The first round of All-Star fan voting is in and the possible starters are starting to take shape. Let’s have a second round of predictions for who could make the NBA’s Western Conference All-Star team.
NBA All-Star fan voting is underway and the first batch of results was released by the NBA last week.
There were no real surprises among the top vote-getters in the Western Conference. Kevin Durant, LeBron James, and Nikola Jokic collected the most votes in the frontcourt. Luka Doncic and Steph Curry are atop the backcourt. It’s the same five I predicted in my first look at potential All-Stars in the west this season.
Oklahoma City star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was third amongst backcourt candidates, roughly 400,000 votes behind Curry. But remember, the fan vote only carries 50% of the total weight. The media will also cast votes, as will the players. Each of those results will count as 25% each toward the formula that determines the starters. It’s entirely possible for SGA to ge the nod.
As for the full list, there’s really no reason to get worked up. Austin Reaves will get All-Star votes because he’s a Laker and not a Trailblazer. Many people who vote are not die-hards and will gravitate toward familiar names like Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompspon, and James Harden, regardless of whether their candidacy holds merit or not.
With that said, Gilgeous-Alexander is a lock to make the All-Star team. Gone are the days, a whole two seasons ago, when a little embellishment was needed to make his case. The only question is whether he’s announced as a starter or a reserve in Indianapolis next month.
Predicting the starters was easy and still is. Picking the reserves is a little more dicey. Here is my second round of Western Conference All-Star predictions:
G — Curry or Gilgeous-Alexander: both are worthy, and both will be named to the team. It’s just a matter of which one will be a reserve.
G — Anthony Edwards, Minnesota Timberwolves: Another easy selection. The Wolves are atop the Western Conference and Edwards more than clears the statistical bar for selection.
G — De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento Kings: Swipa’s scoring has cooled a bit over the last month, bringing his average down to merely 28.2 points per game this season. The Kings’ floor general is on track to make his second consecutive All-Star appearance.
G — Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns: The Suns are a disappointment at 19-17 heading into Monday night’s game against the LA Clippers. But that’s not on Booker. While health is always a concern, he has played in all but one game since mid-November. He’s averaging 26.4 points and nearly 8 assists per game as the Suns’ lead guard.
F — Kawhi Leonard, LA Clippers: The Claw was not in my first round of predictions. Wasn’t even on the watchlist of players that just missed the cut. But in the 16 games he’s played since Thanksgiving, Leonard is averaging 26 points per game, shooting 54% from the field and almost 45% from three. He’s also played in 31 of LA’s 35 games. Barring injury, he’s another near-lock for Indianapolis.
C — Anthony Davis, LAL: this is similar to the Suns’ conundrum. The Lakers sit at 18-19, but they have two legitimate All-Star selections. Davis’ offensive production — 25 points per game while shooting over 55% from the field — combined with his work on the defensive end makes it really hard to leave off just because the Lakers’ record stinks. For the advanced stat heads out there, Davis currently ranks seventh in the league in Player Efficiency Rating and fifth in Win Shares.
C — Domantas Sabonis, Sacramento Kings: There are several worthy candidates for the last spot. An edge goes to Sabonis due to his stats (19.7 points and a league-best 12.8 rebounds per game) and the Kings’ top-five record in the west. He’s also got high rankings in advanced metrics. But again, Sabonis will have a lot of legitimate competition for this spot.
F — Paul George, LA Clippers: George gets knocked out of the list thanks to his teammate’s emergence. He’s having an excellent season but it’s hard to wedge him in at the expense of one of the others above. He will be near the top of injury replacements, and the league might just want to inject a bit of a storyline by sending George to an All-Star game being hosted in Indy, where he played his first seven seasons before an acrimonious split.
C — Alperin Sengun, Houston Rockets: the Jokic Lite big man is putting up counting stats across the board — 21 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists per game — and advanced stats love him as well. He compares very favorably with Davis and Sabonis.
F — Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves: Towns’ case for making the squad is fading as he takes more of a complimentary role next to Edwards. The Wolves’ record keeps him in play for a spot but his case doesn’t feel as strong as it did a month ago.
G — Jamal Murray, Denver Nuggets: As mentioned before, Murray could get rewarded largely for his penchant for becoming a playoff monster. His stats are good, mind you. Just not as gaudy as other guards on this list. Someone to keep an eye on, especially as an injury replacement.
Outside looking in
G — Kyrie Irving, Dallas Mavericks: Irving has moved from the watchlist to off the list. He’s missed 16 of Dallas’ 37 games thus far.
F — Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram, New Orleans Pelicans: the Pelicans have been fine, currently 7th in the west. But neither Williamson nor Ingram have been consistently dominant.
C — Chet Holmgren, Oklahoma City Thunder: OKC is still among the best of the west, and Holmgren’s stats haven’t dipped much over the past month. But a lot of guys have moved up or solidified their All-Star status. That may shut Chet out of the game this season, but he’s looked the part of perennial future All-Star so far.