On Christmas Day All-Star voting opened for the NBA. The All-Star game is mostly a popularity contest but players across the league dream of the chance to be part of this elite cast. This year the festivities will be held in New Orleans and the entire weekend promises to be another must-see event.
It all begins with the All-Star Celebrity game on February 17th followed by the Rising Stars Challenge later that night. February 18th is All-Star Saturday night—my personal favorite—showcasing the three-point shooting contest and the rejuevenated Slam Dunk competition. Sunday, February 19th is the actual All-Star game starting at 6pm Central. The deadline to vote for the startes is January 16th, 2017 so hopefully you’re already getting your votes in.
Below I’ll choose one player for each position with some supporting arguments as to why they should be All-Stars. Let me know who you would pick in the comments below.
#1 Point Guard: Kyrie Irving:
It’s undeniable that Kyrie Irving is one of the best (if not the best) guards in the league. At just 24-years-old he plays with maturity well beyond his years. So far this season, Irving is averaging 23.6 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 5.8 asssits per game. His shot is incredibly efficient at 47 % from the field, 42% from 3. He’s got a knack for drawing fouls getting to the line about four times per game and shooting 87%. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again that stats alone do not mean a player is making a good contribution to a team. As such, a point guard can’t be just great at shooting and hope to be a champion. What makes Kyrie so special is his ability to facilitate the offense and set up key plays for his teammates to execute. Irving understands his teammates’ strengths and manipulates plays to work in their favor. Perhaps most importantly, Irving performs very well under pressure. He’s able to get the job done in crunch time and when the game winning shot is his to take, you can bet it’s going in. While others may crumble when all eyes are on them, Irving rises to the occasion and shows everyone why he’s a champion.
#2 Shooting Guard: Klay Thompson:
It’s hard to properly describe the value that Klay Thompson brings to his team. Perhaps he’s not the alpha personality that brings all the ingredients of a team together, but his ability to remain consistent in tough situations makes him invaluable to any roster. It comes as no surprise that Thompson averages some pretty insane numbers in his 6th season in the league. Currently, he brings in 21.4 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. Thompson is also a very efficient shooter at 47% from the field and 38% from 3. His 3-point shooting average has decreased somewhat this season but that can be largely attributed to taking less three point shots with the addition of Kevin Durant to the Golden State roster. What sets Klay apart is his ability to remain calm and steady in situations when the other team has captured the momentum. Klay’s performance against the OKC Thunder last season was one of the key factors that kept Golden State alive during that series. While his teammates were visibly shaken mentally, Thompson pressed forward and kept the rhythm until the others were able to gather themselves to join him.
#3 Small Forward: Danilo Gallinari
I usually try to remain unbiased, but the fact of the matter is that I’m a Denver Nuggets fan. I go to as many games as I can, and over the years Danilo Gallinari has become my favorite player in the league by far. Gallo—as he is known in Denver—also isn’t necessarily an alpha player, but he brings a level of leadership and consistency to the young Nuggets lineup and acts as a light house of sorts when the less experienced players get lost in the NBA waters. Gallinari averages 16.8 points, 5 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game. He’s great in the post, and is at his best when he’s getting to the rim and drawing fouls shooting 87% from the free throw line. At 6’10”, 225 pounds Gallinari is a protypical stretch-four drawing a big men out from under the rim with his ability to hit from three.
#4 Power Forward: LaMarcus Aldridge
The San Antonio Spurs are quietly making their way through the regular season taking care of business as they always do. I’m certain we can expect to see them in the Western Conference Finals this year, but that’s another story for another time. One player making a huge impact for the Spurs this year is forward LaMarcus Aldridge. As a former understudy to Tim Duncan, Aldridge is a forward that plays like a center. This season, Aldridge is averaging 17 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 2 assists per game. A San Antonio Spur is nothing, if not a great role player under the coaching leadership of Gregg Popovich. Aldridge is no exception. He understands that his job is not to put up three point shots as he attempts less than one per game, but he is highly effective at the mid-range game at 48% from the field.
#5 Center: Karl-Anthony Towns
The Minnesota Timberwolves are in the middle of rebuilding, and experiencing all the challenges that come along with that difficult process. However, their young lineup promises to be something very special when they get a little more experience under their belt. One player who stands out above the rest is second-year stud Karl-Anthony Towns. He is just 21 years old and is coming off his Rookie of the Year season. This young franchise player is already averaging 22.2 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game. Towns also adds a couple blocks to each matchup with his 7-foot 244-pound frame. Towns averages 48% from the field and is able to draw fouls nicely shooting a high percentage rarely seen in this NBA for a man of his stature at 80%. Towns also has a unique leadership ability and once he becomes slightly more aggressive on D he will be virtually unstoppable.