TOR G Kyle Lowry | 14.1 PTS (41.2 FG%), 9.4 AST, 4.5 REB | Team Record: 36-15
It’s not often we see a point guard averaging under 15 points unquestionably named an All-Star. It’s almost as if that’s the case for Lowry though. The fact that he has a new co-star in Kawhi Leonard makes him even more appealing. Regardless of what the box score shows, Lowry’s leadership is instrumental to the Raptors’ success.
WSH G Bradley Beal | 24.7 PTS (46.7 FG%), 5.1 REB, 5.0 AST | Team Record: 21-27
Beal has taken over as the franchise player. $25 million is a lot to be paying someone but it looks like nothing compared to an injured John Wall’s soon-to-begin “supermax” contract. Beal has expanded his game in that he comfortably runs point guard now. He’s as efficient as ever while having to attempt even more shots without Wall.
BKN G D’Angelo Russell | 19.2 PTS (37.6 3P%), 6.4 AST, 3.8 REB | Team Record: 27-23
Being in sixth place has to merit some kind of award after all these years of misery. Russell wasn’t the player the Lakers or Nets hoped for his first three years. He has made that necessary fourth-year leap and has his team competing at a fairly high level. Russell has yet to average over 30 minutes per game in a season but that could change with Spencer Dinwiddie missing time.
PHI F/G Ben Simmons | 16.6 PTS (57.8 FG%), 9.5 REB, 8.3 AST | Team Record: 32-17
Simmons is in line for a long, illustrious all-star career that should be validated with a trip to Charlotte this February. Even with Jimmy Butler, who almost seems like the odd man out, Simmons is an imposing threat whenever he steps on the floor. Here is what I find most fascinating: he can hurt opponents the same way playing any position.
MIL F/G Khris Middleton | 17.3 PTS (37.5 3P%), 5.8 REB, 4.1 AST | Team Record: 35-12
Middleton’s scoring is a bit down this year but so are his minutes. The East isn’t loaded with stars to begin with. If the conferences were more balanced, he might just be a fringe All-Star. However, he has become part of the team foundation and molded into Antetokounmpo’s reliable wing man. The league should pay respect to Middleton and the Bucks here.
DET F Blake Griffin | 26.5 PTS (36.5 3P%), 8.1 REB, 5.2 AST | Team Record: 21-27
Griffin is asked to carry the load on a nightly basis and sometimes seems helpless out there. What the Pistons need from him is reminiscent of what the Cavs needed from LBJ all those years. Griffin is a great player but can only do so much. He has even added a legitimate three-point shot to his arsenal while connecting on a career-high 2.4 triples per game.
ORL C Nikola Vucevic | 20.6 PTS (52.1 FG%), 11.9 REB, 3.8 AST | Team Record: 20-29
Vucevic is enjoying a career season and he is also playing for a contract (which might be part of the reason why). Most people wouldn’t have predicted he would be an All-Star before the year. I wouldn’t exactly call it all that surprising either. Vucevic is just an average defender but has the IQ and ability to keep up with other premier big men on the offensive end.
OKC G Russell Westbrook | 21.9 PTS (41.8 FG%), 10.8 REB, 10.7 AST | Team Record: 30-18
Westbrook is doing a better job spreading the wealth this year, especially as it pertains to his All-Star teammate Paul George. Although he isn’t shooting the ball particularly well, his ability to draw the entire defense and create for others offsets that. He also helps OKC own the defensive side of the ball (1st in efficiency).
POR G Damian Lillard | 26.2 PTS (37.1 3P%), 6.2 AST, 4.5 REB | Team Record: 30-20
Regardless of the elite pool of guards in the West, Lillard’s days as an All-Star snub are behind him. Many people, myself included, tend to underestimate the Blazers before the season. Well, at least in terms of the regular season. Here they are again, sitting pretty in fourth place in the West. Lillard doesn’t have many off-nights and has defined consistency for this franchise.
NOR G Jrue Holiday | 21.0 PTS (48.2 FG%), 8.2 AST, 4.8 REB | Team Record: 22-27
Having two All-Stars on a team with a losing record is not the greatest look for the league. However, Holiday does so much for this team on both ends of the floor. He doesn’t let his sizable contract determine his effort on the floor. In fact, he seems just the opposite, having proved doubters wrong since inking a five-year, $126 million deal in the 2017 offseason.
GST G Klay Thompson | 21.8 PTS (38.0 3P%), 4.1 REB, 1.2 STL | Team Record: 34-14
Thompson, on the other hand, is one whose value doesn’t diminish while playing with a mega-super team. We all know he could handle a larger responsibility if necessary. Klay went 10-of-11 from deep in three quarters of action just a few days ago. His brilliant shooting stroke, however, shouldn’t overshadow his strong defensive acumen.
SAN F/C LaMarcus Aldridge | 20.6 PTS (51.0 FG%), 8.6 REB, 1.2 BLK | Team Record: 27-22
Aldridge had a rough first quarter of the season but has returned to All-Star form since the beginning of December. I can’t tell you the last time San Antonio didn’t send a player to All-Star weekend but I can tell you it doesn’t happen often. Aldridge is attempting 16 shots per game but that may not be enough on a team with role players like Rudy Gay and Brynn Forbes attempting 10-plus shots per game.
NOR C/F Anthony Davis | 29.3 PTS (50.8 FG%), 13.3 REB, 2.6 BLK | Team Record: 22-27
The Pelicans are 2-6 in games without A.D. with wins over the Grizzlies and Timberwolves. Davis has led the team in scoring 25 times or so in those 41 games. It’s almost unfortunate he has to score so much because his importance matters in other areas such as anchoring the defense and just about anything else you might be able to think of.
DEN C Nikola Jokic | 19.8 PTS (50.4 FG%), 10.3 REB, 7.7 AST | Team Record: 32-15
Jokic has been amazing in basically every aspect this year. He is changing the way centers control the game by handling the ball and playmaking more often. His team finally appears to have taken the next step up as the Nuggets are hoping to secure home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Jokic is fifth in the league in player efficiency rating and sixth in estimated wins added.