Whether or not an All-Star Game can be played in 2021, two All-Star teams will be selected, and voting is now underway. Fans will have a say in picking the 10 starters, with their vote counting for 50% of the total tally, while media members (25%) and players (25%) will also be involved.
On Thursday, we asked you which five Eastern Conference players deserve the strongest consideration for spots as All-Star starters. Today, we’re shifting to the Western Conference and asking you the same question. Let’s dive in and examine some of the candidates…
The three leading scorers in the Western Conference are also three of the top candidates to be backcourt All-Star starters. Those players are Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (28.8 PPG), Warriors guard Stephen Curry (27.7 PPG), and Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (27.4 PPG).
Doncic’s 9.7 assists and 9.4 rebounds per game improve his candidacy, though his three-point shot has been a problem (28.5% on 7.2 attempts per game) — especially when compared to Curry (39.5% on 11.1 attempts) and Lillard (37.9% on 10.2 attempts). All three teams rank between eighth and 12th in the conference, so team performance won’t give any of them a leg up, at least so far.
If you’re unconvinced by any of those three résumés, there are a handful of other intriguing candidates to consider, including Donovan Mitchell, who is the leading scorer (23.4 PPG) for the top-seeded Jazz.
Ja Morant has averaged 22.6 PPG on 53.2% shooting for the overachieving Grizzlies, while DeMar DeRozan has been the top scorer (20.1 PPG) and play-maker (6.8 APG) for the Spurs, who currently hold a top-five seed in the West.
Lillard’s teammate CJ McCollum was off to a scorching start to the season, with 26.7 PPG and a .441 3PT% through 13 games, but he’s out for at least a month with a foot injury, essentially taking him off the board.
Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Suns guards Devin Booker and Chris Paul, and Mitchell’s teammate Mike Conley are among the other candidates on the periphery. However, the choice in this group probably comes down to two of Lillard, Curry, or Doncic, with Mitchell looming as a wild card.
Neither Los Angeles team has a particularly strong candidate for a spot in the All-Star backcourt, but there are plenty of options up front.
Lakers star LeBron James has been his usual incredible self, averaging 25.5 PPG, 7.8 RPG, and 7.5 APG through 20 games, with a career-best .417 3PT%. He’s a better candidate at this point to start than his teammate Davis, whose scoring average has dipped to 21.9 PPG in the early going.
For the Clippers, you could make a convincing argument in favor of either Kawhi Leonard (25.9 PPG, 5.7 APG, 5.4 RPG, .505/.419/.900 shooting) or Paul George (23.9 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 5.4 APG, .504/.484/.907 shooting), who have been paragons of scoring efficiency while playing solid defense on the other end of the court.
There are a number of candidates capable of crashing an all-L.A. frontcourt though, led by Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, who has been better than ever in 2019/20, with 25.2 PPG on 56.7% shooting to go along with 11.8 RPG, 8.9 APG, and 1.8 SPG.
Rudy Gobert‘s scoring numbers are modest (13.4 PPG), but his 14.2 rebounds per game lead the Western Conference, and he has anchored the Jazz‘s defense, one of the best in the NBA.
Christian Wood is making a bid for All-Star consideration in his first year with the Rockets, averaging a double-double so far (23.4 PPG, 10.8 RPG). Meanwhile, Pelicans forwards Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson each rank among the West’s top 10 scorers with 23.9 PPG apiece, though their team’s performance (6-10, 14th in the conference) hurts their cases.
At this point, I think the most logical Western lineup would include two of Lillard, Curry, and Doncic, along with LeBron, Jokic, and whichever Clippers forward you favor (I’d lean toward Kawhi). But I’m curious to know what you think.
Which five players would you vote into the Western Conference’s starting All-Star lineup? Do you think there are any spots that are too close to call for the time being, or are you ready to pencil in a starting five?
Share your thoughts and your picks in the comment section below!