of the most underrated story-lines in the NBA is that the Indiana Pacers currently have the 4th-best record in the entire league. Oladipo has regressed a bit from last season, but he’s still been very good for his team. His scoring is down about 4 points per game from last year, but he’s made up for it with career-highs in assists and rebounds.
Reserve 3: Jimmy Butler, 76ers
Butler has turned around the 76ers season since being traded there, and a lot of that has to do with his defensive intensity and ability to take and make big shots. Philly wasn’t going anywhere with just Simmons and Embiid, but with Butler now in the mix, they’ve got a guy who can take over a game at any given time. Butler’s 3-point shooting has also improved this year, as he’s shot a career best 36% this season.
Reserve 4: Blake Griffin, Pistons
After Blake Griffin was traded from the Clippers to the Pistons, it was hard to imagine him getting back to his previous form. But this year under Dwane Casey, Griffin has excelled, putting up a career high in points. Griffin has also began to shoot the 3 more, averaging 6.2 attempts from deep per game, which is also a career high.
Reserve 5: Nikola Vucevic, Magic
In my opinion, Vucevic is one of the most underrated players in the league right now. He’s quietly put up 20 point per game and 12 rebounds per game, while also shooting at the most efficient rate of his career. In fact, Vucevic’s total field goal percentage is up 7% from last season. He’s also shooting a career-best 38% from 3, to go all along with the other improvements in his game.
Reserve 6: Ben Simmons, 76ers
It seems unjust to give the 4th-seeded team in the East 3 All-Stars, but there really isn’t that much competition in terms of star players in the conference, so I decided to just give it to Simmons. I could’ve gone with Bradley Beal here, but his team is the 12 seed in a pretty weak conference, so I decided to give it to Simmons because his team is actually in contention. Simmons is clearly the 3rd scoring option on his team, but he’s still put some put up some pretty good numbers. Despite not having any shooting ability, he’s still averaging 16 points per game. He’s also seen a slight uptick in rebounds this year, with just over 9 per game, as the second-leading rebounder on the 76ers, behind Embiid of course.
Reserve 7: Dwyane Wade, Heat
Normally I wouldn’t go for the sentimental pick for the All-Star game, but since there’s no one that really jumps out to me as a potential snub, I’ll give the last spot on the roster to Dwyane Wade, who’s going through his last NBA season. Wade has had a Hall-of-Fame career, winning 3 championships and making 12 All-Star Games. Wade’s play won’t put him in this year, but I’m sure whoever the coach is will honour Wade’s great career and select him to play in the game. He’ll probably defer most of his minutes to the other guys, but it’ll be nice to see the fans give him a proper send off, similarly to how Kobe Bryant was treated at the 2016 All-Star Game in Toronto.
14.1/3.6/3.9- Not the reason he’s getting in
Western Conference All-Stars
PG: Stephen Curry, Warriors
Curry’s scoring totals went down in the seasons after he won 2 straight MVPs, but this season, he’s averaging 2 more points per game than last year, and shooting the 3 better. If not for an early season injury, Curry would likely be one of the favourites for MVP, and he could still get back to that point. There’s a lot of great point guards in the NBA, but Curry is still the best in my opinion, and that narrative has only gotten stronger from his performance so far this year.
SG: James Harden, Rockets
Recently, many people have been complaining about James Harden’s uncalled travels, as well as how many free throws he’s being given. But, the reality of the situation is that while Harden may get a lot of calls, he’s currently having one of if not the best season of his career. Harden won the MVP last season, but is still putting up 3 more points per game than he did last season. The Rockets are currently without Chris Paul, but Harden has stepped up in a big way to keep the team afloat.
SF: Paul George, Thunder
George is currently averaging career-highs across the board. Not only is he scoring at the highest rate of his career, but he’s also getting more rebounds and assists than he ever has before. If the Thunder continue to play well and win games, I could easily see George being in the MVP conversation.
PF: LeBron James, Lakers *Captain
At this point, it’s expected that LeBron is an All-Star starter. He’s already been to the game 14 times, and this year won’t be any different. LeBron is currently out with a groin injury, but he should be back in time for All-Star weekend. He’s lead this young Lakers team to a record of 21-16, and that’s only good enough for the 7th seed, but with how close the west is, a 4 or 5 game winning streak could put them near the top.
C: Nikola Jokic, Nuggets
Quitely, the Nuggets have put together the best record in the West so far, and while Jamal Murray and Paul Millsap have been great this year, the main reason for their success is Nikola Jokic. Jokic can do everything on the court; he can score, rebound, and also pass at a very high level. He’s probably the best passing big man in the league, with 7.6 assists per game, which is 3 more than his own point guard Jamal Murray. The starting centre spot was between Jokic and Anthony Davis, and I went with Jokic just because his team has been much more successful than Davis’.
Reserve 1: Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers
Lillard has been snubbed from the All-Star Game many times in his career, but that shouldn’t be the case this year. He’s averaging more than 26 points per game for the 3rs straight year, and he’s also shooting 3’s at the best rate of his whole career. Lillard’s team is also in a playoff stop, and just like the Lakers, they could make a run to the top of the conference if they go on a winning streak.
Reserve 2: Russell Westbrook, Thunder
Westbrook is having an off season by his standards. His shooting percentages are down across the board, and he’s especially struggled from 3, where he’s only shooting 24%. The crazy thing is despite what appears to be a “bad” season for him, Westbrook is still averaging a triple double and playing the best defense of his career. Westbrook is currently averaging 2.8 steals per game, which is 1 more than his average from last year, and good for 1st overall in the NBA. (His teammate Paul George is 2nd with 2.2)
Reserve 3: Kevin Durant, Warriors
It was fun to watch Durant be the clear #1 scorer for a few weeks there when Curry was out. It was like he was back in OKC, where he was always the best player on the floor. KD has put together some great performances this season, and while most of the news around him is about his upcoming free agency, it’s important to recognize how good he’s playing right now as well. Durant is averaging his most points per game since coming to Golden State, while also dishing out the most assists per game of his Warriors tenure.
Reserve 4: Anthony Davis, Pelicans
Just like with Durant, most of the news and discussion around Anthony Davis has to with his future and whether or not he’ll be traded. But, what’s also important is to look at how well Davis has played this season, putting up some Shaq-like statlines. On offense, Davis is almost unstoppable. He’s averaging the most points per game of his career, and has now begin to shoot the 3 more than he ever has. He’s also setting new career highs in rebounds and assists. Then, on the defensive end, Davis is 2nd in the NBA in blocks with 2.6 per game and 10th in the league with 1.7 steals per game. Unfortunately for him though, his team sits 14th in the Western Conference, and most of his efforts go unnoticed.
Reserve 5: Karl-Anthony Towns, Timberwolves
Since Jimmy Butler was traded aways, Karl-Anthony Towns has excelled. Now that he’s back to being the #1 scoring option, he has been able to settle in and put together more consistent outings. He’s also averaging the most steals and blocks of his career on defense, while still putting up 22 points and 12 rebounds.
Reserve 6: De’Aaron Fox, Kings
This is a tough one because Fox’s statline doesn’t really jump out as being All-Star level, but what he’s done to put the Kings in playoff contention can’t be overlooked. Fox has also clearly made a big stride from last season in pretty much all areas of his game. Not only is he getting more points and assist this year, he’s being much more efficient shooting the ball. His 3-point percentage is up 8% from last year, and his overall field goal percentage is up 6%. Fox’s playmaking and leadership can’t be ignored, and I think he’s done enough with this Kings team to warrant an All-Star spot.
Reserve 7: Tobias Harris, Clippers
The Clippers are another team that has surprised some people with how good they’ve been. They don’t yet have a true superstar, but the closest thing to that is Tobias Harris. Harris’ scoring ability has improved in every way this season; not only is he averaging a career high in points per game, he’s also shooting more efficiently than he has before. He’s shooting 42% from 3, has a total field goal percentage of 50%, and if he was a bit better at the free throw line, he’d be a part of the 50/40/90 club.
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