The first returns of this year’s NBA All-Star Game fan voting came in earlier today with a bunch of familiar names leading the way.
Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors leads all players with over 2.5 million votes while his former teammate Kevin Durant is right behind him with more than 2.3 million to his name.
Following a near-traumatic experience for the NBA and its executives in 2016, fan voting no longer holds as much importance as it used to. The players who receive the most votes are not guaranteed to make it to the starting line-up of the league’s annual showcase–a new rule implemented in 2017 that robbed Zaza Pachulia of what could have been his lone All-Star appearance.
These fan votes now account for only 50% of the criteria for the starters, with the remaining balance split evenly between the media and the league’s players. This helps ensure that the most deserving players rightfully get the nod and protects the league from the awkward situation of having a role player line up alongside the world’s best basketball players.
With the game just a little over a month away, the time is right to take a look at which players deserve to make this year’s All-Star game, whether as a starter or a reserve through the votes of the league’s coaches.
Guard: Stephen Curry
The greatest shooter in NBA history and two-time Most Valuable Player is making another push for the award with his 34th birthday just two months away. The Warriors have established themselves once again among the favorites to win the title and Curry’s inclusion on this list is a no-brainer.
Guard: Ja Morant
Morant has taken “The Leap” in his third season. His scoring average has jumped from 19.1 per game last year to 25.1 this season along with 5.7 rebounds and 6.7 assists. The Grizzlies have set themselves apart from the middle of the pack in the West and are currently the fourth seed largely due to Morant’s efforts.
Frontcourt: Nikola Jokic
The league’s reigning Most Valuable Player has picked up from where he left off, averaging 25.7 points, a career-best 14.2 rebounds, and seven assists per game so far in this campaign. Despite missing Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr, the Nuggets are still clawing for playoff position and hovering around .500 through Jokic, who has carried this rag-tag group of journeymen on his back.
Frontcourt: LeBron James
The 17-time NBA All-Star continues to defy Father Time and is a shoo-in for his 18th appearance this season. His 28.6 points per game is his highest since the 2010 season and he continues to close in on the top spot of the league’s all-time scoring list.
Frontcourt: Paul George
George has missed a couple of games recently, but he has stepped up to lead the Los Angeles Clippers as their lone established star this season with Kawhi Leonard sidelined. He is putting up 24.7 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 5.5 assists to lead the scrappy Clippers this year.
Reserve Guard: Chris Paul
The 30-8 Phoenix Suns have the best record in the league and it has a lot to do with the 36-year-old Paul. While his statistics do not jump off the page like those of typical All-Stars, his importance to the best team in the league is more than enough reason to honor him with his 12th All-Star appearance.
Reserve Guard: Donovan Mitchell
The 6’1 guard is scoring 25.5 points per game this season for the ever-consistent Jazz who are right behind the Suns and Warriors in the Western Conference standings. He has the unique ability to take over the game with his explosive offensive abilities and continues to play with a maturity that is beyond his age of 25 years.
Reserve Frontcourt: Draymond Green
Green might not be a scorer like most of the players on this list, yet his ability to impact the game on several levels on either end of the court is among the league’s elite. With the Warriors back in the spotlight, his status as arguably the best defensive player of this generation has rightfully returned to the forefront of the league’s discourse.
Reserve Frontcourt: Rudy Gobert
Like Green, Gobert is not a scorer, but his ability to anchor a defense practically on his own is one of the major reasons why the Jazz continue to rank as one of the West’s top teams on an annual basis. The three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year is averaging 15.5 points, a career-high 15.1 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks per game this year.
Reserve Frontcourt: Karl-Anthony Towns
Towns has bounced back from two consecutive injury-riddled campaigns with 24.2 points and 9.4 rebounds per game for the Minnesota Timberwolves. They are currently ninth in the West, though they are just a 1.5 games behind the fifth-seeded Dallas Mavericks, and Towns deserves recognition for his consistently strong play.
Wild Card: Devin Booker
The leading scorer on the best team in the West, Booker has continued to expand his game and has seen his three-point percentage jump from his career 35.7% mark to 42% this season. While he is already one of the league’s best scorers, an improved three-point shot will make him even deadlier come playoff time as the Suns look to avenge last year’s Finals loss.
Wild Card: Luka Doncic
The 22-year-old Doncic is regarded as the future of the league and the fact that his averages of 25 points, eight rebounds, and 8.8 assists are considered a “down year” are a testament to how special of a player he already is. Dallas is currently fifth in the West and they will go only as far as Doncic takes them.
Guard: DeMar DeRozan
DeRozan has led the Chicago Bulls to a 25-10 start and the best record in the Eastern Conference. They have defied their preseason critics so far and are playing an exciting brand of uptempo basketball that feeds off of the four-time All-Star.
Guard: James Harden
Like Doncic, Harden’s 22.5 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 9.8 assists a night are considered a dip in production and that needs to be known about the lofty standards that the 2018 NBA Most Valuable Player has set. The Brooklyn Nets are chugging along with the second best record in the East and Harden continues to be the straw that stirs the drink for this team.
Frontcourt: Kevin Durant
Durant has continued his torrid run over the past few months in his return from a season-long injury layoff and is the league’s leading scorer this year with a 30-point per game average. He remains the smoothest offensive weapon in the league and is showing no signs of slowing down at the age of 32.
Frontcourt: Giannis Antetokounmpo
Last season’s NBA Finals Most Valuable Player has picked up from where he left off, carrying the Milwaukee Bucks to the third-best record in the East following a slow start that was mired by injuries. Still only 27 years old, he is right in the hunt for a third Most Valuable Player plum this season and looks to be a fixture in the All-Star game for at least the rest of the decade.
Frontcourt: Joel Embiid
The Philadelphia 76ers have fared well without Ben Simmons, feeding off the talents of Joel Embiid which has them currently running in fifth in the East. The runner-up in last year’s Most Valuable Player race continues to rack up dominant statistics, despite constant management of his minutes from head coach Doc Rivers.
Reserve Guard: Trae Young
The Hawks have fallen below expectations this year, largely due to injuries to several key players, but Young has kept them afloat and within striking distance of the play-in tournament. He is second in the league in scoring with 28.4 points per game while he is third in assists behind just Harden and Paul.
Reserve Guard: Zach LaVine
LaVine has seemingly deferred to DeRozan this year though he is still averaging 26.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 4.2 assists per game. He made his All-Star debut last year and with the success that the Bulls have had this season, an encore should be well within reach.
Reserve Frontcourt: Jayson Tatum
The Boston Celtics are a mess and valid questions on whether Tatum is truly a franchise player have emerged. While he might not be the franchise cornerstone that he has been made out to be since his breakout performance in the 2018 postseason as a rookie, he is still one of the best scorers in the league and is averaging 25.4 points per game this year along with 8.6 rebounds and 3.7 assists.
Reserve Frontcourt: Jarrett Allen
Although the Cleveland Cavaliers are hosting this year’s All-Star festivities, Allen’s selection is not a mere token choice. Cleveland is a surprising 21-17 despite missing Collin Sexton and Allen’s emergence as a dominant force in the middle is a significant reason for their record. He is averaging 17.1 points and 10.7 rebounds per game–both of which are career-highs–but the most stunning among his numbers is his 70.2% shooting from the field.
Reserve Frontcourt: Jimmy Butler
Butler has missed his fair share of games this season with various injuries, yet his production when he actually plays is enough for him to merit consideration for this slot. The Miami Heat are 24-15 so far, despite the absence of Bam Adebayo since late November, and there is no more deserving player on their team than Butler who is averaging his typical 23.2 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 5.4 assists this year.
Wild Card: Jrue Holiday
Even with an NBA title tucked under his belt, Holiday continues to fly under the radar for the Bucks even with averages of 18.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 6.7 assists a night. His top tier defensive abilities coupled with his steady hand on offense are often overlooked by fans, but it is something that coaches value dearly which, more likely than not, will allow Holiday to make his first All-Star game since his sole appearance back in 2013 when he was still with the Sixers.
Wild Card: LaMelo Ball
The Charlotte Hornets have slowed down from their exciting start to the season, though Ball continues to rack up numbers which has been just enough to keep them above .500 with a 20-19 slate. The sophomore’s statistics have jumped from his Rookie of the Year-winning campaign to 19.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 7.8 assists per game this season and the confidence of an All-Star appearance could lead to an even bigger second half of the season.