(Photo via BET.com)
The NBA announced the starters for the 2015 NBA All-Star game this past Thursday, who were voted in by the fans. Steph Curry led all vote getters with 1,513,324 total votes and will start in the All-Star game for the 2nd straight year.
Kobe Bryant earned the other starting guard spot in the West by receiving 1,152,402 fan votes but it is he won’t take the court as he is out for the rest of his season after tearing his rotator cuff earlier this month.
Lebron James received the 2nd highest amount of fan votes (1,470,483) and was the leading vote getter for the East. James will be joined in the front court by Carmelo Anthony of the Knicks who received 647,005 votes and the Bulls’ Pau Gasol who received 974,177 votes. The starting line-up for the East is rounded out by a backcourt of the Wizards’ John Wall (886,368 votes) and first time All-Star Kyle Lowry (805,290 votes) of the Raptors.
Marc Gasol makes his 2nd All-Star game appearance by receiving 795,121 votes and will make for an interesting match-up at the center position going against his brother, Pau, who will line up for the East. This marks the first time in NBA All-Star game history where two brothers started and faced off on opposing sides.
The West players joining Curry, Bryant and Gasol are Anthony Davis (1,369,911 votes) of the Hornets and Blake Griffin (700,615 votes) of the Clippers.
With the starting units now set it still leaves 7 reserve roster spots open for each conference. NBA coaches voted this past Friday for 3 front court players, 2 back court players and 2 wild cards in each conference. The announcement of the reserves to the 2015 NBA All-Star game will be announced on Thursday of this week, but we’ll take a look at who we believe to be the most deserving of those open spots.
Western Conference (NBA rank in parenthesis):
3 Front court players:
- Kevin Durant – Oklahoma City Thunder
- Notable stats: 25.6 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 4.1 apg, 51.9 FG%
- Durant is putting up his typical MVP level numbers and there is no way the reigning MVP is left off the All-Star game in the following year of him receiving the award, even if he has only playing in 21 of the Thunder’s 44 games. This is a lock.
- LeMarcus Aldridge – Portland Trailblazers
- Notable stats: 23.3 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 1.2 bpg, 86.9 FT%
- Aldridge leads a 32-13 team playing in the tough Western Conference in points, rebounds, PER and usage percentage and is regarded by many as the best player at his position. Aldridge is a lock to be named to represent the West but will likely skip the event due to tearing a ligament in his non-shooting hand. Look for Aldridge to be named to the team then replaced by a hand picked player of the commissioner.
- DeMarcus Cousins – Sacramento Kings
- Notable stats: 24.2 ppg (6th), 12.6 rpg (3rd), 1.6 bpg, 80.7 FT%
- Going out on a bit of limb as Cousins’ numbers are pretty similar to the year he had last season and didn’t make the All-Star team then, so it would make sense to think that the coaches would overlook him again this season. However, we don’t think Cousins’ play can continue to be ignored and will get the nod this year, despite the Kings 16-27 record. Coaches have had two seasons to see their interior defense get demolished by the physical force that is Cousins who again is putting up monster numbers and he will certainly be on their minds when casting their votes. Cousins is in.
2 Back court players:
- James Harden – Houston Rockets
- Notable stats: 27.6 ppg (1st), 6.7 apg, 5.6 rpg, 88.7 FT%
- Harden is averaging career highs in points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, free throw percentage and PER. He currently leads the league in scoring and win shares for a 31-14 Houston Rockets team. Also, Harden is widely considered an early front runner for the MVP award along with Steph Curry, all of which spell L-O-C-K for an All-Star spot.
- Damian Lillard – Portland Trailblazers
- Notable stats: 22 ppg, 6.5 apg, 1.4 spg, 36.9 three-point %
- Lillard has solidified his mark this season as one of the best clutch performers in the NBA. Lillard ranks 3rd in the NBA in 4th quarter scoring with his 7.0 points average in the crucial quarter, only behind Dwayne Wade and Carmelo Anthony. We look for Lillard to make his 2nd straight All-Star game appearance for the 32-13 Blazers.
2 Wild cards:
- Klay Thompson – Golden State Warriors
- Notable Stats: 22.8 ppg (10th), 45.8 3PT %, 86.4 FT%
- This is close but Thompson might have clinched an All-Star berth after his 52 point performance which included an NBA record 37 points in the 3rd quarter. A lot of what Thompson has done this season has possibly gotten overshadowed by what his fellow Splash Brother, Steph Curry, has done, but when you focus on Klay’s performance this season you see it has been spectacular, especially of late. In his 12 games of 2015 Thompson is averaging a robust 27.1 points which ranks 3rd in the NBA during that span. Considering the Warriors have the best record in the NBA we fully expect for them to have 2 representatives in the All-Star game; therefore, we predict that the Splash Brothers will make their NBA All-Star debut in New York.
- Dirk Nowitzki – Dallas Mavericks
- Notable stats: 18.9 ppg, 36.1 3PT %, 90.4 FT%
- Nowitzki is experiencing a slight drop from his career numbers this season but much of that is due to having a significant amount of help on the offensive side of the ball, namely, Monte Ellis who leads the team in scoring and usage percentage. Another reason for Nowitzki’s drop is that he is playing 29.8 minutes per game which is the 2nd least he has averaged in his career, only behind his rookie season. Still, despite the dip in numbers, Nowitzki is still the leader of a 30-15 team who deserves to have a representative at the All-Star game, and it’s easier to make a case for Dirk as a front court player than it is for Monte Ellis with the other guards he has to beat out in the West.
2 Possible injury replacements:
- Dwight Howard – Houston Rockets
- Notable stats: 16.3 ppg, 11.0 rpg (8th), 57.5 FG%
- Howard has made 8 straight All-Star game appearances and should make it 9 even if it has to be as a injury replacement which is how we see it panning out. Howard has been for the Rockets what he has been for every other team his entire career, a defensive anchor and an efficient, productive player on the offensive end minus the aesthetics. What will hurt Howard this season is his numbers are down from his career averages and has missed 13 of the Rockets 45 games; however, we believe he’s done enough on both ends for a 31-14 team to get in as an injury replacement.
- Russell Westbrook – Oklahoma City Thunder
- Notable stats: 24.9 ppg, 2.3 spg (1st), 7.7 apg, 80.3 FT%
- Westbrook would rank 4th in the NBA in scoring if he’d played in enough games to qualify which he surely will by season’s end barring any further injury. While Westbrook has missed 14 of the Thunder’s 42 games, he is in the elite class of NBA talent along with his teammate Durant and both should make the All-Star game, albeit in Russel’s case, as a replacement to an injured player.
- No Spurs – No Tony Parker nor Tim Duncan
- It would seem that an All-Star game would have to include at least one representative from a defending champion but in the case of this year’s Spurs we just can’t see it happening. The Spurs are off to a slow start at 29-17 which ranks them 7th in the West and just 5 games from falling out of the playoff picture altogether. In addition to their substandard start for a defending champ, nobody on the Spurs roster is having a statistical season that is All-Star worthy. To demonstrate the point of just how the Spurs lack stand out performers, they are lead in scoring by Kawhi Leonard who averages 15.5 points per game. While the defending champs should have a representative on All Star Sunday, there simply isn’t a player worthy this season on the Spurs roster, nor are they playing well enough to make an exception.
- Chris Paul – Los Angeles Clippers
- CP3 is still one of the top 10 players in the league and arguably the best player at his position. He is even having a season that is inline with his career averages in every category. So why do we see Paul on the outside looking in? The ridiculous depth in the West and the Clippers’ struggle this season to meet their expectations of becoming an elite team. We believe coaches will penalize CP3 and the Clippers for their slow start and not award them more than 1 All-Star nod which Blake Griffin already holds. CP3 gets loads of respect around the league and we can see him possibly getting in as an injury replacement but it will be hard to pass on Westbrook or Thompson who we see ahead of him.
- Monte Ellis – Dallas Mavericks
- There is no doubt that Monte deserves to be named to his first All-Star game this season considering his career year on a team that is currently 30-15 and ranks 6th in the Western Conference. The problem is that the West is just too deep and if you weigh Monte’s numbers to that of Klay Thompson, and also consider the Warriors team performance over that of the Mavs, Ellis gets edged out for the final spot.
4. Mike Conley and Zach Randolph – Memphis Grizzlies
- The Memphis Grizzlies are 31-12 which is good for the 3rd best record in the NBA and deserve to have more than 1 representative in this year’s All-Star game. Randolph is 4th in the NBA in rebounding and Conley is the Grizzlies go to guy when the game gets tight, but this year there just isn’t room for either of them with the ridiculously loaded talent in the Western Conference.
Eastern Conference (NBA rank in parenthesis):
3 Front court players:
- Paul Millsap – Atlanta Hawks
- Notable stats: 17.0 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 3.2 apg, 35.5 3PT %
- The Hawks have won 16 games in a row, which is tied with the Golden State Warriors for the longest of the season and are 32-3 after they dropped 2 games in row back on 11/18/2014. One of the team’s leaders has been Paul Millsap who has increased his range since his days with the Utah Jazz, now knocking down a 3-pointer a game at a 35.5 percent clip. Millsap leads the team in rebounding and 2nd in scoring for the number 1 seeded team in the Eastern conference. The Hawks success this season should earn them at least 2 All-Star game nods and Millsap will definitely be one of them.
- Chris Bosh – Miami Heat
- Notable stats: 21.2 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 37.0 3PT %
- Bosh has been voted in to 9 straight All-Star games and this season we predict he’ll make it an even and impressive 10 straight. With Lebron James now in Cleveland, Bosh has returned to a leading role similar to his days in Toronto. Bosh is 2nd in the team in scoring and leads in rebounding. The Heat have struggled to play .500 ball in a weak conference but Bosh’s all-around performance this season will be enough to earn him a spot for the East.
- Andre Drummond – Detroit Pistons
- Notable stats:12.5 ppg, 12.8 rpg (2nd), 1.7 bpg
- Drummond had a break out season last year for the Pistons and has continued his dominate play on the defensive end and on the glass this season. Drummond ranks 2nd in the NBA in rebounding, only behind DeAndre Jordan. While the Pistons’ record is not impressive at 17-28, they have been much improved after Christmas Day where they have gone 12-5 including a 7 game winning streak. The Pistons .706 winning percentage since 12/26 is the 4th best record in the NBA in that time span and that turnaround along with Drummond’s strong play will aid in him garnering attention from the coaches.
2 Back court players:
- Jimmy Butler – Chicago Bulls
- Notable stats: 20.1 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.8 spg (8th)
- Butler is not only a lock to make the All-Star team this season but the most improved player award as well. Butler was known as a tough, defensive player with limited offensive skill, then exploded this season with an expanded repertoire on the offensive end. Butler is blessed with great size and strength which he uses to over power players in the post. This season he showed a much improved outside shot and handles which has allowed him to create his own shot as well. Butler’s production has dropped off a bit in 2015 where he is averaging 16.3 points and shooting 40.3 percent from the field in 13 games, but his stellar play for the totality of the season will easily earn him a place on the East team.
- Kyrie Irving – Cleveland Cavaliers
- Notable stats: 20.9 ppg, 5.2 apg, 38.7 3PT %
- In theory, Irving stood to lose touches with the additions of Lebron James and Kevin Love, but with Irving’s aggression on the offensive end he’s been able to produce at the same levels as his career numbers. Irving is 2nd only to James in scoring for the Cavs who have turned it around after a slow start. Irving and the Cavs have won the last 6 games and have moved up to 4th in the East. Only 22 years old Irving has already been named to 2 All-Star games and we predict this season will be his 3rd.
2 Wild cards:
- Jeff Teague – Atlanta Hawks
- Notable stats: 17.1 ppg, 7.5 apg, 1.8 spg, 47.3 FG%
- Teague leads the number 1 seeded team in the East in scoring and has been consistently solid all season long. During the Hawks 16 game winning streak Teague is averaging 18.1 points, 8.3 assists and 2.1 steals. Teague’s production and the Hawks record will almost guarantee a spot on the East roster for this year’s All-Star game.
- Dwayne Wade – Miami Heat
- Notable stats: 21.7 ppg, 5.4 apg, 48.6 FG%
- Wade has made 10 straight All-Star appearances, only missing out in his rookie season, but he will cut it close this year. Wade is having a solid season, leading the Heat in scoring and assists. What will deter some interest from coaches selecting Wade is that the Heat are 4 games under .500 in a very weak conference. What will ultimately win out in the end is the reverence that most in the NBA have for Wade which will out weigh what the remaining competition has to offer for the last few spots.
- Brandon Knight – Milwaukee Bucks
- On the heals of a season in which the Bucks went 15-67, their worst in franchise history, their 22-22 start this season while maintaining the 6th seed in the East has been a refreshing surprise, especially considering they lost their star rookie Jabari Parker for the season with a torn ACL in his left knee. A major reason the Bucks have sustained their good start is Brandon Knight who leads the Bucks in scoring (17.9 ppg), assists (5.1 apg), steals (1.5 spg) and experiencing career highs in efficiency from the field, 3-point line and charity stripe. We believe the last guard spot will be between Knight and Wade and just don’t see the young Buck winning that battle with the coaches.
- Kevin Love – Cleveland Cavaliers
- It was expected that Love’s scoring would drop with him forming the potent offensive threesome of Lebron James and Kyrie Irving, but what many didn’t expect is that his rebounding and efficiency would also dip considerably. Unlike teammate Irving whose numbers have remained at around his career averages, Love is hovering at numbers he hasn’t seen since his 2nd year in the league. Love is averaging a career low 10.3 rebounds and shooting 43.3 percent from the field, his lowest outside of his shortened 2012-13 season where he appeared in just 18 games. Love is 3rd on the Cavs in scoring with his 17.5 point average which is respectable for a 3rd scorer but the 3rd lowest average of Love’s career. While the Cavs have turned around their season by winning 6 in a row, their early struggles combined with Love’s dramatic fall as the games’ big producers, the coaches will pass on naming him to this year’s All-Star game.
- Joakim Noah – Chicago Bulls
- Noah has made 2 straight All-Star appearances and is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year. Noah with his relentless, high motor and defensive impact is a coaches favorite and always a legitimate threat to get the All-Star nod. This year however, the coaches will have to pass on Noah as he has missed considerable time and the Bulls will already be well represented with Pau Gasol and reserve lock Jimmy Butler.