In February, the stars of the NBA will be heading down to New Orleans to play in the game’s ultimate showcase of talent. While it hasn’t been determined yet who’ll get the nod to play in this year’s All-Star game, here’s who I believe should be starting in the highlight filled spectacle.
WESTERN CONFERENCE STARTERS:
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
Westbrook has been nothing short of sensational this season, as he continues to put up mind-blowing stats that NBA fans of this era have never seen before. Not only is he leading the league in scoring and second in assists, but somehow he’s also managing to grab over 10 rebounds a game. His unrelenting desire to win and willingness to do nearly everything for his team has led to him getting numerous triple-doubles.
It’s hard enough for a player to get just one triple-double, but what Westbrook has done so far this year is almost inconceivable. Westbrook has 16 triple-doubles so far this season, twice as many as the second most (James Harden). Needless to say, it would be a crime for Westbrook NOT to be starting in this year’s All-Star game.
Video Clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TNEoPpUg0W0
James Harden, Houston Rockets
Some fans may believe that it’s sacrilegious for me to leave the reigning two-time MVP Stephen Curry out of the starting lineup, but the spectacular play of “the Beard” thus far should earn him a starting spot. Harden has run the point a lot for Houston this year, and has more than succeeded in doing so.
The man who’s been labeled as a “ball hog” in the past, is silencing his critics by leading the league with over 11 assists per game. Along with his great passing, Harden is reminding people yet again that he’s one of the league’s best scorers, averaging over 28 points per game. Harden’s amazing play this year has helped Houston become a top-five team in the Western Conference standings so far, and it’s only fair he should get rewarded for his amazing year.
Video Clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sdw11HPSo8M
Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors
After departing Oklahoma City to join the Western Conference champion Golden State Warriors, Kevin Durant has quickly become the main antagonist of the NBA, according to most basketball fans. With that being said, fans everywhere know that KD is one of the most lethal players in today’s game, and he’s proving it yet again this season. Durant is eighth in the league in scoring, and has arguably been the best player for the team with the best record in the NBA.
In addition to his great scoring, he has also made an impact with his rebounding and blocked shots. So far he’s averaging nearly nine rebounds and a block-and-a-half per game, which would both be career highs if he’s able to keep it up throughout the year. Aside from his great play this year, seeing Durant and Westbrook being forced to play with one another again would be very intriguing to say the least.
Video Clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uM4GKMmCfbo
Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
Anthony Davis is doing everything he can for the Pelicans, which is why it’s so disappointing that the rest of his team hasn’t returned the favor. However, despite the many struggles his team has had, no one can overlook the career year “the Brow” is having. Davis is third in the league in scoring, seventh in rebounding and first in blocks. His incredible work at both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball is truly remarkable. Davis’s outstanding play, combined with the fact that the All-Star game will be held in New Orleans almost guarantees him a starting spot.
Video Clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bsf8Bfrdq2w
DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings
Many people might be wondering how I could leave such an extraordinary player like Kawhi Leonard out of the starting lineup, especially when the San Antonio Spurs have the second best record in the NBA currently. I wouldn’t dare snub Leonard out of a starting spot unless a player was putting up unreal numbers, and that’s exactly what DeMarcus Cousins has done up to this point.
Cousins has been nothing less than dominant for the Kings, who are surprisingly eighth in the Western Conference standings right now. Similarly to Anthony Davis, Cousins has been stellar for a not so talented team. His dominance and incredible season averages of 29 points per game (second in the league in scoring) and over 10 rebounds, are a reminder that he’s still the best center in the game (though Karl Anthony-Towns is on the verge of stardom). I believe at least one center should be represented in the starting lineup of the All-Star game, and there are none more deserving than “Boogie” Cousins.
Video Clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YZB-v4WKkso
Honorable Mentions: Kawhi Leonard, Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, Chris Paul
EASTERN CONFERENCE STARTERS:
Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers
This was a very hard choice considering the great year Isaiah Thomas is having for the Boston Celtics. Statistically speaking, Thomas is averaging more points and assists than Irving, but stats don’t show everything. Do stats show that Irving is helping lead the best team in the Eastern Conference? Do stats show that Cleveland wouldn’t be nearly as dangerous without Irving? Do the stats show that Kyrie is more lethal in the 4th quarter than even King James? Maybe, but as much as I pay attention to stats, they sometimes don’t weigh-in the eye-test.
According to the eye-test, there isn’t a better guard in the Eastern Conference than Irving, a.k.a. Uncle Drew. He can beat you from the perimeter, he can beat you by finishing at the rim with either hand, and his insane handles make him near impossible to guard one-on-one.
But, for those of you who are curious about Kyrie’s stats, he’s averaging nearly 24 points a game, six assists, and shooting just over 48 percent from the field, which is tied for the second highest among guards. Kyrie is almost as valuable to the Cavs success as LeBron, which is crazy to think about.
Isaiah Thomas is having a fantastic season, and is definitely worthy of having a starting spot for the East in The Big Easy. That being said, I give Irving the slightest edge as he continues to develop into a superstar, and the league’s best closer.
Video Clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wa-gWGYpeY4
DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors
Over the past couple years, I’ve always believed that Kyle Lowry was the best player on the Toronto Raptors. While Lowry is having another All-Star year himself, DeRozan has been the leading man for the second best team in the Eastern Conference. DeRozan is having a spectacular career year averaging over 27 points a game, which is good for sixth in the league in scoring, and is also having his best career averages in assists and rebounds.
The Raptors have impressed many basketball fans this year by having one of the top-four records in the NBA, and DeRozan’s amazing play is reason number one why they’ve been so successful thus far. Expect the high-flying DeRozan to put his amazing hops and athleticism on display at the Smoothie King Center in February.
Video Clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_X-wVT8f3cU
LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
I could talk about LeBron’s great numbers and how the Cavaliers have the best record in the Eastern Conference yet again……but, who am I kidding? LeBron WILL start in this year’s All-Star game. He’s the best player on the planet, and he’s started in every All-Star game since 2005. This won’t be any different.
Video Clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1dX2Ehbflrc
Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls
The Chicago Bulls have gotten off to a slower start than some may have expected, but Jimmy Butler sure hasn’t. He’s having another great season, averaging more than 25 points a game and nearly seven rebounds. Butler has also been a pest for opposing teams by drawing fouls and going to the free-throw line more than any other player in the Eastern Conference.
He’s also having his best year at the line, shooting a little over 88 percent. Given the fact that Butler was robbed of a starting spot last year by teammate Dwyane Wade (formerly with the Miami Heat), it’s only right that he starts in New Orleans while he’s having the best season of his career.
Video Clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mYex6sADMKw
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
Many of you may not know who Giannis Antetokounmpo is, but you certainly should. While his name may be hard to pronounce, the man simply known as the Greek Freak is one of the NBA’s most dynamic up-and-coming stars.
The 6-foot-11 forward out of Athens, Greece can do it all. He’s averaging just over 23 points per game, nine rebounds, and nearly six assists for a Milwaukee Bucks team that is a definite sleeper team in the East. If that’s not impressive enough, the Greek Freak’s also been a terror to opposing offensive players, as he’s fifth in the league in steals and sixth in the league in blocked shots.
But do you what’s scariest of all about Antetokounmpo? He’s only 22-years-old! New Orleans should be the first of many All-Star appearances to come for the Freak from Greece.
Video Clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qMDTdsB1U_s
Honorable Mentions: Isaiah Thomas, Kevin Love, Kyle Lowry, Kristaps Porzingis