With the All Star Starters about to be announced, it's time to see which players are going to make it and will Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose and Luka Doncic hang on to their starting spots or get selected by the coaches on the bench?
Firstly let's look at the latest round of fan voting
* Fan voting accounts for 50% of the total voting
Dwyane Wade is playing his final season and he is extremely popular with the fans, so it is not surprising that with the lack of guard depth in the East that he is in 2nd place amongst guards. He has been playing quite well averaging 14 ppg off the bench and making several clutch plays for the playoff bound Miami Heat. Decent numbers but that's not going to get a vote from the coaches so his best chance to make the game is if he starts.
Derrick Rose is having one of the best comeback stories ever averaging almost 19 points per game on a Curry like 49 FG% and 46% 3PT shooting also off the bench for the Wolves. He has had some great performances, none more memorable then the 50 point masterpiece he dropped on the Jazz on Halloween. But like Wade, Rose is playing well but not nearly well enough to be selected by the coaches in the guard heavy Western Conference.
Finally rookie sensation Luka Doncic has been wowing audiences everywhere with his shot making abilities and confidence to take over games and perform his best in the clutch, as evidenced by his clutch FG% of 57% (3rd in the whole NBA). He has the best case of the 3 to make the team on merit and even possibly start if he gets some love from his peers and the media.
Remember the fan voting only accounts for 50% of the total votes and the other 50% is from the media (25%) and players (25%). So let's look at who the media and players are likely to vote for based on the performances of all the candidates to see if these 3 players are likely to actually start or not.
Guards Predicted Ranking from Media and Players
As you can see it is unlikely that Dwyane Wade will make it to the game unless he gets the sentimental vote from the Players and Media as there are a handful of guards at least that have clearly performed better than him this season. He would have to at least get voted into the Top 4 by the Media and Players which is unlikely with the likes of Kyrie Irving, Victor Oladipo, Kemba Walker and Ben Simmons clearly having superior seasons.
I suspect Kemba Walker will get the start in his hometown as if he gets voted at least 3rd or 4th by the Players and Media (and he should) then it should give him a higher weighted score then Oladipo, Simmons and Wade.
In the West, Derrick Rose is even more unlikely to hold onto the starting position due to the guard depth in the West which will affect the Player Vote as there are at least 7 guards this season in the West that will get more votes than Rose (The above 6 plus Donovan Mitchell and also possibly Mike Conley, Jamal Murray and Sacramento Pair De'Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield).
For the media vote, it is actually a good thing that James Harden and Steph Curry have been so dominant as it is conceivable that no other guard in the Conference will get a single vote from the media to start leaving Harden and Curry with a score of 1 and everyone else with a score of 3. But even if the Media AND players vote Rose 3rd he will still have a weighted score of 2.5. Curry is sure to get a score of 2 from the players and probably 1 from the media (unanimous with Harden) leaving him with a weighted score of 1.25. Harden is sure to get a vote of 1 from the Media and Players leaving him with a weighted score of 2, pushing Rose out of the starting lineup.
Frontcourt Predicted Rankings Media and Players
As for Luka Doncic, he has a better chance than Rose or Wade to start as he is in the frontcourt position with 3 positions to fill. But he faces some serious competition from the likes of Kevin Durant, Paul George, Anthony Davis and Nikola Jokic.
Lebron with the highest fan vote should easily make it even if the media and players do not vote him number 1 because of his recent injury. The huge respect KD has from his fellow players and the media tells me that he will get voted 2nd, giving him a weighted score of 3. Paul George who overtook Durant for 3rd place in the fan voting is likely to place at least 4th or 5th in the Player and Media vote (behind Lebron, KD, AD and maybe Jokic), leaving him with a weighted score of 3.5.
That means Doncic would have to be voted 5th or higher amongst the Players and Media which is unlikely with the 5 names above clearly superior at the moment. That's not even including players like Karl Anthony Towns and LaMarcus Aldridge which could push Luka even lower in the player vote so unfortunately it looks like the rookie will just miss out with a weighted score between 4 and 5.
However there is a small outside chance Doncic could actually overtake the injured Lebron in the last week of fan votes and this may be his best chance to start the game. Amazingly enough if this happens, not only will he make the team but we would be looking at a 19 year old rookie from Slovenia captaining a squad full of perennial All Stars!
Now that I have predicted what the Players and Media are likely to do, we have our projected starters with Lebron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo expected to be Team Captains.
There is not much debate in the East Frontcourt with 3 players clearly leading the pack here as I fully expect the players and media to agree with the fans and vote Giannis Antetoukounmpo, Kawhi Leonard and Joel Embiid to start.
Giannis and Kawhi have lead their respective teams to the best records in the NBA while Joel Embiid has clearly been the best big man in the East averaging a monster 27 points and 13 rebounds a game.
Kyrie Irving is enjoying his best all around season, improving his defense and passing while still making all the clutch plays for the Celtics.
The only debate here is Kemba Walker. With the fans clearly wanting Dwyane Wade and the media likely to vote for Victor OIadipo, Kemba may find himself with the best weighted score and have the honor of starting an All Star Game in his home city.
In the West despite calls from the fans for Derrick Rose to start, Steph Curry and James Harden starting is almost set in stone, and nobody could argue with this as they have clearly been the best 2 guards in the league this season. Harden especially has been putting up historical numbers on a nightly basis including 19 straight 30 point games which has not been done since the likes of Wilt Chamberlain more than 50 years ago. In his last 10 games Harden is averaging an unbelievable 45 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists a game with his last 3 games scoring 57 points, 58 points and 48 points!
You cannot argue with the frontcourt selections either with Lebron James, Kevin Durant and Paul George all putting up MVP numbers. It is unusual for 3 forwards to start together and you could make a case for Anthony Davis or Nikola Jokic to start as well, but Lebron and KD are Lebron and KD, and you have to give huge props for PG elevating his game to another level and also being the best defender in the league.
The odd one out is Rookie Doncic who the fans are clearly enamoured with, but it looks like he will have to wait and see if the coaches select him as one of the frontcourt reserves.
Now that the starting lineup has been predicted, let's see which players are most likely to be selected by the coaches to make the bench.
Guard 1 - Victor Oladipo (Indiana Pacers)
19.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 5.2 apg, 1.7 spg, 0.3 bpg
FG 43%, FT 73%, 3P 35% (2.1 3pg)
The first guard selected on the bench is the best shooting guard in the East Victor Oladipo. His stats may be down from a year ago but he has still been the clear leader for a surprising Indiana Pacer team that is currently 3rd place in the East and still in the running to win the conference.
Guard 2 - Ben Simmons (Philadelphia 76ers)
16.6 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 8.2 apg, 1.3 spg
0.9 bpg, FG 59%, FT 57%
Next up is the enigma that is Ben Simmons. Supremely talented with elite vision, basketball instincts and a multitude of skills, he is still amazingly unable to make or even take a simple jump shot from anywhere outside of the key. While he clearly needs to add a jump shot for the Sixers to reach the next level, he is still a walking triple double and will easily get selected by the coaches for the bench.
Frontcourt 1 - Blake Griffin (Detroit Pistons)
26 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 5.3 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.5 bpg
FG 48%, FT 76%, 3P 36% (2.3 3pg)
No Brainer here, Griffin is having the best statistical season of his career averaging almost 26 points a game including a Career High 50 points in a thrilling overtime win early in the season over the 76ers.
Frontcourt 2 - Jimmy Butler (Philadelphia 76ers)
19.6 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 3.7 apg, 2 spg, 0.6 bpg
FG 47%, FT 85%, 3P 38% (1.3 3pg)
Tough choice here between Jimmy Butler and Milwaukee's Khris Middleton as Milwaukee has been the surprise team of the season and Philly doesn't really deserve 3 All Stars. But despite all the drama that seems to follow Butler around, he is a top 5 player in the East right behind Giannis, Embiid, Kawhi and Kyrie so you would think he would at least be selected in the top 12.
Frontcourt 3 - Nikola Vucevic (Orlando Magic)
20.3 ppg, 11.9 rpg, 3.8 apg, 1.1 bpg, 1 spg
FG 52%, FT 77%, 3P 38% (1.2 3pg)
I wanted to include at least one Center on the bench especially considering all the big men in the West that will probably make the game. So it came down to Nikola Vucevic and rebound leader Andre Drummond. Drummond has been disappointing in many big games while Vucevic is enjoying a career year showing off great post games skills, passing ability and shooting.
Wildcard 1 - Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors)
13.9 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 9.4 apg, 1.5 spg, 0.5 bpg
FG 42%, FT 83 %, 3P 31% (2.1 3pg)
Kyle Lowry gets the first wildcard selection but after starting the season on fire, Kyle has been up and down and has not put up All Star numbers for the majority of the season. But Lowry is still second in the league in assists and the Raptors have the best record in the league and deserve to have two All Stars.
* I was seriously considering Pascal Siakam to be the 2nd Raptor over Kyle Lowry. He has actually played better then Lowry for the last couple months but Lowry is the leader of the team and you know who the coaches will prefer.
Wildcard 2 - Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards)
25 ppg, 5 apg, 5 rpg, 1.4 spg, 0.8 bpg
FG 47%, FT 79%, 3P 35% (2.6 3pg)
The last spot on the team was a tough decision but I think you have to reward Bradley Beal for his outstanding play even though the dysfunctional Wizards are maybe the most disappointing team in the league. He is averaging 25 points 5 rebounds and 5 assists on the season and an impressive 31,7 and 6 since the New Year, including two 40 point 15 assist triple doubles not seen since the likes of Oscar Robertson.
Alternate - Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks)
17.4 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 4.1 apg, 1.1 spg
FG 43%, FT 85%, 3P 38% (2.4 3pg)
Khris Middleton is my alternate and there is a strong case for him to make the team outright. He is the only real snub in the East and I would probably expect the coaches to vote him in and give the Bucks the 2 All Stars that they deserve for their outstanding season.
In the backcourt there is not much debate with Damian Lillard and Russell Westbrook taking the two spots.
Guard 1 - Damian Lillard (Portland Trailblazers)
26.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 6.1 apg, 1 spg, 0.5 bpg
FG 45%, FT 90%, 3P 38% (2.9 3pg)
Damian Lillard has been consistently excellent all season long keeping the Blazers in the top 4 of the loaded Western Conference. He is averaging a Lillard like 26 points and 6 assists a game including several clutch performances including a dramatic game winning 3 at Golden State on December 27th.
Guard 2 - Russell Westbrook (OKC Thunder)
21.8 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 10.5 apg, 2.5 spg, 0.3 bpg
FG 41%, FT 64%, 3P 24% (1.2 3pg)
Westbrook has been having a historically good and bad season at the same time! He is making only 41% of his shots, 64% of his free throws and a paltry 24% of his 3 point attempts, the single lowest 3 point shooting percentage for a volume shooter in NBA history. But he is also averaging yet another triple double for an amazing 3 years in a row and he leads the league in assists and steals. He also leads all guards in rebounds while he has improved his defense noticeably. Despite his poor shooting, he is guaranteed to be selected by the coaches.
The West has a lot more worthy players competing for All Star spots and with 3 small forwards (Lebron, KD, PG13 or Luka) likely to start and a lack of Power Forwards means a handful of centers will be fighting for the frontcourt positions.
Frontcourt 1 - Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans)
29.3 ppg, 13.3 rpg, 4.4 apg, 1.7 spg, 2.6 bpg
FG 51%, FT 81%, 3P 33% (1 3pg)
Anthony Davis and Nikola Jokic are both absolute locks to make the team and one of them should probably be starting to have a more balanced frontline and somebody to match up with Joel Embiid of the East. Davis has been unreal putting up video game numbers for the whole season and should be the first player selected for the West bench.
Frontcourt 2 - Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets)
19.6 ppg, 10 rpg, 7.7 apg, 1.3 spg, 0.7 bpg
FG 51%, FT 84%, 3P 32% (1.2 3pg)
Jokic has been equally impressive averaging a near triple double 25 points, 11 rebounds and 8.5 assists in the month of January and he is averaging 7.7 assists on the season (more than Lebron James!), which is unheard of for a Center. He always keeps all his teammates involved and can be a scorer when needed keeping the surprising Nuggets near or at the top of the West for most of the season.
Frontcourt 3 - Karl Anthony Towns (Minnesota Timberwolves)
22.3 ppg, 12.2 rpg, 2.9 apg, 1.9 bpg, 1 spg
FG 50%, FT 84%, 3P 38% (1.7 3pg)
Karl Anthony Towns takes the last frontcourt position edging out fan favorites Luka Doncic and Steven Adams as well as San Antonio Big Man LaMarcus Aldridge. Big KAT has been dominant since the Jimmy Butler trade and he has been averaging close to 25 points and 13 rebounds for a month now including some monster double double games as the Wolves fight to get back into the playoffs.
Wildcard 1 - DeMar DeRozan (San Antonio Spurs)
21.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 6.4 apg, 1 spg, 0.5 bpg
FG 47%, FT 82%, 3P 18% (0.2 3pg)
The first wildcard spot goes to Demar Derozan who is enjoying his best all around season and showing he can do more than score, averaging over 6 rebounds and 6 assists for the first time in his career. He has had multiple clutch performances for the Spurs and he even recorded his first ever triple double in an emotional win over his old team the Raptors.
Wildcard 2 - Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks)
20 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 5.1 apg, 1.2 spg, 0.3 bpg
FG 43%, FT 73%, 3P 37% (2.4 3pg)
And the very last spot is between the soon to be unanimous Rookie of the Year Luka Doncic and All Star mainstay Klay Thompson. Luka just edges him out on my ballot with his eye popping moves and his maturity, confidence and unbelievable shot making ability as a 19 year old teenager. After missing out on a starter's spot by a whisker, Doncic deserves the last bench spot for the respect and buzz he has generated around the league.
Alternate - Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors)
21.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 2 apg, 1.3 spg, 0.7 bpg
FG 46%, FT 81%, 3P 37% (2.8 3pg)
Klay Thompson has been playing like an All Star since the New Year averaging over 25 points on 53% shooting from the field and 45% from 3. But his shooting percentages are down on the season and Doncic has been better and more important to his team's success.
Klay does have unbelievable respect amongst fellow players and coaches and I believe the coaches will vote him in again for the 5th year in a row. But I still prefer Luka. If Thompson does make it, hopefully Doncic can also make it and another player like DeRozan or Towns can miss out instead. That would be best for the fans.
Giannis Anteokounmpo (captain), Kawhi Leonard, Joel Embiid, Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker
Blake Griffin, Jimmy Butler, Nikola Vucevic, Victor Oladipo, Ben Simmons, Kyle Lowry, Bradley Beal (Alternate Khris Middleton)
Lebron James (captain), Kevin Durant, Paul George, James Harden, Steph Curry
Anthony Davis, Nikola Jokic, Karl Anthony Towns, Damian Lillard, Russell Westbrook, DeMar DeRozan, Luka Doncic (Alternate Klay Thompson)
Injured Players not considered:
East: Kristaps Porzingis, John Wall, Kevin Love
West: Chris Paul, DeMarcus Cousins, Clint Capela
Other than Klay Thompson, there are many other snubs in the Western Conference mainly LaMarcus Aldridge, Steven Adams, Tobias Harris and Utah pair Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert.
LaMarcus Aldridge (21ppg / 9rpg) has had some big games including a career high 57 points in the game of the year against the Thunder. But he has not been so consistent with some lethargic performances especially earlier in the season and the Spurs do not really deserve 2 All Stars.
Tobias Harris (21ppg / 8rpg) was an early favorite to make his first All Star team after leading the Clippers to near the top of the West in the early part of the season. But their recent slide to the bottom of the playoff picture is sure to hurt Harris's chances with so many options to select.
Donovan Mitchell (22 ppg, 4 apg) has been ballin the last month leading the surging Jazz from bottom of the West back into playoff position. But his slow start coupled with the depth in the West means he just misses out as well. Teammate and reigning DPOY Rudy Gobert (15ppg, 13 rpg) has also played well but with the number of frontcourt options available means he has no chance to be considered.
Steven Adams (15 ppg, 10 rpg) has been a man mountain for the OKC Thunder and he has significantly improved his offensive game and is a major reason why the Thunder are in the top 3 in the West. But with 2 All Stars already, it is unlikely OKC will get another.
Jrue Holiday of the Pelicans is also enjoying a career year averaging over 20 points and 8 assists. But after reaching the 2nd round of the playoffs last year, the Pelicans have been a big disappointment and do not deserve two All Stars.
Finally Draymond Green who has been an All Star for the last 3 years is having a down season, missing some games and averaging only 7 points a game on just 25% shooting from 3 so he will also not be considered.
In the East outside of alternate Khris Middleton (and arguably his teammate Eric Bledsoe), there are not many obvious snubs although there is an argument the Brooklyn Nets deserve one All Star and there are some young players that will definitely be considered for future All Star Games.
Future Potential All Stars
There are a host of young players especially in the West who have been playing All Star level basketball and are likely to make it at some point in the future.
Sacramento pair De'Aaron Fox (18 ppg, 7apg) and Buddy Hield (21 ppg, 3.5 3pg) have both been sensational putting up big numbers and leading the young Sacramento Kings to a surprising 23-21 record and challenging for a playoff spot.
Jamal Murray (19 ppg, 5 apg) has been the Nuggets second best player and although inconsistent, he has had some spectacular games including a Career High 48 points against the Celtics and another 46 against the Suns.
Kyle Kuzma (19ppg, 6rpg) has clearly taken the reigns as the Lakers second best player and go to scorer especially in Lebron's absence, averaging almost 25 ppg since Lebron's injury.
Finally Rookie DeAndre Ayton (15ppg, 10rpg) has been completely overshadowed by Rookie Sensation Luka Doncic, but Ayton is quietly having a great rookie campaign as well and looks like a future All Star, although it is probably a few years away.
In the East, Brooklyn has 3 young players who all have potential to be future All Stars in D'Angelo Russell (19 ppg, 6.5 apg), Spencer Dinwiddie (17 ppg, 5 apg) and the injured Caris Levert. The surprising Nets have won 16 of 21 games storming up to 6th position in the East and it is not unreasonable to say they deserve at least one All Star, especially in the weak Eastern Conference.
Pascal Siakam (15 ppg, 7 rpg) has been a revelation up North showing off an array of skills and improving seemingly every week. There was real debate whether to include him instead of Lowry as the Raptors 2nd All Star so expect to see him in future games if he keeps improving at this rapid pace.
Jayson Tatum (16 ppg, 6 rpg) has been a bit disappointing in his sophomore campaign which is not that surprising considering he has had to defer to franchise player Kyrie Irving after being the go to guy during the Celtics surprising playoff run last season. But most experts expect him to work it out and get back to the All Star Level that he is capable of producing.
Finally the forgotten man of the 2017 draft, John Collins (19ppg, 10.5 rpg) has been quietly putting up monster numbers averaging over 20 points and 12 rebounds over the last couple months for the improving Atlanta Hawks. While all the talk has been about sophomores Ben Simmons, Donovan Mitchell, Jayson Tatum, Kyle Kuzma and Lonzo Ball; John Collins has flown under the radar but there is not doubt he has future All Star potential.
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