Voting began for the NBA’s 2020 All-Star Game on Christmas Day. It will run through Jan. 21, so we are still early in the process, but there is no better time than now for predictions about who will participate.
The 10 starters will again be comprised of two guards and three frontcourt players from each conference. Fans will continue to account for 50 percent of the vote, with players and a media panel splitting the other half of the decision. This is not an official ballot, just an early prognostication. And who knows — injuries or even a surge in performance from a player on the bubble could alter this take.
NBA coaches determine the seven reserves from each conference, selecting two more guards, an additional three frontcourt players and two wildcard participants. But we will predict them here, too.
Keep in mind, the leading vote-getters from each conference will serve as captains, picking teams playground style — cycling through the starters, then divvying up the reserves. We did not go so far as to guess who might serve as captains (probably Giannis and LeBron again) and who they might pick.
This is simple, straightforward, and sure to enrage almost everyone. Here goes.
Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
30 Games: 27.8 PPG (44 FG%, 32 3P%, 83 FT%), 6.7 APG, 4.8 RPG, 1.4 SPG/BPG
The Wizards stink, which makes Beal’s effort all the more impressive — and depressing. John Wall’s contract is strangling the salary cap, preventing Washington from adding any significant pieces around their star shooting guard. Beal signed his own big-money extension this past October. As a result, he could not be traded until after the season, even if he wanted out. So, Beal is stuck in D.C., where he remains one of the league’s greatest scoring threats and continues to evolve as a playmaker, all despite being surrounded by a collection of interesting role players who desperately need another star.
Kemba Walker, Boston Celtics
29 Games: 22.5 PPG (43 FG%, 40 3P%, 87 FT%), 5.2 APG, 3.9 RPG, 1.5 SPG/BPG
It turns out Kyrie Irving’s free-agency departure this past summer was the best thing that could have happened to the Celtics, who replaced one All-Star point guard with another who better fits the roster from a chemistry and efficacy standpoint. Walker is fine yielding touches to Boston’s wealth of wings, so long as the wins keep piling up for the third-place Celtics. His scoring efficiency is also at an all-time high with more talent around him to distract defenses, and he is still a lethal fourth-quarter closer.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
31 Games: 30.5 PPG (55 FG%, 33 3P%, 60 FT%), 12.9 RPG, 5.7 APG, 2.5 SPG/BPG
The MVP got better. We should not really need to explain this one further, but here goes: You could make a case Antetokounmpo is the NBA’s best player on both sides of the ball, and because of it the Bucks own the league’s best record and net rating (by almost five full points per 100 possessions). Nobody has averaged a 30-12-5 over a full season in more than 50 years, and none of the three guys who did it in the early 1960s — Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson and Elgin Baylor — averaged fewer than 43 minutes a game. Antetokounmpo is averaging 31. We always imagined what Antetokounmpo might become with a passable three-point shot, and he is inching closer to league average every year.
Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
29 Games: 23.7 PPG (48 FG%, 34 3P%, 83 FT%), 12.4 RPG, 3.1 APG, 2.2 SPG/BPG
Embiid is capable of being the game’s most dominating big man on any given night, and he qualifies for the title on most nights. When engaged, he is a monster defensively, swinging the Sixers’ defense from a middling outfit to easily the NBA’s best defense simply by taking the floor, and he is a menace on the block, where he leads all high-volume post players in both possessions and efficiency. Yet, we still believe he is capable of more. He probably is, but as is he still contends for the NBA’s top center.
Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors
27 Games: 25.1 PPG (46 FG%, 39 3P%, 81 FT%), 8.0 RPG, 3.6 APG, 2.0 SPG/BPG
Siakam is effectively filling the role Kawhi Leonard left behind in Toronto, which was unthinkable two years ago and still improbable last season, when he was among the final cuts for an All-Star roster spot. Kawhi’s numbers for Toronto at this point last season: 26.7 points (on 49/38/86 shooting splits), 8.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.4 combined blocks and steals per game. The Raptors were 19-9 with the Finals MVP in the lineup nearing the midway point of their title campaign, and they are 19-8 with Siakam this season. They may not be as lethal a playoff team without Leonard and Siakam working in tandem, but that they are this dangerous is a testament to the Cameroonian’s evolution as a player.
Bam Adebayo, Miami Heat
32 Games: 15.6 PPG (56 FG%, 69 FT%), 10.5 RPG, 4.6 APG, 2.7 SPG/BPG
The East needs one more big, and Adebayo gets the edge over fellow double-double machines Andre Drummond and Domantas Sabonis for a few reasons, chief of which is Miami’s surge to second place in the conference. Adebayo’s combination of athleticism and playmaking also makes him as fun a center to watch as there is in the NBA, and what better for the All-Star Game than a guy who can make finishing plays more fun both as a finisher and facilitator, all without requiring too many touches.
Malcolm Brogdon, Indiana Pacers
26 Games: 18.3 PPG (45 FG%, 33 3P%, 93 FT%), 7.6 APG, 4.5 RPG, 1.1 SPG/BPG
The Pacers do deserve an All-Star for remaining relevant in Victor Oladipo’s absence, and Brogdon is the main reason. Given the keys to Indiana’s offense, Brogdon has not been the efficient 50-40-90 role-playing wing he was in Milwaukee, but his high-usage game is more than solid enough in every aspect to warrant this nod in the guard-starved East. Brogdon’s pick-and-roll partnership with Sabonis is undeniable, he is a crafty scorer himself in other offensive actions, and he defends multiple positions.
Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat
28 Games: 20.5 PPG (43 FG%, 28 3P%, 83 FT%), 6.7 APG, 6.6 RPG, 2.7 SPG/BPG
Butler brings the swag that Pat Riley’s Heat desperately needed, transforming a sub-.500 roster of misfits into a second-place team with a clear identity. He still is not as efficient as you would like from distance, but he will find his way to the rim or get fouled trying. Only Doncic, LeBron and Westbrook join Butler in the 20-6-6 club this season, and none of them are working as hard as him on defense.
Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks
27 Games: 18.7 PPG (49 FG%, 41 3P%, 90 FT%), 5.6 RPG, 3.8 APG, 1.2 SPG/BPG
Jaylen Brown warrants consideration for this spot, but Middleton is a more effective facilitator and trending towards his first 50-40-90 shooting campaign for the NBA’s best team. Now, would Brown be equally productive playing off Antetoukonmpo? Probably, but Middleton is as good or better in every way this season, and there is no reason to unseat the second All-Star on a team worthy of two.
Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers
33 Games: 14.4 PPG (56 FG%, 58 FT%), 8.7 APG, 7.0 RPG, 2.8 SPG/BPG
There are times when Simmons looks nothing like an All-Star, more often than anyone would like from a potential generational talent, but Simmons still regularly reminds everyone that he can change games without a jumper, averaging a 14-7-9 on 50-plus percent shooting and playing at an All-Defensive level on the other end. When in doubt, take the 6-foot-10 point guard who can guard anybody on the floor.
Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
30 Games: 21.2 PPG (42 FG%, 36 3P%, 84 FT%), 7.0 RPG, 2.9 APG, 2.1 SPG/BPG
Take your pick between Tatum and Brown on the Celtics. Brown has been a more efficient scorer, even if Tatum is averaging a career high and seems more capable of exploding for 40 points. And while Brown is a plus defender, Tatum is arguably the league’s most underrated player on that end. Overall, the Celtics are 16.8 points per 100 possessions better with Tatum in the lineup (while they actually have been slightly more potent with Brown on the bench), fluctuating from the equivalent of a top-three offense and league-best defense to a league-worst offense and middling defense when he sits.
Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks
31 Games: 28.5 PPG (44 FG%, 37 3P%, 85 FT%), 8.3 APG, 4.3 RPG, 1.3 SPG/BPG
Hesitating to put Young on this roster is understandable, given he is a sieve on defense and working for the NBA’s worst team. His offensive production might also come at the expense of a fully functioning outfit, but it is also undeniable. The only other players to average 28 points and eight assists are current and future Hall of Famers (and Luka Doncic, who sure looks headed that way).
Also receiving votes: Jaylen Brown, Celtics; Spencer Dinwiddie, Brooklyn Nets; Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons; Devonte’ Graham, Charlotte Hornets; Tobias Harris, 76ers; Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls; Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers; Kyle Lowry, Raptors; Domantas Sabonis, Pacers; Fred VanVleet, Raptors
Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks
28 Games: 28.8 PPG (47 FG%, 32 3P%, 81 FT%), 9.5 RPG, 9.0 APG, 1.4 SPG/BPG
Only two players have ever posted a 28-9-9 over a full season — Robertson and Russell Westbrook — and nobody has done so at age 20. Robertson did it four straight years from ages 22-25, making First Team All-NBA each time and winning 1964 MVP honors. All of that somehow feels realistic for Doncic before he even reaches his prime. He is as brilliant an offensive talent as there is in the game, and he has another level of efficiency to reach. As is, Doncic is orchestrating an offense that is operating at a historic level, good for the NBA’s best unit this season and enough to mask some defensive limitations.
James Harden, Houston Rockets
32 Games: 38.3 PPG (46 FG%, 38 3P%, 87 FT%), 7.5 APG, 5.9 RPG, 2.7 SPG/BPG
If you thought Harden’s usage would take a serious hit with the addition of Westbrook in Houston this season, think again. He is attempting more threes and free throws than ever, further streamlining a brand of offense that already felt like a basketball cheat code, and the result is a career-high scoring output — one unseen by any backcourt player in NBA history (and only seen by Chamberlain and Baylor). Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant respectively posted true shooting percentages of 56.2 and 55.9 in their career-best scoring seasons, and Harden is currently at 63.9. We are witnessing history.
Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers
31 Games: 27.3 PPG (50 FG%, 29 3P%, 85 FT%), 9.3 RPG, 3.3 APG, 4.0 SPG/BPG
Davis was the frontrunner for Defensive Player of the Year before the team’s recent slippage in defensive rating (down to eighth from second over the past two weeks), and he is almost impossible matchup offensively. He was already either too long or too athletic or both for anyone who stood in his way, and it is all the more difficult to double team him now that LeBron James is at his side. In the process, Davis is making his case as the best teammate LeBron has ever had — better than Dwyane Wade, who averaged a 26-6-5 with 2.6 steals/blocks per game on 50/31/76 shooting splits in 2011.
LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
32 Games: 25.1 PPG (49 FG%, 35 3P%, 69 FT%), 10.8 APG, 7.5 RPG, 1.9 SPG/BPG
Through the season’s first half, LeBron has answered any and all questions about his ability to shake off a downturn in effort and effectiveness following his first injury- and loss-plagued campaign in forever. At age 35, he is as adept at controlling a game as ever, manning the point and leading the league with his career-high assists average. He can still defend any position and chase down an unlikely block, even if it seems he is conserving energy for the playoffs on many possessions. And if he were to rest more often, which he probably should, he has still more than earned a 16th All-Star bid.
Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Clippers
25 Games: 25.6 PPG (46 FG%, 37 3P%, 88 FT%), 7.8 RPG, 5.1 APG, 2.4 SPG/BPG
The Clippers are taking a different tact with Leonard than the Lakers are with LeBron, embracing load management. And for good reason. Leonard proved to be the game’s best player in leading the Raptors to a championship last season, dominating on both ends with a serial killer’s mentality befitting the Jordan Brand, and he has done nothing to cede that title in either game against the Lakers, who are shaping up to be the only team capable of matching a healthy Clippers roster in the Western Conference this season. Leonard, only a three-time All-Star, is scripting a legacy all his own.
Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns
29 Games: 24.7 PPG (50 FG%, 36 3P%, 90 FT%), 6.4 APG, 3.9 RPG, 1.0 SPG/BPG
The Suns have slid in the standings, largely due to prolonged absences for several of their top rotational players and an inability to close games, but they are competitive on most nights because of Booker. He is enjoying his most efficient offensive season, creating as much or more than he ever has for others, and as a result the Suns go from an atrocious offense to an elite one with him on the court.
Paul George, Los Angeles Clippers
23 Games: 23.7 PPG (43 FG%, 39 3P%, 91 FT%), 6.0 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1.9 SPG/BPG
George missed the first 11 games of the season after double shoulder surgery in the offseason, which makes his production in the 23 games since all the more remarkable. Alternating between carrying the Clippers and playing the NBA’s best second fiddle, his per-36-minute averages are nearly identical to what they were a year ago, when he was a top-three MVP and Defensive Player of the Year candidate.
Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
30 Games: 14.9 PPG (69 FG%, 61 FT%), 14.1 RPG, 1.5 APG, 2.6 SPG/BPG
You might like Brandon Ingram for this spot, if only for the excitement factor, but Gobert is past due for this nod. He is the two-time reigning Defensive Player of the Year and still the NBA’s best rim protector, all while improving as a finisher offensively every season despite limited chances to rattle his own rim.
Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
32 Games: 18.0 PPG (50 FG%, 31 3P%, 81 FT%), 10.0 RPG, 6.8 APG, 1.6 SPG/BPG
Whether it is his conditioning or not, Jokic has taken a step back from the MVP-caliber season he registered a season ago. Still, he is averaging a double-double while ranking as one of the greatest passing centers in NBA history and anchoring a top-five defense for the West’s second-place team.
Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
31 Games: 27.0 PPG (44 FG%, 36 3P%, 90 FT%), 7.6 APG, 4.1 RPG, 1.4 SPG/BPG
Lillard is the most under-appreciated player of his generation. Overshadowed by the likes of Harden and Stephen Curry, he continues to steadily submit incredible offensive statistics for a playoff regular. In arguably the greatest generation of guards, Lillard has been named to the All-NBA roster in four of the past six seasons, and he is every bit as productive this season as his 2018 First Team campaign.
Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz
32 Games: 25.3 PPG (46 FG%, 36 3P%, 83 FT%), 4.6 RPG, 4.3 APG, 1.5 SPG/BPG
Mitchell may not be in the midst of the MVP campaign some predicted for him, but he is enjoying the sort of sustained success everyone hoped for last year. Mitchell did well to post star-worthy numbers after a dreadful start to last season and before a rough postseason, but he is more consistent in almost every respect this year — a leader on a talented team that expected more from his backcourt mate.
Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves
23 Games: 26.5 PPG (51 FG%, 42 3P%, 80 FT%), 11.7 RPG, 4.4 APG, 2.3 SPG/BPG
The Wolves spiraled over the past month. Part of that is due to Towns’ recent bout with a knee injury, and part it is owed to his porous defense, but there is no arguing his offensive talent. He is a center shooting 42 percent on 8.5 three-point attempts, and only Antetokounmpo joins him in the 26-11-4 club. He is everything Embiid wants to be on offense, without the defense, and that is still an All-Star.
Also receiving votes: LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs; DeMar DeRozan, Spurs; Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City Thunder; Brandon Ingram, New Orleans Pelicans; C.J. McCollum, Blazers; Jamal Murray, Nuggets; Chris Paul, Thunder; Russell Westbrook, Rockets; Andrew Wiggins, Timberwolves; Lou Williams, Clippers
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