The NBA released its all-star ballots on Tuesday, this year partnering with Google to get lots of votes. (RIP, #NBAVote.) It appears that the same ballot formula will be used in 2018-19, with the media (weighed 25 percent), players (weighed 25 percent), and fans (weighed 50 percent) each getting a say in who will be the 10 starters in the All-Star Game. The top vote-getter in each conference will be captains and pick teams regardless of conference.
The twist is that you are given an opportunity to vote for a player when you search their name in Google. For instance, if you search for “Svi Mykhailiuk” you are presented with a box that allows you to vote for Svi as an all-star starter. (This is not an endorsement.)
All that said, here’s The Hook’s official Dec. 26 NBA All-Star starter ballot, with some explanations. A lot of this is easy. Some is not. Disagree at your own peril.
Harden has been the league’s most effective scorer this season (this is becoming a trend) and continues to make plays for others at a rate unmatched by any of the other top-20 scorers. The Rockets aren’t great, but they are in the playoff picture primarily because of Harden’s exploits. He’s an obvious all-star starter.
This was a little tougher than you’d think, as we’ll discuss below. Curry missed a good chunk of games, but when he’s played, he’s been as special as ever, scoring with absolutely unbelievable efficiency (including 45 percent on threes and a True Shooting at 66 percent).
Davis is having an MVP-caliber season for a team lilting just under .500. As of Wednesday The Brow is No. 4 is scoring, No. 2 in blocks, No. 6 in rebounding, and No. 9 in steals. All-around excellence despite uncertainty about his future.
This is an obvious pick as LeBron has single-handedly made the Lakers 20 wins better. He’s offering up the usual 28-8-7 on really efficient shooting (No. 3 in effective field goal percentage among the top-20 scorers).
The real question is whether his new LA base can help him beat Curry to be the No. 1 overall vote-getter.
Durant has to be an all-star starter, even if he’s hardly the most popular player around these days. His numbers are ridiculous — just about 29-8-6 on 50-36-92 shooting.
We don’t make this comparison much because their aesthetic styles are so, so different. But Durant is pretty similar in statistical profile to LeBron, isn’t he?
Others receiving consideration
There are three frontcourt players who should absolutely get nods on the reserves list but simply couldn’t jostle Davis, LeBron, and Durant out of their God-given spots: Paul George, Nikola Jokic, and Tobias Harris. Barring immense slumps or injuries, those three should absolutely be all-stars. Just not starters.
(PG-13 would have a case as a starter if we picked the 10 starters regardless of conference, but Jokic or Harris wouldn’t make that cut. Frontcourt is so loaded. Jokic would be a starter if center was still segregated as its own position in voting.)
The other debate here was between Curry and Damian Lillard, who has been healthy and is putting up incredible numbers. Curry’s numbers are like historic, though, and I’m betting that Steph will play all or most games between now and the end of balloting, narrowing that gap.
Lillard’s been spectacular and worthy of a starting spot. He’s just in a tough, tough conference.
The Celtics have been a little disappointing, but Irving hasn’t. Kyrie is at 23-6-5 for a team seven games above .500. Boston’s defense is amazing, so you can’t really knock him there. Irving’s efficiency has been quite nice as well: he’s shooting 41 percent from deep and his True Shooting percentage is in the range of the MVP contenders.
This is an easy call: Irving should be an all-star starter.
This was not an easy call, and the pick could change on a daily basis. We’ll discuss the other contenders below.
Oladipo’s case is that the Pacers are good, Oladipo is their best player, and he’s a better defender than the other Eastern guards in the mix. Just don’t look at his shooting percentages, please.
Giannis is the MVP favorite at this point, both because the Bucks have been awesome and because Antetokounmpo’s excellence is totally central to everything great about Milwaukee.
Critics might chide his low three-point percentage. The counter is that despite a lack of a three-point stroke, Giannis is more efficient than any top-20 scorer other than Steph Curry when you consider total points per shooting possession. Antetokounmpo is shooting 65 percent on two-pointers. No other top-20 scorer is shooting better than 58 percent (LeBron).
Embiid is also in the MVP conversation. (Most all-star starters are in the MVP conversation.) No. 8 scorer, No. 3 rebounder, No. 9 in blocks, efficient scoring despite his three-point stroke abandoning him. Jimmy Butler gets a bunch of credit for Philadelphia sorting themselves out, but we’ve seen Embiid be incredible before Jimmy. We know this guy has it.
Kawhi has rested a lot, but no other East frontcourt player not named Giannis or Joel are particularly close in terms of impact, so Leonard gets a nod here. His scoring output has been incredible at a shade under 27 per game on 60 percent True Shooting. That, plus the world-class defense, is all you need. Good player.
Others receiving consideration
The next best East frontcourt option is … Blake Griffin? Nikola Vucevic? Jimmy Butler would probably get the nod if Leonard weren’t around. Compared to who the West is leaving on the table, that’s a stark difference. The East reserves are going to be fun to debate. And by “fun,” I mean, “bury me under 20 feet of sand.”
That second East backcourt starting slot has some real competition, though. Oladipo’s main competitors are Ben Simmons (good all-around game and efficiency for a good team, but he’s the team’s second-best player and scores less than the other contenders), Bradley Beal (good scorer but not a ton else for an awful, depressing team), and Kyle Lowry (great playmaking for an elite team, but low scoring numbers on average efficiency).
But the top Oladipo competitor is Charlotte’s Kemba Walker, who is providing good scoring on average efficiency for a middling team. The question here is whether Walker’s somewhat better stats outweigh Oladipo’s defense and much better team.