It’s that time of year when everyone makes their All-Star teams while getting into online arguments as to why their favorite player was snubbed.
Before you all start sending hate mail, a disclaimer needs to be made: the following selections are who I think deserve to be an All-Star, and not who has or who I think will actually make it. Even though the starters have been announced already, I’ve still made my own selections as to who I believe should’ve received that honor.
That’s an important distinction since some players are naturally more popular than others, and they might be voted in by fans even if others have a better case for the spot. Team success plays a small factor in really close calls, although most of these picks are based on each player’s individual performance.
With all that aside, let’s dive into the Western Conference.
Luka Doncic: 34.6/9.2/8.6 on 49.2/38.1/77.7 splits. Oh, and did I mention the 70-burger he had Friday night? Yeah, I’d say Luka deserved his starting nod.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: 31 points on 54.5% shooting from the field is 2K stuff, and that’s without mentioning that he’s also been one of the best defensive guards in the league this year. OKC is currently first in the West too, and there’s no doubt that Shai will be a finalist for MVP at the very least.
Kawhi Leonard & Kevin Durant: Luka, Shai, and Jokic were locks to be named starters, and the last two spots came down to Kawhi, KD, LeBron, and AD. I ultimately went with the first two names because they’ve simply been better all-around players thus far. After a slow start, Kawhi has been averaging 25/6.5/4.2 on absurd 56.2/49.4/92.5 splits while also being All-Defense caliber in his own end.
Meanwhile, KD kept the Suns afloat to start the year when both Booker and Beal were out, and Phoenix still has a +4.5 net rating when he’s the lone star on the court. Individually, KD’s also putting up 28.8/6.4/5.7 on 53.1/45.5/87.3 shooting, and being a good rim protector too: opponents are only making 57.9% of their attempts around the basket, which is 5.7% lower than expected.
Don’t get me wrong, LeBron and AD have been spectacular this season, but neither offers the type of impact on both ends of the court that Kawhi and KD still do. Defense is still optional for LeBron at times, and AD’s lack of individual offensive creation means that his teams always need another creator playing with him to have a reliable attack.
When the margins are this slim, team success should be factored in too. It’s not LeBron or AD’s fault that their supporting cast is weaker, but having a net rating of just +2.5 when both share the court is still disappointing.
Nikola Jokic: The best player in the world, only Jokic can average 26.3/11.9/9.0 on 59.3% shooting and have fans wonder why his efficiency is actually down from last season.
De’Aaron Fox: Fox has slowed down somewhat after a torrid start, but he still deserves to be on the fringes of the MVP race. The Kings’ offensive rating plummets from 120.7 (which would be 6th best in the league) with him playing to just 112.4 (25th) when he sits, and Sacramento still has a positive 1.7 net rating even when Fox plays without Sabonis, too.
Anthony Edwards: The best player on the #2 team in the West, Ant should be an All-Star shoo-in. His counting stats are similar to last year, but a jump in true shooting from 56.4% to 57.9% is nothing to sneeze at. Ant’s also been much more consistent defensively and is now a very good individual stopper on the perimeter.
Great defense from Minnesota, look at Anthony Edwards work vs. Bridges and Gobert jump out vs. Thomas. pic.twitter.com/meN8WYAAyB— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) January 26, 2024
LeBron James: At the tender age of just *checks note* 39, LeBron is somehow having his second-most efficient season (61.2% true shooting) since 2018, and even though he continues to take plays off defensively, LeBron’s still been better in his own end than the last few years. Making the All-Star game for 20 consecutive years is still one of the greatest accomplishments in basketball. Father Time is undefeated, but LeBron’s lasted more rounds than any NBA player, ever.
Anthony Davis: It’s a shame that the Lakers are so disappointing because AD might be having his best season since moving to La La Land: The Brow remains the best lob finisher in the league and is having the second-most efficient campaign of his career (24.9 ppg on 62.2% true shooting). Defensively, AD’s holding opponents to just 56.1% shooting around the basket — 7.7% worse than expected — and the 319 shots that he’s contested is 9th most in the league, too. He’s also only missed two games this season *knock on wood*.
Paul George: PG might be having the most underappreciated year out of everyone on this list. The 33-year-old is somehow in the midst of his most efficient campaign (60.6% true shooting, the first time above 60% in his career), and he was trending that way even before Harden’s arrival. One of the poster boys of load management, PG has also only missed two games until now and remains an elite wing defender.
Wardell Stephen Curry: Steph remains a sight to behold, but there have been subtle signs of decline this season. His efficiency is down almost across the board, with his two-point percentage being the most alarming: 51.5% from inside the arc would be a good mark for just about anyone, but it’s the lowest conversion rate for Steph in a decade. His 1.26 points per attempt is also “only” in the 95th percentile rather than the 100th, which is a mark that he’s held since the 2017-18 campaign. Moreover, the Warriors have somehow been better with him off the court this year, and even though CP3 deserves a lot of credit for stabilizing their bench unit, it still shows that Steph hasn’t been as impactful as he usually is.
Devin Booker: To be frank, I’m not sure why Booker seems to be an afterthought in All-Star discussions. Sure, he missed a few games to start the year, but he’s still played 1298 minutes, which is two more than Steph and just 18 less than Fox. With “Point Book” being fully unleashed, the 27-year-old is averaging a career-high 7.4 assists, and his 2.8 turnovers per game is basically identical to last year’s number (2.7). The Suns are also a tidy +8.7 when he plays without KD or Beal.
Lauri Markkanen, Karl-Anthony Towns, Rudy Gobert, Domantis Sabonis
Check back tomorrow for to see my picks for the Eastern Conference All-Stars!