A couple days ago we took a look at how the fans did voting for the Eastern Conference starters. Aside from Carmelo Anthony being the third front court starter, the fans did a pretty good job getting deserving players in the lineup. The West, however, presents a whole different slew of problems with far more stars and far more potential championship teams. The depth of talent in the back court alone is ridiculous. When you’ve got Steph Curry, James Harden, Damian Lillard, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Klay Thompson, and Mike Conley all vying for just two spots, what is a voter to do? Eric Bledsoe is averaging 16.9 points and 6 assists per game for a team 7 games over .500 and didn’t even crack the top ten. And the front court is just as loaded. So how did the fans do this year? Lets take a look below:
BACK COURT 1: STEPH CURRY (Golden State PG)- It’s pretty hard to make an argument against the league’s top overall vote getter. The fact he stole that title away from LeBron is impressive in itself. Curry is the best player on the league’s best team and well deserving of his second straight all-star start. Individual statistics aside (averaging 22.8 points and 8.1 assists per game), the Warriors have lost only six games all season. Six games. In the West. With a record (36-6) like that its a wonder his back court mate Klay Thompson isn’t starting as well. Add the fact Curry is probably either one or two on everyone’s MVP list and he was a no-brainer. Easy choice.
BACK COURT 2: KOBE BRYANT (Los Lakers SG)- There’s no disputing Bryant’s contribution to the game and to all-star games of the past. He’s a four-time MVP of the contest and this is the 17th time hes made the squad. Given that, Bryant shouldn’t be starting ahead of Harden, Lillard, Thompson, Chris Paul, or even Mike Conley. And Russell Westbrook missed his fair share of time, but Bryant sits out a lot himself these days. The player with the biggest gripe has got to be Harden. He’s having an MVP year for a championship contender. He was also the only other back court player to get over a million votes, nearly doubling 4th place finisher Chris Paul. Bryant is a legend and probably one of the five best players of all-time, but the Lakers are terrible and Kobe just isn’t Kobe anymore. He won’t end up starting anyway (due to a torn rotator cuff) so hopefully someone has the sense to replace him with Harden.
A case could be made for: Harden, Westbrook, Thompson, Paul, Conley, Lillard. Harden has to be a starter on this team. He’s either been the best player in the league this year or he’s been second behind Curry. Strong cases can be made for plenty of others as well. Damian Lillard is an absolute stud that takes and makes just about every big shot for the Blazers. Westbrook missed a bunch of time with a broken bone in his hand, but even he has proved to be immensely important to the Thunder. Chris Paul is probably still the best true point guard in the league, but he’s surrounded by a lot of talent on a team many think has somewhat underachieved. Some argument could be made for Thompson, Conley, and even maybe Rajon Rando, especially over Bryant. A dark horse I really like is Bledsoe (mentioned above). He definitely shouldn’t be starting over the likes of the names here, but he’s definitely an all-star.
FRONT COURT 1: ANTHONY DAVIS (New Orleans C)- Davis was the West’s leading front court vote getter. He averages a double-double at 24.3 points and 10.4 rebounds per game and also leads the league in blocked shots (2.8 bpg). The minor knock on Davis could be his team wouldn’t currently be in the playoffs. Still, the Pelicans are two games over .500 in the tougher conference and sit just two games out of the eight seed at 23-21. Davis is widely regarded as one of the top three players on the planet and is consistently mentioned as the first player to be taken in one of those “Who would you to start your franchise,” type theoretical drafts. Davis has the individual stats, the Pelicans are much improved and he’s the games top young talent. The All-Star starting lineup is where we always knew Davis would end up. It was the right vote by the fans to make it a reality.
FRONT COURT 2: MARC GASOL (Memphis C)- Gasol presents a somewhat interesting case. He’s not as clear-cut in terms of statistics as Davis. Gasol does, however, have a large hand in Memphis’ success. LaMarcus Aldridge is having a better season statistically in terms of points and rebounds. He averages 23.3 and 10.2 compared to Gasol’s 19.1 and 8.2. Gasol is the better passer and his numbers prove it, however. His 3.7 assists per game are great for a guy playing the five. Considering Memphis and Portland are currently tied for the two seed out West and Aldridge’s numbers are better, it might have made more sense to see the Blazers big man in the starting lineup. Is it an egregious oversight by the fans? No. Aldridge has some pretty serious beef though.
FRONT COURT 3: BLAKE GRIFFIN (LA Clippers PF)- Griffin probably has the best statistical case to be in the starting line-up outside of Davis. Blake does not average a double-double, but his 23 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 5 assists per game are pretty stellar numbers for any front court player. Yes, the Clippers are currently the five seed, but they’re only a game and a half behind Memphis and Portland for the two seed. Gosh, remember when Griffin was just a great “dunker?” Those days are over. He’s a bona fide all-star with an all-around game to prove it. He may have the benefit of the LA vote, but not much of a fuss should be made about Blake making another appearance in the starting lineup.
A case could be made for: Tim Duncan, Kevin Durant, Aldridge, Demarcus Cousins. Lets face it, Durant probably missed a little too much time to be in the starting lineup. He’ll be on the team and get his chance to shine. Duncan is having a nice year and the Spurs will be much improved now that Kawhi Leonard is back, but it’s hard to make a case for Duncan over Davis, Griffin, or Gasol. Cousins is fabulous. He is probably hurt most by playing in a smaller market as well as the Kings not being anywhere near .500. Aldridge has the biggest gripe of anyone, however. His stats are there and his team is competitive. Someone just had to be the odd man out. This year it was Aldridge.
This article can also be found on my blog at hackinghoops.wordpress.com.
Cover Photo: nba.com.
Credit all authors of images used in both article and as cover image : Daniel Muster