The NBA released its third round of fan voting on Thursday, and the results haven’t changed much from the first batch. LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo are leading the way for their respective conferences, with Kevin Durant close behind Antetokounmpo in the East.
The West’s projected starting lineup (three in the frontcourt and two backcourt players), listed in the order of fan votes received, would be James, Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Nikola Jokic and Anthony Davis. The East’s would be Antetokounmpo, Durant, Jayson Tatum, Kyrie Irving and Donovan Mitchell.
Fan voting counts for 50% of the overall vote toward the starters, while current players and the media account for 25% apiece. The starters will be announced next Thursday on TNT.
Davis and Durant are currently injured, so they might not compete in the showcase event, though both players could return before February 19, when the game takes place. A couple other star players — Zion Williamson and Devin Booker — are currently injured as well, and it’s hard to say if they’ll be selected due to the amount of time they’ve missed, even if they would clearly be deserving if healthy (Williamson could be a starter; he trails Davis by around 78,000 votes).
Let’s assume the starters remain unchanged. The league’s coaches select the reserves, with seven players chosen from each conference.
Joel Embiid is a lock in the East, and I view Pascal Siakam and Jaylen Brown as locks as well. That leaves four spots from a crowded list of contenders that includes Tyrese Haliburton (also injured, but perhaps short term), Bam Adebayo, Jimmy Butler, DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine, James Harden, Trae Young, Darius Garland, Jalen Brunson, Julius Randle, Kristaps Porzingis, Kyle Kuzma, Jrue Holiday, Paolo Banchero, Franz Wagner, Nic Claxton, and Brook Lopez, among others.
Out West, let’s assume Williamson makes it. Ja Morant and Domantas Sabonis should be locks, in my opinion. That would leave four remaining spots from a field that includes Booker, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Lauri Markkanen, Jaren Jackson Jr., Desmond Bane, De’Aaron Fox, Paul George, Damian Lillard, Jerami Grant, CJ McCollum, Aaron Gordon and Anthony Edwards, among others.
Dan Devine of Yahoo Sports breaks down some of the potential first-time All-Stars into four tiers: Near locks, legit cases, the best-team effect, and long shots. Gilgeous-Alexander, Markkanen and Haliburton are near locks, according to Devine — I would go a step further and say all three should absolutely make the team. That would only leave two spots in the West and three in the East.
As for Devine’s legit cases, that’s where Fox, Brunson and McCollum land. Jackson, Bane, Gordon and Claxton fall into the “best-team effect” category, while Edwards, Grant, Wagner and Banchero are long shots, per Devine.
One of Adebayo or Butler will make it for the Heat, perhaps even both — they’re great two-way players. Butler has missed several games. Adebayo would be my pick. I think DeRozan is deserving. That leaves one spot, and for me it’s down to Brunson or Randle. I’ll take Brunson.
The last two spots in the West are really hard. Booker was awesome when healthy (the Suns are 18-10 in his full games and 3-14 with him hurt). Fox has been a monster in the clutch and the Kings have exceeded expectations. Lillard is playing as well as he ever has, but the Blazers are below .500. Jackson is arguably the frontrunner for Defensive Player of the Year and the Grizzlies are 31-13. Gordon has been the second-best player on the West’s current No. 1 seed.
Fox has played 11 more games than Booker and eight more than Lillard. I’ll give him the nod. Jackson is my final pick — he has been a force on both ends since he returned from offseason foot surgery.
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