Starters: Stephen Curry, GS; James Harden, HOU
For the third consecutive year, the West backcourt will be comprised of the same two players. Few players, if any, exemplify the modern era of basketball better than Curry and Harden. Curry is having his best season since the unanimous MVP-year in 2016. While he’s cooled down a bit over the past couple of weeks, Curry is shooting with blistering efficiency (48.9/45/91.7) without sacrificing volume (29.4 PPG, second in the league).
Harden has been the league’s undisputed best player over the past month — breaking Kobe’s record of consecutive 30-point games (16), and averaging 41.3 PPG, 9.2 APG, and 7.5 RPG in the process. He’s carried a Rockets team that looked lost early in the season, and has put himself in prime position to join Curry as a two-time MVP.
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Reserves: Russell Westbrook, OKC; Damian Lillard, POR
Not too shabby to have your two reserves combine for 10 All-Star appearances. It’s been an up-and-down year for Russ. He’s suddenly forgotten how to shoot. Westbrook’s 23.3 percent conversion mark from three is the worst among players with at least 100 attempts. The free throw line continues to be a problem for a guy that used to routinely knock down 80+ percent of his attempts from the charity stripe. That being said, Westbrook has maintained his signature level of relentlessness, and is still averaging a triple-double while being a factor on the defensive end.
Lillard is simply magnificent. He’s as good as anybody in clutch moments and is on pace to record a fourth consecutive season of 25+ PPG.
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Wildcard: DeMar DeRozan, SAS
The 7th-seeded Spurs likely deserve two All-Stars, but in a crowded field would be fortunate to pull off just one. LaMarcus Aldridge has been every bit as good as last year when he made the All-Star team, but DeRozan has been a tad bit better. The former Raptor is averaging a career-high in rebounds (6.2) and assists (6.4) and has continued to show strides in terms of shot selection.
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Starters: Kyrie Iving, BOS; Kemba Walker, CHA
The East have a pair of dynamic point guards that have been running wild this season. Irving is in the midst of a marvelous statistical season. He’s approaching the 50-40-90 club for the second consecutive year. Moreover, Kyrie has kept the under-performing Celtics afloat in a suddenly-competitive race atop the East. Walker has carried a lowly Hornets squad to a likely playoff berth. His 60-point performance versus the 76ers earlier in the season is one of the best individually played games of the year.
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Reserves: Ben Simmons, PHI; Bradley Beal, WAS
The reigning Rookie of the Year has made the move into the backcourt for his “sophomore” season. Simmons’ numbers are mostly stagnant across the board, though he had a strong case to make the team as a rookie. Beal has taken over the reigns in Washington following John Wall’s season-ending surgery. He’s been so impressive that Washington could look to move on from Wall as soon as possible.
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Wildcard: Victor Oladipo, IND; Kyle Lowry, TOR
Two guards that made the All-Star team last year, but have missed a chunk of the schedule in 2019. Oladipo and Lowry have played at an All-Star level, though their numbers may not show it. There isn’t a whole lot of depth in terms of East guards, though D’Angelo Russell and Zach LaVine could certainly make a case for a spot. We’ll stick with the two established stars on the best and third-best teams in the conference.
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Starters: LeBron James, LAL; Kevin Durant, GS; Nikola Jokic, DEN
James’ inclusion in the mid-season classic is all but certain. Although King James has missed several games nursing a groin injury, it’s difficult to imagine another player winning the fan vote. James will likely serve as one of the two captains. Durant is the second best player in the world, even though the Warriors looked beatable when KD took over the offense in Curry’s absence. His sustained level of efficiency — seven straight seasons shooting 50 percent or better from the field — is historic.
The Nuggets deserve at least one All-Star for being one of the two best teams in the Western Conference thus far. Jokic is a unicorn that is able to dominate games in any number of ways. His 7.5 APG average would be a single-season record for centers.
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Reserves: Paul George, OKC; Anthony Davis, NOP; Karl-Anthony Towns, MIN
George has taken his game to an entirely new level in his second year in Oklahoma City. Often times, the brash Westbrook defers to George in clutch situations. Averaging a career-high in points, and playing his signature stingy defense, George is a near lock for his sixth All-Star appearance. The Pelicans have been a disappointment, but Davis is still the All-NBA First Team center through the halfway point and can’t be left off the All-Star team. Towns has been an absolute monster since Jimmy Butler was shipped out of town. Since November 9 (Butler’s last game with Minnesota), Towns is putting up 24/13 with 2.0 blocks on 51 percent shooting from the field.
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Wildcard: Luka Dončić, DAL
With apologies to Rudy Gobert, Steven Adams, Clint Capela, and Tobias Harris, Dončić has been simply too good to exclude. The All-Star game is all about providing an entertaining exhibition for the fans, and Luka is in high-demand.
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Starters: Kawhi Leonard, SAS; Giannis Antetokounmpo, MIL; Joel Embiid, PHI
This wasn’t a tough a decision. The three best players in the entire conference are represented in the front court. All three guys are MVP candidates, and have guided their teams into a position to secure home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Not much needs to be said here but the Eastern Conference has some serious ballers right now.
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Reserves: Blake Griffin, LAC; Jimmy Butler, MIN; Nikola Vučević ORL
Griffin has undergone a career renaissance at just 29 years of age. The former high-flyer has developed a more grounded game, which has allowed Griffin to show other flashes of his complete game. He’s a stat-sheet stuffer that has finally shown a bit more willingness on the defensive end. Butler’s numbers won’t ‘wow’ you, but his impact on the court far exceeds his counting stats. Khris Middleton will be upset, but Butler has a bigger impact on both ends and is a more reliable playmaker.
Vučević has been an offensive savant for the Magic. The 7-footer is posting career-highs in points (20.1), assists (3.8), rebounds (11.9), and field goal percentage (52.6). His ever-expanding outside game continues to improve, as Vučević is knocking down 1.2 threes per game at an impressive 38 percent clip. Vučević’s inclusion into the All-Star game would be incredibly significant for the Magic franchise. Orlando’s last All-Star was Dwight Howard in 2012, and Vučević was the biggest prize the Magic received in the deal that sent Howard to Los Angeles in the ensuing offseason.
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