Happy New Year! Okay now that the pleasantries are out of the way and let’s get down to business. We all know what part of the NBA season we’re in and I’m not much happy about it. Yes, it’s time for everyone to put on their homer hat and vote for the All Star game starters. If you’ve followed the pod (and if you don’t you should) you already know of my dislike of the fan voting process for the game. However, as someone who covers the league you just kinda have to play ball.
So I went on nba.com and placed my vote because and you should too just because despite my curmudgeonly position on it I must admit it’s pretty dang fun. Also, there’s a pretty decent though exercise to be had in debating a few of these spots. Some were obvious but a few I really agonized over it. And if basketball doesn’t occasionally cause you some sort of misery you’re doing it wrong.
Giannis Antetokounmpo – F – Milwaukee Bucks
I’m starting off with one of the no brainers obviously. After nabbing Most Improved Player honors in a 2016- 2017 campaign that sent tremors around the league despite a first round playoff exit the Greek Freak has completely taken another leap as he leads the Bucks putting up 29-10-5 per night while shooting 55% from the field. Given the current climate of play in the league that rewards outside shooting the fact that Giannis has been able to tear through the league as efficiently without a jump shot is nothing less than remarkable.
Lebron James – F – Cleveland Cavaliers
Another year, another All-Star nod for The King. Hate em’ or love em’ James has once again had one of the most impressive seasons in the league up to this point and if you’re familiar with Bron’s machinations (especially over the past five years) you know that he’s just in second gear right now, maybe third when it’s gotten thick. Although LBJ has always been praised for his passing ability his role as the de facto point guard (due to severe attrition at the spot) this season is greatly responsible for their recent run of success.
Joel Embiid – C – Philadelphia 76ers
This one actually wasn’t a no brainer for me. I know, I KNOW! I’m still kinda old school about some stuff and one of those is about the center position. I get it, NO ONE plays defense in the All Star game but I still romanticize a time when your center having a polished offensive game is cute and all but his primary objective was to protect the rim swatting shots and getting boards.
And this isn’t to say JoJo doesn’t do this as he nabs 11 boards and swats two shots per game (good for 5th in the association) but putting him next to Kristaps Porzingis caused quite the conundrum for me. The Zinger is putting up similar numbers (slightly better besides rebounds actually) on a team with a similar record with considerably less talent. Okay folks, I’m gonna cut the crap here. I went with JoJo in hopes he finally gets his date with Rhianna. It’s 2018 folks, Joel-nna is the couple we need.
Kyrie Irving – G – Boston Celtics
The guard spots are where it really got tight for your boy. One of the markers of an emerging East has been the spectacular guard play around the conference (as I write this DeMar Derozan just lit up Giannis and the Bucks for a career and franchise high 52 points) so there are plenty of places I could have gone here. But I have to go with the dude that left the kingdom to forge his own path. For a team that lost their high profile free agent Gordon Hayward literally minutes into the season the Boston Celtics currently sit atop of the Eastern Conference. Kyrie, unsurprisingly has a lot to do with this. Currently averaging 25-3-5 on splits of 49-40-89 (yes Kyrie is damn near a part of the coveted 50-40-90 club) Irving has not only powered this team offensively but has also made it possible for role players to flourish. Plus, for entertainment/messy value you definitely want to see he and Bron share the floor.
Victor Oladipo – G – Indiana Pacers
Hold up! Before you start let’s just establish some common ground. All of us can agree that Vic is having an amazing season thus far correct? Cool, if not you can leave now. In what is clearly is his breakout season he’s averaging a line of 25-5-4 on splits of 49-42-79 not too terribly off from the fella just above him. Also, there’s the fact that he has lead the Pacers to a 19-14 record in his 33 games played which makes them much better than they have any business being.
As far as his case for starting I think rewarding the frontrunner for Most Improved player probably warrants this as the Washington duo has consistency issues, Kemba Walker and Denis Schroeder play for bad teams, Kyle Lowry and Goran Dragic have been master tacticians but don’t have the numbers to warrant a starting nod and Ben Simmons is a year away. It really came down to Vic and DeMar Derozan. And while yes his aforementioned performance kind of weakens my case (as well as Vic’s recent knee soreness) I think Vic has really hit his stride and having some new blood in the mix never hurts.
Kevin Durant – F – Golden State Warriors
How luck are we as an NBA consuming public that we can damn near overlook not only the team that are the reigning NBA champs that have also won two of the last three but also overlook the dude that was the Finals MVP? The Dude that took it to The King. Durant has continued his romp through the league for a Golden State team that is starting to find their footing and seems primed and ready to really defend the crown.
Averaging 26 points per night on a team that features two other 20 plus point per game scorers in Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson (you may have heard of them) is no easy feat but Durant thrives by being arguably the most versatile scorer in the game. There isn’t any spot on the court where he can’t destroy you. On splits of 50-40-89 he’s another one of those guys flirting with being in rarefied air. Then add in that he’s also making a case for DPOY with his 2.2 blocks and a steal per contest and it’s obvious that you can’t keep dude off of this list in spite of how many may feel about him personally.
Anthony Davis – F – New Orleans Pelicans
The Brow definitely gets the nod here. Offensively, he has actually gotten better (which is scary). He’s scoring 26 a night on a blistering 56% from the field and this ain’t all coming close to the basket (AD is canning 37% of his threes) and his growing versatility makes it increasingly hard to find an answer for him. Despite missing a few games early Davis has been healthy and MEAN specifically on the defensive end as he continues to wreak havoc on the block. The only thing that makes his season even more remarkable is that he’s been able to do this playing next to…
DeMarcus Cousins – C – New Orleans Pelicans
Yup! I have the Twin Towers of the Big Easy starting the All-Star game. I get why this is strange. This is a .500 team with plenty of holes and is a key injury away from having to throw the season in the drain and have to make some hard decisions. But this cannot take away the fact that Boogie has been the Best interior man in the league hands down. For all of his faults he’s putting up 26 and 13 while tossing 5 dimes per contest as he continues to live up to his reputation as one of the sweetest passing big men around. He’s also canning 35% of his triples (which is terrifying) and while inconsistent at times he’s been no slouch defensively.
James Harden – G – Houston Rockets
The motor that runs one of the best offenses in the league deserves to be here. Recent news of an hamstring issue that will keep him out for two weeks complicates things here (possibly enough let Steph slide in there) but I have to roll with the Beard. Specifically for the way he got the Rockets soaring shortly after an early Chris Paul injury that sat him for a few weeks. Leading the league in scoring with 32.3 per night and ranking third in assists with 9.1 per contest Harden boasts one of the league’s highest PER s as well as usage rate. And for a team primed to seriously compete for a Western Conference title this is a pretty damned good thing
Russell Westbrook – G Oklahoma City Thunder
I mean, you thought he wasn’t? Silly you. The reigning league MVP is an extra assist every two games from averaging a triple double again and has been great during this latest run that has seen the Thunder win six of their last eight as it appears they are starting to figure out some of their larger issues. Once again, the list of guys that can be put in the conversation isn’t short but none of them brings the value to the ASG that Russy does. Also, once again for entertainment/messy value, he and Durant sharing the court will be priceless as their relationship has grown more strained and well…..strange.