Talk about saved by the bell. Adam Silver and the NBA changed the format of the All-Star game just in the nick of time. Now, each team is a collection of Eastern and Western All-Stars; the inaugural run in New Orleans, last February. Otherwise, the game this year would have been a disaster.
Most of the elite talent is in the west. Of the top 8 Western Conference teams, 13 players have been All-Stars at least three times. The top 8 Eastern Conference teams aren’t equally deep. Of teams in playoff position, only 6 have been All-Stars three times or more.
Choosing the West squad has always been tough given the dominant guards. But this year it is even harder. Or is it?
Those 13 repeat (Western) All-Stars are being pressed by young players like Devin Booker and De’Aaron Fox.
Passing the All-Star Test
Steph Curry. On the short list for MVP, Curry is having a dominant year. 2nd in scoring. 1st in 3-pointers per game. 122 Offensive Rating. 26.0 PER. 4th Real Plus-Minus (PG). 28.7 points, 5.3 assists.
James Harden. Clubhouse leader for his second MVP, Harden is breaking all kind of records as he is dropping 40+ points here, there and everywhere. He has picked up the slack for a team with zero depth and is winning games all by himself. 1st in scoring. 2nd in 3-pointers per game. 5th in assists. 4th in steals. 118 Offensive Rating. 28.9 PER. 1st Real Plus-Minus (PG). 33.3 points, 8.4 assists.
Damian Lillard. Dame is doing his thing and no one can stop him. 7th in scoring. 5th in 3-pointers per game. 120 Offensive Rating. 23.9 PER. 6th Real Plus-Minus (PG). 26.7 points, 5.8 assists.
Russell Westbrook. Still a walking triple double. Russ’ numbers draining the ball in the basket aren’t great, actually they are pathetic. But everything else is All-Star level. 1st in assists and steals. 100 Offensive Rating. 20.5 PER. 12th Real Plus-Minus (PG). 21.0 points, 10.7 rebounds.
Chance of a Shut Out
DeMar DeRozan. Doesn’t matter that he’s changed teams and conferences. He is still numbing brains and glazing eyes with his mid-range shot. The best two guard if you’re calling James Harden a point. That still may not matter. He doesn’t have enough sexy numbers. He’s not top-10 in scoring, assists, steals. 112 Offensive Rating. 21.1 PER. 6th Real Plus-Minus (SG). 22.9 points, 6.3 assists.
Jrue Holiday. It’s not fair but Holiday is being judged on what he can do to help Anthony Davis stay in NOLA. He’s having a good year, 8.7 assists and 20.9 points but the Pels are still losing. Perception is reality. Holiday is top-10 in assists, ranked 3rd. 110 Offensive Rating. 18.7 PER. 11th Real Plus-Minus (PG). 20.9 points. 8.7 assists.
Mike Conley. May be saddled with Best Point Guard Never to be an All-Star for his entire career. Comeback after a season ending injury is pure Mike Conley. He will never be that guy that wows you with his numbers, not top-10 in any offensive category. But as a basketball player, he is consistent. 113 Offensive Rating. 20.7 PER. 5th Real Plus-Minus (PG). 20.5 points, 6.5 assists.
Youth is Wasted on the Young
Devin Booker. He has the numbers and he has the game and he is waiting to jump the All-Star line. The problem is for Booker to get in an elite player has to step out and they aren’t ready to give up any ground. 106 Offensive Rating. 19.0 PER. 5th Real Plus-Minus (SG). 25.1 points. 7.1 assists.
De’Aaron Fox. Love this kid. Returned after his rookie year and is the main reason the Kings have a shot at the playoffs. He claims he is the fastest player in the NBA, faster than Westbrook. Not wise to say before you play Russ. 9th in assists. 100 Offensive Rating. 18.8 PER. 14th Real Plus-Minus (SG). 18.1 points, 7.5 assists.
Nope, Not This Year
Klay Thompson. Just a mediocre Klay year. First time not shooting 40% from three. Offensive rating of 102 is tied with his rookie year for Klay worst. 14.7 PER is not All-Star worthy. 54th best shooting guard, Real Plus-Minus. 21.0 points, 4.2 rebounds.
Chris Paul. Injuries have twisted whatever was possible in the first half of the season. Paul has frequently been bothered by a hamstring. Even before the hamstring, he looked like an older point guard. 6th in assists. 5th in steals. 113 Offensive Rating. 18.3 PER. 9th Real Plus-Minus. 15.6 points, 8.0 assists.