Sunday, February 28

NBA All-Star 2021: With the headlines revealed, which East and West players should win reserve spots?



There were some mild complaints after Thursday night’s reveal of the 2021 NBA All-Star Game, but this year’s lineups didn’t stir much controversy.

Outside of a close race between Luka Doncic and Damian Lillard for the final guard spot, the top five in the Western Conference were pretty easy to predict. The first results of the fan voting showed that the Eastern Conference group would not bring many surprises either.

NBA ALL-STAR 2021: Final Fan Voting Results

As for reservations? That’s where the All-Star Game selection process gets interesting. There will be snubs with only seven spots remaining in each conference (two guards, three forwards, two wild cards), but that’s always the case before the All-Star break.

(Note: Sporting News did not have an official media vote for All-Star Game headlines this year. Reserves are chosen by the NBA’s head coaches, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun here.)

Eastern Conference All-Star Starters

PositionPlayerTeamFan RankPlayer RankMidrangeWeighted score
GRAMBradley BealMagicians1111.0
GRAMKyrie irvingNetworkingtwotwo42.5
FKevin Durant *Networking1131.5
FGiannis AntetokounmpoDollarstwotwo11.75
FJoel embiid76ers33two2.75

*Captain

Eastern Conference All-Star Reserves

(All statistics current as of February 19)

G: Jaylen Brown, Celtics

Brown has increased his scoring (25.9 points per game) without sacrificing efficiency (50.6 percent from the field, 40.9 percent from 3-point range) in his fifth year with the Celtics. His control seems tighter, and playmaking is also advancing (3.6 assists per game, his career high). Brown deserves the first All-Star pick of his career.

G: James Harden, Nets

No matter what you think about how Harden left Houston, you can’t argue that he hasn’t been a beast in Brooklyn. “The Beard” is averaging 24.2 points, 11.7 assists and 8.2 rebounds per game since joining the Nets. He has adapted wonderfully to his new role and has allayed concerns about his ability to fit in alongside other dominant scorers in Irving and Durant.

F: Khris Middleton, Bucks

He may be the second fiddle to the two-time MVP, but Middleton is an All-Star in his own right. He’s been on fire all season with 50-40-90 shooting divisions, skillfully defending the toughest guards and wings in the league. Milwaukee isn’t traversing the East like it used to, but Middleton is better than ever.

F: Julius Randle, Knicks

Who would have thought that making Randle the number one option could transform the Knicks into a potential playoff team? The former first-round pick is setting personal records in various categories, including points, assists, rebounds and 3-point percentage. He also leads the NBA in total minutes played. (Classic Tom Thibodeau!)

F: Jayson Tatum, Celtics

Brown has been the Celtics’ best player thus far, but Tatum is undoubtedly an All-Star caliber forward. He’s posting 25.8 points per game and has led Boston’s offense for long stretches without Marcus Smart and Kemba Walker. It is worth noting that Tatum continues to perform at a high level despite dealing with lingering effects of COVID-19.

WC: Ben Simmons, 76ers

Yeah, Simmons doesn’t shoot 3s. We understand. But what about everything else? He is an elite offensive creator (8.0 assists per game) and is firmly in the discussion for Defensive Player of the Year. He is one of the few players in the league who possesses the size and speed to switch to almost any task without assistance. Simply put, the guy is a force at both ends of the ground.

WC: Zach LaVine, Bulls

Chicago’s season has been a bit all over the place. LaVine is the only constant. The 25-year-old is erasing his previous stats with new career highs in points, assists, rebounds, field goal percentage, free throw percentage, free throw percentage and player efficiency rating.

The biggest slights: Bam Adebayo, Heat; Jerami Grant, Pistons; Tobias Harris, 76ers; Gordon Hayward, Hornets; Domantas Sabonis, Pacers; Fred VanVleet, Raptors; Nikola Vucevic, Magic; Bring Young, Falcons

Western Conference All-Star Starters

PositionPlayerTeamFan RankPlayer RankMidrangeWeighted score
GRAMStephen CurryWarriors1111.0
GRAMLuka Doncic **Maverickstwo332.5
FLebron James*Lakers1111.0
FNikola JokicNuggetstwotwotwo2.0
FKawhi leonardPair of scissors3433.25

*Captain
** Won tiebreaker with Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard

Western Conference All-Star Reserves

(All statistics current as of February 19)

G: Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers

A no-brainer. Lillard has been leading the Blazers since CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic fell through injuries, keeping them not just afloat in the rugged West but in the top four in the conference standings. He lost a starting job to Doncic on a technicality: Lillard ranked higher in player and media votes, but Doncic ended up with more fan votes, so let’s fix that here.

G: Donovan Mitchell, Jazz

Won’t the best team in the NBA put a player in the starting lineup? Don’t worry, Jazz fans. We’ll show his team’s love, starting with Mitchell, who is averaging a career-high 24.2 points and 5.1 assists per game without taking anything away from Utah’s beautiful offensive flow.

F: Anthony Davis, Lakers

Davis is expected to stay out of the All-Star Game with a calf injury, so this space would remain open for another worthy player. Still, you deserve to include another selection on your resume. Davis’ numbers may be inferior compared to his high standards, but 22.5 points, 8.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.8 blocks and 1.3 steals per game with the elite defense scream All-Star.

F: Paul George, Clippers

All those “Playoff P” and “Pandemic P” jokes? Yes, George listened to them and came back wanting revenge. He’s a member of the 50-40-90 club right now, including a crazy 47.8 percent on nearly eight 3s per game. He’s been inactive for most of February, but his work is strong enough to give him the go-ahead.

F: Rudy Gobert, Jazz

All-Star Game viewers may not want to see Gobert accumulate screen aids in an exhibition contest. His game is not pretty. Understood. However, Gobert is to be given a lot of credit for Utah’s good start. He patrols the paint better than any other great in the league, and his screen setup and rim finish are part of what makes the Jazz a headache to defend.

WC: Mike Conley, Jazz

He finally did it! Conley is an All-Star! (Well, at least on this fake ballot). Conley is thriving in Year 14, averaging 16.5 points, 5.8 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game while shooting 41.0 percent from beyond the arc. Everyone advanced statistics show that Conley regularly impacts on winning.

WC: Chris Paul, Suns

This last spot could come down to the Suns’ backcourt, as both Paul and Devin Booker should be considered. Paul gets a slight advantage due to his ability to elevate the offense with brutally efficient scoring (17.2 points per game in 48.9 / 36.9 / 97.2 shooting divisions) and plays (8.2 assists per game). He’s lost some speed and athleticism, but he’s still a plague on the defensive end as well.

The biggest slights: Devin Booker, Suns; DeMar DeRozan, Spurs; De’Aaron Fox, Kings; Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Thunder; Brandon Ingram, Pelicans; Zion Williamson, Pelicans



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