NBA fans are spoiled right now. The skill level and athleticism in the league have never been better, and every single game you watch features entertaining, top-tier talent.
Picking the players who will represent their conferences in the annual All-Star Game is a difficult task. Even though the format is no longer East vs. West, each conference still sends 12 players. It’s not easy deciding on the conference’s 12 best players, especially in the Western Conference stacked with elite talents.
Which 24 players will earn All-Star honors in 2019-20? Let’s make that decision. Remember, fans, players and media are involved in deciding the starters, and coaches pick the reserves.
Eastern Conference Starters
- Backcourt: Kyrie Irving (Brooklyn Nets), Ben Simmons (Philadelphia 76ers)
- Frontcourt: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks), Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers), Jimmy Butler (Miami Heat)
The selections of Irving, Antetokounmpo and Embiid should be pretty straightforward. All three are fan favorites who have the game to back it up.
Irving will have plenty of offensive freedom on a Nets roster with several strong off-ball offensive players and Kevin Durant being out for most or all of the season. He should have a great year. Antetokounmpo and Embiid might be the best players at their position in the league, and they play for the East’s two top teams.
Simmons’ poor jump shot is still a joke in the NBA community, but he is still a tremendously talented and popular young player who plays for arguably the top team in the East. He should be a starter.
Butler sneaks in here due to a lack of truly elite talent in the East. He is still very good, though, and he will see a statistical uptick as he moves to Miami. He’ll be the No. 1 option on offense again, like he was with the Chicago Bulls from 2014 to 2017.
Eastern Conference Reserves
- Backcourt: Kemba Walker (Boston Celtics), Bradley Beal (Washington WIzards)
- Frontcourt: Blake Griffin (Detroit Pistons), Pascal Siakam (Toronto Raptors), Nikola Vucevic (Orlando Magic)
- Wild Cards: Victor Oladipo (Indiana Pacers), Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks)
Walker has now made three straight All-Star appearances as a member of the Charlotte Hornets. Now with the more talented Celtics, it’s reasonable to suggest his efficiency might improve a bit while his raw numbers (25.6 points and 5.9 assists per game last season) slightly decline.
Beal is the only player here from a legitimately bad team, but he is just so talented and he crams the stat sheet. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him average 27 points and six assists per game in 2019-20.
Griffin, Siakam, Vucevic and Oladipo will all have similar cases as the best player and lone representative for teams that are somewhere between mediocre and pretty good. Griffin is probably the best player of the four, and Oladipo will just sneak in due to his injury rehab causing a slow start.
Finally, Middleton will beat out other players such as Kyle Lowry, Andre Drummond, Malcolm Brogdon, Trae Young, John Collins, Jayson Tatum, Myles Turner, Al Horford and Tobias Harris. All of them are very high-quality players who should be fringe All-Star types, but the Bucks’ position as an elite team will persuade coaches to give them a second All-Star after Antetokounmpo.
Western Conference Starters
- Backcourt: Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors), James Harden (Houston Rockets)
- Frontcourt: Kawhi Leonard (Los Angeles Clippers), LeBron James (Los Angeles Lakers), Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets)
Boy, was this tough. Several Western Conference players not on this starters list would have made the Eastern Conference starting group, but the West’s depth of talent made that impossible for this conference.
I decided on the backcourt of Curry and Harden. These two have won a combined three MVPs in the past five years, and Harden has three years ranked second in that voting in that span. Both guys are game-changers on offense and will play for offensive units that rank close to the top of the NBA.
You can argue that Leonard has taken James’ place as the NBA’s best player, but there’s no doubt that both guys are at least in the conversation. That, of course, means that both guys are locks for starter spots here.
Finally, Jokic just edges out Anthony Davis and Paul George for the final spot here. The two Los Angeles superstars are probably going to beat Jokic in fan voting, but I see another MVP-caliber season coming from Jokic. Davis and George will struggle to distinguish themselves as the best player on their respective squads.
Western Conference Reserves
- Backcourt: Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers), Russell Westbrook (Houston Rockets)
- Frontcourt: Anthony Davis (Los Angeles Lakers), Paul George (Los Angeles Clippers), Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz)
- Wild Cards: Karl-Anthony Towns (Minnesota Timberwolves), LaMarcus Aldridge (San Antonio Spurs)
Lillard has quietly been an extremely dependable superstar guard, averaging between 25.1 and 27 points and 5.9 and 6.9 assists per game for four straight games. His Trail Blazers should be solidly in the playoffs again, and he is clearly their best player.
Westbrook was a tough choice. The veteran guard has declined the past two seasons and I have reservations about his fit on the Rockets, but he is still very talented and will put up big numbers. He is an established name, which will help get him noticed by coaches.
Davis and George would easily be starters in the Eastern Conference, but they are victims of their conference here. Gobert, Towns and Aldridge are three bigs with varying skills who all are the best players on their teams. Towns’ squad probably won’t make the playoffs, but like Bradley Beal in the Eastern Conference, his numbers and talent will be too impressive to ignore.
This configuration of 12 West players is not necessarily the top 12 guys in the conference. Draymond Green, Chris Paul, Donovan Mitchell, Mike Conley, Luka Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis, C.J. McCollum, DeMar DeRozan, Jamal Murray, De’Aaron Fox, D’Angelo Russell and Devin Booker are also very strong candidates here. But the roster I’ve assembled is close to the 12 players in the conference, and it also rewards all eight of my projected playoff teams (Jazz/Nuggets/Clippers/Lakers/Rockets/Trail Blazers/Spurs/Warriors) with at least one All-Star. Do you agree?