Thursday, the NBA All-Star Game starters will be announced and there will be some interesting debates — the fans voted Trae Young an East starter at guard, but will the media and player votes keep him there? (Hint: don’t bet on it.) One week later, the reserves will be announced — there will be snubs and there will be some angry fanbases.
Here are my votes for the starters and picks for the All-Star reserves. As a quick reminder, the starters are chosen by a composite of fan votes (50%), player votes (25%) and media votes (25%). The reserves are chosen by a vote of NBA coaches, who must select two guards and three frontcourt players and have two wild card selections.
Eastern Conference All-Stars
G. Donovan Mitchell (Cavaliers)
G. Tyrese Haliburton (Pacers)
F. Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks)
F. Joel Embiid (76ers)
F. Jayson Tatum (Celtics)
G. Jalen Brunson (Knicks)
G. Tyrese Maxey (76ers)
F. Bam Adebayo (Heat)
F. Paolo Banchero (Magic)
F. Julius Randle (Knicks)
WC. Trae Young (Hawks)
WC. Jaylen Brown (Celtics)
Snubs: Damian Lillard (Bucks), Kristaps Porzingis (Celtics), Mikal Bridges (Nets), Pascal Siakam (Pacers), Derrick White Celtics.
The East cuts were harder than the West.
Four-fifths of the starting lineup was a lock (and fans agreed), but the second guard spot could go to Mitchell, Brunson, Maxey or even Lillard — there is a legit case for each (I think most of my media peers went with Brunson). I went with Mitchell over Brunson in what is a coin-flip of a choice, going with the guy averaging 27.8 points 5.9 assists and 5.5 rebounds, sparking his team on a run with two of their top four players out. The fans voted Young a starter (unless that changed in the final days after the last release of voting data), but he has never done well in votes with his peers, so expect him to fall out of that spot.
Leaving off Lillard, who has been clutch this season, hurts. But Brunson, Maxey and Young are locks in my mind as guard and I can’t put Lillard in over Brown — do that and you’ve got two Bucks, two 76ers, two Knicks but one Celtic? That doesn’t work. Make Brown a forward and replace Randle and you can get in Lillard, but at the cost of a key Knick player. Also, Barnes and Banchero were another coin-flip choice. I went with Banchero because he’s lifted his team into postseason position and has more of an offensive load, but Barnes may be having the better season — brutal choice.
Western Conference All-Stars
G. Luka Doncic (Mavericks)
G. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Thunder)
F. Nikola Jokic (Nuggets)
F. Kevin Durant (Suns)
F. LeBron James (Lakers)
G. Stephen Curry (Warriors)
G. Anthony Edwards (Trail Blazers)
F. Anthony Davis (Lakers)
F. Kawhi Leonard (Clippers)
F. Lauri Marrkannen (Jazz)
WC. De’Aaron Fox (Kings)
WC. Devin Booker (Suns)
Snubs: Jamal Murray (Nuggets), Paul George (Clippers), Brandon Ingram (Pelicans), Zion Williamson (Pelicans), Rudy Gobert (Timberwolves), Alpren Şengün (Rockets).
The fans have voted Stephen Curry in front of Gilgeous-Alexander as a starting guard and with that the Warriors’ legend could get the nod, but SGA has been the better player this season and deserves the spot. The frontcourt had tougher decisions out West with Jokic an obvious lock, but a legitimate case could be made for Kawhi Leonard as a starter and Anthony Davis in front of LeBron. To me, Durant has just been too good — through all of the injury turmoil in Phoenix to start the season — not to make the cut. I spent a lot of time debating which Laker should get that final starting spot, and while Davis has the better stats and is the better defender, watch the Lakers play and it’s LeBron who is the straw that stirs the drink — at age 39 they need him to be that guy every night to win. That earned him my vote.
Picking the reserves is always brutal. Jamal Murray is an All-Star level guard but to me Curry and Edwards were locks and I couldn’t justify Murray beating out Fox or Booker, who have been phenomenal for their teams. People are sleeping on how great Lauri Marrkannen has been in Utah and what he’s meant to this team’s recent surge, but it was still a tough call to put him in over Paul George. Not having any Pelicans on the team hurts, but I can’t put Ingram or Zion in over Marrkannen.