The NBA announces it’s all-star starting lineups Thursday night. In theory, the names called make up the best players in each conference, and the lineup functions as way to measure historically who the ten best players are in a given season.
With the voting in the hands of the fans (which, don’t get me wrong, is fun) it can mean the all-star starting five accomplishes neither of those things. Like, for instance, in 1995, when the Suns’ Dan Majerle started ahead of Gary Payton and John Stockton in ’95. Or, in the most popular example in the case against fan voting, in 2003 when a rookie Yao Ming (13.5 points, 8 rebounds, 1.8 blocks) started for the West, while Shaquille O’Neal (27.5 points, 11 rebounds, 2.4 blocks) came off the bench.
This year, the Warriors’ Zaza Pachulia was a leading vote-getter during the first two rounds of balloting, and while we all know the league will ensure his name won’t be announced tonight, there are bound to be some selections that the people get wrong *coughWadecough*.
Three frontcourt players and two guards are named for each conference. With that in mind, here are the leading vote-getters at last count (Jan. 19), and who should be named a starter tonight:
Leading vote-getter: Steph Curry
Should-be starter: Russell Westbrook
At last count Curry, the two-time reigning MVP, unsurprisingly led all West players with 990,390 votes, or a little over 110,000 more than Westbrook. Curry’s been having a nice season and remains one of the NBA’s most electrifying and potent offensive threats, but his numbers have naturally taken a dip (24 ppg compared to 30 last season) with the addition of Kevin Durant to the Warriors’ lineup.
But this is more about Westbrook, who is in the midst of one of the NBA’s all-time great seasons, averaging a triple-double while leading the league with nearly 31 points per game and almost single-handedly keeping the Thunder in the playoff picture. It also may be worth mentioning that Westbrook has been named the All-Star MVP in each of the last two seasons.
Leading vote-getter: James Harden
Should-be starter: James Harden
In his first season playing full-time point guard duties, Harden has been stunningly effective for the red-hot Rockets. Always a lethal scorer, he’s not only averaging 29 points and 8.3 rebounds, but leads the league with 11.6 assists per game.
Leading vote-getter: Kevin Durant
Should-be starter: Kevin Durant
So far Durant has been everything Golden State could have hoped for when they signed the seven-time all-star to a two-year deal in the off-season. Durant remains arguably the toughest player to guard in the NBA and leads the Warriors in scoring. He’s fit in seamlessly alongside Curry, Thompson et al— and sooner than most expected.
Leading vote-getter: Zaza Pachulia
Should-be starter: Anthony Davis
It’s hard to think that only one Warrior would start despite holding the best record in the NBA and four of it’s top 20 players. But it speaks to how many great players are in the NBA these days.
Right near the top of the list is Davis, who is quietly having a dominant 2016-17. He began the season by posting 50 points, 14 boards, five assists, five steals, and five blocks, and hasn’t looked back. Davis has 20 games so far with at least 25 points and 13 rebounds, and is the NBA’s leader in blocks. It’s not his fault he’s surrounded by the worst supporting cast of any star in the league.
Leading vote-getter: Kawhi Leonard
Should-be starter: Kawhi Leonard
Earlier this week, Leonard became the first Spur to ever post at least 30 points on 60 per cent shooting in four straight games. He may be the NBA’s best two-way player and is by far the biggest reason why San Antonio remains as dangerous as ever.
Leading vote-getter: Kyrie Irving
Should-be starter: Isaiah Thomas
Thomas has been flat-out incredible this season for Boston. He’s been one of the league’s top scorers, but what really sticks out is his clutch play— he’s averaging more than ten points in the fourth quarter, which is more than any player in the NBA in the last 20 years. Read that again.
Leading vote-getter: Dwyane Wade
Should-be starter: DeMar DeRozan
Wade is still very popular, but isn’t even a top-10 guard in the East this season. So let’s move on.
Yes, Kyle Lowry has been fantastic this season, upping his numbers across the board from last season (when he started at PG for the East) and improving his three-point shooting considerably, establishing himself as one of the NBA’s most dangerous threats from deep. But if there’s only room for one Raptor, then it has to be DeRozan.
As he’s taken another colossal step forward, DeRozan has established himself as one of the league’s most unguardable players and is averaging a career-best 28.2 points per game, good for fifth in the NBA. With at least 20 points in all but four games this season, he’s been the Raptors most consistent player for a Raptors team holding down second-place in the conference.
Leading vote-getter: LeBron James
Should-be starter: LeBron James
The NBA’s leading vote-getter at last check with nearly 1.1 million votes, James is as great as ever, averaging 25 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 8 assists as he continue to do it all for the best team in the East.
Leading vote-getter: Giannis Antetokounmpo
Should-be starter: Giannis Antetokoumpo
This season’s breakout star, at just 22 Antetokounmpo is already a two-way force, leading his playoff-contending team in points, rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals, while sitting second to only Russell Westbrook in Player Efficiency Rating.
He’s also produced more jaw-dropping highlights than anybody else:
Leading vote-getter: Kevin Love
Should-be starter: Jimmy Butler
Nothing against Love, but while the Bulls have been up-and-down, Butler is performing off the charts and having the best season of his career. Another one of the league’s emerging two-way stars, Butler is averaging 24.3/6.7/4.7/1/7 and has three 40+ point games and one 50+ point on his 2016-17 resume already.