The strange results were limited to the margins, however, as the selection of fans for the starters is all defensible. At the Eastern Conference, Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid are leading in the forecourt, Bradley Beal and Kyrie Irving in the back. In the Western Conference, LeBron James, Nikola Jokic and Kawhi Leonard walk up and down the forecourt, while Stephen Curry and Luka Doncic stand in the forecourt.
Once the fan voting process is complete, players and media representatives will have the opportunity to cast their ballots. The full starting grid will be announced on Thursday. As the basketball world waits to find out if the proposed All-Star Game will take place in Atlanta on March 7th, here are the Washington Post’s tips for the 10 starting places. Post selection for the rest of the rosters will take place on February 21. (Note: This selection takes into account individual statistics, health and team success.)
Forecourt: Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers), Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks) and Kevin Durant (Brooklyn Nets)
Embiid finished third in the East Fan Vote, but he deserves the conference’s first choice as the engine of the 76’s with the best seeds. The 26-year-old center has bounced back from a disappointing performance in the bladder by leading a top 5 defense and averaging a career high of 29.4 points, averaging 10.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game corresponds. Philadelphia has an 11-2 record in games that were within five points in the last five minutes, in part because Embiid rose at key moments.
While Antetokounmpo has flown a little under the radar since signing its Supermax contract renewal in December, the back-to-back MVP continues to release monster stats about a consistent winner. Despite gunfights on the free throw line and beyond the arc, the 26-year-old forward remains the leading option for the NBA’s most efficient offensive. He averaged 28.1 points, 11.2 rebounds and 5.6 assists and at the same time had an almost perfect availability for the Bucks, who have the second best record in the East.
The only downside for the 32-year-old Durant is that he has already missed nine games this season, also because he has been paused twice due to one-week quarantines due to contact tracing logs. The 2014 MVP started where it left off before an Achilles injury that cost him all of last season. He averages 29.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 5.2 assists while shooting a glittering 44.9 percent with three pointers. That’s enough to get a starter pick over Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton and Boston’s Jayson Tatum, the next best candidates in the category.
Back space: Jaylen Brown (Boston Celtics) and James Harden (Brooklyn Nets)
Brown deserves to be better than fourth among the Ostwächtern in the fan poll because he stands out from his top competition as a two-way force. At the age of 24, Brown made the most of an expanded role after Gordon Hayward left the independent agency. He reached a career high of 26 points at 5.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game while taking on the playmaker duties when Kemba Walker was injured. Brown’s full offensive play combined with his focused and physical defensive presence has helped keep the surprisingly shaky Celtics afloat.
Some voters are sure to punish Harden for his unjustifiable antics when he pulled away from the Houston Rockets in December. Fair enough, but 31-year-old Harden remains the most devastating playmaker in the East despite those warts. He tuned into a supportive role in Brooklyn, averaging 23.9 points, seven rebounds, and 11 assists per game while playing Durant and Kyrie Irving as the setup man.
On this vote, Harden received the nod from Irving, who missed a long stretch for personal reasons. Washington’s Bradley Beal was a tough cut, but his league-leading scoring opportunities were undermined by his unhappy defense and poor Wizards record.
Forecourt: LeBron James (Los Angeles Lakers), Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets) and Kawhi Leonard (Los Angeles Clippers)
There are five strong candidates who can start on the west forecourt and the fans have hit the top three.
36-year-old James was the front runner in the second round with 4.369 million votes and has run to the top of the MVP conversation despite a shortened off-season. While James averages 25.6 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.9 assists per game and leads the Lakers to the second best record in the league, his most impressive statistic is zero. As in, zero games missed. Los Angeles had less than two months off between the 2020 final and 2020-21 training camp, but the timeless James has appeared in every game so far in his 18th season.
Denver isn’t in the top division of the West, but Jokic has more than done its part averaging 26.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 8.6 assists per game. The 25-year-old tall man is challenging Wilt Chamberlain’s brand for the most assists per game from a center in NBA history, and he has stepped up his aggressiveness as a goalscorer to compensate for his inconsistent sideline. Without Jokic, who somehow spearheaded a top 5 offensive, the Nuggets would likely have one of the worst records in the West.
The 29-year-old Leonard pushed past Paul George from Clippers and Anthony Davis from Lakers to take third place in the West in that ballot. The 2019 MVP final averaged 26.7 points, 5.9 rebounds and five assists, making the Clippers the most efficient attack in the West and third-best record. Leonard’s efficient goal and disruptive defense have had an even bigger impact this season as he no longer regularly lacks time for long-term injury management.
George had a strong argument thanks to a sizzling start, but a recent foot injury set him back. Davis was captain of the NBA’s stingiest defense, but his impact wavered from night to night as he retired this season after the Lakers’ title race in 2020. Look for Utah’s Rudy Gobert to join George and Davis under the forecourt reservations.
Back space: Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors) and Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers)
Take Curry himself, for example, who said this week that he is “100 percent” in the best groove of his illustrious career. The 32-year-old point guard has recovered from an injury-ridden 2019-20 season to an average of 30 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists. Those numbers are nearly identical to his unanimous 2015-16 MVP season. Curry threatens to shoot 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three and 90 percent from the free throw line for the second time in his career, and he lifted the Warriors from the basement of the West to a respectable 14-12 start last season . Simply put, he was a sight to behold.
The hardest decision for this ballot fell on Lillard against Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic. Both players are some of the most exciting in the NBA and both have stunning stats. For comparison: 30-year-old Lillard averaged 29 points, 4.4 rebounds and 7.2 assists compared to Doncic’s 28.5 points, 8.7 rebounds and 9.4 assists.
While fans preferred the 21-year-old Doncic, Lillard is the choice for three reasons: his shooting efficiency was far superior, Portland’s offensive was stronger than Dallas’s, and the Blazers were clearly superior to the Mavericks in the western standings all season. After Doncic, Conley, Chris Paul of Phoenix and Donovan Mitchell of Utah will have to fight for reserve places.