Starting an All-Star Game is without doubt one of the greatest particular person honors NBA gamers can garner of their careers. And, if our voter ballots under are appropriate, we’d have a few first-timers when starters are revealed tonight.

Four writers at The Athletic who participated within the media vote — Joe Vardon, Josh Robbins, Sam Amick and Will Guillory — shared their submissions for the Feb. 19 recreation under and a few ideas behind these powerful selections. As a reminder, fan voting accounts for 50 p.c of the All-Star vote, whereas present gamers and media account for 25 p.c every.

Josh Robbins

East starters

Backcourt: Tyrese Haliburton, Donovan Mitchell; frontcourt: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant, Joel Embiid

West starters

Backcourt: Stephen Curry, Luka Dončić; frontcourt: LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Nikola Jokić

I do know I communicate for my colleagues after I let you know voting for honors equivalent to beginning in an NBA All-Star Game is a solemn duty. This yr’s decisions felt extra excruciating than any I can keep in mind.

Nothing felt extra disagreeable than deciding on the East’s frontcourt starters, the place Antetokounmpo, Durant, Embiid and Jayson Tatum deserve spots. Whittling the sphere down to 3 folks was almost inconceivable. I might have cherished to categorise Tatum as a capturing guard and choose him as a backcourt starter, however the NBA classifies him as a frontcourt participant, with no wiggle room to contemplate him within the backcourt. I chosen Antetokounmpo and Embiid over Tatum as a result of Antetokounmpo and Embiid are the extra dominant defenders. I know Durant is injured now and had performed solely 34 video games to Tatum’s 44 as of early Saturday morning (after I submitted my votes), however I’m giving Durant the sting due to how he stored the Brooklyn Nets afloat throughout Kyrie Irving’s suspension and due to his outstanding capturing effectivity this season (a career-high 55.9 p.c from the sphere, 37.6 p.c from 3 and a career-high 93.4 p.c from the free-throw line).

As for selecting Tyrese Haliburton over Jaylen Brown (and others) within the East backcourt, I chosen Haliburton not simply due to his superb stats, however his general affect. When he was wholesome, he led the supposedly tanking Indiana Pacers to playoff competition.

Another painful alternative for me was deciding on Anthony Davis as a West frontcourt starter regardless that he has performed in solely 25 video games via Saturday. I couldn’t ignore how dominant he was within the video games he did play.

Sam Amick

East starters

Backcourt: Tyrese Haliburton, Donovan Mitchell; frontcourt: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum, Joel Embiid

West starters

Backcourt: Stephen Curry, Luka Dončić; frontcourt: LeBron James, Nikola Jokić, Domantas Sabonis

To echo Josh’s sentiments in regards to the East frontcourt, that recreation of musical chairs was simply brutal. And whereas it actually felt improper to not have Durant as a starter, Tatum has eclipsed him (up to now) in relation to offensive manufacturing, defensive affect and workforce success. Durant has been remarkably impactful and environment friendly, however Tatum deserves the nod.

From there, there was no approach I wasn’t together with Giannis or Embiid in that bunch. They’ve been dominant on each ends of the ground (once more) and have their respective groups trying like title contenders.

Now for the largest shock of all of them: If somebody would have predicted a couple of months in the past that I’d be voting Haliburton as an East starter and Sabonis as a starter within the West, I might have questioned their sanity. When these two gamers have been swapped in the Indiana-Sacramento trade final season, I didn’t envision both of them being an All-Star anytime quickly — not to mention each within the beginning lineup of the identical recreation. Haliburton was being despatched to a Pacers group that all of us thought was headed for a roster rebuild, and Sabonis — who had been an East All-Star twice — had struggled to assist the Kings win video games in his 15-game Sacramento debut final season (they have been 5-10).

Fast ahead to the current day and the Pacers-Kings commerce is now extensively seen as a win-win for either side due to their stellar play. Before lacking time not too long ago with knee and elbow accidents, Haliburton was main the league in assists whereas scoring at a career-high clip, and Sabonis has emerged because the fulcrum of this Kings offense that’s scoring at a historic fee. I actually perceive why others will vote for Jaylen Brown within the East backcourt, or Zion Williamson and Lauri Markkanen within the West frontcourt, however I really feel Haliburton and Sabonis are deserving.

Domantas Sabonis and Joel Embiid (Bill Streicher / USA Today)

Joe Vardon

East starters

Backcourt: Tyrese Haliburton, Donovan Mitchell; frontcourt: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum, Joel Embiid

West starters

Backcourt: Stephen Curry, Luka Dončić; frontcourt: LeBron James, Nikola Jokić, Domantas Sabonis

I suppose I’m unsure whether or not Durant’s sprained MCL will truly maintain him out of the All-Star Game subsequent month in Salt Lake City, however the mere chance of it’s why I voted for Tatum as an alternative of him.

As others right here have mentioned, each gamers are principally equally worthy of the respect, and I discover it arduous to level to any set of statistics between them and say this is the reason one ought to begin over the opposite. The separator to me is solely availability. Durant says he desires to play in Salt Lake, exactly as a result of he’s missed the final a number of All-Star Games as a result of damage. In the final two cases, he was actually a workforce captain however unable to play.

Because we’ve seen this act earlier than, I assumed I might reward Tatum forward of time and attempt to make it so there wouldn’t be an asterisk subsequent to his title as a starter. And additionally, he’s second within the league in scoring, so, I suppose in essentially the most insane scoring season ever, we in all probability should discover a strategy to have the East’s prime factors man within the beginning lineup.

Haliburton will get the nod because the main help man within the NBA, on a workforce that’s higher than was predicted, largely as a result of Haliburton’s emergence. He’ll in all probability win the league’s season-ending award for many improved, too. Brown, averaging about 27 factors and 7 rebounds on the NBA’s finest workforce, actually has a case. It’s a troublesome enterprise, making selections like these, however it speaks to the absurd degree of expertise now we have within the league proper now.

In the West, I voted for Curry over Morant as a result of, when the on-court manufacturing is shut, it’s arduous to disregard the longevity and consistency of Curry’s greatness. Otherwise, I had little bother selecting Sabonis. I suppose the one participant worthy of consideration was Lauri Markkanen, who absolutely ought to (and can) make his first All-Star Game and proudly symbolize the Jazz in his first season there. I’m trying ahead to the second Mitchell and Markkanen are on the ground on the identical time, crossing paths in Utah’s All-Star affair a couple of months faraway from being traded for one another in a seminal deal for each the Cavaliers and Jazz.

As for Sabonis, main the NBA in complete rebounds and sitting on the middle (next to new coach Mike Brown, of course) of the Kings’ renaissance made him a simple alternative.



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Will Guillory

East starters

Backcourt: Tyrese Haliburton, Donovan Mitchell; frontcourt: Giannis Antetokuonmpo, Jayson Tatum, Kevin Durant

West starters

Backcourt: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Luka Dončić; frontcourt: LeBron James, Zion Williamson, Nikola Jokić

In my view, there’s no improper reply in relation to the 4 massive names within the Eastern Conference frontcourt race. Before he received harm, Durant was completely sensational. There was nobody within the league I loved watching extra from night time to nighttime. Tatum deserves respect as one of the best participant on one of the best workforce within the league (in my view). He’s upped his recreation since struggling that loss in final yr’s NBA Finals. I couldn’t go away him off. And Giannis continues to be essentially the most dominant participant within the recreation. I really feel terrible leaving Embiid off. I’m going to really feel even worse after I look again on the finish of the season and see I left Embiid off. But anyone needed to fall in fourth place.

Picking the East guards was a lot simpler. Mitchell has clearly been one of the best guard within the convention. He’s placing up one of the best numbers of his profession regardless of a small dip in his utilization. Before his damage, Haliburton had the Pacers trying like a legit playoff workforce regardless that the remainder of the roster suggests they haven’t any enterprise being in that dialog. I don’t suppose it’s shocked anybody to see how a lot they’ve fallen off with out him.

In the West, SGA and Luka have been the clear front-runners within the backcourt. Morant has been spectacular and deserves to be talked about. But Gilgeous-Alexander’s progress into an offensive pressure has been one of the best story within the league this season. The Thunder play a bunch of dudes most informal followers have by no means heard of, and so they have the fifth-best internet score within the league since Dec. 15. Gilgeous-Alexander deserves a lot of the credit score for that workforce enjoying approach over its head.

The frontcourt within the West was approach harder than I anticipated. Jokić was a no brainer. Markkanen and Sabonis have been nice this season. Their consistency has been actually spectacular, however I feel Williamson was clearly higher than each of these guys when he was wholesome. (I do know I’m going to get plenty of “homer” fees for my Williamson vote.) Considering how Williamson appeared in December, it wasn’t actually shut. The Lakers have been a circus a lot of the yr, however James has been unbelievable in Year 20. There’s no approach I can argue there have been three frontcourt gamers higher than him within the West.

(Illustration: John Bradford / The Athletic; pictures: Stacy Revere, Harry How, David Dow, Gary Dineen, David Liam Kyle / Getty Images)

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