As we cross over into the halfway point of the 2019-20 NBA season, voting for the upcoming All-Star game is coming to a close. With that being said, I’ve made my personal choices for both the Eastern and Western Conferences. There are a few members of the BBNBA that made the cut, too (and probably some you thought should have made the cut but didn’t), so join along as we dive into my picks.
By no means am I an “expert”, but I consider myself an avid NBA fan. I follow the league like I’m lost child in a crowded mall food court. I try my very best to watch multiple games every evening to bring as much knowledge to the daily BBNBA posts as possible. Obviously, I focus on former Kentucky players so there are teams and players that don’t get nearly as much attention from myself. But I did my research and due diligence on each potential All-Star combined with the eye test to come up with what you will see below.
Breaking down the rosters, each team has five starters – two in the backcourt and three in the frontcourt. The bench consists of five more players – two backcourt and three frontcourt players – with two more “alternate” pick that can be of any position. So, in total, there are 24 All-Stars. Let’s break it down, beginning with the staters.
EASTERN CONFERENCE STARTERS
G: Kemba Walker (BOS)
G: Trae Young (ATL)
F: Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL)
F: Pascal Siakam (TOR)
F: Joel Embiid (PHI)
WESTERN CONFERENCE STARTERS
G: James Harden (HOU)
G: Luka Doncic (DAL)
F: LeBron James (LAL)
F: Kawhi Leonard (LAC
F: Anthony Davis (LAL)
The only former Kentucky Wildcat to make my cut for the starters was none other than Anthony Davis of the Los Angeles Lakers. Not only is Davis producing an MVP-caliber season, posting stats of 27.1 points, 9.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 2.6 blocks per game on shooting splits of 50.4/29.7/85.9, he’s also a leading candidate to win Defensive Player of the Year, too. He’s been the best player on the NBA’s second-best team. While LeBron James is clearly the team’s most valuable player, Davis is what makes the Lakers elite. They are one of the two or three teams expected to compete for the NBA Finals.
Davis is currently dealing with a minor injury that has sidelined him for the previous five games, but he’s done more than enough in 35 games thus far to earn a spot as a starter. Since the All-Star starters are decided by the voting process (50 percent fan votes, 25 percent player votes, and 25 percent media votes), Davis is a shoo-in to make the cut. He’s currently the fourth-highest vote-getter with over 4.4 million votes, behind only James, Doncic, and Antetokounmpo.
Picking the reserves is a different process, though. The NBA coaches are the ones who decide the players that make up the remainder of the roster, leaving no chance that a fan vote could muck up deserved players from making the roster (although sometimes even the coaches get it wrong).
Here’s what I came out with.
EASTERN CONFERENCE RESERVES
G: Bradley Beal (WAS)
G: Ben Simmons (PHI)
F: Jimmy Butler (MIA)
F: Jayson Tatum (BOS)
F: Bam Adebayo (MIA)
Alternate: Domantas Sabonis (IND)
Alternate: Andre Drummond (DET)
Based on his (not-so-surprising) production in his third year as a member of the Miami Heat, Bam Adebayo more than deserves to make his first All-Star appearance. The former Kentucky big man is stuffing the stat sheet night after night. He’s become a versatile big man that can defend like a wing player and pass like a guard. He works the ball around the perimeter like Nikola Jokic yet flies around the court with such grace you’d think he grew up a ballerina. He’ll be an easy candidate for the NBA’s Most Improved Player and Defensive Player of the Year.
Adebayo is averaging 15.9 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 4.6 assists while shooting 58.7 percent from the field. He’s one of just four players to average at least 1.2 blocks and 1.2 steals (Davis is also on the list). Alongside Jimmy Butler – who should also make the All-Star team – the Heat have jumped out a 29-12 record, second-best in the East. I had been hyping up a potential leap this season from Adebayo, but not even the most optimistic Bam Fan would have thought he’d be a guranteed All-Star after 40 games.
WESTERN CONFERENCE RESERVES
G: Damian Lillard (POR)
G: Devin Booker (PHX)
F: Brandon Ingram (NOP)
F: Nikola Jokic (DEN)
F: Rudy Gobert (UTA)
Alternate: Donovan Mitchell (UTA)
Alternate: Paul George (LAC)
The third and final member of the BBNBA to make my list is Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns. If you’re familiar with the daily BBNBA posts, you know why I have him here. We can’t go one Suns game without mentioning Booker. Surrounded by actual NBA talent for the first time in his five-year career, the former ‘Cat has been able to play off his strengths.
Booker is averaging 26.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 6.4 assists on impressive shooting splits of 50.8/35.5/91.5. He’s missed just three games this season and currently has the Suns in striking distance for a playoff spot. Not only has he morphed into a legit playmaker that can control an offense, he now has the benefit of playing next to a pass-first point guard in Ricky Rubio, allowing Booker to play off-ball and put that pure shooting stroke to good work.
Out of the three ‘Cats I predict will make the All-Star team, Booker is the one I feel the least confident about. As I said, Davis is a lock. Adebayo should be a lock. But you can make an argument for several different players to take Booker’s place – I just don’t think any of them are valid enough.
There were a couple of other former Kentucky hoopers that I considered adding to the list, such as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (OKC) and Karl-Anthony Towns (MIN), but I decided against them for different reasons. For SGA, it was a matter of talent above him. I couldn’t in my right mind select him over someone like Booker or even Donovan Mitchell. While Gilgeous-Alexander is having an extraordinary season in his second year, his backcourt teammate, Chris Paul, probably has a better argument to make the roster. The Thunder’s recent surge in the standings is doing them both favors, but they just haven’t been better than other studs such as Brandon Ingram or Paul George. The West is loaded with talent.
The situation with KAT is interesting. The reason I left him off was because of the 15-game absence due to his confusing knee injury. Towns has played in 25 games this season – the fewest of anyone on my list (George is the second-lowest with 26) and his team was struggling even before he went out. His numbers are insane, but not contributing to winning basketball. The Clippers are 19-7 with George, the Wolves are 9-14 with Towns.
And yes, I know that the Clippers are a better overall team. I gave George a slight edge over Towns because of his defense. Had I waited another week or two to make this list, Towns might have taken George’s spot as an alternate, especially since he made his return a few days ago. But fan voting for the All-Star game ends tomorrow night. Because of that deadline, this is the list I have gathered and researched.
Go ahead and tear it to shreds, folks.