So either they moved the date up to coincide with the earlier start of the season or I’m just getting old and senile and can’t remember things anymore, but it feels like they’re announcing the All Star Starters at least a week earlier than they normally do. Either way, it’s happening tonight. After years of stupefying fan voting results that drew a line in the sand between people saying “it’s a game for the fans, who cares?” and people with brains who pointed out that they use All Star Game starts and appearances when building Hall of Fame cases, so maybe it’s not a good thing that Yao is leading the fan voting after playing five games, the league finally scaled back the weight of fan votes and gave the players and coaches a say, too. And, of course, there’s this year’s new format: no more East vs. West. The top vote-getters from each conference will select their squads from the pool of All Stars (selected in the same process as always), with the voted-on Starters being divided equally to ensure that they, you know, start. In an atypically head-scratching move from the usually savvy NBA, the All Star draft won’t be televised. Huh? What’s the point of the draft if you can’t see it happening live? How is the NBA seriously going to pass up this chance for some easy ratings? If you got all the All Stars in a room and had (presumably) LeBron and Steph go back and forth taking guys, you’re telling me nothing TV-worthy would happen? What if Steph rigs it so LeBron has to pick Kyrie? Will Westbrook try and persuade his captain to avoid KD? Who’s getting picked last? If the NBA made this pay-per-view I wouldn’t hesitate to hand the NBA a blank check. Not televising this is an NHL-level move. Such a wasted opportunity, and it doesn’t sound like Adam Silver is in any hurry to change it. SMH. Anyway, here’s who should (not who will, but who should) be named as the ten starters tonight.
- Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtics– The good thing about doing this is that the cases for who should be starting pretty much build themselves. Kyrie’s numbers are pretty much the same as last year’s, but if you actually watch the Celtics play you know he’s gotten better. He’s trying on defense, meshing well in a new offense, and is always money in the clutch. He’s lead the Celtics to the best record in the East and will undoubtedly get voted as a starter.
- DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors– If you told me in 2010 that DeMar DeRozan was about to be named to his fourth All Star Game, I would have said you were crazy. Guy just keeps getting better. His playmaking is at an all time high and he’s raised his 3-point shooting from Tony Allen level to “at least pretend to guard him out there,” which is a bigger leap than you might think. Raptors look better than ever, which means their playoff loss will be more disappointing than ever.
- LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers– Is this guy any good?
- Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks– I’m lot lying when I say I spelled his name right on the first try and I’m very proud of it. For all the talk of “once he gets a jumper, watch out,” it’s beginning to look like he may not even need one.
- Al Horford, Boston Celtics– I know I’m a homer, but Al deserves it. The haters and losers will say he’s only averaging 13 and 8, but they’re ignoring the career-best 3-point percentage and over 5 assists per game. He’s the ultimate glue player. Actually, he’s not even a glue guy. He’s like an epoxy guy. He fills in all the gaps for the East’s best team on offense and defense. He makes the offense go with his passing, positioning, and efficient shooting, and is the anchor of the conference’s stingiest defense. I’m sure Embiid will get the vote, and he certainly deserves a roster spot, but I think Horford has done enough as the most important player on the best team to earn a start.
- Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors– I feel like people forget how good Steph is. If he makes his next five shots he’ll be at 50-40-90 for the season, and since he returned from injury he’s been scorching-magma hot. There are people who don’t think he’s one of the five best players in the league, remember that.
- James Harden, Houston Rockets– So tempting to put Lou Williams here, but as long as Harden is healthy, the spot’s his. He’s played 35 games compared to 42+ for everyone else and is still third in the league in total points and shooting career high percentages from the field.
- Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors– Absurdly efficient and one of the leading candidates for Defensive Player of the Year? Yikes.
- Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans– You could really take either one of the Pelicans’ Big 2 here and I’d be fine with it, but I think Davis is just a little better. He’s scoring at will, ruthlessly efficient, and is third in the league in blocks. Plus, no one puts up absurd statlines quite like AD.
- Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves– Absolutely impossible pick. Splitting the thinnest of hairs. I could easily be talked into putting Jimmy Butler, LaMarcus Aldridge, DeMarcus Cousins, or Draymond Green in over Towns, but, in my mind, KAT is still the number one pick in the “what young player would you build around” draft. He’s had one of the greatest starts to a career (offensively) of any big guy ever, and he has a career high offensive rating this year. He’s absurd. You know what else is absurd? He’s playing solid defense now, too. Jimmy Butler is rightly getting a lot of credit for turning the Wolves into a top four team in the West, but Towns continuing to evolve and improve is the real driving force behind the team. Put him in the All Star Game, already!