Luka Doncic

Mavericks Notes: Terry, Redick, Porzingis, Cuban

Rookie guard Tyrell Terry is back with the Mavericks after missing the past eight weeks due to a personal matter, according to Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News. Terry, the 31st pick in last year’s draft, has played just 11 games for Dallas. He was in the G League bubble with the Memphis Hustle in February, then left the Mavericks on March 17 to deal with personal issues.

Terry has been going through light workouts to regain his conditioning and isn’t in uniform for tonight’s game, Caplan adds. He hasn’t been in an NBA game since late January, and it’s uncertain if he’ll play at all before the season ends Sunday.

“It’s unlikely that he’ll dress (for) any of these three games because he’s been out for quite a while,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “But I shouldn’t say that’s 100%, either. We’ll have to see what our numbers look like.”

There’s more from Dallas:

  • After leaving Tuesday’s game with soreness in his right heel, Mavericks guard J.J. Redick won’t play any more during the regular season, tweets Eddie Sefko of “He’s getting his right heel evaluated and then we’ll see where we are,” Carlisle said.
  • Mavericks big man Kristaps Porzingis is playing tonight for just the second time since April 22, tweets Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News. Porzingis, who has been dealing with soreness in his right knee, is on a minutes restriction, but Carlisle refused to specify what the limit is (Twitter link). Carlisle said Porzingis “understands it’s about helping the team win games but also getting him back” on the court and preparing for the postseason. He added that the team has determined its best lineups are with Porzingis at power forward, rather than center (Twitter link).
  • In an interview with Marca, a Spanish sports publication, Porzingis denied having any disputes with Luka Doncic (translation from Alessandro Maggi of Sportando). “I’ve never had any problems with my teammates off the court, I’ve always gotten along very well with them,” Porzingis said. “I don’t know what (team owner Mark) Cuban was talking about. I try to be as professional as possible, do what I have to do and be a soldier for the team.” In a recent radio interview, Cuban suggested there had been “dust-ups” between the two stars, relays Sam Quinn of CBS Sports.

Crowded All-NBA Field Will Impact Several Contract Situations

When Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer shared his early All-NBA picks this week, he rightly pointed out that limiting the field to 15 players will leave a number of worthy candidates on the outside looking in. O’Connor had to exclude worthy contenders such as Devin Booker, Zion Williamson, Jaylen Brown, Ben Simmons, Jimmy Butler, Russell Westbrook, Trae Young, Jrue Holiday, and Kyrie Irving from his three All-NBA teams.

Among the other players left off the top 15 by O’Connor were Donovan Mitchell, Zach LaVine, Bam Adebayo, and De’Aaron Fox. Those players are especially notable because an All-NBA spot this season would either substantially increase the value of the contract extensions they signed last offseason or would put them in line for a significantly more lucrative extension this summer.

Jayson Tatum, who earned a spot on O’Connor’s All-NBA Third Team, is in the same boat. Like Mitchell, Adebayo, and Fox, he signed a rookie scale extension that includes Rose Rule language, which could bump his starting salary from 25% of the cap to 30% of the cap.

Here are how those players, who signed five-year, maximum-salary contract extensions last offseason, will be affected by whether or not they earn All-NBA honors. These are projected values based on a 3% salary cap increase.

Player No All-NBA All-NBA
Donovan Mitchell $163,000,590 $195,600,710
Jayson Tatum $163,000,590 $195,600,710
Bam Adebayo $163,000,590 $185,820,675 (First Team only)
De’Aaron Fox $163,000,590 $169,522,180 (Third Team) *

* Fox’s deal would be worth $182,560,660 if he makes the All-NBA Second Team and $195,600,710 if he makes the First Team.

Fox probably has no chance at making an All-NBA team, given the competition at guard and the Kings’ spot in the standings. The other three players here have better cases, but Adebayo is likely a long shot, making Mitchell and Tatum the most realistic candidates. They’d only need to sneak onto the Third Team to increase the projected value of their new five-year deals by more than $32MM.

As O’Connor writes, Tatum has a clearer path to an All-NBA spot than Mitchell based on his position. The guard spot is absolutely stacked this season — Mitchell would have to beat out at least one of Luka Doncic, Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, Chris Paul, Bradley Beal, and James Harden, as well as all the guards mentioned at the top of this story. As good as he’s been, he may be left out.

While Tatum, Mitchell, Adebayo, and Fox have already negotiated “super-max” language into their contracts and are now trying to guarantee a salary increase by earning All-NBA honors, a handful of players will become eligible for a higher maximum salary on a new extension if they make an All-NBA team this year. An All-NBA spot would either make them eligible for a Rose Rule extension or a Designated Veteran Extension.

Here are those players, along with the projected contract extension they’d become eligible for with an All-NBA nod. These projections are on the conservative side, since they’re based on annual salary cap increases of just 3%.

Player Max extension with All-NBA spot
Year it would begin
Nikola Jokic
Five years, $242,098,25 2023/24 *
Joel Embiid
Four years, $187,000,032 2023/24
Zach LaVine
Five years, $235,046,855 2022/23
Luka Doncic Five years, $201,468,730 2022/23

* Jokic would have to wait until the 2022 offseason to sign a super-max extension. The others could sign extensions during the 2021 offseason.

Embiid is still under contract for two more years beyond 2020/21, which is why he’d only be able to tack on four new years to his current deal instead of five. Jokic is in a similar spot, but because he’ll only have six years of NBA service at the end of this season, he’d have to wait until 2022 to officially sign an extension, at which point he’d be eligible for five new years instead of just four.

Doncic’s potential extension has the lowest average value of any of these hypothetical deals because he’d only be eligible for a starting salary worth 30% of the cap, instead of 35%, due to his limited years of NBA service.

MVP candidates Jokic, Embiid, and Doncic all look like pretty safe bets to make an All-NBA team this spring, and I imagine the Nuggets, Sixers, and Mavericks will be ready to put super-max extension offers on the table for their respective stars as soon as they’re eligible to sign them.

As for LaVine, he likely won’t make an All-NBA team, which may be a relief for the Bulls — deciding whether or not to offer LaVine a standard maximum contract could be a difficult decision in its own right. If he were eligible for a super-max, that would make negotiations even more challenging.

Assuming LaVine doesn’t earn All-NBA honors, he’d only be eligible for a four-year, $104.83MM extension this offseason. However, the Bulls could go higher than that if they renegotiate his 2021/22 salary using their cap room, or if they wait until the 2022 offseason — as a free agent, LaVine would be eligible for a five-year contract worth up to $201.47MM (projection based on 3% annual cap increases) if he re-signs with Chicago, even without All-NBA honors.

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Southwest Notes: Pelicans, Doncic, Ball, Wood

Thursday is the first day the Pelicans can sign another player to fill their 15th roster spot and avoid the luxury tax, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic.  Hollinger crunched the numbers after the Pelicans signed Didi Louzada, whose $123,056 salary as a draft rookie counts $98,940 less than a veteran signed to the same spot. On Thursday, New Orleans could sign a veteran to a rest-of-the-season deal for $122,097 and stay under the tax by $8,651.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • Mavericks star point man Luka Doncic is in danger of being assessed a mandatory one-game league suspension, Tim MacMahon of ESPN writes. Doncic has 14 technical fouls this season after getting ejected from Dallas’ 111-99 loss to the Kings on Sunday. If he gets another technical, he’ll reach the league’s threshold of 15 technicals, which triggers a suspension. Doncic promises to avoid that scenario. “I won’t get another one,” he said.
  • Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball will head into free agency this summer and wherever he lands next season, he plans to prove he’s one of the top point guards in the league, as he told Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). “Being an All-Star is definitely my next goal on the list and I think that should be coming up pretty soon,” he said. The Pelicans must extend a $14.36MM qualifying offer to make Ball a restricted free agent.
  • The status of Rockets big man Christian Wood this week and the remainder of the season is in doubt. Wood said he’ll likely to need to sit out at least a couple of games, Mark Berman of FOX26 tweets“Right now with my ankle and my quad, I’m not sure about (playing) the next couple games,” he said.

Cuban: Implementing Play-In Tournament During Compressed Season A “Mistake”

Within the last 24 hours, Mavericks star Luka Doncic and team owner Mark Cuban have each criticized the concept of the NBA’s play-in tournament, as Tim MacMahon details in a pair of stories for

Cuban is part of the NBA’s Board of Governors, which unanimously approved the proposal to implement a play-in tournament for the final two playoff spots in each conference. However, it sounds like the Mavericks owner is having second thoughts about the concept, calling it an “enormous mistake” to introduce the play-in games during a compressed season.

“The worst part of this approach is that it doubles the stress of the compressed schedule,” Cuban told ESPN. “Rather than playing for a playoff spot and being able to rest players as the standings become clearer, teams have to approach every game as a playoff game to either get into or stay in the top six since the consequences, as Luka said, are enormous. So players are playing more games and more minutes in fewer days.”

Cuban’s comments came the day after his franchise player offered his own criticism of the play-in idea.

“I don’t understand the idea of a play-in,” Doncic said on Monday. “You play 72 games to get into the playoffs, then maybe you lose two in a row and you’re out of the playoffs. So I don’t see the point of that.”

The play-in tournament will pit the seventh and eighth teams in each conference against one another, with the winner securing the No. 7 seed. The loser of that game will then face the winner of a game between the ninth and 10th seeds for the final playoff spot.

Cuban’s complaint about implementing the play-in tournament during a compressed schedule is valid, since teams are more concerned than ever about keeping players healthy while playing 72 games in 146 days (instead of the usual 82 in 177) following a shortened offseason.

Still, it’s hard to separate Cuban’s and Doncic’s critiques of the play-in tournament from Dallas’ place in the standings. The Mavericks currently have a 29-24 record, putting them seventh in the West and two games back of the sixth-seeded Trail Blazers. It’s perhaps no coincidence that Cuban offered an alternate solution that would allow the Mavs to avoid a play-in game.

“I get why the NBA is doing it,” Cuban said of the play-in tournament. “But if we are going to be creative because of COVID, we should go straight up 1-20 and let the bottom four (seeds) play in.”

If the league were to seed teams regardless of conference, allowing the top 12 to secure automatic postseason berths while the next eight participated in a play-in, the Mavs would be in better shape — they hold the NBA’s 10th-best record.

Mavericks Notes: Redick, Cauley-Stein, Porzingis, Brunson

J.J. Redick participated in his first full practice Saturday since joining the Mavericks and could be ready to play Monday against the Sixers, writes Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News. The veteran guard said he experienced no new problems with the sore right heel and Achilles that have kept him out of action since March 3. While he felt pain during practice, Redick said the heel and Achilles are “sore all the time. I’m just managing right now. It was the first time going live and I thought it went really well.”

Dallas acquired Redick from the Pelicans at the trade deadline to provide another outside shooter heading into the postseason. He’s coming off a non-surgical procedure last month to help ease the soreness.

“He really is a very intense, machine-like worker,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “A guy like that is great for the culture of your team. It was great having him out there (Saturday), in as much of a full practice situation as you can get in this kind of a season.”

There’s more from Dallas:

  • Willie Cauley-Stein, who has been in the NBA’s health and safety protocols since March 18, may be cleared to return today, Townsend adds in a separate story. Cauley-Stein was listed as probable on the team’s injury report. He has missed 12 games, the most of the six Mavericks players who have been in the protocols this season.
  • In another piece, Townsend examines the relationship between Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis amid rumors of behind-the-scenes friction involving the franchise cornerstones. “We’re trying to play together and help each other,” Porzingis said when asked about the topic this week. “We want to win. At the end, we all want to win here. We have to keep playing, keep playing together, and keep playing well and help each other.”
  • Dallas considered Jalen Brunson “basically untouchable” in talks before the trade deadline, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on his latest podcast (hat tip to Tyler Watts of FanSided). Windhorst added that the Mavericks view the third-year point guard as “a foundational core piece going forward.”

Southwest Notes: Porter, Grizzlies, McLemore, Doncic, Porzingis

With John Wall out due to a left knee contusion and Eric Gordon sidelined for four-to-six weeks, Kevin Porter Jr. will get more playing time than expected, starting with his Rockets debut on Friday, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle writes. Porter was recalled from the G League last weekend.

The second-year swingman, who was acquired from the Cavaliers in January, lit up the G League. He averaged 24.1 points, 6.5 rebounds, 7.3 assists and 1.5 steals in 15 games. “He will have the ball in his hands, he will initiate plays, he will be off the ball a little bit,” Rockets coach Stephen Silas said.

We have more on the Southwest Division:

  • The Grizzlies don’t have a glaring need heading toward the trade deadline but they could use more star power, according to Chris Herrington of the Daily Memphian. Getting that star isn’t an easy proposition, though they have enough assets to pull off such a deal. They could also consider dealing two or three good players for one better one, even if that player isn’t quite an All-Star, Herrington adds.
  • Rockets guard Ben McLemore is drawing interest from teams looking to add backcourt depth, Kelly Iko of The Athletic tweets. McLemore, 28, had one of the better years of his career last season, averaging 10.1 PPG and shooting 40% from deep in 71 games. He’s averaging 6.4 PPG in 15.7 MPG this year and his shot has been off (30.9% on threes). McLemore is the final year of a very movable contract ($2.28MM).
  • Mavericks stars Luka Dončić (right ankle) and Kristaps Porzingis (right knee) sat out Thursday’s game in the second end of a back-to-back. That won’t be the last time they’ll get nights off for injury recovery, coach Rick Carlisle told Eddie Sefko of the team’s website and other media members. “There will be more of these along the way,” he said.

Western Notes: Thunder, Rockets, Morey, Doncic, LeBron

Over half of the NBA’s teams are either currently hosting fans at their home games or have announced plans to do so soon. However, the Thunder won’t be joining that list. The team sent out an email to season ticket holders confirming that fans won’t be allowed to attend games at Chesapeake Energy Arena for the rest of the season, as Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman tweets.

The decision was based on several factors,” the Thunder said in their email, according to Mussatto (Twitter link). “The ultimate one being that the overall health and safety of our fans and our community is the most important thing to us.”

Let’s round up a few more items from around the Western Conference…

  • Multiple sources within the Rockets organization believe that former general manager Daryl Morey decided to leave the team last fall in part because he expected James Harden would want out, reports Tim MacMahon of ESPN. According to MacMahon’s sources, Morey had expressed reservations last summer about his ability to “keep James happy” without the assets necessary to keep upgrading the roster.
  • Mavericks guard Luka Doncic has been downgraded to doubtful for Wednesday night’s game vs. Oklahoma City, but a source tells ESPN’s Tim MacMahon that Doncic is still expected to play in this weekend’s All-Star Game even if he sits out tonight. Doncic is also tentatively on track to participate in the Skills Challenge.
  • Lakers star LeBron James, who ranks fourth in the NBA this season in total minutes played, will sit out the second half of the team’s back-to-back set on Wednesday, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). According to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, James will receive treatment on his left ankle, but like Doncic, he expects to play in Sunday’s All-Star Game.

Simons, Stanley, Toppin To Compete In Dunk Contest

Anfernee Simons of the Trail Blazers, Cassius Stanley of the Pacers, and Obi Toppin of the Knicks will compete for the annual Slam Dunk title at halftime of the All-Star game on Sunday at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, the NBA announced in a press release.

Simons, a 6’3” guard, is averaging 8.2 PPG in his third NBA season. Stanley is a 6’5″ rookie guard on a two-way contract after being selected in the second round last fall. He recorded a maximum vertical leap of 44 inches in the 2020 draft combine. Toppin, a 6’9″ rookie forward and lottery pick, is averaging 4.6 PPG in 25 games off the bench.

The 3-Point Contest, which will be held prior to the game, has a lot more star power. Suns guard Devin Booker and Warriors guard Stephen Curry, former winners of the long-ball contest, head the list of participants. The Celtics’ Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, the Bulls’ Zach LaVine and the Jazz‘s Donovan Mitchell round out the six-man field.

The Skills Challenge, which will also be held prior to the game, also has plenty of All-Star firepower. Mavericks guard Luka Doncic and Suns guard Chris Paul head that six-man listKnicks forward Julius Randle, Pacers forward Domantas Sabonis, Magic center Nikola Vucevic and Trail Blazers forward Robert Covington round out the field.

Super-Max Candidates To Watch In 2021

The Designated Veteran Extension, as we explain our glossary entry on the subject, is a relatively new addition to the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. It allows players with 7-9 years of experience, who would normally qualify for a maximum starting salary of 30% of the cap, to qualify for a “super-max” contract that starts at 35% of the cap, a level normally reserved players with 10+ years of experience.

A player who has seven or eight years of NBA service with one or two years left on his contract becomes eligible for a Designated Veteran Extension if he meets the required performance criteria and hasn’t been traded since his first four years in the league. A Designated Veteran contract can also be signed by a player who is technically a free agent if he has eight or nine years of service and meets the required criteria.

The performance criteria is as follows (only one of the following must be true):

  • The player was named to an All-NBA team and/or was named the NBA Defensive Player of the Year in the most recent season, or in two of the last three seasons.
  • The player was named the NBA MVP in any of the three most recent seasons.

Technically, players like Gary Harris and Evan Fournier meet the criteria related to years of service with one team and could theoretically become eligible to sign a super-max extension this year, but they’re obviously not viable candidates to make an All-NBA team in 2021.

There are, however, a few players who are more realistic candidates to qualify for a super-max veteran contract based on their All-NBA candidacy. Let’s dive in and examine a few of those cases…

Joel Embiid (Sixers)

When Embiid first signed his five-year, maximum-salary contract with the Sixers back in 2017, he had appeared in just 31 games over the course of his first three NBA seasons, making the investment a risky one. The deal included some injury protection for Philadelphia, giving the team the ability to waive Embiid without fully guaranteeing the salaries in later years of the deal if one of the injuries he experienced early in his career became a recurring issue.

The idea of the Sixers waiving Embiid seems absurd now. While the former third overall pick hasn’t exactly been an iron man since the start of the 2017/18 season, there are no longer any concerns about his career being derailed by health issues before it could really get off the ground.

Embiid will have seven years of NBA service under his belt at the end of the 2020/21 campaign and if he earns a spot on an All-NBA team, he’d have done so twice in the last three years, having made the Second Team in 2019.

For now, he looks like an awfully safe All-NBA bet — his 30.0 PPG, 11.3 RPG, .519/.415/.858 shooting line, and solid defense have made him a legit MVP candidate. Health is always the wild card for Embiid, but as long as he stays on the court for most of the second half, an All-NBA spot should be a lock. That would make the big man eligible to sign a super-max extension with the Sixers this offseason.

Embiid remains under contract through 2023, with a $31.6MM salary in ’21/22 and a $33.6MM figure for ’22/23. A super-max extension would tack on four years to those two seasons and would start at 35% of the ’23/24 cap.

It’s too early to know exactly where the cap will end up in 2023/24, but if we use a conservative estimate and assume it will rise by 3% annually in each of the next three summers, that would result in a four-year total of up to $187MM on a new Embiid deal that runs through 2027. It will be fascinating to see how eager the 76ers would be to put that extension – which would cover Embiid’s age-29 to age-32 seasons – on the table.

Nikola Jokic (Nuggets)

Like Embiid, Jokic has played like an MVP candidate and is a lock for an All-NBA spot, barring an injury or another unexpected development. Jokic, who was the All-NBA Second Team center in 2020, is making a case for a First Team spot this season, averaging 26.7 PPG, 10.9 RPG, and 8.5 APG on .564/.421/.879 shooting through 33 games for the Nuggets.

Unlike Embiid, however, Jokic will only have six years of NBA experience at the end of the 2020/21 season. That means that even though he can technically gain super-max eligibility by earning an All-NBA nod for the second straight season, Jokic wouldn’t officially be able to sign a new extension with Denver until 2022, once he has his seven years of service.

This is the same situation Giannis Antetokounmpo found himself in last year — he gained super-max eligibility following the 2018/19 season based on his multiple All-NBA spots and his MVP award, but wasn’t able to actually sign that super-max contract until the 2020 offseason, once he had seven years of service. The Bucks, of course, planned all along to offer him the super-max as soon as they could, and it’s probably safe to assume the Nuggets will do the same for Jokic.

Jokic’s current contract is virtually identical to Embiid’s, with matching $31.6MM and $33.6MM cap hits for the next two seasons after ’20/21. Because Jokic wouldn’t be able to sign a super-max until 2022 though, he could get a five-year extension at that point — if we once again assume annual 3% cap increases, that deal could be worth up to an eye-popping $242MM.

Zach LaVine (Bulls)

While Embiid and Jokic have clear paths to All-NBA spots in 2021, LaVine is a longer shot to get there. The Bulls guard is having the best year of his career and currently ranks sixth in the NBA with 28.7 points per game, but he’s not a strong defender and Chicago’s place in the standings is unlikely to do him any favors with All-NBA voters.

Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, Luka Doncic, and James Harden look like the top contenders to fill the guard spots on the first two teams, which means LaVine would be competing with stars like Bradley Beal, Kyrie Irving, Devin Booker, Donovan Mitchell, Ben Simmons, and Jaylen Brown, among others, for a Third Team spot.

LaVine’s current deal pays him well below the max, at just $19.5MM annually, so earning an All-NBA spot would make him eligible for a massive raise. If we once again count on annual 3% salary cap increases, a super-max extension for LaVine would could be worth up to $235MM over five years, starting in 2022/23.

Even if he beats the odds and earns an All-NBA spot, LaVine seems unlikely to receive that sort of offer from the Bulls, who traded Jimmy Butler to Minnesota when his super-max eligibility loomed a few years ago. But the super-max wrinkle would further complicate LaVine’s contract situation, which should be very interesting to monitor even if he falls short of an All-NBA team.

Because he’s earning just $19.5MM next season, LaVine would typically only be eligible for a four-year, $104.8MM veteran extension — the Bulls would almost certainly put that offer on the table, but LaVine would probably pass, since he’d be eligible for a far higher salary as a free agent in 2022.

It’s worth considering, however, that Chicago projects to have a significant chunk of cap room available during the 2021 offseason, giving the team the option of renegotiating the final year of LaVine’s contract to give him a raise and a more lucrative extension. That may be the most likely outcome for the first-time All-Star, who is a super-max long shot but is still likely to command more than the $26MM annual salary the Bulls can offer without a renegotiation.

Luka Doncic (Mavericks)

To be clear, Doncic will not be eligible for a starting salary worth 35% of the salary cap on his next contract. But the Mavericks star is being mentioned here because he’ll likely become eligible for a lesser form of the “super-max” contract.

When a former first-round pick is entering the fourth and final year of his rookie contract, he’s eligible to sign a rookie scale extension that starts at 25% of the cap. But if that player has met the super-max performance criteria listed at the top of this story (based on MVP, DPOY, or All-NBA honors), his rookie scale extension can instead start at 30% of the cap.

Most of the time, a player who signs a rookie scale extension that can start at 30% of the cap does so conditionally — for instance, Jayson Tatum was on the 2019/20 All-NBA Third Team, then signed a rookie scale extension prior to the ’20/21 season. Because his extension will go into effect next season, Tatum still has to earn an All-NBA spot again this season to meet the super-max criteria (an All-NBA spot in the most recent season, or in two of the past three seasons) and to qualify for that 30% starting salary.

Doncic, on the other hand, has a chance to pull off a rare feat. Because he was named to the All-NBA First Team in just his second season, he’ll become eligible for a 30% starting salary if he earns All-NBA honors again this year, in his third season. It wouldn’t matter whether or not he’s an All-NBA player again in 2022, because he would have already met the necessary benchmark — two All-NBA berths in three years.

Assuming Doncic earns an All-NBA spot this season, which looks like a safe bet, he’d be eligible to sign a five-year rookie scale extension worth a projected $201.5MM, which would begin during the 2022/23 season.

Like Tatum, Donovan Mitchell, Bam Adebayo, and De’Aaron Fox all signed rookie scale extensions in 2020 that will increase in value if they meet certain performance criteria, so they’re worth keeping an eye on this season too.

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

2021 NBA All-Star Game Starters Revealed

The NBA has revealed its 2021 All-Star Game starters. Here are those names:

Eastern Conference

After missing all of the 2019/20 season while he recovered from a ruptured Achilles tendon, Durant is making his triumphant return to the All-Star Game. In his first appearance as a Brooklyn player, the 11-time All-Star will captain a team, having led the Eastern Conference in fan votes.

[RELATED: Community Shootaround: Eastern All-Stars]

This is the seventh All-Star appearance for Durant’s teammate Irving. Antetokounmpo, the reigning two-time MVP, has just made his fifth All-Star game. A frontrunner for the 2021 MVP award, Embiid is appearing in his fourth such contest. Beal will be making his first All-Star start after playing as a reserve in the 2018 and 2019 All-Star contests. The Wizards are the No. 13 seed in the East.

Western Conference

James, who was the top vote-getter in the Western Conference and the entire NBA with 5,922,554 fan votes, will again be a team captain. He will be suiting up for his 17th All-Star appearance, the third-most ever behind only fellow Laker legends Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (19 appearances) and Kobe Bryant (18). James was previously tied for making the third-most cumulative All-Star contests alongside Hall of Fame Nets and Sixers wing Julius Erving, who was selected into five ABA All-Star games and 11 NBA All-Star games.

Jokic, an early top MVP contender along with James and Embiid, will earn his first All-Star start in his third appearance in the game. Curry will partake in his seventh All-Star contest, while Leonard has just been voted into his fifth All-Star game.

[RELATED: Community Shootaround: Western All-Stars]

Doncic barely edged out Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard to be the second All-Star guard next to Curry among the starters, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports tweets. Despite extended absences from starters CJ McCollum, Jusuf Nurkic, and Zach Collins, the Blazers boast an 18-10 record, good for the No. 4 seed in the crowded West, largely thanks to Lillard. The Mavericks, meanwhile, are 13-15, the No. 10 seed in the West.

As was the case during the last two years, the top vote-getters of each conference will captain a team, and will be able to draft players from either conference. The “Elam Ending,” which made the conclusion of last year’s game much more entertaining than it had been in recent years, is set to return again this year.

Earlier today, the league officially announced that the 2021 All-Star Game is set to take place at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, as a one-night event on March 7. The evening will also include its three All-Star weekend mainstay events: the Skills Competition, the Three-Point Contest and the Dunk Contest.

A full list of fan voting totals is viewable at this Twitter link, courtesy of Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. The complete voting breakdown by position and conference, including media and player votes, can be found at the bottom of this press release.

The league will announce the 14 players who will comprise the All-Star reserves on Tuesday, February 22, at 7 p.m. ET, per Omari Sankofa II of the Detroit Free Press (via Twitter).