Whiteboard: Very early voting for NBA stars
Voting doesn’t close for two weeks, but we’re taking an early look at the NBA All-Star ballot and picking the starters and alternates for both conferences.
There are two more weeks until NBA All-Stars voting closes and the selections are announced. A lot can change by then, but with the voting period still two weeks away, I thought it would be a good time to share how I see each conference’s rosters.
I don’t really have an NBA All-Star media bulletin, and fan voting only lets you pick five incumbents, but I went ahead and made 12 picks for each conference, split between incumbents and alternates. Even in cases where I am not sure that I agree, I have followed the job designations in the official gazette.
Here is an explanation of my choices and reasoning.
Eastern Conference NBA All-Star starts
Save: Tyrese Haliburton
Save: Donovan Mitchell
Front Yard: Kevin Durant
Front Yard: Giannis Antetokounmpo
Front Yard: Joel Embiid
Donovan Mitchell should be a yard lock and may have earned a few more fan votes with his 71-point performance earlier in the week. The toughest decisions to make concern the other guard positions and how to split the four decent frontcourt players among the three positions. For me, Embiid and Giannis were easy choices, and I went with Jayson Tatum because of Durant’s sharp shooting and less talented supporting cast.
I’ll gladly accept accusations of bias for picking Tyrese Haliburton for the other point guard position. But he helped keep Indiana in the playoff race that few saw coming. He plays solid defense and leads the league in assists with averages of 20.6 points, 10.2 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game while shooting 50/40/90. To me, this is a pretty compelling case for a starting position.
Eastern Conference NBA All-Star Reserves
Save: Jaylen Brown
Save: Kyrie Irving
Save: DeMar DeRozan
Front Yard: Jason Tatum
Front Yard: Pascal Siakam
Front Yard: Julius Randle
Front Yard: Kristaps Porzingis
The rest of the Eastern Conference’s backcourt positions are a bit of a mess. Leaving Trae Young and Zach LaVine, James Harden and Darius Garland was tough. But I went with Brown, Irving and DeRozan for a mix of productivity, team success and availability.
In the frontcourt, Tatum and Porzingis look like locks to me. Tatum is the leader of the best team in the Eastern Conference, and Porzingis has been a resurgent two-way force for the Wizards. The Raptors are struggling, but Siakam has never been better, averaging 25.9 points, 8.3 rebounds and 6.6 assists per game. Last year, I ranked Randle, who averaged 24.2 points, 10.0 rebounds and 3.8 assists and had his best shooting percentage ever in his down season.
Western Conference NBA All-Star starts
Save: Ja Morant
Save: Luka Doncic
Front square: LeBron James
Front square: Zion Williamson
Front square: Nikola Jokic
Jokic and Doncic are safe bets, but the rest of the starters leave a lot of room for debate. Devin Booker and Anthony Davis probably could be here based on their production alone, but both will have played just over half of their team’s games by midseason, and both will be out until at least the end of January. That leaves openings for Morant and Williamson in the lead roles.
LeBron is a bit odd, but only when measured against himself. His numbers are spotless, but the Lakers’ record is abysmal and he’s still far from his prime. But nobody has a better record than him, so it’s not like I’m skeptical of him because he’s LeBron.
Western Conference NBA All-Star Reserves
Save: Steph Curry
Save: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Save: De’Aaron Fox
Save: Anthony Edwards
Front square: Lauri Markkanen
Front Yard: Domantas Sabonis
Front yard: Paul George
Damian Lillard is the hardest mistake here, but he’s missed for a while. I’d say Curry was better and should be back on the court soon. For the other spots, I wanted to highlight some of the young players who have really made a difference. I’m putting three new All-Stars in the backcourt – Fox has helped turn the Kings around, Edwards has stepped up and improved significantly through adversity, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has been perhaps the single-best goaltender in the league this season.
In the frontcourt, I think Sabonis and Markkanen deserve recognition not only for their production, but for what they’ve done to make their team competitive. I ranked Paul George last, ahead of a mix of intriguing possibilities like Jerami Grant, Aaron Gordon and Keldon Johnson.
Keep an eye on injuries and availability over the next few weeks, as this could affect some final picks, as well as open up additional slots for injury replacements.
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Check out the new episode of the Step Back podcast.
Hosts Ethan Skolnick and Brady Hawk take a look at 12 of the NBA’s biggest stars and what they need to accomplish in 2023. Subscribe to the show on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
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A night full of close matches
12 games were played on Tuesday evening. Two went to overtime and seven were decided by three runs or less. What you missed on this exciting match night:
- Cavs 90 – Suns 88: Donovan Mitchell finished the night with just 20 points on 20 shots for 71 points, but he finished with nine assists, a 3-pointer to give the Cavs a three-point lead with 40 seconds left and an assist on Evan Mobley’s game-winning goal.
- 76ers 129 – Pacers 126 (OT): Seven players from each team scored double-digit points. Although both teams struggled in overtime (5 of 18 overall), two De’Anthony Melton field goals were enough to give the Pacers the win.
- Knicks 117 – Spurs 114: Jalen Brunson scored 38 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter, 7 rebounds and 6 assists to lead the Knicks to an important victory.
- Bucks 104 – Raptors 101 (OT): Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with a triple-double with 30 points, 21 rebounds and 10 assists. He also hit Grayson Allen for the game-winning 3-pointer with 11 seconds left. The Raptors were ultimately doomed to poor 3-point shooting, shooting just 9 of 46 in the game, including 4 of 20 in the fourth quarter and overtime.
- Pistons 122 – Warriors 119: The Pistons were coming off a 30-point night from Klay Thompson, capped off by Saddiq Bey’s miracle goal late in regulation.
- Lakers 112 – Heat 109: Dennis Schroder led the Lakers without LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Schroder scored 32 points on just 15 shots, including two key free throws, to ice the victory with just 3.2 seconds left.
- Falcons 120 – Kings 117: Eight different players scored 20 or more points in that game, but Dejounte Murray was the hero. He hit a pair of free throws with 31 seconds left to give the Hawks a 1-point lead, then stole the ball from De’Aaron Fox on the next possession and took it himself for the win.
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