With the NBA All-Star Game starters announced on Thursday night, we already know ten of the players that will be in New Orleans next month.
The reserves haven’t been selected as of yet, however, and I’d really like to ignore the fan selection anyways, so I’m going to pick full rosters for each conference.
Starters will be selected in the same position slots that the NBA recognizes at this time (2 guards and 3 front court players), and the bench will look the same as well (2 guards, 3 front court players, and 2 wild cards). I’ll also list my near-misses for each conference.
G Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors
G John Wall, Washington Wizards
F/C Lebron James, Miami Heat
F/C Paul George, Indiana Pacers
F/C Roy Hibbert, Indiana Pacers
G Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers
G Arron Afflalo, Orlando Magic
F/C Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls
F/C Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks
F/C Paul Millsap, Atlanta Hawks
WC Luol Deng, Cleveland Cavaliers
WC Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons
Yikes. It’s tough to come up with 12 worthy players in this sorry excuse for a professional basketball conference. Seriously…there isn’t a ton of hyperbole here. It’s really bad.
It’s insane…take any metric. Of the top-18 players in the league via Win Shares (according to Basketball-Reference.com), 15 of them are in the Western Conference. That’s right, only 3 are in the East.
The true All-Stars are, of course, James and George, followed closely by (surprise!) the Raptors’ Lowry. He’s had an incredible season, having to put up with a Rudy Gay-centric offense early and a sudden shift in philosophy after he was sent west to Sacramento. While DeMar DeRozan is having the best season of his career, Lowry hasn’t had a whole lot else around him in Toronto. He’s had an incredibly efficient season, and absolutely deserves to start.
John Wall is a starter almost by default, and in most seasons, he’d barely squeak onto the team. He wouldn’t even make the squad in the West, but hey, he plays for the Washington Wizards. The former first overall pick is finally starting to maintain relative health and play solid basketball. Good for him.
A solid argument could be made to start Noah over Hibbert at the center position, as Noah has carried so much of the load in the talent dearth that is the Rose/Deng-less Chicago Bulls. Of course, Noah’s lack of offensive value and the defensive systems and players that each player shares the court with tip the scales ever so slightly in Hibbert’s favor.
The bench is a struggle. The Cavs have three borderline All-Stars in Irving, Deng, and Anderson Varejao. Atlanta’s Millsap edges out Varejao for me, but Irving is easily the third best point guard in the East right now and Deng has been very good all year long in both Chicago and Cleveland. Anthony continues to be an overrated player, but has actually been decent this year, albeit nowhere near as effective as he was in 2013-14. Orlando’s Afflalo and Detroit’s Drummond fill out the roster.
Near-misses: Varejao, Cleveland; DeRozan, Toronto; Lance Stephenson, Indiana; Dwayne Wade, Miami
G Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
G James Harden, Houston Rockets
F/C Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
F/C Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves
F/C Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
G Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
G Goran Dragic, Phoenix Suns*
F/C LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers
F/C Dwight Howard, Houston Rockets
F/C Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
WC DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings
WC Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks
*A quick disclaimer for the Western Conference…Chris Paul has been the best point guard in the entire NBA this season. If he were healthy, he would bump Harden the bench and Dragic off the squad.
The Western Conference is absolutely stacked. We could make two full, legitimate All-Star rosters from the West before we even filled the first squad out of the (L)East.
There isn’t any question that Curry has been the best guard in the league this side of Paul, so he gets the start. It’s close to a toss-up between Harden and Lillard for the other starting spot, but Harden has generally been more consistent, and even though he’s received much attention for his, um, lazy defense, he’s still been better on that end of the floor than Lillard in many cases.
Durant is a no-brainer, which brings us to Love, Griffin, Aldridge, and Howard in a four-way battle for two starting spots. By most metrics, Love has been a top-four or five player in the NBA this season, and the whole team-record thing doesn’t mean a ton to me. I picked Griffin over the other two, but again, it’s splitting hairs.
Griffin has seen a slight uptick across the board since his treading-water numbers the last couple of seasons. He’s also drawn fouls and gotten to the line at a much higher rate, and converted more often than in the past. Plus, the Griffin and the Clippers have weathered the injury storm much better than many could have expected.
Portland is a remarkable (and unexpected) story, and Aldridge has played the best basketball of his career. But there’s something about the absurd shooting percentage from mid-range (Yes, he’s always been good from there. But come on.) that screams regression, while Griffin continues to expand his offensive game and more or less maintain his efficiency.
Howard has seen a resurgence this year, and while he isn’t what he used to be, he’s miles ahead of where he was last year with the Lakers. Both he and Aldridge make the squad, along with Lillard. Dragic receives the nod at the other guard, having dragged a still-borderline playoff team all the way to the seventh-best record in the rough and tumble West to this point. He’s been fantastic.
Nowitzki is putting up insane numbers with an oddly-constructed team and on old, tired legs. Anthony Davis is still improving, and could be the best power forward in the league in two years. The Pelicans are another oddly-constructed team, but Davis has been something special. And Cousins…well, he made it. He has as much talent as anyone in the league, and he’s finally started to figure out what he can/can’t and should/shouldn’t do on the court.
The strangest thing about this roster is that one of the top-four teams in the NBA, the San Antonio Spurs, don’t have a representative. Tony Parker was the first player that missed the cut, but just because he plays for the Spurs isn’t reason enough to push him ahead of the likes of Dragic. Durant’s sidekick, Serge Ibaka, narrowly missed as well.
Near misses: Parker, San Antonio; Ibaka, Oklahoma City; Chandler Parsons, Houston; Nikola Pekovic, Minnesota