Predicting Next Year’s NBA All-Star Starters
Every year it feels like a new player is snubbed and another is crowned in the fan-voted All-Star starting five. Last year’s MVP Russell Westbrook has been excluded two years in a row now, even after averaging a near-triple double stat line, while the Greek Freak skipped the subs and went straight to the starters. So let’s fast forward to 2019 and see what happens!
Russell Westbrook (G/Thunder)
After losing both Carmelo Anthony and Paul George in the off-season, Westbrook finally took his place on the western conference starting five. He’s averaging a triple double, again. And his team is a middling squad expected to lose in the first round of the playoffs, again.
Stephen Curry (G/Warriors)
Steph is a reigning champ, a two-time MVP, and an obvious choice for the All-Star game given his superhuman shooting and handling ability. Even though he’s handed over a lot of his usage to KD, fan voting basically locks him in for 2019.
Kevin Durant (F/Warriors)
He’s still the best player on the best team and a legitimate Defensive Player of the Year candidate with over 2.5 blocks per game. Now that Durant’s beat LeBron in the Finals two years in a row, KD is trying to make his case for the NBA Mount Rushmore. It’s an uphill climb for a player that joined a 73-win team, but his dominance is unquestionable, and, at only 30 years old, he’s not stopping any time soon.
Nikola Jokic (F/Nuggets)
The Joker only needed a few years to surpass the hype and enter a league all his own. The only true point-center in our league and a diamond that Denver discovered in the mountains of Serbia, Jokic has led his Nuggets to a top five team in the west and a top eight team in the league with gorgeous assists, crafty scoring from the post, and a surprisingly stout defensive presence. Fans will vote him in for leading the league in assists and making his way into some of the hottest passing highlights of the season, including a nutmeg of…
LeBron James (F/Rockets)
That’s right, folks. After joining James Harden and Chris Paul in Houston, LeBron is ready to take on the Warriors in a western conference clash of the titans. Houston lost a lot of depth in order to acquire LeBron, but they’ve still got the second-best record in the west and will certainly give the Dubs a run for their money.
Western Conference Alternate
Paul George (G/Lakers)
Easily the best player on a Lakers team that is in playoff-contention for the first time in years. He’s averaging more points per game than anyone in the west except for his old teammate Russell Westbrook and sporting the second-highest usage rate in the league.
Kyrie Irving (G/Celtics)
The best finisher in the NBA has only gotten better since the 2017-18 season, achieving a true shooting percentage of 70% this season. Since captaining the Celtics, young Kyrie Irving has given us flashes of his ability to be a franchise player and would probably be the league MVP if it wasn’t for another gentleman who joined him in Boston over the off-season (see further down on this list).
Ben Simmons (G/76ers)
The process has paid off and it’s becoming clear that the centerpoint of the franchise is not so much Embiid as it is Simmons. Big Ben is averaging a triple-double and proving he can score without a jump shot like LeBron once did. He’ll merit conversations in the media about his impossibly high ceiling and have just enough flashy passes and nasty dunks to steal the fans’ hearts. On top of that, Philly will be a top four eastern conference team that needs an All-Star starter representative.
Kristaps Porzingis (F/Knicks)
The Porzingod has quietly become an MVP candidate this season. As he continues to build his stamina and get his ostrich-like basketball legs beneath him, he continues to improve the Knicks’ record. While they are still near the bottom of the eastern conference playoff picture, the Knicks have a positive record and Porzingis leads the east in points per game, blocks per game, and usage rate.
Giannis Antetokounmpo (F/Bucks)
Among the NBA’s biggest followers, there seems to be a common understanding that Giannis will be the best player in the NBA by the time he’s 26. The Bucks are the second-best team in the east after adding Kevin Love, and Giannis is the face of a franchise that could unseat the Celtics in a year. While he still has a ways to climb before being crowned king, he will not be moved from the All-Star starting five for the foreseeable future.
Anthony Davis (F/Celtics)
Since being traded to the Celtics, Davis has become the most talked about player in the NBA. Under coach Brad Stevens, he’s contributed to Boston’s league-best record with the highest PER ever posted in his career. Davis has his eyes set on the chip and he doesn’t mind all the jersey-burning, coattail-riding talk that’s been swirling around the league. For every fan that burns a jersey, there are two buying one that reads “Boston” on the front and “Davis” on the back.
Eastern Conference Alternate
Victor Oladipo (G/Pacers)
The Pacers are fourth-place in the eastern conference, and it’s entirely because of the heroics of Victor Oladipo. He’s got the best highlights of the 2018-19 season, a posterization of Andre Drummond among them, and he leads the league in steals. The Pacers are looking at contending for a conference title in a year if they can get the next off-season right.
(Cropped image courtesy Bryan Horowitz via Flickr.)