Earlier in the week, we passed along our Eastern Conference All-Star selections. We’ll examine the Western Conference today…
G Rockets James Harden
G Warriors Stephen Curry
FC Warriors Kevin Durant
FC Nuggets Nikola Jokic
FC Pelicans Anthony Davis
Slotting Harden and Curry into the guard spots is easy. Figuring out who should start in the frontcourt is an immensely difficult task.
Davis has done everything for the Pelicans and no player is responsible for a higher percentage of his team’s wins. Durant is averaging 28.0 points per game while shooting 51.1% from the field and dishing out a career-high 6.0 assists per game.
Paul George is proving he belongs among the league’s best, averaging 27.0 points and putting himself in position to win the Defensive Player of the Year award.
Jokic’s team had the best record in the west for a large part of the season. Harden and Russell Westbrook are the only players in the conference averaging more assists per game than Jokic and he’s in the top five in VORP, plus/minus, PER, and NBA Math’s TPA.
LeBron James missing the cut for the starters comes down to him missing a portion of the season
to film Space Jam 2 to nurse a groin injury and the ridiculous level of competition alongside him in the Western Conference frontcourt ranks.
LBJ and George would likely be starters in other years and you could argue that either would be starting if the league simply picked the 10 best players this season rather than having the East-West distinction.
A brief backstory: Shortly after the 2016 NBA Finals, I engaged in a debate with a friend over Steven Adams‘ future in the league. Adams had just had a nice series against the Warriors and overall, He had an encouraging playoff run.
My friend envisioned Adams making the leap and become All-Star worthy but I couldn’t see it and two friendly wagers were formed: Will Adams ever make an All-Star game? Who will have more All-Star appearances in their respective careers, Adams or Dragan Bender? (This looks really bad in hindsight, but at the time, Bender was a highly-touted prospect a few weeks away from being a top-5 pick. It’s one of my Sam Hinkie manifesto moments where I’m happy to be wrong for the right reasons.)
Adams is unlikely to make this year’s game, even with a boost in fan voting as a result of his anime connection, but he deserves consideration, which is a sentence I never thought I’d write. He’s hit career highs in a slew of traditional categories and he’s among the top 10 in the West in win shares.
However, if Adams is ever going to make an All-Star game, he’ll likely need things to break right (injuries, talent migration into the east, being a key part of a No. 1 seed that completely exceeds expectations akin to the 2014/15 60-win Atlanta Hawks) or he’ll need to be traded to the East. There’s just too much frontcourt talent in the Western Conference.
As for who should make it, LeBron, George, and Karl-Anthony Towns are no-brainers. Damian Lillard will make his fourth All-Star appearance while Rudy Gobert should expect his first nod, as he’s leading the league in field goal percentage and essentially every advanced defensive statistical category.
LaMarcus Aldridge was in a funk during the first quarter of the season but he’s caught fire since Thanksgiving, scoring 22.7 points and shooting 57.0% from the field since the last week in November. He and DeMar DeRozan deserve credit for their part in keeping the Spurs in the playoff picture.
Can the Pelicans get two All-Stars while residing in the conference’s 12th spot? I can’t support it despite how important Jrue Holiday has been to New Orleans.
Luka Doncic should win the Rookie of the Year but he doesn’t deserve to be an All-Star. Yes, he has exceeded expectations for Dallas, but he’s shooting a ho-hum 35,6% from behind the arc and 42.8% from the field overall for a team that only has the depressing Grizzlies and inexperienced Suns behind them in the conference standings.
The Clippers could send either Danilo Gallinari or Tobias Harris to Charlotte. I’m giving the nod to Harris. His shooting percentage dipped slightly below 50% recently but he has a good chance to make at least half of his shots from the field and 40% from deep while averaging at least 20 points per game. Kyrie Irving is the only player who’s currently accomplishing that feat. Here are the qualified players to achieve those figures over the past four seasons:
Each player made the All-Star game during those seasons and Harris warrants an invitation to this year’s event.
Lastly, Russell Westbrook is leading the league in assists. He’s scoring 21.8 points per game but he’s making just 41.6% of his shots, including 24.2% from 3-point range. He’s coughing up 3.5 turnovers per contest and is making just 65.5% of his six free throw attempts per contest.
Westbrook led the league in total missed shots in each of the past two seasons and somehow, he’s become even less efficient this year. The 30-year-old will likely make his eighth All-Star appearance next month but I wouldn’t bet on him making too many more beyond this season unless he figures out how to increase his efficiency and reduces the turnovers.
Recap of Western Conference Reserves
Thunder Paul George
Lakers LeBron James
Timberwolves Karl-Anthony Towns
Blazers Damian Lillard
Jazz Rudy Gobert
Clippers Tobias Harris
Thunder Russell Westbrook
Do you agree with the selections above? Are there any changes you would make to the list? What 12 players would you vote into this year’s All-Star game? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below. We look forward to hearing what you have to say!
Images courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.