Pretty soon All-Star ballots will be in arenas and online. Fans vote for the starters which makes it pretty much a popularity contest. The best players usually are the most popular. So in the West, the starters will probably be Russell Westbrook, Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and DeMarcus Cousins. In the east the starters should be Kyrie Irving, DeMar DeRozan, Paul George, LeBron James and maybe Dwight Howard. However, when the coaches vote for the reserves it gets interesting, meaning some hurt feelings because of snubs. Coaches are not allowed to vote for their own player. They tend to vote for players who they have seen the most and who torched their team.
This year there is an opportunity for both the West and East teams to have some first timers, if the coaches are paying attention. Here are a few.
Lou Williams, Lakers. Williams is the Lakers leading scorer and he is one of the reasons why the Lakers have overachieved. Off the bench he is averaging a career high 16.4 points, 41.0% from three. He has an offensive rating of 114. His PER is 22.9. The Lakers lead the league in bench points.
Best Game of the Year: Pelicans. 21 points. 60% field goals. 40% 3-pointers. 3 rebounds. 4 assists. 2 steals. +23. Lakers road win by 27.
All-Star Probability: 1%. The West is too deep at the guard position. James Harden, Chris Paul, Damian Lillard, Mike Conley, C.J.McCollum, Klay Thompson. They are all starters and play more minutes than Williams.
Mike Conley, Grizzlies: Conley got paid big time and he has delivered on the court with a new coach but still the old Grizzlies pace and often anemic shooting. 19.5 points. 5.8 assists. He is 13th in 3-pointers made. 17th in assists. 28th in steals. His PER is 23.3. He has said, “It is very frustrating never to make an All-Star game. I feel like I am that All-Star caliber guy. I just have to get better as each year goes by.”
Best Game of the Year: Charlotte. 31 points. 36 minutes. 52.4% field goals. 62.5% three pointers. 100% free throws. 4 rebounds. 2 assists. 3 steals. +21. Grizzlies win on road by 15.
All-Star Probability: 20%. Too many great guards to fight with like Paul and Lillard. Conley is usually overlooked. Don’t see it changing in 2017.
Kemba Walker, Hornets: The best year of his career, Kemba has finally reached his star potential and is guiding the Hornets to a top 4-seed in the East. Remember a couple of years ago when Kemba couldn’t shoot? Those days are over. He is making 47% of his shots and 41.1% of his threes. His 24.5 points and 5.1 assists put him in elite guard territory. He is 7th in 3-pointers made, 11th in field goals made, 13th in steals, 17th in free throws made and 23rd in assists. His PER is 26.2.
Best Game of the Year: Minnesota. 30 points. 34 minutes. 63.2% shooting. 66.7% 3-pointers. 5 rebounds. 6 assists. 5 steals. +20. Hornets win by 7 on the road.
All-Star Probability: 99.9%. Kemba Walker will be an All-Star.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks. Stacy King butchered his name early in the season and then so did President Obama. Whatever you call him, just don’t lie and call him weak. He is anything but. He has the same wingspan as Anthony Davis. His athleticism is off the charts. He is the point guard after the Michael Carter-Williams exile. He is the future and he is the right now. The disappointment is very few get to see him play. 22.3 points. 8.3 rebounds. 6.1 assists. The best player on the floor many a night. 9th in steals. 5th in blocks. 13th in field goals made. 14th in assists. 20th in defensive rebounding. 18th in points. PER 25.6.
Best Game of the Year: Pacers. 27 points. 61.1% field goals. 71.4% free throws. 7 rebounds. 9 assists. 2 steals. 2 blocks. +20. Win by 18 in Milwaukee.
All-Star Probability: 75%. It’s a no brainer he belongs on the east squad. That may mean Dwyane Wade is home watching but so be it. He is a dominant athlete who has figured out every part of the NBA game except 3-point shooting. He is that rare 21 year old who is a two way player.
Harrison Barnes, Dallas. Barnes has overcome all the questions and unfortunately he’s on a Mavericks team with an over 30 roster that, surprise, surprise, cannot stay healthy. Barnes is showing everyone who doubted him that he can be a franchise sustaining talent. Barnes is putting in 20.6 points, 5.7 rebounds. He has a PER of 16.8. He is 3rd in minutes. 17th in field goals made and 24th in points. He recently told ESPN regarding his role on the injury depleted Mavs team, “This is what every player wants and dreams of, being in that position where you get that responsibility and you have a chance to grow every single night.”
Best Game of the Year: Bucks. Overtime. 48 minutes. 34 points. 50% field goals. 40% 3-pointers. 85.7% free throws. 8 rebounds. 2 assists. 2 steals. +14. Mavs win by 11.
All-Star Probability: 15%. The West is too deep to add a player from a losing team to the squad. Ahead of Barnes is Blake Griffin, Marc Gasol, Draymond Green, LaMarcus Aldridge.
Andrew Wiggins, Timberwolves: This is the third year of the Andrew Wiggins career and he has been absolutely spectacular. 23.5 points. 4.1 rebounds. 39.1% from three. 16.5 PER. Although he has not been able to guide his team to wins, Wiggins has arrived as a legitimate star. He is 6th in minutes, 14th in points and 22nd in field goals made.
Best Game of the Year: Lakers. 41 minutes. 47 points. 66.7% field goals. 40% 3-pointers. 77.3% free throws. 4 rebounds. 3 assists. 1 block. +34. Wolves win by 26.
All-Star Probability: 55%. Everything Wiggins is doing this year is being done with defenses trying to stop him. They can’t. That is the definition of an All-Star. He makes contested shots.
Karl-Anthony Towns, Timberwolves: In a twist of irony, what may hurt Towns this year with the coaches is that he is the perceived leader of the Wolves not Wiggins and the Wolves are not winning. The glamour pick to make the playoffs has flamed out early. Towns has good numbers, 21.1 points, 9.4 rebounds, 49.1%. But those numbers and what Towns does individually don’t matter. The Wolves can’t win games. Towns is 15th in field goals made, 7th in offensive rebounding, 15th in rebounding. He has a PER of 22.5.
Best Game of the Year: 76ers. 38 minutes. 25 points. 66.7% field goals. 50% 3-pointers. 10 rebounds. 2 blocks. +33. Wolves win by 24.
All-Star Probability: 40%. If the Wolves keep losing it drops to 15%.
Kristaps Porzingis, Knicks: He is ballin’ in his second year and right now looks like the second best player in the 2015 draft. He is putting up 20.9 points and 7.3 rebounds. He touches the ball as much as Carmelo which means it is an equal opportunity offense when Rose lets go of the ball. The Knicks aren’t a great team but with Porizingis they have a shot at the 8th seed. He is 23rd in points, field goals made and 3-pointers made. His PER is 21.5.
Best Game of the Year: Pistons. 40 minutes. 35 points. 59.1% shooting. 42.9% from three. 85.7% free throws. 7 rebounds. 3 assist. 1 steal. 1 block. +15. Knicks win by 3.
All-Star Probability: 60%. The East isn’t a haven for big men and forwards once you get past LeBron James and Paul George and Jimmy Butler. Paul Millsap will always be in the mix along with Al Horford. Porzingis won’t be saddled with the Knicks record as an excuse. He is not their best player so he has a good shot to get in.
Hassan Whiteside, Heat: He turned down money from everyone who was interested (Dallas and Lakers) to sign with the Heat and then Wade left and the Heat are trying to exile Chris Bosh to Siberia so Whiteside has his money tied up to a Miami rebuild. His numbers are nice: 1st in offensive rebounding, 1st in defensive rebounding, 2nd in blocks. 16.8 points. 14.9 rebounds. His PER is 23.9. He recently said, “I don’t have a day off” in reference to the resurgence of centers in the league.
Best Game of the Year: Wizards. 39 minutes. 18 points. 64.3% field goals. 18 rebounds. 3 blocks. +8. Heat win by 3 in D.C.
All-Star Probability: 30%. Will he be rewarded even though he is on a bad team? Will coaches remember how he dominated them in the paint?
photo via llananba