Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant

When the Splash Brothers are making their shots, even Kevin Durant is content with a supporting role.
Warriors beat Bulls 119-112 for 14th straight road win
When the Splash Brothers are making their shots, even Kevin Durant is content with a supporting role.
When the Splash Brothers are making their shots, even Kevin Durant is content with a supporting role.
Warriors beat Bulls 119-112 for 14th straight road win
When the Splash Brothers are making their shots, even Kevin Durant is content with a supporting role.
CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 17: Kevin Durant #35 of the Golden State Warriors is fouled while driving be David Nwaba #11 of the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on January 17, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The Warriors defeated the Bulls 119-112. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Warriors beat Bulls 119-112 for 14th straight road win
CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 17: Kevin Durant #35 of the Golden State Warriors is fouled while driving be David Nwaba #11 of the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on January 17, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The Warriors defeated the Bulls 119-112. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Golden State Warriors' Kevin Durant, left, Stephen Curry, center, and Chicago Bulls' Lauri Markkanen wait to reenter the game during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Chicago Bulls Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Chicago. The Warriors won 119-112. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Golden State Warriors' Kevin Durant, left, Stephen Curry, center, and Chicago Bulls' Lauri Markkanen wait to reenter the game during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Chicago Bulls Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Chicago. The Warriors won 119-112. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Golden State Warriors' Kevin Durant, left, Stephen Curry, center, and Chicago Bulls' Lauri Markkanen wait to reenter the game during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Chicago Bulls Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Chicago. The Warriors won 119-112. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Golden State Warriors' Kevin Durant, left, and Chicago Bulls' Zach LaVine watch the ball sail out of bounds during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Golden State Warriors' Kevin Durant, left, and Chicago Bulls' Zach LaVine watch the ball sail out of bounds during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Golden State Warriors' Kevin Durant, left, and Chicago Bulls' Zach LaVine watch the ball sail out of bounds during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Golden State Warriors' Kevin Durant, left, JaVale McGee, center, and Stephen Curry sit on the bench during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Chicago Bulls Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Chicago. The Warriors won 119-112. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Golden State Warriors' Kevin Durant, left, JaVale McGee, center, and Stephen Curry sit on the bench during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Chicago Bulls Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Chicago. The Warriors won 119-112. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Golden State Warriors' Kevin Durant, left, JaVale McGee, center, and Stephen Curry sit on the bench during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Chicago Bulls Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Chicago. The Warriors won 119-112. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Golden State Warriors' Kevin Durant (35) drives to the basket past Chicago Bulls' Lauri Markkanen during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Chicago. The Warriors won 119-112. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Golden State Warriors' Kevin Durant (35) drives to the basket past Chicago Bulls' Lauri Markkanen during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Chicago. The Warriors won 119-112. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Golden State Warriors' Kevin Durant (35) drives to the basket past Chicago Bulls' Lauri Markkanen during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Chicago. The Warriors won 119-112. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Golden State Warriors' Kevin Durant (35) tries to shoot under pressure from Chicago Bulls' Lauri Markkanen during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Chicago. The Warriors won 119-112. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Golden State Warriors' Kevin Durant (35) tries to shoot under pressure from Chicago Bulls' Lauri Markkanen during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Chicago. The Warriors won 119-112. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Golden State Warriors' Kevin Durant (35) tries to shoot under pressure from Chicago Bulls' Lauri Markkanen during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Chicago. The Warriors won 119-112. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Chicago Bulls' Robin Lopez (42) goes up for a dunk over Golden State Warriors' Kevin Durant (35) and Zaza Pachulia during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Chicago Bulls' Robin Lopez (42) goes up for a dunk over Golden State Warriors' Kevin Durant (35) and Zaza Pachulia during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Chicago Bulls' Robin Lopez (42) goes up for a dunk over Golden State Warriors' Kevin Durant (35) and Zaza Pachulia during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Golden State Warriors' Kevin Durant, center, shoots over Chicago Bulls' Justin Holiday (7) and Robin Lopez during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Golden State Warriors' Kevin Durant, center, shoots over Chicago Bulls' Justin Holiday (7) and Robin Lopez during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Golden State Warriors' Kevin Durant, center, shoots over Chicago Bulls' Justin Holiday (7) and Robin Lopez during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
YouTube announced today that it's enlisted the help of basketball star Kevin Durant in a bid to expand original sports content.
YouTube partners with Kevin Durant to expand original sports programming
YouTube announced today that it's enlisted the help of basketball star Kevin Durant in a bid to expand original sports content.
Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant will be matching a $10,000 donation from Colin Kaepernick to a charity promoting racial equality.
Kevin Durant matches Colin Kaepernick's donation
Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant will be matching a $10,000 donation from Colin Kaepernick to a charity promoting racial equality.
Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant will be matching a $10,000 donation from Colin Kaepernick to a charity promoting racial equality.
Kevin Durant matches Colin Kaepernick's donation
Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant will be matching a $10,000 donation from Colin Kaepernick to a charity promoting racial equality.
<p>Former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick announced on Twitter on Wednesday that Warriors&#39; star Kevin Durant will match his $10,000 donation to Silicon Valley De-Bug.</p><p>While Kaepernick hasn&#39;t announced the donation yet, Warriors&#39; point Stephen Curry <a href="https://twitter.com/Con_Chron/status/953677781505847297" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:said" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">said</a> he&#39;s also contributing to the pledge. He will be donating to United Playaz, which is a youth organization in Oakland, California. </p><p>Kaepernick is completing his Million Dollar Pledge by donating $10,000 to different organizations over 10 days. ?As part of the final stage, he asked his friends where he should be giving his last $100,000. Durant suggested De-Bug.</p><p>Silicon Valley De-Bug is a &quot;community organizing, advocacy and a multimedia storytelling organization&quot; in San Jose, California, that&#39;s been around since 2001, according to its <a href="https://www.siliconvalleydebug.org/about" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:website" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">website</a>. The group is focused on everything from criminal justice reform to police accountability to bail reform. </p><p>Kaepernick <a href="https://www.si.com/nfl/2016/09/02/49ers-colin-kaepernick-donate-salary-1-million-anthem-protest" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:announced" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">announced</a> last year he was donating a million dollars, creating his Million Dollar Pledge. See where Kapernick has donated his money <a href="https://www.si.com/sportsperson/2017/12/06/colin-kaepernick-charity-giving-donations" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">here</a>. </p><p>The former quarterback started kneeling during the national anthem last season to protest police brutality and racial inequality. Several other NFL players, as well as numerous other athletes across America, ultimately joined him. The protests grew this season after President Donald Trump criticized NFL players who chose to follow suit. Trump said owners should &quot;fire&quot; NFL players who protest the anthem and referred to them as &quot;son[s] of b------&quot;. Players responded by protesting en masse. </p><p>Kaepernick was awarded the 2017 <em>Sports Illustrated&#39;s</em> Muhammad Ali Legacy Award for his social justice work and belief no matter the cost. </p>
Colin Kaepernick Says Kevin Durant Will Match $10,000 Donation as Part of Million Dollar Pledge

Former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick announced on Twitter on Wednesday that Warriors' star Kevin Durant will match his $10,000 donation to Silicon Valley De-Bug.

While Kaepernick hasn't announced the donation yet, Warriors' point Stephen Curry said he's also contributing to the pledge. He will be donating to United Playaz, which is a youth organization in Oakland, California.

Kaepernick is completing his Million Dollar Pledge by donating $10,000 to different organizations over 10 days. ?As part of the final stage, he asked his friends where he should be giving his last $100,000. Durant suggested De-Bug.

Silicon Valley De-Bug is a "community organizing, advocacy and a multimedia storytelling organization" in San Jose, California, that's been around since 2001, according to its website. The group is focused on everything from criminal justice reform to police accountability to bail reform.

Kaepernick announced last year he was donating a million dollars, creating his Million Dollar Pledge. See where Kapernick has donated his money here.

The former quarterback started kneeling during the national anthem last season to protest police brutality and racial inequality. Several other NFL players, as well as numerous other athletes across America, ultimately joined him. The protests grew this season after President Donald Trump criticized NFL players who chose to follow suit. Trump said owners should "fire" NFL players who protest the anthem and referred to them as "son[s] of b------". Players responded by protesting en masse.

Kaepernick was awarded the 2017 Sports Illustrated's Muhammad Ali Legacy Award for his social justice work and belief no matter the cost.

Kevin Durant matches Colin Kaepernick's donation
YouTube taps Kevin Durant for more sports-focused video
YouTube taps Kevin Durant for more sports-focused video
YouTube taps Kevin Durant for more sports-focused video
YouTube taps Kevin Durant for more sports-focused video
YouTube taps Kevin Durant for more sports-focused video
YouTube taps Kevin Durant for more sports-focused video
<p>Get ready for a busy night in the NBA with 10 games on the schedule Wednesday. There are plenty of elite options to choose from for your DFS entry with the Warriors, Thunder and Pelicans in action. There are a lot of great options available up and down the price scale, as well. Consider using some of the players below and plugging them into our <a href="https://www.lineuplab.com/NBA/DK" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:NBA Lineup Optimizer" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">NBA Lineup Optimizer</a> to hopefully craft a winning lineup.</p><h3>Point Guard</h3><p><strong>John Wall, at Hornets (FD: $10,100, DK: $9,700)</strong><br><em>Projected Points: FD: 48.87, DK: 50.36</em></p><p>Wall is having by far his best month of the season, averaging 25.9 points, 11.3 assists, 3.6 rebounds, 2.1 steals and 1.4 three-pointers in seven January games. Not only is he averaging 39 minutes in those games, but he also has an excellent 33.7% usage rate. He dominated the Hornets in their first meeting this year, scoring 31 points and dishing out 11 assists. He won’t come cheap, but expect him to be worth his lofty price tag Wednesday.</p><p><strong>Milos Teodosic, vs. Nuggets (FD: $5,100, DK: $5,200)</strong><br><em>Projected Points: FD: 23.74, DK: 24.99</em></p><p>The Clippers are still thin in their backcourt, leaving Teodosic with an opportunity for added minutes. While his production isn’t off the charts, he has averaged a valuable 11.0 points, 6.7 assists, 2.7 rebounds and 3.0 three-pointers in his last three games. Wednesday brings a favorable matchup against the Nuggets, who allow the third-most points per game to point guards on both FanDuel and DraftKings. If you are looking for a cheap point guard option, Teodosic does have upside.</p><h3>Shooting Guard</h3><p><strong>Lou Williams, vs. Nuggets (FD: $8,900, DK: $8,700)</strong><br><em>Projected Points: FD: 41.29, DK: 42.95</em></p><p>Williams is one of the hottest scorers in the NBA right now, averaging 31.2 points and 4.4 three-pointers in his last 13 games. He’s not just looking for his own shot though, also averaging 5.4 assists per game over that same stretch. He’s having one of the best seasons of his career and playing a ton due to all of the Clippers injuries, resulting in a 29.9% usage rate that ranks inside the top-20 in the league. He should have plenty of opportunities to be productive again Wednesday.</p><p><strong>Tim Hardaway Jr., at Grizzlies (FD: $6,400, DK: $5,900)</strong><br><em>Projected Points: FD: 29.06, DK: 30.05</em></p><p>Hardaway returned Friday from a lengthy absence due to a leg injury, scoring 16 points in 25 minutes off the bench. He scored 25 points in 33 minutes the next game Saturday before sitting out the second leg of the back-to-back set Sunday. He is set to play again Wednesday and could resume his role in the starting five. The Knicks badly need his offense, and it’s a good sign that he played 33 minutes Saturday. He has the potential to provide value at this reasonable price against the Grizzlies.</p><p><em>Want more in-depth DFS advice? <a href="https://www.lineuplab.com/subscription/subscribe-package/31?aid=si" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Click here and use promo code NEWYEAR40" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Click here and use promo code NEWYEAR40</a> to get 40% off a season-long subscription with our partners at Lineup Lab, helping Joes play like DFS pros.</em></p><h3>Small Forward</h3><p><strong>Kevin Durant, at Bulls (FD: $10,600, DK: $10,600)</strong><br><em>Projected Points: FD: 52.56, DK: 52.62</em></p><p>The Bulls have won three in a row and are a tough team at home, but playing the Warriors is an entirely different beast. They don’t have anyone who matches up well defensively with Durant, which really can be said for most teams. On a roster loaded with elite talent, Durant still gets plenty of chances to score evidenced by a 30.4% usage rate that ranks 11th-best in the league. If the Bulls can keep this game close, Durant could be in line for a monster performance.</p><p><strong>Josh Richardson, at Bucks (FD: $5,800, DK: $6,200)</strong><br><em>Projected Points: FD: 24.42, DK: 24.22</em></p><p>The Heat continue to battle injury issues, the latest of which is Tyler Johnson (ankle), who is listed as doubtful for Wednesday. Richardson is playing a lot as a result, averaging 37 minutes in his last eight games. He hasn’t let the added opportunities go to waste, averaging 14.0 points, 3.5 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.5 steals, 1.4 blocks and 1.9 three-pointers over that same stretch. He doesn’t cost a ton, making him worth considering for your entry.</p><h3>Power Forward</h3><p><strong>Blake Griffin, vs. Nuggets (FD: $8,700, DK: $9,000)</strong><br><em>Projected Points: FD: 43.04, DK: 44.33</em></p><p>Known for his excellent scoring abilities, Griffin is averaging at least 21 points per game for the fifth straight season. However, with all of the Clippers injuries at guard and Chris Paul now in Houston, Griffin is averaging a career-high 5.4 assists per game this year. He doesn’t provide much in the way of defensive stats, but the increase in assists has helped to create a high floor in DFS. The Nuggets allow the 10th-most points per game to power forwards on both FanDuel and DraftKings, making Griffin an excellent option yet again Wednesday.</p><p><strong>Lauri Markkanen, vs. Warriors (FD: $6,400, DK: $6,300)</strong><br><em>Projected Points: FD: 29.36, DK: 30</em></p><p>The Bulls thought very highly of Markkanen when they drafted him, but even they would have found it hard to imagine he would begin his career playing so well. Thrust into a starting role from the start of the season due to the fight between Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis, Markkanen became the fastest player in NBA history to reach 100 career three-pointers Monday against the Heat, doing it in 17 fewer games than the previous record holder, a guy by the name of Stephen Curry. If the Bulls are going to keep up with the Warriors offense, they are going to need all the scoring they can get from Markkanen. Considering the Warriors play at the fourth-fastest pace (102.4 possessions per game) in the league, Markkanen makes for an excellent option Wednesday.</p><h3>Center</h3><p><strong>DeMarcus Cousins, at Hawks (FD: $11,900, DK: $10,800)</strong><br><em>Projected Points: FD: 57.99, DK: 60.21</em></p><p>This game could get ugly for the Hawks. They received some reinforcements up front with the recent return of Dewayne Dedmon, but they don’t have anyone capable of hanging with Cousins. Cousins’s 32.5% usage rate is fourth-highest in the league and he has at least 15 rebounds and five assists in four of his last six games. The Hawks allow the-third most points per game to centers on both FanDuel and DraftKings, so don’t be afraid to pay up for Cousins on Wednesday.</p><p><strong>Jonas Valanciunas, vs. Pistons (FD: $5,500, DK: $5,200)</strong><br><em>Projected Points: FD: 25, DK: 25.12</em></p><p>Valanciunas has the potential to put up big double-doubles, evident by the fact that he has scored at least 15 points and grabbed at least 13 rebounds in three of his last six games. The problem is, he’s very inconsistent, scoring no more than eight points and grabbing five rebounds or fewer in two of the other three games. His playing time is not consistent by any means, but the good news is the Raptors may be forced to play him more than usual Wednesday to battle with Andre Drummond. If you want to take a chance on a cheaper center with upside in tournament play, Valanciunas might be your man.</p>
NBA DFS Picks for January 17

Get ready for a busy night in the NBA with 10 games on the schedule Wednesday. There are plenty of elite options to choose from for your DFS entry with the Warriors, Thunder and Pelicans in action. There are a lot of great options available up and down the price scale, as well. Consider using some of the players below and plugging them into our NBA Lineup Optimizer to hopefully craft a winning lineup.

Point Guard

John Wall, at Hornets (FD: $10,100, DK: $9,700)
Projected Points: FD: 48.87, DK: 50.36

Wall is having by far his best month of the season, averaging 25.9 points, 11.3 assists, 3.6 rebounds, 2.1 steals and 1.4 three-pointers in seven January games. Not only is he averaging 39 minutes in those games, but he also has an excellent 33.7% usage rate. He dominated the Hornets in their first meeting this year, scoring 31 points and dishing out 11 assists. He won’t come cheap, but expect him to be worth his lofty price tag Wednesday.

Milos Teodosic, vs. Nuggets (FD: $5,100, DK: $5,200)
Projected Points: FD: 23.74, DK: 24.99

The Clippers are still thin in their backcourt, leaving Teodosic with an opportunity for added minutes. While his production isn’t off the charts, he has averaged a valuable 11.0 points, 6.7 assists, 2.7 rebounds and 3.0 three-pointers in his last three games. Wednesday brings a favorable matchup against the Nuggets, who allow the third-most points per game to point guards on both FanDuel and DraftKings. If you are looking for a cheap point guard option, Teodosic does have upside.

Shooting Guard

Lou Williams, vs. Nuggets (FD: $8,900, DK: $8,700)
Projected Points: FD: 41.29, DK: 42.95

Williams is one of the hottest scorers in the NBA right now, averaging 31.2 points and 4.4 three-pointers in his last 13 games. He’s not just looking for his own shot though, also averaging 5.4 assists per game over that same stretch. He’s having one of the best seasons of his career and playing a ton due to all of the Clippers injuries, resulting in a 29.9% usage rate that ranks inside the top-20 in the league. He should have plenty of opportunities to be productive again Wednesday.

Tim Hardaway Jr., at Grizzlies (FD: $6,400, DK: $5,900)
Projected Points: FD: 29.06, DK: 30.05

Hardaway returned Friday from a lengthy absence due to a leg injury, scoring 16 points in 25 minutes off the bench. He scored 25 points in 33 minutes the next game Saturday before sitting out the second leg of the back-to-back set Sunday. He is set to play again Wednesday and could resume his role in the starting five. The Knicks badly need his offense, and it’s a good sign that he played 33 minutes Saturday. He has the potential to provide value at this reasonable price against the Grizzlies.

Want more in-depth DFS advice? Click here and use promo code NEWYEAR40 to get 40% off a season-long subscription with our partners at Lineup Lab, helping Joes play like DFS pros.

Small Forward

Kevin Durant, at Bulls (FD: $10,600, DK: $10,600)
Projected Points: FD: 52.56, DK: 52.62

The Bulls have won three in a row and are a tough team at home, but playing the Warriors is an entirely different beast. They don’t have anyone who matches up well defensively with Durant, which really can be said for most teams. On a roster loaded with elite talent, Durant still gets plenty of chances to score evidenced by a 30.4% usage rate that ranks 11th-best in the league. If the Bulls can keep this game close, Durant could be in line for a monster performance.

Josh Richardson, at Bucks (FD: $5,800, DK: $6,200)
Projected Points: FD: 24.42, DK: 24.22

The Heat continue to battle injury issues, the latest of which is Tyler Johnson (ankle), who is listed as doubtful for Wednesday. Richardson is playing a lot as a result, averaging 37 minutes in his last eight games. He hasn’t let the added opportunities go to waste, averaging 14.0 points, 3.5 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.5 steals, 1.4 blocks and 1.9 three-pointers over that same stretch. He doesn’t cost a ton, making him worth considering for your entry.

Power Forward

Blake Griffin, vs. Nuggets (FD: $8,700, DK: $9,000)
Projected Points: FD: 43.04, DK: 44.33

Known for his excellent scoring abilities, Griffin is averaging at least 21 points per game for the fifth straight season. However, with all of the Clippers injuries at guard and Chris Paul now in Houston, Griffin is averaging a career-high 5.4 assists per game this year. He doesn’t provide much in the way of defensive stats, but the increase in assists has helped to create a high floor in DFS. The Nuggets allow the 10th-most points per game to power forwards on both FanDuel and DraftKings, making Griffin an excellent option yet again Wednesday.

Lauri Markkanen, vs. Warriors (FD: $6,400, DK: $6,300)
Projected Points: FD: 29.36, DK: 30

The Bulls thought very highly of Markkanen when they drafted him, but even they would have found it hard to imagine he would begin his career playing so well. Thrust into a starting role from the start of the season due to the fight between Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis, Markkanen became the fastest player in NBA history to reach 100 career three-pointers Monday against the Heat, doing it in 17 fewer games than the previous record holder, a guy by the name of Stephen Curry. If the Bulls are going to keep up with the Warriors offense, they are going to need all the scoring they can get from Markkanen. Considering the Warriors play at the fourth-fastest pace (102.4 possessions per game) in the league, Markkanen makes for an excellent option Wednesday.

Center

DeMarcus Cousins, at Hawks (FD: $11,900, DK: $10,800)
Projected Points: FD: 57.99, DK: 60.21

This game could get ugly for the Hawks. They received some reinforcements up front with the recent return of Dewayne Dedmon, but they don’t have anyone capable of hanging with Cousins. Cousins’s 32.5% usage rate is fourth-highest in the league and he has at least 15 rebounds and five assists in four of his last six games. The Hawks allow the-third most points per game to centers on both FanDuel and DraftKings, so don’t be afraid to pay up for Cousins on Wednesday.

Jonas Valanciunas, vs. Pistons (FD: $5,500, DK: $5,200)
Projected Points: FD: 25, DK: 25.12

Valanciunas has the potential to put up big double-doubles, evident by the fact that he has scored at least 15 points and grabbed at least 13 rebounds in three of his last six games. The problem is, he’s very inconsistent, scoring no more than eight points and grabbing five rebounds or fewer in two of the other three games. His playing time is not consistent by any means, but the good news is the Raptors may be forced to play him more than usual Wednesday to battle with Andre Drummond. If you want to take a chance on a cheaper center with upside in tournament play, Valanciunas might be your man.

NBA star <a href="https://ec.yimg.com/ec?url=http%3a%2f%2fdeadline.com%2ftag%2fkevin-durant%2f%26quot%3b&t=1516326996&sig=7Ox8G3Ap0dMoAOzRJ72gsw--~D rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Kevin Durant" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Kevin Durant</a> of the <a href="http://deadline.com/tag/golden-state-warriors/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Golden State Warriors" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Golden State Warriors</a> is helping other sports stars up game when it comes to their <a href="http://deadline.com/tag/youtube/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:YouTube" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">YouTube</a> presence. Durant&#8217;s <a href="http://deadline.com/tag/thirty-five-media/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Thirty Five Media" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Thirty Five Media</a>, which is co-owned by Rich Kleiman will work closely with the popular video platform to help athletes launch their own channels. They will also create new and innovative sports programming as a development partner for YouTube. The news comes after the wild success of Thirty Five Media&#8217;s launch of Durant&#8217;s YouTube&#8230;
Kevin Durant’s Thirty Five Media Teams With YouTube To Launch Athlete Channels
NBA star Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors is helping other sports stars up game when it comes to their YouTube presence. Durant’s Thirty Five Media, which is co-owned by Rich Kleiman will work closely with the popular video platform to help athletes launch their own channels. They will also create new and innovative sports programming as a development partner for YouTube. The news comes after the wild success of Thirty Five Media’s launch of Durant’s YouTube…
YouTube Teams With Kevin Durant to Add Athlete Channels, Sports Programming
YouTube Teams With Kevin Durant to Add Athlete Channels, Sports Programming
YouTube Teams With Kevin Durant to Add Athlete Channels, Sports Programming
<p>The NBA is set to unveil the starting lineups for the 2018 All-Star Game on Thursday, as determined by a joint vote among fans, players and media members.</p><p>While this year’s All-Star festivities include a major new wrinkle—the appointment of the conference leading vote-getters as captains who will draft their teams from a pool of All-Star players—the procedure for selecting the starters remains unchanged from 2017. This year, fans will again account for half of the vote, players will account for 25%, and a panel composed of 100 media members will account for the final 25%.</p><p>Without further ado, here’s how I casted my official ballot. Note: Media members were asked to select two backcourt players and three frontcourt players from each conference. (<em>All stats and rankings through Monday.)</em></p><p>??</p><h3><strong>East Backcourt: Victor Oladipo (Pacers) and Kyrie Irving (Celtics)</strong></h3><p>Right off the top, a classic voting dilemma: three very qualified candidates—Oladipo, Irving, and Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan—for only two spots. Unfortunately, this predicament is well-known and particularly annoying to All-Star voters, who might be able to avoid such pickles if the NBA ever moved to a fully position-less ballot.</p><p>The East’s top tier of guards isn’t as deep as it’s been in recent years. Washington’s John Wall has struggled with his efficiency and consistency. Although Bradley Beal, Wall’s teammate, has helped pick up the slack and deserves strong All-Star reserve consideration, his career year hasn’t translated to the type of stability one expects from a veteran-dominated roster. In Charlotte, Kemba Walker’s Hornets have been one of the league’s biggest disappointments, already falling well off the playoff pace. Meanwhile, Toronto’s Kyle Lowry has smartly been cast into a narrower role, leaving him in a similar boat as Miami’s Goran Dragic. Neither point guard has the per-game numbers to keep up with the East’s most productive backcourt players.</p><p>The Crossover&#39;s first backcourt pick is Oladipo (24.3 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 4 APG), who easily qualifies as the biggest surprise among the 10 players selected here given his ho-hum 2016-17 campaign in Oklahoma City. Oladipo, Irving and DeRozan all have virtually identical per-game stats in terms of points, rebounds and assists, but Indiana’s new guard held slight edges in shooting efficiency and Player Efficiency Rating at the time ballots were due. More importantly, though, Oladipo’s impact numbers notably exceeded Irving and DeRozan.</p><p><em>• Indiana: +7.4 with Oladipo | -6.9 without Oladipo | Net: +13.8<br>• </em><em>Boston: +7.4 with Irving | +1.3 without Irving | Net: +9.6 </em><br><em>•</em><em>Toronto: +6.9 with DeRozan | +8.1 without DeRozan | Net: -1.2</em></p><p>As the East’s top two seeds, Boston and Toronto can point to numerous driving forces behind their success, including proven co-stars, deep rosters and established systems. For the overhauled Pacers, Oladipo has easily been the central force. Without him this year, Indiana is 0-5, losing by an average of 12.8 PPG. Indeed, Oladipo’s Pacers recall Jimmy Butler’s Bulls from years past. Without Oladipo, Indiana would be utterly hopeless, likely ranking among the league’s worst teams. With him, they are comfortably in the East’s playoff picture, even if they can’t quite keep up with the East’s best. They also possess a top-six offense league-wide, which still seems impossible given the loss of Paul George and their mediocre assembled talent. Considering their respective team contexts, Oladipo rates as the least replaceable of the three East backcourt candidates. </p><p>It’s fair to wonder whether Oladipo can maintain his career-best level of play, especially because both Irving and DeRozan have performed at an All-Star level for multiple years. A second-half drop-off in Oladipo’s efficiency and the Pacers’ success wouldn’t be surprising at all, leaving Irving and DeRozan as stronger All-NBA selections. However, this All-Star starter ballot was cast solely looking at games played between the start of the 2017-18 season and the voting deadline.</p><p>For the second spot, Irving (24 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 5 APG) versus DeRozan (25.4 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 5 APG) is about as close as it gets, with their major statistics and advanced stats (PER, Win Shares) usually separated by mere decimals. Both have similar usage rates and similar impacts on their respective offenses. And relative to their all-around offensive games, both players are less accomplished and less integral to their team’s success on the defensive end.</p><p>DeRozan’s improvement as a reader of defenses coupled with his first serious dabbling outside the three-point arc have helped boost him from fringe All-Star selection to starter candidate, and they’ve moved him past Lowry on the list of Toronto’s most important players this season. Still, the pick here is Irving, due to his better on/off impact numbers, his superior outside shooting (proficiency and volume), and the Celtics’ East-leading record. </p><h3><strong>East Frontcourt: LeBron James (Cavaliers), Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks), and Joel Embiid (Sixers)</strong></h3><p>Let’s not bother with unnecessary debates: Both James and Antetokounmpo are no-brainers.</p><p>At the midway point of his 15th season, James stands as the 2018 NBA MVP frontrunner. He has been the alpha and omega for the East’s most efficient offense while welcoming a host of new faces (Jae Crowder, Dwyane Wade, Jeff Green) and dealing with numerous injuries (Isaiah Thomas, Tristan Thompson, Derrick Rose). Even more remarkably, he’s shattered conventional expectations for age curves and post-30 decline. Throughout NBA history, only four players have matched James’ current stat line (27.3 PPG, 8 RPG, 8.8 APG): Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. All four did it at age 28 or younger, while James turned 33 last month.</p><p>Kudos to fan voters for recognizing Antetokounmpo’s brilliance: At just 23, he’s already challenging James for the title of the East’s leading vote-getter, pulling in nearly 1.5 million votes at last count. The NBA’s reigning Most Improved Player is now deep into his second season as one of the league’s top one-man shows. The Bucks boast a +4 net rating with Antetokounmpo on the court and a pitiful -11.3 net rating when he sits, a split that helps explain why he’s the NBA’s leader in minutes per game. A do-everything, play-anywhere force of nature, Antetokounmpo (28.3 PPG, 10.1 PPG, 4.5 APG) joins Larry Bird, David Robinson and Russell Westbrook as the only players to average 28/10/4 during the three-point era. While Milwaukee’s so-so record should leave observers wanting more, it would be so, so, so much worse without nightly heroics from their franchise player. </p><p>If he were eligible, DeRozan would have a strong case for the third frontcourt spot. Alas, Embiid and Boston’s Horford stand atop the remaining pool of frontcourt candidates, separating themselves from New York’s Kristaps Porzingis (fading slightly after a strong individual start), Detroit’s Andre Drummond (an afterthought following the Pistons’ recent cratering) and Cleveland’s Kevin Love (an undeniable part of the problem for Cleveland’s atrocious defense).</p><p>Horford’s portfolio is virtually identical to his previous All-Star seasons: His two-way game, unselfishness, inside/outside versatility, and intelligence have made him a more important driver of Boston’s winning than his raw stats (13.4 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 5.3 APG) would suggest. As the stabilizing force for the NBA’s stingiest defense, Horford will command Defensive Player of the Year and All-Defensive team attention. He’s also enjoyed significantly better health than Embiid, logging 300+ more minutes and missing just four games.</p><p>Ultimately, the quality of Embiid’s minutes won out on this ballot. Aside from long-established A-listers like LeBron James, Stephen Curry, and James Harden, Embiid helps his teammates find success better than anyone in the league. He draws tons of attention to free up role players. He works a nice two-man game with Ben Simmons. He blankets the paint on defense. He parades to the foul line. He cleans the glass. He leads with energy and fearlessness.</p><p>While Horford has a longer track record of winning and has enjoyed better health this season, Embiid has clearly established himself as one of the league’s most indispensable stars. Philadelphia’s net rating swings from -6.2 without him to +8.7 with him, and the Sixers are 2-7 without Embiid in the lineup. Boston, meanwhile, has gone 4-0 without Horford. Other than his lagging three-point efficiency and his DeMarcus Cousins-like propensity for turning the ball over by doing too much, Embiid (23.8 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 3.4 APG) is virtually impossible to nitpick. His per-game numbers suggest he’s elite. His advanced stats suggest he’s elite. His impact numbers suggest he’s elite. The eye test suggests he’s an elite monster who would thrash and thrive to an even greater degree if surrounded by Boston’s talent.</p><p>Postscript: Horford is an easy reserve selection.</p><p>?</p><h3><strong>West Backcourt: James Harden (Rockets) and Stephen Curry (Warriors)</strong></h3><p>Most years, good health weighs heavily on this voter’s ballot. That’s especially true in deep groupings like the West backcourt, which is always a gauntlet full of impossible choices. This season, though, toeing a hard line on health makes less sense due to a rash of injuries to star players and the increased proliferation of strategic resting.</p><p>Disqualifying or downgrading West guards for missing meaningful time would result in a bloodbath: Harden, Curry, and Portland’s Damian Lillard would all be impacted, along with Houston’s Chris Paul, Memphis’s Mike Conley and other perennial candidates who don’t belong in the conversation because they’ve missed huge chunks of the season. The top remaining, rarely-injured candidates would be Minnesota’s Jimmy Butler, Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook, Golden State’s Klay Thompson and LA’s Lou Williams. All are worthy All-Star reserve candidates, but none belongs on the same tier as Harden and Curry, who have both been top-five overall talents this season.</p><p>Although currently sidelined with a hamstring injury, Harden (32.3 PPG, 9.1 APG, 5 RPG) is a must All-Star starter. At the time of his injury, he stood as the MVP favorite, leading the league in points, PER, Win Shares and Real Plus Minus. His individual success directly translated to team–wide success: Houston was on track for its best season in franchise history, the West’s No. 2 record, a top-two offense, and the NBA’s second-best point differential when he went down.</p><p>Curry (27.6 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 6.5 APG) has already missed 14 games, a chunk that would usually see him dumped to the second team on this voter’s ballot. Much like Embiid, however, Curry’s play when healthy has simply been too dominant to snub. His stat line isn’t that far off his 2015 unanimous MVP campaign. He’s threatening another 50/40/90 shooting season. Golden State is playing at a 68-win pace when he suits up. The Warriors’ offensive rating is a preposterous 120.7 when he’s on the court. He ranks fourth in PER and first in Real Plus Minus. The sport continues to be molded by his influence.</p><p>That leaves Butler (21.5 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 5.1 APG) to fall to the West’s bench. As with DeRozan in the East, a position-less ballot could have potentially opened a starting spot for Butler, a punishing wing who capably defends four positions and easily oscillates between different roles in big and small lineups. Butler’s off-season arrival has delivered impressive and immediate results, transforming the Timberwolves from a decade-long also-ran to a top-four seed and a potential Northwest Division banner. Simply put, Butler is the top performer not included among this ballot’s 10 starters.</p><p>Despite his gaudy numbers, Westbrook (25 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 9.9 APG) should not be viewed as a serious All-Star starter candidate. Oklahoma City has just been too shaky, in part because he’s struggled to shoot efficiently and hasn’t displayed the delicate touch necessary to consistently pull quality contributions from his auxiliary options. </p><h3><strong>West Frontcourt: Kevin Durant (Warriors), Anthony Davis (Pelicans) and Draymond Green (Warriors)</strong></h3><p>The West’s frontcourt picture will get dicey when it comes to separating the reserves from the snubs, but the starters are a simpler task.</p><p>Durant (26.4 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 5.3 APG) is in, and his nomination doesn’t require an extended explanation. At this point of his career, the 2014 MVP has become a chameleon-like force, capable of matching his top peers in an increasingly long list of ways. Like Curry, he is a 50/40/90 candidate. Like Harden, he is a primary scorer and playmaker for an elite offense. Like James, he steps forward as a major stabilizing force when his teammates are in and out of the lineup. Like San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard, he has become a major plus on defense, one capable of defending elite wings while also carrying a significant offensive burden. Like Horford and Green, he has risen to the challenge of interior defense while logging major minutes in undersized spread lineups. Like Irving, he never hesitates to break off a defender with his handle. Like Antetokounmpo, he’s a terror in transition, and his length and athleticism present constant problems for opponents big and small.</p><p>In sum, Durant’s case to surpass James as the game’s top all-around talent is only gaining momentum. </p><p>Even with the injury issues in the West, it’s impossible to justify placing two Pelicans—who have hovered near .500 and the playoff bubble all season—in the All-Star starting lineup. While DeMarcus Cousins (25.5 PPG, 12.4 RPG, 5.1 APG) started with a bang and continues to boast insane numbers, his steak doesn’t quite match his sizzle. Hence, Davis (26.7 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 2.3 APG) makes more sense the New Orleans representative: His per-game stats are huge as always, he holds a team-best +5.3 net rating, and New Orleans is 3-6 when he plays fewer than 25 minutes. Simply put, he’s more reliable than Cousins, who leads the league in turnovers and fouls, while also ranking among the league leaders in technical fouls and ejections.</p><p>The West’s final frontcourt spot is a tangled ball of yarn due to Leonard’s numerous injury issues. One school of thought suggests transferring his spot to LaMarcus Aldridge (22.4 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 1.9 APG), who stepped forward as San Antonio’s leading scorer in Leonard’s absence. Others might argue for Cousins based on his Shaquille O’Neal-like numbers. Still others might nominate Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns (20.2 PPG, 12 RPG, 2.3 APG), a natural/smooth/efficient/forceful offensive weapon who has responded in recent weeks to severe criticism of his defense. All three have legitimate cases, as would Butler if he were eligible in the frontcourt.</p><p>On this ballot, the choice is Green (11.1 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 7.6 APG), who obviously trails his aforementioned competition as a scorer. What sets Green apart is everything else: His comfort guarding any player at any time and at any spot on the court; his motor; his ability to step forward as an initiator in Curry’s absence; his decision-making; his rim-protection; and his ability to push the ball end to end in transition. Green is key to helping Golden State play at the league’s No.4 pace, he is the leading assist man on the league’s No. 1 assist team, he is a key playmaker for the NBA’s No. 1 offense, he is the leading rebounder on a team that’s juggled centers all season long, and he’s the most proven and versatile cog in the NBA’s No. 4 defense.</p><p>While Green has become a familiar face during Golden State’s run of dominance—emerging as one of this year’s leading All-Star vote-getters—the breadth of his positive contributions can still get lost in Superteam envy or in complaints about his behavior. So, here’s a cool shorthand method for explaining his unique and wide-ranging impact: <a href="http://bkref.com/tiny/dWaNc" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Green and James are the only two players to average" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Green and James are the only two players to average</a> seven rebounds, seven assists, one steal and one block during the three-point era. This season, James is doing it for the fourth time during a career in which he will likely go down as one of the top two players ever. Green, meanwhile, is doing it for the third straight time while playing in the shadow of two all-timers in Curry and Durant. The Warriors’ blossoming dynasty greatness is fueled in no small part by Green’s consistent greatness across so many different facets of the game.</p><p>Check back next week for The Crossover&#39;s All-Star reserve selections. </p>
The Crossover's 2018 NBA All-Star Game Starters

The NBA is set to unveil the starting lineups for the 2018 All-Star Game on Thursday, as determined by a joint vote among fans, players and media members.

While this year’s All-Star festivities include a major new wrinkle—the appointment of the conference leading vote-getters as captains who will draft their teams from a pool of All-Star players—the procedure for selecting the starters remains unchanged from 2017. This year, fans will again account for half of the vote, players will account for 25%, and a panel composed of 100 media members will account for the final 25%.

Without further ado, here’s how I casted my official ballot. Note: Media members were asked to select two backcourt players and three frontcourt players from each conference. (All stats and rankings through Monday.)

??

East Backcourt: Victor Oladipo (Pacers) and Kyrie Irving (Celtics)

Right off the top, a classic voting dilemma: three very qualified candidates—Oladipo, Irving, and Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan—for only two spots. Unfortunately, this predicament is well-known and particularly annoying to All-Star voters, who might be able to avoid such pickles if the NBA ever moved to a fully position-less ballot.

The East’s top tier of guards isn’t as deep as it’s been in recent years. Washington’s John Wall has struggled with his efficiency and consistency. Although Bradley Beal, Wall’s teammate, has helped pick up the slack and deserves strong All-Star reserve consideration, his career year hasn’t translated to the type of stability one expects from a veteran-dominated roster. In Charlotte, Kemba Walker’s Hornets have been one of the league’s biggest disappointments, already falling well off the playoff pace. Meanwhile, Toronto’s Kyle Lowry has smartly been cast into a narrower role, leaving him in a similar boat as Miami’s Goran Dragic. Neither point guard has the per-game numbers to keep up with the East’s most productive backcourt players.

The Crossover's first backcourt pick is Oladipo (24.3 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 4 APG), who easily qualifies as the biggest surprise among the 10 players selected here given his ho-hum 2016-17 campaign in Oklahoma City. Oladipo, Irving and DeRozan all have virtually identical per-game stats in terms of points, rebounds and assists, but Indiana’s new guard held slight edges in shooting efficiency and Player Efficiency Rating at the time ballots were due. More importantly, though, Oladipo’s impact numbers notably exceeded Irving and DeRozan.

• Indiana: +7.4 with Oladipo | -6.9 without Oladipo | Net: +13.8
Boston: +7.4 with Irving | +1.3 without Irving | Net: +9.6
Toronto: +6.9 with DeRozan | +8.1 without DeRozan | Net: -1.2

As the East’s top two seeds, Boston and Toronto can point to numerous driving forces behind their success, including proven co-stars, deep rosters and established systems. For the overhauled Pacers, Oladipo has easily been the central force. Without him this year, Indiana is 0-5, losing by an average of 12.8 PPG. Indeed, Oladipo’s Pacers recall Jimmy Butler’s Bulls from years past. Without Oladipo, Indiana would be utterly hopeless, likely ranking among the league’s worst teams. With him, they are comfortably in the East’s playoff picture, even if they can’t quite keep up with the East’s best. They also possess a top-six offense league-wide, which still seems impossible given the loss of Paul George and their mediocre assembled talent. Considering their respective team contexts, Oladipo rates as the least replaceable of the three East backcourt candidates.

It’s fair to wonder whether Oladipo can maintain his career-best level of play, especially because both Irving and DeRozan have performed at an All-Star level for multiple years. A second-half drop-off in Oladipo’s efficiency and the Pacers’ success wouldn’t be surprising at all, leaving Irving and DeRozan as stronger All-NBA selections. However, this All-Star starter ballot was cast solely looking at games played between the start of the 2017-18 season and the voting deadline.

For the second spot, Irving (24 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 5 APG) versus DeRozan (25.4 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 5 APG) is about as close as it gets, with their major statistics and advanced stats (PER, Win Shares) usually separated by mere decimals. Both have similar usage rates and similar impacts on their respective offenses. And relative to their all-around offensive games, both players are less accomplished and less integral to their team’s success on the defensive end.

DeRozan’s improvement as a reader of defenses coupled with his first serious dabbling outside the three-point arc have helped boost him from fringe All-Star selection to starter candidate, and they’ve moved him past Lowry on the list of Toronto’s most important players this season. Still, the pick here is Irving, due to his better on/off impact numbers, his superior outside shooting (proficiency and volume), and the Celtics’ East-leading record.

East Frontcourt: LeBron James (Cavaliers), Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks), and Joel Embiid (Sixers)

Let’s not bother with unnecessary debates: Both James and Antetokounmpo are no-brainers.

At the midway point of his 15th season, James stands as the 2018 NBA MVP frontrunner. He has been the alpha and omega for the East’s most efficient offense while welcoming a host of new faces (Jae Crowder, Dwyane Wade, Jeff Green) and dealing with numerous injuries (Isaiah Thomas, Tristan Thompson, Derrick Rose). Even more remarkably, he’s shattered conventional expectations for age curves and post-30 decline. Throughout NBA history, only four players have matched James’ current stat line (27.3 PPG, 8 RPG, 8.8 APG): Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. All four did it at age 28 or younger, while James turned 33 last month.

Kudos to fan voters for recognizing Antetokounmpo’s brilliance: At just 23, he’s already challenging James for the title of the East’s leading vote-getter, pulling in nearly 1.5 million votes at last count. The NBA’s reigning Most Improved Player is now deep into his second season as one of the league’s top one-man shows. The Bucks boast a +4 net rating with Antetokounmpo on the court and a pitiful -11.3 net rating when he sits, a split that helps explain why he’s the NBA’s leader in minutes per game. A do-everything, play-anywhere force of nature, Antetokounmpo (28.3 PPG, 10.1 PPG, 4.5 APG) joins Larry Bird, David Robinson and Russell Westbrook as the only players to average 28/10/4 during the three-point era. While Milwaukee’s so-so record should leave observers wanting more, it would be so, so, so much worse without nightly heroics from their franchise player.

If he were eligible, DeRozan would have a strong case for the third frontcourt spot. Alas, Embiid and Boston’s Horford stand atop the remaining pool of frontcourt candidates, separating themselves from New York’s Kristaps Porzingis (fading slightly after a strong individual start), Detroit’s Andre Drummond (an afterthought following the Pistons’ recent cratering) and Cleveland’s Kevin Love (an undeniable part of the problem for Cleveland’s atrocious defense).

Horford’s portfolio is virtually identical to his previous All-Star seasons: His two-way game, unselfishness, inside/outside versatility, and intelligence have made him a more important driver of Boston’s winning than his raw stats (13.4 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 5.3 APG) would suggest. As the stabilizing force for the NBA’s stingiest defense, Horford will command Defensive Player of the Year and All-Defensive team attention. He’s also enjoyed significantly better health than Embiid, logging 300+ more minutes and missing just four games.

Ultimately, the quality of Embiid’s minutes won out on this ballot. Aside from long-established A-listers like LeBron James, Stephen Curry, and James Harden, Embiid helps his teammates find success better than anyone in the league. He draws tons of attention to free up role players. He works a nice two-man game with Ben Simmons. He blankets the paint on defense. He parades to the foul line. He cleans the glass. He leads with energy and fearlessness.

While Horford has a longer track record of winning and has enjoyed better health this season, Embiid has clearly established himself as one of the league’s most indispensable stars. Philadelphia’s net rating swings from -6.2 without him to +8.7 with him, and the Sixers are 2-7 without Embiid in the lineup. Boston, meanwhile, has gone 4-0 without Horford. Other than his lagging three-point efficiency and his DeMarcus Cousins-like propensity for turning the ball over by doing too much, Embiid (23.8 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 3.4 APG) is virtually impossible to nitpick. His per-game numbers suggest he’s elite. His advanced stats suggest he’s elite. His impact numbers suggest he’s elite. The eye test suggests he’s an elite monster who would thrash and thrive to an even greater degree if surrounded by Boston’s talent.

Postscript: Horford is an easy reserve selection.

?

West Backcourt: James Harden (Rockets) and Stephen Curry (Warriors)

Most years, good health weighs heavily on this voter’s ballot. That’s especially true in deep groupings like the West backcourt, which is always a gauntlet full of impossible choices. This season, though, toeing a hard line on health makes less sense due to a rash of injuries to star players and the increased proliferation of strategic resting.

Disqualifying or downgrading West guards for missing meaningful time would result in a bloodbath: Harden, Curry, and Portland’s Damian Lillard would all be impacted, along with Houston’s Chris Paul, Memphis’s Mike Conley and other perennial candidates who don’t belong in the conversation because they’ve missed huge chunks of the season. The top remaining, rarely-injured candidates would be Minnesota’s Jimmy Butler, Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook, Golden State’s Klay Thompson and LA’s Lou Williams. All are worthy All-Star reserve candidates, but none belongs on the same tier as Harden and Curry, who have both been top-five overall talents this season.

Although currently sidelined with a hamstring injury, Harden (32.3 PPG, 9.1 APG, 5 RPG) is a must All-Star starter. At the time of his injury, he stood as the MVP favorite, leading the league in points, PER, Win Shares and Real Plus Minus. His individual success directly translated to team–wide success: Houston was on track for its best season in franchise history, the West’s No. 2 record, a top-two offense, and the NBA’s second-best point differential when he went down.

Curry (27.6 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 6.5 APG) has already missed 14 games, a chunk that would usually see him dumped to the second team on this voter’s ballot. Much like Embiid, however, Curry’s play when healthy has simply been too dominant to snub. His stat line isn’t that far off his 2015 unanimous MVP campaign. He’s threatening another 50/40/90 shooting season. Golden State is playing at a 68-win pace when he suits up. The Warriors’ offensive rating is a preposterous 120.7 when he’s on the court. He ranks fourth in PER and first in Real Plus Minus. The sport continues to be molded by his influence.

That leaves Butler (21.5 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 5.1 APG) to fall to the West’s bench. As with DeRozan in the East, a position-less ballot could have potentially opened a starting spot for Butler, a punishing wing who capably defends four positions and easily oscillates between different roles in big and small lineups. Butler’s off-season arrival has delivered impressive and immediate results, transforming the Timberwolves from a decade-long also-ran to a top-four seed and a potential Northwest Division banner. Simply put, Butler is the top performer not included among this ballot’s 10 starters.

Despite his gaudy numbers, Westbrook (25 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 9.9 APG) should not be viewed as a serious All-Star starter candidate. Oklahoma City has just been too shaky, in part because he’s struggled to shoot efficiently and hasn’t displayed the delicate touch necessary to consistently pull quality contributions from his auxiliary options.

West Frontcourt: Kevin Durant (Warriors), Anthony Davis (Pelicans) and Draymond Green (Warriors)

The West’s frontcourt picture will get dicey when it comes to separating the reserves from the snubs, but the starters are a simpler task.

Durant (26.4 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 5.3 APG) is in, and his nomination doesn’t require an extended explanation. At this point of his career, the 2014 MVP has become a chameleon-like force, capable of matching his top peers in an increasingly long list of ways. Like Curry, he is a 50/40/90 candidate. Like Harden, he is a primary scorer and playmaker for an elite offense. Like James, he steps forward as a major stabilizing force when his teammates are in and out of the lineup. Like San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard, he has become a major plus on defense, one capable of defending elite wings while also carrying a significant offensive burden. Like Horford and Green, he has risen to the challenge of interior defense while logging major minutes in undersized spread lineups. Like Irving, he never hesitates to break off a defender with his handle. Like Antetokounmpo, he’s a terror in transition, and his length and athleticism present constant problems for opponents big and small.

In sum, Durant’s case to surpass James as the game’s top all-around talent is only gaining momentum.

Even with the injury issues in the West, it’s impossible to justify placing two Pelicans—who have hovered near .500 and the playoff bubble all season—in the All-Star starting lineup. While DeMarcus Cousins (25.5 PPG, 12.4 RPG, 5.1 APG) started with a bang and continues to boast insane numbers, his steak doesn’t quite match his sizzle. Hence, Davis (26.7 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 2.3 APG) makes more sense the New Orleans representative: His per-game stats are huge as always, he holds a team-best +5.3 net rating, and New Orleans is 3-6 when he plays fewer than 25 minutes. Simply put, he’s more reliable than Cousins, who leads the league in turnovers and fouls, while also ranking among the league leaders in technical fouls and ejections.

The West’s final frontcourt spot is a tangled ball of yarn due to Leonard’s numerous injury issues. One school of thought suggests transferring his spot to LaMarcus Aldridge (22.4 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 1.9 APG), who stepped forward as San Antonio’s leading scorer in Leonard’s absence. Others might argue for Cousins based on his Shaquille O’Neal-like numbers. Still others might nominate Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns (20.2 PPG, 12 RPG, 2.3 APG), a natural/smooth/efficient/forceful offensive weapon who has responded in recent weeks to severe criticism of his defense. All three have legitimate cases, as would Butler if he were eligible in the frontcourt.

On this ballot, the choice is Green (11.1 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 7.6 APG), who obviously trails his aforementioned competition as a scorer. What sets Green apart is everything else: His comfort guarding any player at any time and at any spot on the court; his motor; his ability to step forward as an initiator in Curry’s absence; his decision-making; his rim-protection; and his ability to push the ball end to end in transition. Green is key to helping Golden State play at the league’s No.4 pace, he is the leading assist man on the league’s No. 1 assist team, he is a key playmaker for the NBA’s No. 1 offense, he is the leading rebounder on a team that’s juggled centers all season long, and he’s the most proven and versatile cog in the NBA’s No. 4 defense.

While Green has become a familiar face during Golden State’s run of dominance—emerging as one of this year’s leading All-Star vote-getters—the breadth of his positive contributions can still get lost in Superteam envy or in complaints about his behavior. So, here’s a cool shorthand method for explaining his unique and wide-ranging impact: Green and James are the only two players to average seven rebounds, seven assists, one steal and one block during the three-point era. This season, James is doing it for the fourth time during a career in which he will likely go down as one of the top two players ever. Green, meanwhile, is doing it for the third straight time while playing in the shadow of two all-timers in Curry and Durant. The Warriors’ blossoming dynasty greatness is fueled in no small part by Green’s consistent greatness across so many different facets of the game.

Check back next week for The Crossover's All-Star reserve selections.

<p>The NBA is set to unveil the starting lineups for the 2018 All-Star Game on Thursday, as determined by a joint vote among fans, players and media members.</p><p>While this year’s All-Star festivities include a major new wrinkle—the appointment of the conference leading vote-getters as captains who will draft their teams from a pool of All-Star players—the procedure for selecting the starters remains unchanged from 2017. This year, fans will again account for half of the vote, players will account for 25%, and a panel composed of 100 media members will account for the final 25%.</p><p>Without further ado, here’s how I casted my official ballot. Note: Media members were asked to select two backcourt players and three frontcourt players from each conference. (<em>All stats and rankings through Monday.)</em></p><p>??</p><h3><strong>East Backcourt: Victor Oladipo (Pacers) and Kyrie Irving (Celtics)</strong></h3><p>Right off the top, a classic voting dilemma: three very qualified candidates—Oladipo, Irving, and Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan—for only two spots. Unfortunately, this predicament is well-known and particularly annoying to All-Star voters, who might be able to avoid such pickles if the NBA ever moved to a fully position-less ballot.</p><p>The East’s top tier of guards isn’t as deep as it’s been in recent years. Washington’s John Wall has struggled with his efficiency and consistency. Although Bradley Beal, Wall’s teammate, has helped pick up the slack and deserves strong All-Star reserve consideration, his career year hasn’t translated to the type of stability one expects from a veteran-dominated roster. In Charlotte, Kemba Walker’s Hornets have been one of the league’s biggest disappointments, already falling well off the playoff pace. Meanwhile, Toronto’s Kyle Lowry has smartly been cast into a narrower role, leaving him in a similar boat as Miami’s Goran Dragic. Neither point guard has the per-game numbers to keep up with the East’s most productive backcourt players.</p><p>The Crossover&#39;s first backcourt pick is Oladipo (24.3 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 4 APG), who easily qualifies as the biggest surprise among the 10 players selected here given his ho-hum 2016-17 campaign in Oklahoma City. Oladipo, Irving and DeRozan all have virtually identical per-game stats in terms of points, rebounds and assists, but Indiana’s new guard held slight edges in shooting efficiency and Player Efficiency Rating at the time ballots were due. More importantly, though, Oladipo’s impact numbers notably exceeded Irving and DeRozan.</p><p><em>• Indiana: +7.4 with Oladipo | -6.9 without Oladipo | Net: +13.8<br>• </em><em>Boston: +7.4 with Irving | +1.3 without Irving | Net: +9.6 </em><br><em>•</em><em>Toronto: +6.9 with DeRozan | +8.1 without DeRozan | Net: -1.2</em></p><p>As the East’s top two seeds, Boston and Toronto can point to numerous driving forces behind their success, including proven co-stars, deep rosters and established systems. For the overhauled Pacers, Oladipo has easily been the central force. Without him this year, Indiana is 0-5, losing by an average of 12.8 PPG. Indeed, Oladipo’s Pacers recall Jimmy Butler’s Bulls from years past. Without Oladipo, Indiana would be utterly hopeless, likely ranking among the league’s worst teams. With him, they are comfortably in the East’s playoff picture, even if they can’t quite keep up with the East’s best. They also possess a top-six offense league-wide, which still seems impossible given the loss of Paul George and their mediocre assembled talent. Considering their respective team contexts, Oladipo rates as the least replaceable of the three East backcourt candidates. </p><p>It’s fair to wonder whether Oladipo can maintain his career-best level of play, especially because both Irving and DeRozan have performed at an All-Star level for multiple years. A second-half drop-off in Oladipo’s efficiency and the Pacers’ success wouldn’t be surprising at all, leaving Irving and DeRozan as stronger All-NBA selections. However, this All-Star starter ballot was cast solely looking at games played between the start of the 2017-18 season and the voting deadline.</p><p>For the second spot, Irving (24 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 5 APG) versus DeRozan (25.4 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 5 APG) is about as close as it gets, with their major statistics and advanced stats (PER, Win Shares) usually separated by mere decimals. Both have similar usage rates and similar impacts on their respective offenses. And relative to their all-around offensive games, both players are less accomplished and less integral to their team’s success on the defensive end.</p><p>DeRozan’s improvement as a reader of defenses coupled with his first serious dabbling outside the three-point arc have helped boost him from fringe All-Star selection to starter candidate, and they’ve moved him past Lowry on the list of Toronto’s most important players this season. Still, the pick here is Irving, due to his better on/off impact numbers, his superior outside shooting (proficiency and volume), and the Celtics’ East-leading record. </p><h3><strong>East Frontcourt: LeBron James (Cavaliers), Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks), and Joel Embiid (Sixers)</strong></h3><p>Let’s not bother with unnecessary debates: Both James and Antetokounmpo are no-brainers.</p><p>At the midway point of his 15th season, James stands as the 2018 NBA MVP frontrunner. He has been the alpha and omega for the East’s most efficient offense while welcoming a host of new faces (Jae Crowder, Dwyane Wade, Jeff Green) and dealing with numerous injuries (Isaiah Thomas, Tristan Thompson, Derrick Rose). Even more remarkably, he’s shattered conventional expectations for age curves and post-30 decline. Throughout NBA history, only four players have matched James’ current stat line (27.3 PPG, 8 RPG, 8.8 APG): Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. All four did it at age 28 or younger, while James turned 33 last month.</p><p>Kudos to fan voters for recognizing Antetokounmpo’s brilliance: At just 23, he’s already challenging James for the title of the East’s leading vote-getter, pulling in nearly 1.5 million votes at last count. The NBA’s reigning Most Improved Player is now deep into his second season as one of the league’s top one-man shows. The Bucks boast a +4 net rating with Antetokounmpo on the court and a pitiful -11.3 net rating when he sits, a split that helps explain why he’s the NBA’s leader in minutes per game. A do-everything, play-anywhere force of nature, Antetokounmpo (28.3 PPG, 10.1 PPG, 4.5 APG) joins Larry Bird, David Robinson and Russell Westbrook as the only players to average 28/10/4 during the three-point era. While Milwaukee’s so-so record should leave observers wanting more, it would be so, so, so much worse without nightly heroics from their franchise player. </p><p>If he were eligible, DeRozan would have a strong case for the third frontcourt spot. Alas, Embiid and Boston’s Horford stand atop the remaining pool of frontcourt candidates, separating themselves from New York’s Kristaps Porzingis (fading slightly after a strong individual start), Detroit’s Andre Drummond (an afterthought following the Pistons’ recent cratering) and Cleveland’s Kevin Love (an undeniable part of the problem for Cleveland’s atrocious defense).</p><p>Horford’s portfolio is virtually identical to his previous All-Star seasons: His two-way game, unselfishness, inside/outside versatility, and intelligence have made him a more important driver of Boston’s winning than his raw stats (13.4 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 5.3 APG) would suggest. As the stabilizing force for the NBA’s stingiest defense, Horford will command Defensive Player of the Year and All-Defensive team attention. He’s also enjoyed significantly better health than Embiid, logging 300+ more minutes and missing just four games.</p><p>Ultimately, the quality of Embiid’s minutes won out on this ballot. Aside from long-established A-listers like LeBron James, Stephen Curry, and James Harden, Embiid helps his teammates find success better than anyone in the league. He draws tons of attention to free up role players. He works a nice two-man game with Ben Simmons. He blankets the paint on defense. He parades to the foul line. He cleans the glass. He leads with energy and fearlessness.</p><p>While Horford has a longer track record of winning and has enjoyed better health this season, Embiid has clearly established himself as one of the league’s most indispensable stars. Philadelphia’s net rating swings from -6.2 without him to +8.7 with him, and the Sixers are 2-7 without Embiid in the lineup. Boston, meanwhile, has gone 4-0 without Horford. Other than his lagging three-point efficiency and his DeMarcus Cousins-like propensity for turning the ball over by doing too much, Embiid (23.8 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 3.4 APG) is virtually impossible to nitpick. His per-game numbers suggest he’s elite. His advanced stats suggest he’s elite. His impact numbers suggest he’s elite. The eye test suggests he’s an elite monster who would thrash and thrive to an even greater degree if surrounded by Boston’s talent.</p><p>Postscript: Horford is an easy reserve selection.</p><p>?</p><h3><strong>West Backcourt: James Harden (Rockets) and Stephen Curry (Warriors)</strong></h3><p>Most years, good health weighs heavily on this voter’s ballot. That’s especially true in deep groupings like the West backcourt, which is always a gauntlet full of impossible choices. This season, though, toeing a hard line on health makes less sense due to a rash of injuries to star players and the increased proliferation of strategic resting.</p><p>Disqualifying or downgrading West guards for missing meaningful time would result in a bloodbath: Harden, Curry, and Portland’s Damian Lillard would all be impacted, along with Houston’s Chris Paul, Memphis’s Mike Conley and other perennial candidates who don’t belong in the conversation because they’ve missed huge chunks of the season. The top remaining, rarely-injured candidates would be Minnesota’s Jimmy Butler, Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook, Golden State’s Klay Thompson and LA’s Lou Williams. All are worthy All-Star reserve candidates, but none belongs on the same tier as Harden and Curry, who have both been top-five overall talents this season.</p><p>Although currently sidelined with a hamstring injury, Harden (32.3 PPG, 9.1 APG, 5 RPG) is a must All-Star starter. At the time of his injury, he stood as the MVP favorite, leading the league in points, PER, Win Shares and Real Plus Minus. His individual success directly translated to team–wide success: Houston was on track for its best season in franchise history, the West’s No. 2 record, a top-two offense, and the NBA’s second-best point differential when he went down.</p><p>Curry (27.6 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 6.5 APG) has already missed 14 games, a chunk that would usually see him dumped to the second team on this voter’s ballot. Much like Embiid, however, Curry’s play when healthy has simply been too dominant to snub. His stat line isn’t that far off his 2015 unanimous MVP campaign. He’s threatening another 50/40/90 shooting season. Golden State is playing at a 68-win pace when he suits up. The Warriors’ offensive rating is a preposterous 120.7 when he’s on the court. He ranks fourth in PER and first in Real Plus Minus. The sport continues to be molded by his influence.</p><p>That leaves Butler (21.5 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 5.1 APG) to fall to the West’s bench. As with DeRozan in the East, a position-less ballot could have potentially opened a starting spot for Butler, a punishing wing who capably defends four positions and easily oscillates between different roles in big and small lineups. Butler’s off-season arrival has delivered impressive and immediate results, transforming the Timberwolves from a decade-long also-ran to a top-four seed and a potential Northwest Division banner. Simply put, Butler is the top performer not included among this ballot’s 10 starters.</p><p>Despite his gaudy numbers, Westbrook (25 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 9.9 APG) should not be viewed as a serious All-Star starter candidate. Oklahoma City has just been too shaky, in part because he’s struggled to shoot efficiently and hasn’t displayed the delicate touch necessary to consistently pull quality contributions from his auxiliary options. </p><h3><strong>West Frontcourt: Kevin Durant (Warriors), Anthony Davis (Pelicans) and Draymond Green (Warriors)</strong></h3><p>The West’s frontcourt picture will get dicey when it comes to separating the reserves from the snubs, but the starters are a simpler task.</p><p>Durant (26.4 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 5.3 APG) is in, and his nomination doesn’t require an extended explanation. At this point of his career, the 2014 MVP has become a chameleon-like force, capable of matching his top peers in an increasingly long list of ways. Like Curry, he is a 50/40/90 candidate. Like Harden, he is a primary scorer and playmaker for an elite offense. Like James, he steps forward as a major stabilizing force when his teammates are in and out of the lineup. Like San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard, he has become a major plus on defense, one capable of defending elite wings while also carrying a significant offensive burden. Like Horford and Green, he has risen to the challenge of interior defense while logging major minutes in undersized spread lineups. Like Irving, he never hesitates to break off a defender with his handle. Like Antetokounmpo, he’s a terror in transition, and his length and athleticism present constant problems for opponents big and small.</p><p>In sum, Durant’s case to surpass James as the game’s top all-around talent is only gaining momentum. </p><p>Even with the injury issues in the West, it’s impossible to justify placing two Pelicans—who have hovered near .500 and the playoff bubble all season—in the All-Star starting lineup. While DeMarcus Cousins (25.5 PPG, 12.4 RPG, 5.1 APG) started with a bang and continues to boast insane numbers, his steak doesn’t quite match his sizzle. Hence, Davis (26.7 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 2.3 APG) makes more sense the New Orleans representative: His per-game stats are huge as always, he holds a team-best +5.3 net rating, and New Orleans is 3-6 when he plays fewer than 25 minutes. Simply put, he’s more reliable than Cousins, who leads the league in turnovers and fouls, while also ranking among the league leaders in technical fouls and ejections.</p><p>The West’s final frontcourt spot is a tangled ball of yarn due to Leonard’s numerous injury issues. One school of thought suggests transferring his spot to LaMarcus Aldridge (22.4 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 1.9 APG), who stepped forward as San Antonio’s leading scorer in Leonard’s absence. Others might argue for Cousins based on his Shaquille O’Neal-like numbers. Still others might nominate Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns (20.2 PPG, 12 RPG, 2.3 APG), a natural/smooth/efficient/forceful offensive weapon who has responded in recent weeks to severe criticism of his defense. All three have legitimate cases, as would Butler if he were eligible in the frontcourt.</p><p>On this ballot, the choice is Green (11.1 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 7.6 APG), who obviously trails his aforementioned competition as a scorer. What sets Green apart is everything else: His comfort guarding any player at any time and at any spot on the court; his motor; his ability to step forward as an initiator in Curry’s absence; his decision-making; his rim-protection; and his ability to push the ball end to end in transition. Green is key to helping Golden State play at the league’s No.4 pace, he is the leading assist man on the league’s No. 1 assist team, he is a key playmaker for the NBA’s No. 1 offense, he is the leading rebounder on a team that’s juggled centers all season long, and he’s the most proven and versatile cog in the NBA’s No. 4 defense.</p><p>While Green has become a familiar face during Golden State’s run of dominance—emerging as one of this year’s leading All-Star vote-getters—the breadth of his positive contributions can still get lost in Superteam envy or in complaints about his behavior. So, here’s a cool shorthand method for explaining his unique and wide-ranging impact: <a href="http://bkref.com/tiny/dWaNc" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Green and James are the only two players to average" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Green and James are the only two players to average</a> seven rebounds, seven assists, one steal and one block during the three-point era. This season, James is doing it for the fourth time during a career in which he will likely go down as one of the top two players ever. Green, meanwhile, is doing it for the third straight time while playing in the shadow of two all-timers in Curry and Durant. The Warriors’ blossoming dynasty greatness is fueled in no small part by Green’s consistent greatness across so many different facets of the game.</p><p>Check back next week for The Crossover&#39;s All-Star reserve selections. </p>
The Crossover's 2018 NBA All-Star Game Starters

The NBA is set to unveil the starting lineups for the 2018 All-Star Game on Thursday, as determined by a joint vote among fans, players and media members.

While this year’s All-Star festivities include a major new wrinkle—the appointment of the conference leading vote-getters as captains who will draft their teams from a pool of All-Star players—the procedure for selecting the starters remains unchanged from 2017. This year, fans will again account for half of the vote, players will account for 25%, and a panel composed of 100 media members will account for the final 25%.

Without further ado, here’s how I casted my official ballot. Note: Media members were asked to select two backcourt players and three frontcourt players from each conference. (All stats and rankings through Monday.)

??

East Backcourt: Victor Oladipo (Pacers) and Kyrie Irving (Celtics)

Right off the top, a classic voting dilemma: three very qualified candidates—Oladipo, Irving, and Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan—for only two spots. Unfortunately, this predicament is well-known and particularly annoying to All-Star voters, who might be able to avoid such pickles if the NBA ever moved to a fully position-less ballot.

The East’s top tier of guards isn’t as deep as it’s been in recent years. Washington’s John Wall has struggled with his efficiency and consistency. Although Bradley Beal, Wall’s teammate, has helped pick up the slack and deserves strong All-Star reserve consideration, his career year hasn’t translated to the type of stability one expects from a veteran-dominated roster. In Charlotte, Kemba Walker’s Hornets have been one of the league’s biggest disappointments, already falling well off the playoff pace. Meanwhile, Toronto’s Kyle Lowry has smartly been cast into a narrower role, leaving him in a similar boat as Miami’s Goran Dragic. Neither point guard has the per-game numbers to keep up with the East’s most productive backcourt players.

The Crossover's first backcourt pick is Oladipo (24.3 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 4 APG), who easily qualifies as the biggest surprise among the 10 players selected here given his ho-hum 2016-17 campaign in Oklahoma City. Oladipo, Irving and DeRozan all have virtually identical per-game stats in terms of points, rebounds and assists, but Indiana’s new guard held slight edges in shooting efficiency and Player Efficiency Rating at the time ballots were due. More importantly, though, Oladipo’s impact numbers notably exceeded Irving and DeRozan.

• Indiana: +7.4 with Oladipo | -6.9 without Oladipo | Net: +13.8
Boston: +7.4 with Irving | +1.3 without Irving | Net: +9.6
Toronto: +6.9 with DeRozan | +8.1 without DeRozan | Net: -1.2

As the East’s top two seeds, Boston and Toronto can point to numerous driving forces behind their success, including proven co-stars, deep rosters and established systems. For the overhauled Pacers, Oladipo has easily been the central force. Without him this year, Indiana is 0-5, losing by an average of 12.8 PPG. Indeed, Oladipo’s Pacers recall Jimmy Butler’s Bulls from years past. Without Oladipo, Indiana would be utterly hopeless, likely ranking among the league’s worst teams. With him, they are comfortably in the East’s playoff picture, even if they can’t quite keep up with the East’s best. They also possess a top-six offense league-wide, which still seems impossible given the loss of Paul George and their mediocre assembled talent. Considering their respective team contexts, Oladipo rates as the least replaceable of the three East backcourt candidates.

It’s fair to wonder whether Oladipo can maintain his career-best level of play, especially because both Irving and DeRozan have performed at an All-Star level for multiple years. A second-half drop-off in Oladipo’s efficiency and the Pacers’ success wouldn’t be surprising at all, leaving Irving and DeRozan as stronger All-NBA selections. However, this All-Star starter ballot was cast solely looking at games played between the start of the 2017-18 season and the voting deadline.

For the second spot, Irving (24 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 5 APG) versus DeRozan (25.4 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 5 APG) is about as close as it gets, with their major statistics and advanced stats (PER, Win Shares) usually separated by mere decimals. Both have similar usage rates and similar impacts on their respective offenses. And relative to their all-around offensive games, both players are less accomplished and less integral to their team’s success on the defensive end.

DeRozan’s improvement as a reader of defenses coupled with his first serious dabbling outside the three-point arc have helped boost him from fringe All-Star selection to starter candidate, and they’ve moved him past Lowry on the list of Toronto’s most important players this season. Still, the pick here is Irving, due to his better on/off impact numbers, his superior outside shooting (proficiency and volume), and the Celtics’ East-leading record.

East Frontcourt: LeBron James (Cavaliers), Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks), and Joel Embiid (Sixers)

Let’s not bother with unnecessary debates: Both James and Antetokounmpo are no-brainers.

At the midway point of his 15th season, James stands as the 2018 NBA MVP frontrunner. He has been the alpha and omega for the East’s most efficient offense while welcoming a host of new faces (Jae Crowder, Dwyane Wade, Jeff Green) and dealing with numerous injuries (Isaiah Thomas, Tristan Thompson, Derrick Rose). Even more remarkably, he’s shattered conventional expectations for age curves and post-30 decline. Throughout NBA history, only four players have matched James’ current stat line (27.3 PPG, 8 RPG, 8.8 APG): Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. All four did it at age 28 or younger, while James turned 33 last month.

Kudos to fan voters for recognizing Antetokounmpo’s brilliance: At just 23, he’s already challenging James for the title of the East’s leading vote-getter, pulling in nearly 1.5 million votes at last count. The NBA’s reigning Most Improved Player is now deep into his second season as one of the league’s top one-man shows. The Bucks boast a +4 net rating with Antetokounmpo on the court and a pitiful -11.3 net rating when he sits, a split that helps explain why he’s the NBA’s leader in minutes per game. A do-everything, play-anywhere force of nature, Antetokounmpo (28.3 PPG, 10.1 PPG, 4.5 APG) joins Larry Bird, David Robinson and Russell Westbrook as the only players to average 28/10/4 during the three-point era. While Milwaukee’s so-so record should leave observers wanting more, it would be so, so, so much worse without nightly heroics from their franchise player.

If he were eligible, DeRozan would have a strong case for the third frontcourt spot. Alas, Embiid and Boston’s Horford stand atop the remaining pool of frontcourt candidates, separating themselves from New York’s Kristaps Porzingis (fading slightly after a strong individual start), Detroit’s Andre Drummond (an afterthought following the Pistons’ recent cratering) and Cleveland’s Kevin Love (an undeniable part of the problem for Cleveland’s atrocious defense).

Horford’s portfolio is virtually identical to his previous All-Star seasons: His two-way game, unselfishness, inside/outside versatility, and intelligence have made him a more important driver of Boston’s winning than his raw stats (13.4 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 5.3 APG) would suggest. As the stabilizing force for the NBA’s stingiest defense, Horford will command Defensive Player of the Year and All-Defensive team attention. He’s also enjoyed significantly better health than Embiid, logging 300+ more minutes and missing just four games.

Ultimately, the quality of Embiid’s minutes won out on this ballot. Aside from long-established A-listers like LeBron James, Stephen Curry, and James Harden, Embiid helps his teammates find success better than anyone in the league. He draws tons of attention to free up role players. He works a nice two-man game with Ben Simmons. He blankets the paint on defense. He parades to the foul line. He cleans the glass. He leads with energy and fearlessness.

While Horford has a longer track record of winning and has enjoyed better health this season, Embiid has clearly established himself as one of the league’s most indispensable stars. Philadelphia’s net rating swings from -6.2 without him to +8.7 with him, and the Sixers are 2-7 without Embiid in the lineup. Boston, meanwhile, has gone 4-0 without Horford. Other than his lagging three-point efficiency and his DeMarcus Cousins-like propensity for turning the ball over by doing too much, Embiid (23.8 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 3.4 APG) is virtually impossible to nitpick. His per-game numbers suggest he’s elite. His advanced stats suggest he’s elite. His impact numbers suggest he’s elite. The eye test suggests he’s an elite monster who would thrash and thrive to an even greater degree if surrounded by Boston’s talent.

Postscript: Horford is an easy reserve selection.

?

West Backcourt: James Harden (Rockets) and Stephen Curry (Warriors)

Most years, good health weighs heavily on this voter’s ballot. That’s especially true in deep groupings like the West backcourt, which is always a gauntlet full of impossible choices. This season, though, toeing a hard line on health makes less sense due to a rash of injuries to star players and the increased proliferation of strategic resting.

Disqualifying or downgrading West guards for missing meaningful time would result in a bloodbath: Harden, Curry, and Portland’s Damian Lillard would all be impacted, along with Houston’s Chris Paul, Memphis’s Mike Conley and other perennial candidates who don’t belong in the conversation because they’ve missed huge chunks of the season. The top remaining, rarely-injured candidates would be Minnesota’s Jimmy Butler, Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook, Golden State’s Klay Thompson and LA’s Lou Williams. All are worthy All-Star reserve candidates, but none belongs on the same tier as Harden and Curry, who have both been top-five overall talents this season.

Although currently sidelined with a hamstring injury, Harden (32.3 PPG, 9.1 APG, 5 RPG) is a must All-Star starter. At the time of his injury, he stood as the MVP favorite, leading the league in points, PER, Win Shares and Real Plus Minus. His individual success directly translated to team–wide success: Houston was on track for its best season in franchise history, the West’s No. 2 record, a top-two offense, and the NBA’s second-best point differential when he went down.

Curry (27.6 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 6.5 APG) has already missed 14 games, a chunk that would usually see him dumped to the second team on this voter’s ballot. Much like Embiid, however, Curry’s play when healthy has simply been too dominant to snub. His stat line isn’t that far off his 2015 unanimous MVP campaign. He’s threatening another 50/40/90 shooting season. Golden State is playing at a 68-win pace when he suits up. The Warriors’ offensive rating is a preposterous 120.7 when he’s on the court. He ranks fourth in PER and first in Real Plus Minus. The sport continues to be molded by his influence.

That leaves Butler (21.5 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 5.1 APG) to fall to the West’s bench. As with DeRozan in the East, a position-less ballot could have potentially opened a starting spot for Butler, a punishing wing who capably defends four positions and easily oscillates between different roles in big and small lineups. Butler’s off-season arrival has delivered impressive and immediate results, transforming the Timberwolves from a decade-long also-ran to a top-four seed and a potential Northwest Division banner. Simply put, Butler is the top performer not included among this ballot’s 10 starters.

Despite his gaudy numbers, Westbrook (25 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 9.9 APG) should not be viewed as a serious All-Star starter candidate. Oklahoma City has just been too shaky, in part because he’s struggled to shoot efficiently and hasn’t displayed the delicate touch necessary to consistently pull quality contributions from his auxiliary options.

West Frontcourt: Kevin Durant (Warriors), Anthony Davis (Pelicans) and Draymond Green (Warriors)

The West’s frontcourt picture will get dicey when it comes to separating the reserves from the snubs, but the starters are a simpler task.

Durant (26.4 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 5.3 APG) is in, and his nomination doesn’t require an extended explanation. At this point of his career, the 2014 MVP has become a chameleon-like force, capable of matching his top peers in an increasingly long list of ways. Like Curry, he is a 50/40/90 candidate. Like Harden, he is a primary scorer and playmaker for an elite offense. Like James, he steps forward as a major stabilizing force when his teammates are in and out of the lineup. Like San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard, he has become a major plus on defense, one capable of defending elite wings while also carrying a significant offensive burden. Like Horford and Green, he has risen to the challenge of interior defense while logging major minutes in undersized spread lineups. Like Irving, he never hesitates to break off a defender with his handle. Like Antetokounmpo, he’s a terror in transition, and his length and athleticism present constant problems for opponents big and small.

In sum, Durant’s case to surpass James as the game’s top all-around talent is only gaining momentum.

Even with the injury issues in the West, it’s impossible to justify placing two Pelicans—who have hovered near .500 and the playoff bubble all season—in the All-Star starting lineup. While DeMarcus Cousins (25.5 PPG, 12.4 RPG, 5.1 APG) started with a bang and continues to boast insane numbers, his steak doesn’t quite match his sizzle. Hence, Davis (26.7 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 2.3 APG) makes more sense the New Orleans representative: His per-game stats are huge as always, he holds a team-best +5.3 net rating, and New Orleans is 3-6 when he plays fewer than 25 minutes. Simply put, he’s more reliable than Cousins, who leads the league in turnovers and fouls, while also ranking among the league leaders in technical fouls and ejections.

The West’s final frontcourt spot is a tangled ball of yarn due to Leonard’s numerous injury issues. One school of thought suggests transferring his spot to LaMarcus Aldridge (22.4 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 1.9 APG), who stepped forward as San Antonio’s leading scorer in Leonard’s absence. Others might argue for Cousins based on his Shaquille O’Neal-like numbers. Still others might nominate Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns (20.2 PPG, 12 RPG, 2.3 APG), a natural/smooth/efficient/forceful offensive weapon who has responded in recent weeks to severe criticism of his defense. All three have legitimate cases, as would Butler if he were eligible in the frontcourt.

On this ballot, the choice is Green (11.1 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 7.6 APG), who obviously trails his aforementioned competition as a scorer. What sets Green apart is everything else: His comfort guarding any player at any time and at any spot on the court; his motor; his ability to step forward as an initiator in Curry’s absence; his decision-making; his rim-protection; and his ability to push the ball end to end in transition. Green is key to helping Golden State play at the league’s No.4 pace, he is the leading assist man on the league’s No. 1 assist team, he is a key playmaker for the NBA’s No. 1 offense, he is the leading rebounder on a team that’s juggled centers all season long, and he’s the most proven and versatile cog in the NBA’s No. 4 defense.

While Green has become a familiar face during Golden State’s run of dominance—emerging as one of this year’s leading All-Star vote-getters—the breadth of his positive contributions can still get lost in Superteam envy or in complaints about his behavior. So, here’s a cool shorthand method for explaining his unique and wide-ranging impact: Green and James are the only two players to average seven rebounds, seven assists, one steal and one block during the three-point era. This season, James is doing it for the fourth time during a career in which he will likely go down as one of the top two players ever. Green, meanwhile, is doing it for the third straight time while playing in the shadow of two all-timers in Curry and Durant. The Warriors’ blossoming dynasty greatness is fueled in no small part by Green’s consistent greatness across so many different facets of the game.

Check back next week for The Crossover's All-Star reserve selections.

<p>The NBA is set to unveil the starting lineups for the 2018 All-Star Game on Thursday, as determined by a joint vote among fans, players and media members.</p><p>While this year’s All-Star festivities include a major new wrinkle—the appointment of the conference leading vote-getters as captains who will draft their teams from a pool of All-Star players—the procedure for selecting the starters remains unchanged from 2017. This year, fans will again account for half of the vote, players will account for 25%, and a panel composed of 100 media members will account for the final 25%.</p><p>Without further ado, here’s how I casted my official ballot. Note: Media members were asked to select two backcourt players and three frontcourt players from each conference. (<em>All stats and rankings through Monday.)</em></p><p>??</p><h3><strong>East Backcourt: Victor Oladipo (Pacers) and Kyrie Irving (Celtics)</strong></h3><p>Right off the top, a classic voting dilemma: three very qualified candidates—Oladipo, Irving, and Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan—for only two spots. Unfortunately, this predicament is well-known and particularly annoying to All-Star voters, who might be able to avoid such pickles if the NBA ever moved to a fully position-less ballot.</p><p>The East’s top tier of guards isn’t as deep as it’s been in recent years. Washington’s John Wall has struggled with his efficiency and consistency. Although Bradley Beal, Wall’s teammate, has helped pick up the slack and deserves strong All-Star reserve consideration, his career year hasn’t translated to the type of stability one expects from a veteran-dominated roster. In Charlotte, Kemba Walker’s Hornets have been one of the league’s biggest disappointments, already falling well off the playoff pace. Meanwhile, Toronto’s Kyle Lowry has smartly been cast into a narrower role, leaving him in a similar boat as Miami’s Goran Dragic. Neither point guard has the per-game numbers to keep up with the East’s most productive backcourt players.</p><p>The Crossover&#39;s first backcourt pick is Oladipo (24.3 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 4 APG), who easily qualifies as the biggest surprise among the 10 players selected here given his ho-hum 2016-17 campaign in Oklahoma City. Oladipo, Irving and DeRozan all have virtually identical per-game stats in terms of points, rebounds and assists, but Indiana’s new guard held slight edges in shooting efficiency and Player Efficiency Rating at the time ballots were due. More importantly, though, Oladipo’s impact numbers notably exceeded Irving and DeRozan.</p><p><em>• Indiana: +7.4 with Oladipo | -6.9 without Oladipo | Net: +13.8<br>• </em><em>Boston: +7.4 with Irving | +1.3 without Irving | Net: +9.6 </em><br><em>•</em><em>Toronto: +6.9 with DeRozan | +8.1 without DeRozan | Net: -1.2</em></p><p>As the East’s top two seeds, Boston and Toronto can point to numerous driving forces behind their success, including proven co-stars, deep rosters and established systems. For the overhauled Pacers, Oladipo has easily been the central force. Without him this year, Indiana is 0-5, losing by an average of 12.8 PPG. Indeed, Oladipo’s Pacers recall Jimmy Butler’s Bulls from years past. Without Oladipo, Indiana would be utterly hopeless, likely ranking among the league’s worst teams. With him, they are comfortably in the East’s playoff picture, even if they can’t quite keep up with the East’s best. They also possess a top-six offense league-wide, which still seems impossible given the loss of Paul George and their mediocre assembled talent. Considering their respective team contexts, Oladipo rates as the least replaceable of the three East backcourt candidates. </p><p>It’s fair to wonder whether Oladipo can maintain his career-best level of play, especially because both Irving and DeRozan have performed at an All-Star level for multiple years. A second-half drop-off in Oladipo’s efficiency and the Pacers’ success wouldn’t be surprising at all, leaving Irving and DeRozan as stronger All-NBA selections. However, this All-Star starter ballot was cast solely looking at games played between the start of the 2017-18 season and the voting deadline.</p><p>For the second spot, Irving (24 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 5 APG) versus DeRozan (25.4 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 5 APG) is about as close as it gets, with their major statistics and advanced stats (PER, Win Shares) usually separated by mere decimals. Both have similar usage rates and similar impacts on their respective offenses. And relative to their all-around offensive games, both players are less accomplished and less integral to their team’s success on the defensive end.</p><p>DeRozan’s improvement as a reader of defenses coupled with his first serious dabbling outside the three-point arc have helped boost him from fringe All-Star selection to starter candidate, and they’ve moved him past Lowry on the list of Toronto’s most important players this season. Still, the pick here is Irving, due to his better on/off impact numbers, his superior outside shooting (proficiency and volume), and the Celtics’ East-leading record. </p><h3><strong>East Frontcourt: LeBron James (Cavaliers), Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks), and Joel Embiid (Sixers)</strong></h3><p>Let’s not bother with unnecessary debates: Both James and Antetokounmpo are no-brainers.</p><p>At the midway point of his 15th season, James stands as the 2018 NBA MVP frontrunner. He has been the alpha and omega for the East’s most efficient offense while welcoming a host of new faces (Jae Crowder, Dwyane Wade, Jeff Green) and dealing with numerous injuries (Isaiah Thomas, Tristan Thompson, Derrick Rose). Even more remarkably, he’s shattered conventional expectations for age curves and post-30 decline. Throughout NBA history, only four players have matched James’ current stat line (27.3 PPG, 8 RPG, 8.8 APG): Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. All four did it at age 28 or younger, while James turned 33 last month.</p><p>Kudos to fan voters for recognizing Antetokounmpo’s brilliance: At just 23, he’s already challenging James for the title of the East’s leading vote-getter, pulling in nearly 1.5 million votes at last count. The NBA’s reigning Most Improved Player is now deep into his second season as one of the league’s top one-man shows. The Bucks boast a +4 net rating with Antetokounmpo on the court and a pitiful -11.3 net rating when he sits, a split that helps explain why he’s the NBA’s leader in minutes per game. A do-everything, play-anywhere force of nature, Antetokounmpo (28.3 PPG, 10.1 PPG, 4.5 APG) joins Larry Bird, David Robinson and Russell Westbrook as the only players to average 28/10/4 during the three-point era. While Milwaukee’s so-so record should leave observers wanting more, it would be so, so, so much worse without nightly heroics from their franchise player. </p><p>If he were eligible, DeRozan would have a strong case for the third frontcourt spot. Alas, Embiid and Boston’s Horford stand atop the remaining pool of frontcourt candidates, separating themselves from New York’s Kristaps Porzingis (fading slightly after a strong individual start), Detroit’s Andre Drummond (an afterthought following the Pistons’ recent cratering) and Cleveland’s Kevin Love (an undeniable part of the problem for Cleveland’s atrocious defense).</p><p>Horford’s portfolio is virtually identical to his previous All-Star seasons: His two-way game, unselfishness, inside/outside versatility, and intelligence have made him a more important driver of Boston’s winning than his raw stats (13.4 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 5.3 APG) would suggest. As the stabilizing force for the NBA’s stingiest defense, Horford will command Defensive Player of the Year and All-Defensive team attention. He’s also enjoyed significantly better health than Embiid, logging 300+ more minutes and missing just four games.</p><p>Ultimately, the quality of Embiid’s minutes won out on this ballot. Aside from long-established A-listers like LeBron James, Stephen Curry, and James Harden, Embiid helps his teammates find success better than anyone in the league. He draws tons of attention to free up role players. He works a nice two-man game with Ben Simmons. He blankets the paint on defense. He parades to the foul line. He cleans the glass. He leads with energy and fearlessness.</p><p>While Horford has a longer track record of winning and has enjoyed better health this season, Embiid has clearly established himself as one of the league’s most indispensable stars. Philadelphia’s net rating swings from -6.2 without him to +8.7 with him, and the Sixers are 2-7 without Embiid in the lineup. Boston, meanwhile, has gone 4-0 without Horford. Other than his lagging three-point efficiency and his DeMarcus Cousins-like propensity for turning the ball over by doing too much, Embiid (23.8 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 3.4 APG) is virtually impossible to nitpick. His per-game numbers suggest he’s elite. His advanced stats suggest he’s elite. His impact numbers suggest he’s elite. The eye test suggests he’s an elite monster who would thrash and thrive to an even greater degree if surrounded by Boston’s talent.</p><p>Postscript: Horford is an easy reserve selection.</p><p>?</p><h3><strong>West Backcourt: James Harden (Rockets) and Stephen Curry (Warriors)</strong></h3><p>Most years, good health weighs heavily on this voter’s ballot. That’s especially true in deep groupings like the West backcourt, which is always a gauntlet full of impossible choices. This season, though, toeing a hard line on health makes less sense due to a rash of injuries to star players and the increased proliferation of strategic resting.</p><p>Disqualifying or downgrading West guards for missing meaningful time would result in a bloodbath: Harden, Curry, and Portland’s Damian Lillard would all be impacted, along with Houston’s Chris Paul, Memphis’s Mike Conley and other perennial candidates who don’t belong in the conversation because they’ve missed huge chunks of the season. The top remaining, rarely-injured candidates would be Minnesota’s Jimmy Butler, Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook, Golden State’s Klay Thompson and LA’s Lou Williams. All are worthy All-Star reserve candidates, but none belongs on the same tier as Harden and Curry, who have both been top-five overall talents this season.</p><p>Although currently sidelined with a hamstring injury, Harden (32.3 PPG, 9.1 APG, 5 RPG) is a must All-Star starter. At the time of his injury, he stood as the MVP favorite, leading the league in points, PER, Win Shares and Real Plus Minus. His individual success directly translated to team–wide success: Houston was on track for its best season in franchise history, the West’s No. 2 record, a top-two offense, and the NBA’s second-best point differential when he went down.</p><p>Curry (27.6 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 6.5 APG) has already missed 14 games, a chunk that would usually see him dumped to the second team on this voter’s ballot. Much like Embiid, however, Curry’s play when healthy has simply been too dominant to snub. His stat line isn’t that far off his 2015 unanimous MVP campaign. He’s threatening another 50/40/90 shooting season. Golden State is playing at a 68-win pace when he suits up. The Warriors’ offensive rating is a preposterous 120.7 when he’s on the court. He ranks fourth in PER and first in Real Plus Minus. The sport continues to be molded by his influence.</p><p>That leaves Butler (21.5 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 5.1 APG) to fall to the West’s bench. As with DeRozan in the East, a position-less ballot could have potentially opened a starting spot for Butler, a punishing wing who capably defends four positions and easily oscillates between different roles in big and small lineups. Butler’s off-season arrival has delivered impressive and immediate results, transforming the Timberwolves from a decade-long also-ran to a top-four seed and a potential Northwest Division banner. Simply put, Butler is the top performer not included among this ballot’s 10 starters.</p><p>Despite his gaudy numbers, Westbrook (25 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 9.9 APG) should not be viewed as a serious All-Star starter candidate. Oklahoma City has just been too shaky, in part because he’s struggled to shoot efficiently and hasn’t displayed the delicate touch necessary to consistently pull quality contributions from his auxiliary options. </p><h3><strong>West Frontcourt: Kevin Durant (Warriors), Anthony Davis (Pelicans) and Draymond Green (Warriors)</strong></h3><p>The West’s frontcourt picture will get dicey when it comes to separating the reserves from the snubs, but the starters are a simpler task.</p><p>Durant (26.4 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 5.3 APG) is in, and his nomination doesn’t require an extended explanation. At this point of his career, the 2014 MVP has become a chameleon-like force, capable of matching his top peers in an increasingly long list of ways. Like Curry, he is a 50/40/90 candidate. Like Harden, he is a primary scorer and playmaker for an elite offense. Like James, he steps forward as a major stabilizing force when his teammates are in and out of the lineup. Like San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard, he has become a major plus on defense, one capable of defending elite wings while also carrying a significant offensive burden. Like Horford and Green, he has risen to the challenge of interior defense while logging major minutes in undersized spread lineups. Like Irving, he never hesitates to break off a defender with his handle. Like Antetokounmpo, he’s a terror in transition, and his length and athleticism present constant problems for opponents big and small.</p><p>In sum, Durant’s case to surpass James as the game’s top all-around talent is only gaining momentum. </p><p>Even with the injury issues in the West, it’s impossible to justify placing two Pelicans—who have hovered near .500 and the playoff bubble all season—in the All-Star starting lineup. While DeMarcus Cousins (25.5 PPG, 12.4 RPG, 5.1 APG) started with a bang and continues to boast insane numbers, his steak doesn’t quite match his sizzle. Hence, Davis (26.7 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 2.3 APG) makes more sense the New Orleans representative: His per-game stats are huge as always, he holds a team-best +5.3 net rating, and New Orleans is 3-6 when he plays fewer than 25 minutes. Simply put, he’s more reliable than Cousins, who leads the league in turnovers and fouls, while also ranking among the league leaders in technical fouls and ejections.</p><p>The West’s final frontcourt spot is a tangled ball of yarn due to Leonard’s numerous injury issues. One school of thought suggests transferring his spot to LaMarcus Aldridge (22.4 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 1.9 APG), who stepped forward as San Antonio’s leading scorer in Leonard’s absence. Others might argue for Cousins based on his Shaquille O’Neal-like numbers. Still others might nominate Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns (20.2 PPG, 12 RPG, 2.3 APG), a natural/smooth/efficient/forceful offensive weapon who has responded in recent weeks to severe criticism of his defense. All three have legitimate cases, as would Butler if he were eligible in the frontcourt.</p><p>On this ballot, the choice is Green (11.1 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 7.6 APG), who obviously trails his aforementioned competition as a scorer. What sets Green apart is everything else: His comfort guarding any player at any time and at any spot on the court; his motor; his ability to step forward as an initiator in Curry’s absence; his decision-making; his rim-protection; and his ability to push the ball end to end in transition. Green is key to helping Golden State play at the league’s No.4 pace, he is the leading assist man on the league’s No. 1 assist team, he is a key playmaker for the NBA’s No. 1 offense, he is the leading rebounder on a team that’s juggled centers all season long, and he’s the most proven and versatile cog in the NBA’s No. 4 defense.</p><p>While Green has become a familiar face during Golden State’s run of dominance—emerging as one of this year’s leading All-Star vote-getters—the breadth of his positive contributions can still get lost in Superteam envy or in complaints about his behavior. So, here’s a cool shorthand method for explaining his unique and wide-ranging impact: <a href="http://bkref.com/tiny/dWaNc" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Green and James are the only two players to average" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Green and James are the only two players to average</a> seven rebounds, seven assists, one steal and one block during the three-point era. This season, James is doing it for the fourth time during a career in which he will likely go down as one of the top two players ever. Green, meanwhile, is doing it for the third straight time while playing in the shadow of two all-timers in Curry and Durant. The Warriors’ blossoming dynasty greatness is fueled in no small part by Green’s consistent greatness across so many different facets of the game.</p><p>Check back next week for The Crossover&#39;s All-Star reserve selections. </p>
The Crossover's 2018 NBA All-Star Game Starters

The NBA is set to unveil the starting lineups for the 2018 All-Star Game on Thursday, as determined by a joint vote among fans, players and media members.

While this year’s All-Star festivities include a major new wrinkle—the appointment of the conference leading vote-getters as captains who will draft their teams from a pool of All-Star players—the procedure for selecting the starters remains unchanged from 2017. This year, fans will again account for half of the vote, players will account for 25%, and a panel composed of 100 media members will account for the final 25%.

Without further ado, here’s how I casted my official ballot. Note: Media members were asked to select two backcourt players and three frontcourt players from each conference. (All stats and rankings through Monday.)

??

East Backcourt: Victor Oladipo (Pacers) and Kyrie Irving (Celtics)

Right off the top, a classic voting dilemma: three very qualified candidates—Oladipo, Irving, and Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan—for only two spots. Unfortunately, this predicament is well-known and particularly annoying to All-Star voters, who might be able to avoid such pickles if the NBA ever moved to a fully position-less ballot.

The East’s top tier of guards isn’t as deep as it’s been in recent years. Washington’s John Wall has struggled with his efficiency and consistency. Although Bradley Beal, Wall’s teammate, has helped pick up the slack and deserves strong All-Star reserve consideration, his career year hasn’t translated to the type of stability one expects from a veteran-dominated roster. In Charlotte, Kemba Walker’s Hornets have been one of the league’s biggest disappointments, already falling well off the playoff pace. Meanwhile, Toronto’s Kyle Lowry has smartly been cast into a narrower role, leaving him in a similar boat as Miami’s Goran Dragic. Neither point guard has the per-game numbers to keep up with the East’s most productive backcourt players.

The Crossover's first backcourt pick is Oladipo (24.3 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 4 APG), who easily qualifies as the biggest surprise among the 10 players selected here given his ho-hum 2016-17 campaign in Oklahoma City. Oladipo, Irving and DeRozan all have virtually identical per-game stats in terms of points, rebounds and assists, but Indiana’s new guard held slight edges in shooting efficiency and Player Efficiency Rating at the time ballots were due. More importantly, though, Oladipo’s impact numbers notably exceeded Irving and DeRozan.

• Indiana: +7.4 with Oladipo | -6.9 without Oladipo | Net: +13.8
Boston: +7.4 with Irving | +1.3 without Irving | Net: +9.6
Toronto: +6.9 with DeRozan | +8.1 without DeRozan | Net: -1.2

As the East’s top two seeds, Boston and Toronto can point to numerous driving forces behind their success, including proven co-stars, deep rosters and established systems. For the overhauled Pacers, Oladipo has easily been the central force. Without him this year, Indiana is 0-5, losing by an average of 12.8 PPG. Indeed, Oladipo’s Pacers recall Jimmy Butler’s Bulls from years past. Without Oladipo, Indiana would be utterly hopeless, likely ranking among the league’s worst teams. With him, they are comfortably in the East’s playoff picture, even if they can’t quite keep up with the East’s best. They also possess a top-six offense league-wide, which still seems impossible given the loss of Paul George and their mediocre assembled talent. Considering their respective team contexts, Oladipo rates as the least replaceable of the three East backcourt candidates.

It’s fair to wonder whether Oladipo can maintain his career-best level of play, especially because both Irving and DeRozan have performed at an All-Star level for multiple years. A second-half drop-off in Oladipo’s efficiency and the Pacers’ success wouldn’t be surprising at all, leaving Irving and DeRozan as stronger All-NBA selections. However, this All-Star starter ballot was cast solely looking at games played between the start of the 2017-18 season and the voting deadline.

For the second spot, Irving (24 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 5 APG) versus DeRozan (25.4 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 5 APG) is about as close as it gets, with their major statistics and advanced stats (PER, Win Shares) usually separated by mere decimals. Both have similar usage rates and similar impacts on their respective offenses. And relative to their all-around offensive games, both players are less accomplished and less integral to their team’s success on the defensive end.

DeRozan’s improvement as a reader of defenses coupled with his first serious dabbling outside the three-point arc have helped boost him from fringe All-Star selection to starter candidate, and they’ve moved him past Lowry on the list of Toronto’s most important players this season. Still, the pick here is Irving, due to his better on/off impact numbers, his superior outside shooting (proficiency and volume), and the Celtics’ East-leading record.

East Frontcourt: LeBron James (Cavaliers), Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks), and Joel Embiid (Sixers)

Let’s not bother with unnecessary debates: Both James and Antetokounmpo are no-brainers.

At the midway point of his 15th season, James stands as the 2018 NBA MVP frontrunner. He has been the alpha and omega for the East’s most efficient offense while welcoming a host of new faces (Jae Crowder, Dwyane Wade, Jeff Green) and dealing with numerous injuries (Isaiah Thomas, Tristan Thompson, Derrick Rose). Even more remarkably, he’s shattered conventional expectations for age curves and post-30 decline. Throughout NBA history, only four players have matched James’ current stat line (27.3 PPG, 8 RPG, 8.8 APG): Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. All four did it at age 28 or younger, while James turned 33 last month.

Kudos to fan voters for recognizing Antetokounmpo’s brilliance: At just 23, he’s already challenging James for the title of the East’s leading vote-getter, pulling in nearly 1.5 million votes at last count. The NBA’s reigning Most Improved Player is now deep into his second season as one of the league’s top one-man shows. The Bucks boast a +4 net rating with Antetokounmpo on the court and a pitiful -11.3 net rating when he sits, a split that helps explain why he’s the NBA’s leader in minutes per game. A do-everything, play-anywhere force of nature, Antetokounmpo (28.3 PPG, 10.1 PPG, 4.5 APG) joins Larry Bird, David Robinson and Russell Westbrook as the only players to average 28/10/4 during the three-point era. While Milwaukee’s so-so record should leave observers wanting more, it would be so, so, so much worse without nightly heroics from their franchise player.

If he were eligible, DeRozan would have a strong case for the third frontcourt spot. Alas, Embiid and Boston’s Horford stand atop the remaining pool of frontcourt candidates, separating themselves from New York’s Kristaps Porzingis (fading slightly after a strong individual start), Detroit’s Andre Drummond (an afterthought following the Pistons’ recent cratering) and Cleveland’s Kevin Love (an undeniable part of the problem for Cleveland’s atrocious defense).

Horford’s portfolio is virtually identical to his previous All-Star seasons: His two-way game, unselfishness, inside/outside versatility, and intelligence have made him a more important driver of Boston’s winning than his raw stats (13.4 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 5.3 APG) would suggest. As the stabilizing force for the NBA’s stingiest defense, Horford will command Defensive Player of the Year and All-Defensive team attention. He’s also enjoyed significantly better health than Embiid, logging 300+ more minutes and missing just four games.

Ultimately, the quality of Embiid’s minutes won out on this ballot. Aside from long-established A-listers like LeBron James, Stephen Curry, and James Harden, Embiid helps his teammates find success better than anyone in the league. He draws tons of attention to free up role players. He works a nice two-man game with Ben Simmons. He blankets the paint on defense. He parades to the foul line. He cleans the glass. He leads with energy and fearlessness.

While Horford has a longer track record of winning and has enjoyed better health this season, Embiid has clearly established himself as one of the league’s most indispensable stars. Philadelphia’s net rating swings from -6.2 without him to +8.7 with him, and the Sixers are 2-7 without Embiid in the lineup. Boston, meanwhile, has gone 4-0 without Horford. Other than his lagging three-point efficiency and his DeMarcus Cousins-like propensity for turning the ball over by doing too much, Embiid (23.8 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 3.4 APG) is virtually impossible to nitpick. His per-game numbers suggest he’s elite. His advanced stats suggest he’s elite. His impact numbers suggest he’s elite. The eye test suggests he’s an elite monster who would thrash and thrive to an even greater degree if surrounded by Boston’s talent.

Postscript: Horford is an easy reserve selection.

?

West Backcourt: James Harden (Rockets) and Stephen Curry (Warriors)

Most years, good health weighs heavily on this voter’s ballot. That’s especially true in deep groupings like the West backcourt, which is always a gauntlet full of impossible choices. This season, though, toeing a hard line on health makes less sense due to a rash of injuries to star players and the increased proliferation of strategic resting.

Disqualifying or downgrading West guards for missing meaningful time would result in a bloodbath: Harden, Curry, and Portland’s Damian Lillard would all be impacted, along with Houston’s Chris Paul, Memphis’s Mike Conley and other perennial candidates who don’t belong in the conversation because they’ve missed huge chunks of the season. The top remaining, rarely-injured candidates would be Minnesota’s Jimmy Butler, Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook, Golden State’s Klay Thompson and LA’s Lou Williams. All are worthy All-Star reserve candidates, but none belongs on the same tier as Harden and Curry, who have both been top-five overall talents this season.

Although currently sidelined with a hamstring injury, Harden (32.3 PPG, 9.1 APG, 5 RPG) is a must All-Star starter. At the time of his injury, he stood as the MVP favorite, leading the league in points, PER, Win Shares and Real Plus Minus. His individual success directly translated to team–wide success: Houston was on track for its best season in franchise history, the West’s No. 2 record, a top-two offense, and the NBA’s second-best point differential when he went down.

Curry (27.6 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 6.5 APG) has already missed 14 games, a chunk that would usually see him dumped to the second team on this voter’s ballot. Much like Embiid, however, Curry’s play when healthy has simply been too dominant to snub. His stat line isn’t that far off his 2015 unanimous MVP campaign. He’s threatening another 50/40/90 shooting season. Golden State is playing at a 68-win pace when he suits up. The Warriors’ offensive rating is a preposterous 120.7 when he’s on the court. He ranks fourth in PER and first in Real Plus Minus. The sport continues to be molded by his influence.

That leaves Butler (21.5 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 5.1 APG) to fall to the West’s bench. As with DeRozan in the East, a position-less ballot could have potentially opened a starting spot for Butler, a punishing wing who capably defends four positions and easily oscillates between different roles in big and small lineups. Butler’s off-season arrival has delivered impressive and immediate results, transforming the Timberwolves from a decade-long also-ran to a top-four seed and a potential Northwest Division banner. Simply put, Butler is the top performer not included among this ballot’s 10 starters.

Despite his gaudy numbers, Westbrook (25 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 9.9 APG) should not be viewed as a serious All-Star starter candidate. Oklahoma City has just been too shaky, in part because he’s struggled to shoot efficiently and hasn’t displayed the delicate touch necessary to consistently pull quality contributions from his auxiliary options.

West Frontcourt: Kevin Durant (Warriors), Anthony Davis (Pelicans) and Draymond Green (Warriors)

The West’s frontcourt picture will get dicey when it comes to separating the reserves from the snubs, but the starters are a simpler task.

Durant (26.4 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 5.3 APG) is in, and his nomination doesn’t require an extended explanation. At this point of his career, the 2014 MVP has become a chameleon-like force, capable of matching his top peers in an increasingly long list of ways. Like Curry, he is a 50/40/90 candidate. Like Harden, he is a primary scorer and playmaker for an elite offense. Like James, he steps forward as a major stabilizing force when his teammates are in and out of the lineup. Like San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard, he has become a major plus on defense, one capable of defending elite wings while also carrying a significant offensive burden. Like Horford and Green, he has risen to the challenge of interior defense while logging major minutes in undersized spread lineups. Like Irving, he never hesitates to break off a defender with his handle. Like Antetokounmpo, he’s a terror in transition, and his length and athleticism present constant problems for opponents big and small.

In sum, Durant’s case to surpass James as the game’s top all-around talent is only gaining momentum.

Even with the injury issues in the West, it’s impossible to justify placing two Pelicans—who have hovered near .500 and the playoff bubble all season—in the All-Star starting lineup. While DeMarcus Cousins (25.5 PPG, 12.4 RPG, 5.1 APG) started with a bang and continues to boast insane numbers, his steak doesn’t quite match his sizzle. Hence, Davis (26.7 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 2.3 APG) makes more sense the New Orleans representative: His per-game stats are huge as always, he holds a team-best +5.3 net rating, and New Orleans is 3-6 when he plays fewer than 25 minutes. Simply put, he’s more reliable than Cousins, who leads the league in turnovers and fouls, while also ranking among the league leaders in technical fouls and ejections.

The West’s final frontcourt spot is a tangled ball of yarn due to Leonard’s numerous injury issues. One school of thought suggests transferring his spot to LaMarcus Aldridge (22.4 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 1.9 APG), who stepped forward as San Antonio’s leading scorer in Leonard’s absence. Others might argue for Cousins based on his Shaquille O’Neal-like numbers. Still others might nominate Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns (20.2 PPG, 12 RPG, 2.3 APG), a natural/smooth/efficient/forceful offensive weapon who has responded in recent weeks to severe criticism of his defense. All three have legitimate cases, as would Butler if he were eligible in the frontcourt.

On this ballot, the choice is Green (11.1 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 7.6 APG), who obviously trails his aforementioned competition as a scorer. What sets Green apart is everything else: His comfort guarding any player at any time and at any spot on the court; his motor; his ability to step forward as an initiator in Curry’s absence; his decision-making; his rim-protection; and his ability to push the ball end to end in transition. Green is key to helping Golden State play at the league’s No.4 pace, he is the leading assist man on the league’s No. 1 assist team, he is a key playmaker for the NBA’s No. 1 offense, he is the leading rebounder on a team that’s juggled centers all season long, and he’s the most proven and versatile cog in the NBA’s No. 4 defense.

While Green has become a familiar face during Golden State’s run of dominance—emerging as one of this year’s leading All-Star vote-getters—the breadth of his positive contributions can still get lost in Superteam envy or in complaints about his behavior. So, here’s a cool shorthand method for explaining his unique and wide-ranging impact: Green and James are the only two players to average seven rebounds, seven assists, one steal and one block during the three-point era. This season, James is doing it for the fourth time during a career in which he will likely go down as one of the top two players ever. Green, meanwhile, is doing it for the third straight time while playing in the shadow of two all-timers in Curry and Durant. The Warriors’ blossoming dynasty greatness is fueled in no small part by Green’s consistent greatness across so many different facets of the game.

Check back next week for The Crossover's All-Star reserve selections.

Stephen Curry edges LeBron James, Kevin Durant among NBA&#39;s top-selling jerseys
Stephen Curry edges LeBron James, Kevin Durant among NBA's top-selling jerseys
Stephen Curry edges LeBron James, Kevin Durant among NBA's top-selling jerseys
LeBron James was nearly posterized by Kevin Durant, but saved himself at the last moment
LeBron James was nearly posterized by Kevin Durant, but saved himself at the last moment
LeBron James was nearly posterized by Kevin Durant, but saved himself at the last moment
LeBron James was nearly posterized by Kevin Durant, but saved himself at the last moment
LeBron James was nearly posterized by Kevin Durant, but saved himself at the last moment
LeBron James was nearly posterized by Kevin Durant, but saved himself at the last moment
LeBron James was nearly posterized by Kevin Durant, but saved himself at the last moment
LeBron James was nearly posterized by Kevin Durant, but saved himself at the last moment
LeBron James was nearly posterized by Kevin Durant, but saved himself at the last moment
LeBron James was nearly posterized by Kevin Durant, but saved himself at the last moment
LeBron James was nearly posterized by Kevin Durant, but saved himself at the last moment
LeBron James was nearly posterized by Kevin Durant, but saved himself at the last moment
Golden State Warriors&#39; Kevin Durant drives against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Jan. 15, 2018, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Golden State Warriors' Kevin Durant drives against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Jan. 15, 2018, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Golden State Warriors' Kevin Durant drives against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Jan. 15, 2018, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
<p>NBA wrap: Warriors&#39; Kevin Durant continues dominance over Cavaliers</p>
NBA wrap: Warriors' Kevin Durant continues dominance over Cavaliers

NBA wrap: Warriors' Kevin Durant continues dominance over Cavaliers

<p>NBA wrap: Warriors&#39; Kevin Durant continues dominance over Cavaliers</p>
NBA wrap: Warriors' Kevin Durant continues dominance over Cavaliers

NBA wrap: Warriors' Kevin Durant continues dominance over Cavaliers

Durant continued his form from last year&#39;s finals Monday in a big road win over the Cavaliers.
NBA wrap: Warriors' Kevin Durant continues dominance over Cavaliers
Durant continued his form from last year's finals Monday in a big road win over the Cavaliers.
Kevin Durant scored 32 points as the Golden State Warriors overpowered the Cleveland Cavaliers with a late rally to score a 118-108 win in a pulsating clash.
NBA: Kevin Durant in command as Warriors down Cavaliers, Thunder overcome 15-point deficit to win
Kevin Durant scored 32 points as the Golden State Warriors overpowered the Cleveland Cavaliers with a late rally to score a 118-108 win in a pulsating clash.
<p>Wanda Durant Talks Kevin Durant Owning An NBA Team</p>
Wanda Durant Talks Kevin Durant Owning An NBA Team

Wanda Durant Talks Kevin Durant Owning An NBA Team

<p>Wanda Durant Talks Kevin Durant Owning An NBA Team</p>
Wanda Durant Talks Kevin Durant Owning An NBA Team

Wanda Durant Talks Kevin Durant Owning An NBA Team

Kevin Durant, the 2017 NBA Finals MVP, again shone against the Cleveland Cavaliers, as his Golden State Warriors team left the Quicken Loans Arena with an impressive victory.
Warriors beat Cavs again as Durant outduels LeBron
Kevin Durant, the 2017 NBA Finals MVP, again shone against the Cleveland Cavaliers, as his Golden State Warriors team left the Quicken Loans Arena with an impressive victory.
Kevin Durant, the 2017 NBA Finals MVP, again shone against the Cleveland Cavaliers, as his Golden State Warriors team left the Quicken Loans Arena with an impressive victory.
Warriors beat Cavs again as Durant outduels LeBron
Kevin Durant, the 2017 NBA Finals MVP, again shone against the Cleveland Cavaliers, as his Golden State Warriors team left the Quicken Loans Arena with an impressive victory.
Kevin Durant, the 2017 NBA Finals MVP, again shone against the Cleveland Cavaliers, as his Golden State Warriors team left the Quicken Loans Arena with an impressive victory.
Warriors beat Cavs again as Durant outduels LeBron
Kevin Durant, the 2017 NBA Finals MVP, again shone against the Cleveland Cavaliers, as his Golden State Warriors team left the Quicken Loans Arena with an impressive victory.
LeBron James was nearly posterized by Kevin Durant, but saved himself at the last moment
LeBron James was nearly posterized by Kevin Durant, but saved himself at the last moment
LeBron James was nearly posterized by Kevin Durant, but saved himself at the last moment

What to Read Next