As the official list of 2017 NBA All-Star starters is set to be released tonight at 7 PM, let’s take a look at the list of guys I believe will be starting in New Orleans.
Guard 1, Isaiah Thomas: To keep things short and sweet for the little fellow, Isaiah Thomas has absolutely been balling this year. Thomas is having an MVP caliber year, averaging nearly 29 points, six assists, 2.7 rebounds, and shooting the best percentages of his career from both the free throw line as well as the field. Thomas has been the clear leader for Boston this year, and his fourth quarter heroics is the biggest reason the Celts are 26-16 and the three seed in the East.
Guard 2, DeMar DeRozan: Joining Thomas in the backcourt for the East should be Toronto Raptor swing man DeMar DeRozan. Simply put, DeRozan has been balling this year. He is averaging a career high 28 points, four assists, and a career high 5.4 rebounds, while shooting a nice 47% from the field and draining 84% of his free throws getting to the line about eight times a game. DeRozan came into this year with a mission, return to the Eastern Conference Finals, and he is well on his way to achieving it as the Raptors are 28-14 and the second best team in the East. It should also be noted that DeRozan has had over 15 30+ point scoring games and has had three games where he’s poured in at least 40. Oh yeah, I think this is a safe pick.
Forward 1, Jimmy Butler: While Chicago has had its issues this season, there is no doubt in my mind that Jimmy Butler should be starting in this years All-Star game. The Butler is averaging 25 points (four more than last year), serving up a career high five assists a game, and pulling down a career high 6.8 rebounds. Most importantly, Jimmy Butler is the reason the Bulls are winning games. He is contributing 7.7 win shares, third in the NBA behind Westbrook and Durant, and without him I have no clue where the Bulls would be this year.
Forward 2, LeBron James: The King of the East is at it again in 2016-’17, putting up big numbers and leading his team to the top of the Eastern Conference. James is averaging a strong 25 points, eight assists, eight rebounds, to go along with a steal a game, and is shooting 37% from downtown. James has been doing this for years now, and considering how efficient he has been this year, it looks like he’ll continue doing it for years to come. The Cavaliers are best in the East as expected with a healthy 29-11 record.
Forward 3, Giannis Antetokounmpo: The Greek Freak has put the NBA on notice this year, and I believe it will pay off in the form of a start at the 2017 All-Star Game. Averaging nearly 24 points, five assists, close to nine boards, along with two steals and two blocks a game, all while shooting a beautiful 53% from the field, Giannis has been a beast in the seasons first half. Antetokounmpo is also third in the NBA when it comes to player efficiency, something that should not be taken lightly. Finally, The Greek Freak also has his Bucks on the cusp of a playoff berth, a big factor that I believe will help the young player. Milwaukee is currently 20-21 and ninth in the East.
Guard 1, Russell Westbrook: This pick is easy as DangeRuss has been feasting on the league all season long. The guy has 21 triple doubles, is leading the league in points, and has made an OKC team with little expectations a six seed team in a tough Western Conference. Westbrook is averaging 30.6 points, ten rebounds, and just over ten assists, while leading the league in PER with a 29.6, and is having one of his best years shooting the three. One of the frontrunners for the MVP race, Westbrook is getting this starting spot, my only question is how far will he lead his Thunder this post-season. OKC is 25-19 and tied for sixth place in the West.
Guard 2, James Harden: In my opinion, Harden should have been the League MVP in 2015, and the fact that he was left off of all three All-NBA teams last year was unfair. Well 2016-’17 looks to be the season The Beard corrects all of this as he is playing well enough for that MVP trophy this year, and anyone who thinks he isn’t a first team All-NBA player will be sorely mistaken come spring. Harden is averaging 29 points, eight rebounds, and is dishing up a league high 11.6 assists per game. Harden also has a strong player efficiency rating of 28.07 and is also leading the league in free throws attempted. But it is not just the Beard balling in H-Town, as the team is 33-12 and sitting as the three seed in the West right now.
Forward 1, Kevin Durant: The former OKC superstar has been a beast in Oakland till this point. He is averaging a strong 26 points, eight rebounds, nearly five assists, and is turning the ball over a career low 2.3 times per game. It is fair to say that Warrior ball suits the Slim Reaper, and I am confident he will be the starting SF for the Western Conference. Durant and the Warriors are sitting on the NBA’s best record at 36-6.
Forward 2, Kawhi Leonard: While I wanted to give this position to Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans, I believe it will go to Kawhi of the Spurs predominantly because of his superior team record. With that being said, Kawhi has been cooking all year long. The Claw is averaging a career and team high 25 points, five rebounds, and 3.1 assists, while stealing the ball twice per game, and blocking it once and a half per contest. Kawhi has also been very efficient, as he is shooting 48% from the field, 41% from three, and has the second best PER in the Association. The Spurs and Kawhi are having a hell of a year, and I hope he is rewarded as a starter in the All-Star Game. The Spurs are the West’s second best team at 32-9.
Forward 3, DeMarcus Cousins: One of my favorite players in the NBA today, Boogie Cousins is an absolute monster. In my opinion, he is a top five player in the NBA on a horrible team with poor management, but that does not stop Boogie from balling. Cousins is averaging a career high 28 points, a career high 4.4 assists, adding ten rebounds a night, and shooting not only 51% from the field, but has one of the NBA’s better three point percentages at 37% from deep. While the Kings have had some struggles, 16-25 this year, Cousins has been phenomenal and deserves to start in the All-Star Game in New Orleans. I only hope Zaza Pachulia doesn’t beat him out.
Honorable Mentions: Anthony Davis, John Wall, Kyle Lowry, Gordon Hayward
Stats via ESPN.com/Basketball Reference.com
Image via Google.com