The second fan returns of the NBA All-Star fan vote were released last night, once again the list contains a number of surprises names.
Whilst we’ve previously seen “cult” choices, like Zaza Pachulia in 2016 and 2017, the continued appearance of the likes of Tacko Fall and Alex Caruso (with no disrespect intended) is a stark reminder of the numerous flaws to one of the league’s marquee events.
Perhaps most surprising though, is the arrival of the Boy Wonder, Luka Doncic as a top-two vote-getter. Surpassing the reigning in MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and hot on the heels of the greatest player of this era, LeBron James. Luka’s ascension has been nothing but incredible this season as he continues to post exceptional performances each and every time he steps onto the court. He’s ranking in the voting is testament to how quickly he’s risen to the top of the league and how his play has resonated with fans across the globe.
In recent years the NBA has deservedly garnered the reputation of being a progressive league. Tweaking and adjusting aspects of the game to create an (n even) more fan-friendly event as well as speaking out on a variety of social issues.
- Raptors hand victory to Portland despite leading all game
- Career night for Cleveland Cavalier’s Tristan Thompson
- David Stern, The NBA’s visionary dies at 77
In 2018, the NBA removed the traditional Eastern Conference vs Western Conference format from within the game. In large part to create a more balanced, competitive fixture. However, the voting process to elect players is still based on conferences – five starters and seven reserves (plus one honorary role, if that needs to continue) from both the East and the West. The league needs to fix this, but that’s a whole other column…
So who starts?
Using in the current process of the starting fives needing to contain two guards and three frontcourt players from each conference, this is who deserves to be on the court for the opening tip at the United Center on February 16:
Lock them in:
Luka Doncic and James Harden
These two are immediately in. Permanent marker. Print the jerseys. When you’re in the midst of historically great MVP campaigns, an All-Star nod is a given. If either didn’t make your ballot I’m assuming you’re either biased towards your own team or you’re not taking this seriously… both are equally valid voting styles!
I’ll leave Giannis for the forward spots… but there is a legitimate argument that he should be considered a guard given his ball-handling responsibilities.
Deserves a spot:
This bit immediately becomes greyer… should Jimmy Butler be eligible as a guard (same argument as Giannis)? His Heat team have been incredible and have responded fantastically to his leadership style. If he could be classed as a guard, I’d take him. Should Trae Young be given a shot? He’s putting on some fantastic performances with elite ball-handling, court vision and limitless range… that said he plays for the league’s worst team so his huge numbers are more than likely inflated.
Bradley Beal, similar to Trae, great offensive output, a poor team record. Kemba Walker is headlining the resurgent Boston Celtics, leading his new team in points and assists. Donovan Mitchell is surging in Utah, who have the league’s longest active win streak but getting no love. Devin Booker is leading a pseudo-resurgence in Phoenix and Chris Paul is having an unexpectedly impressive year in Oklahoma… Ultimately, I’m going to reward Trae Young’s offensive brilliance and Kemba’s stoic stewardship and give them the nod here.
Lock them in:
Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Jimmy Butler (as noted, I couldn’t take him as a guard).
Deserves a spot:
Here’s where it gets really difficult… Kawhi Leonard has been incredible but has missed 26 percent of the Clippers games so far. Rudy Gobert is spearheading the Jazz with his defence, but do we want to really see his skill-set in the ASG? Nikola Jokic started the season poorly, the public opinion being he was out of shape, but is now rounding (pun intended) into the MVP form we witnessed last season. Joel Embiid is unstoppable, but only when he’s healthy and engaged. And Pascal Siakam has continued last season’s growth, leading the Raptors and keeping them relevant. After a lot of back and forth on this one, I’m taking Kawhi and Siakam for the final starting spots.
G – Luka Doncic
G – Trae Young
G – James Harden
G – Kemba Walker
F – LeBron James
F – Giannis Antetokounmpo
F – Anthony Davis
F – Jimmy Butler
F – Kawhi Leonard
F – Pascal Siakam
That’s the pool I want my All-Star captains drafting from.
But All-Star is still over a month away and there’s plenty of action to get into before then?
Friday 10 January, 2:45am (Saturday) – Los Angeles Lakers @ Dallas Mavericks
The fourth and final regular-season meeting between these two squads. The series, tied at 1-1, has been great so far, pitting Luka Doncic against his boyhood idol, LeBron James. LA (30-7) will be without Anthony Davis following his back injury and Dallas (23-14) will probably be without Kristaps Porzingis. Potential high-scoring triple-double games from both the King and Boy Wonder as they look to carry their respective squads to victory.
Saturday 11 January, midnight – New Orleans Pelicans @ Boston Celtics
The Pelicans (13-25) have the second-worst record in the West, ahead of only the G-League version of the Warriors (that was harsh, I apologise). But, there are a number of reasons to be hopeful that this season is not yet lost. They’ve won seven of their last ten games, Zion Williamson is expected to return this month, Brandon Ingram is balling out and despite their lowly standing, they’re unbelievably just four games out of the eighth seed. Oh, their schedule for the final third of the season is also one of the easiest in the league! The Celtics (25-10) are tough, with both a top 10 ranked offence and defence – but they are beatable as Washington and San Antonio have already proved this week. It’ll be interesting to see how Brad Stevens uses Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum to nullify Ingram’s production.
Sunday 12 January, 1am (Monday) – Los Angeles Clippers @ Denver Nuggets
Two conference heavyweights face off in the Mile High City, with several potential All-Stars on display. Having had a four-day break, the Clippers (26-12) play five games in nine days – although none will be back-to-backs it’ll be interesting to see how Doc Rivers applies the teams resting policy to Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Denver (26-11) are starting to move up through the gears now, with Jokic shouldering more and more of the team’s load. This should be a fun one.