Yesterday, the NBA announced the 10 players that will start the All-Star game in Atlanta. Those ten players have been putting amazing numbers, and have been a big part of the success of their respective teams this season. Of course, being an All-Star starter is a huge accomplishment for the players that were selected. Nevertheless, it is a very interesting debate to choose the most deserved reserves for the game. There may be players that could have easily made it to the starters list and some that may not even be selected despite a terrific season. In this article, I will break down my predictions for who gets a seat and plays on March 7th in Atlanta.
A recap on who are the starters for each conference:
Bench Predictions: Eastern Conference
G James Harden (Brooklyn Nets)
James Harden has been one of the main topics in the NBA this season, mainly because he was the biggest part of the biggest trade this year. Harden left Houston and went to Brooklyn to join a team of stars. Harden has been a scoring machine and a man of big stats for many seasons, but one of the questions coming in to the Nets was: How could he be surrounded by two proven stars? By the time, he has looked very good. Harden has contributed to some wins already and has shown his ability to close out games recently. He is not averaging 30 points per game, but he leads the NBA in assists with 11.3 dimes per duel. That combination of solid numbers puts up him in a good position to be an All-Star for the 9th time in his career.
G Jaylen Brown (Boston Celtics)
Without any doubt, Jaylen Brown has been one of the most improved players in the league. His 2020-2021 season is looking to be his first All-Star season. The Celtics have had a season with ups and downs, but the brightest part of their season may be the emergence of Jaylen Brown. For some time, NBA fans looked up and Boston and saw Jayson Tatum as a legitimate young superstar. And that is true. But there weren’t many that thought Brown could make a leap to become an important piece in the league. Since going into the bubble, Brown has played superb basketball and has extended his game. Brown is scoring almost 26 points per game and has shot the ball pretty well overall, being a deadly mid-range shooter. Besides, he has had some big games passing the ball too. He is one of the best two-way players in the league.
G Trae Young (Atlanta Hawks)
Trae Young could be on his way to his second All-Star game in a row. He has been the Hawks’ best player again, as he continues to show his unique ability to control the game with the ball in his hands. Consequently, he has dominated when it comes to creating opportunities to score. He is averaging 26.5 points per game and almost 10 assists, which has him in the top spots of both categories. His shooting percentages aren’t very good, but considering his physical attributes, he shows to be intelligent to get his points. However, he has had no problem demoralizing opponent defenses by draining deep shots. He has shown to be dominant getting to the penalty stride and convert in a very efficient way. Young could be playing the special game at the home of his Atlanta Hawks.
G Zach LaVine (Chicago Bulls)
It’s impossible to leave Zach LaVine out of the All-Star conversation. It just can’t happen. LaVine has been one of those few players that have had consistent big nights. Obviously, he is the Bulls leading scorer with 28.5 points per game, which is insane. In fact, he is the only non-starter (All-Star) to be inside the top 10 in scoring average, ranking 7th in the league. Actually, he has had a great season shooting ball and showing his elite athleticism. His top performances are putting the Bulls in a decent position to think in making the playoffs. He has been a playmaker and a game-changer and deserves without any doubt to receive some recognition of this caliber.
F Julius Randle (New York Knicks)
And now this guy playing for the Knicks has to be recognized. Julius Randle has just been amazing this season. While many people predicted the Knicks to be the worst team this season, Randle started working on his A-game. The impact of Randle is one of the main reasons the Knicks are being a competitive team. His biggest improvement has been his shooting. He is having a very efficient year shooting threes, which was one of Randle’s weaknesses before this season. He has always been a participant in the rebounding game throughout his career, but he is on pace to have his best year, averaging double-digit rebounds. Julius Randle has been a very important factor for New York and he is another guy I could see being selected.
F/C Domantas Sabonis (Indiana Pacers)
For another year, Domantas Sabonis has been the best player of the Indiana Pacers. He has put again his team in position to be one of the top seeds in the east with his stellar performances. Sabonis has proved to be one of the most flexible big-man in the league. Consequently, he has been putting very good stats in the three main aspects. His passing is very good for a center, which has let him assist his teammates regularly. His ability to shoot is one of the best in the league amongst centers in the league. The Pacers have taken advantage of spreading the floor when he is on the floor. He has shot the three efficiently and that’s why a lot of Pacers players can drive to the basket. He ranks 5th in rebounding, which writes a checkmark in the complete player category box.
F Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics)
Jayson Tatum is up to have a very good season as the Celtics superstar. Tatum has led the Celtics to big wins this season, participating big in most of them. There may be the debate if he is the Celtics’ best player with the recent emergence of Jaylen Brown. But that doesn’t erase the fact that he could be an All-Star this year. In today’s NBA, Jayson Tatum is one of the best young talents without any doubt. He has shown the different ways in which he can score and how he can become a lockdown defender. Tatum got COVID-19 some weeks ago, and he was a bit rusty when returning. Despite that, he is averaging almost 26 points per game, his rebounding is pretty good and his passing has clearly improved. He has been near the triple-double mark several times this season. This one may not be 100% sure, but to me, Tatum has had an All-Star season. He will be on these lists for the upcoming years.
Bench Predictions: Western Conference
G Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers)
Damian Lillard is the player on this list that deserved the most to be a starter. He has played incredibly this season. He could be easily considered as the most clutch player in the league right now. At the time, Portland sits at the 4th seed and is one of the hottest teams in the conference and the league. That can be in great part translated to Damian Lillard. Dame is near the 30-point mark per game, he is passing the ball very well (7.7 assists per game), and he is shooting very well. His percentages aren’t that high, but everyone knows he can score anywhere and anytime. He is also shooting 93% at the line which is excellent. Lillard is an All-Star. There is no argument against that.
G Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz)
Donovan Mitchell is another of those players that have been sensational this season. He is a main reason why the Jazz have been so consistent and are the best team in the league. During his young career, Mitchell has always shown to be a very versatile player. His athleticism is unreal and his playmaking abilities have improved a lot. Utah has been recognized as a great ball-movement team, and he has been a great part of that. Mitchell is averaging 24.2 points, 4.4 boards, and 5.1 assists per game, which looks very complete. The most important part is how he is playing to drive his team to a lot of success.
F Paul George (Los Angeles Clippers)
Despite being criticized a lot after underperforming in the bubble, Paul George found himself again and is having a great season. George has overcome the challenge in a good way. He has had very good scoring numbers (24.4 points) while shooting efficiently, especially from the line where he shoots 90%. Surprisingly, he is having the best passing season of his career having over 5 assists per game. That is getting better looks for his teammates. With George playing in this way and Kawhi Leonard being one of the top players in the league, the Clippers can compete with anybody. As of now, George has been out for a while with a foot injury, but his return appears to be soon.
C Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz)
Rudy Gobert is having another great season along with the Jazz’ success. After being criticized for his contract extension, the french big-man has played incredible. The actual DPOY is on pace to contend for the same prize this year too. He ranks 3rd in rebounds per game (13.4) and 2nd in blocks per game (2.7). Those are stats very hard to find in the defensive, and Gobert is making that huge impact again. He doesn’t get to score as many points as other stars do, but his value is very high.
*F Anthony Davis (Los Angeles Lakers)
Last year, Anthony Davis became one of the most important players in the NBA. The way he fit with LeBron James led in a big way the Lakers to win a championship. This season, Davis may not have been doing as good as he did last year, but he is still an All-Star. He averages 22.5 points per game and he is involved a lot in the rebounding game, especially to get second chance opportunities. Unfortunately, Davis will miss the next four weeks due to a tough calf injury. He won’t be able to go to Atlanta, but he deserves the recognition to be an All-Star.
G Chris Paul (Phoenix Suns)
In all probability, Chris Paul has been one of the best acquisitions entering this season. He is a player known for his leadership and for the way he impacts the teams he plays. His short time in Phoenix hasn’t been an exception. The Suns are 5th in the west and much of that has happened because of him. Chris Paul scoring isn’t scandalous this season, but he denotes his intelligence with the ball every game. His passing has been amazing, averaging 8.2 assists per game. He is also being more present on the defensive end. Chris Paul is one of the best free-throw shooters in the league, but he is shooting 97% which is excellent. He is on pace to attend his 11th All-Star game.
G Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Here is probably the hottest take for the entire list, but among the TSW analysts, we think Shai Gilgeous-Alexander deserves a seat to go and play in Atlanta. After the Thunder lost many of their star-players to rejuvenate and build for the future, Shai appeared to become the focal point in OKC. He is averaging 22.5 points, 5.4 boards, and 6.5 assists per game, showing that he has been very active. This one may be close between SGA, DeRozan, Fox, and Booker. It is one of the most difficult spots to predict. Even so, Gilgeous-Alexander has played amazing this season and is making his case to be an All-Star.
*Injury replacement: Zion Williamson (New Orleans Pelicans)
Due to Anthony Davis’ injury, a replacement could show up and play instead of him. A perfect candidate for that spot is Zion Williamson. The second-year player has been having a great season all-around. His scoring is actually better than Davis’ (25 points per game), while his FG% is very efficient at 61%. He has also been more helpful in the defensive end, in general, this year, grabbing more rebounds and forcing more stops. Williamson is believed to be one of the NBA superstars of the future, and the big stage to start that could arrive as soon as this year.
Eastern Conference: Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks), Malcolm Brogdon (Indiana Pacers), Tobias Harris (Philadelphia 76ers), Ben Simmons (Philadelphia 76ers), Bam Adebayo (Miami Heat), Nikola Vucevic (Orlando Magic).
Western Conference: DeMar DeRozan (San Antonio Spurs), De’Aaron Fox (Sacramento Kings), Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns), Brandon Ingram (New Orleans Pelicans), DeAndre Ayton (Phoenix Suns).
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