Upside Hoops 2021 NBA All-Star Candidates and Selections

ESPN recently reported that the NBA is moving towards having an All-Star game this season. This makes the voting of the All-Stars a bit more exciting. Voting for All-Star starters started this week and will continue through February 16th. The starters will be announced on February 18th and the reserves will be announced on February 23rd.

The votes for All-Star starters come from three different places: Fans account for 50%, players for 25%, and media for 25%. When voting for starters, there are two guards selected from each conference and three front court players selected from each conference. Then, head coaches will vote on the reserves from their conference. They will vote for two guards, three front court players, and two wild cards.

Overall, there are twelve All-Stars from each conference (even though the All-Star game is no longer Western Conference vs Eastern Conference). Before selecting my All-Star selections, I will go team by team and discuss any All-Star candidates from each team.

 

Atlanta Hawks

Clint Capela, Front Court

Currently averaging career highs in both rebounds (14.4, 2nd in the NBA) and blocks (2.4, 3rd in the NBA), Capela has been a huge part of the Hawks success this season. They’ve gone from one of the worst defenses in the NBA last season to the top ten this season. Although Capela doesn’t need to be a huge scoring threat, his points will likely go up as his pick n roll chemistry with Trae Young continues to grow.

Trae Young, Guard

Although Young seems to have taken a step back (or least stayed stagnant) thus far this season, he’s still showing he’s one of the best offensive players in the game. Despite a rough stretch after being criticized by Nets’ head coach Steve Nash and called out in a video session by his teammate John Collins, Young is still in the top ten in the NBA in points per a game (26.9) and third in the NBA in assists per a game (9.0).

Honorable Mention: N/A

 

Boston Celtics

Jaylen Brown, Guard

Brown was on the bubble of making the All-Star team last year, but he’s leaving no doubt this season. He’s currently averaging a career high in points, rebounds, steals, blocks, field goal percentage, and three-point field goal percentage. He’s the Celtics leader in scoring and is in the top ten in the NBA (27.1).

Jayson Tatum, Front Court

Tatum missed some time while he was out with Covid-19, but so far this season, similar to his teammate Jaylen Brown, Tatum has continue to improve. He’s averaging a career high in points, rebounds, assists, field goal percentage, and three-point field goal percentage. His continued improvement as a playmaker is what will likely help him become a superstar.

Honorable Mention: N/A

 

Brooklyn Nets

Kevin Durant, Front Court

Durant is playing like he never suffered a torn achilles tendon. He’s second in the NBA in scoring right now (30.9, which would actually be his highest average since his MVP season) and still playing at high level defensively.

James Harden, Guard

The end of the Harden-Rockets era was rough for Harden, on and off the court. However, he quickly showed why the Nets mortgaged their future for him. The 24.8 points per a game he’s averaging with Brooklyn would be the lowest since his days in Oklahoma City, but Harden is also dishing out 11.8 assists per a game (a career high and best in the NBA) while shooting 40% from behind the arc.

Kyrie Irving, Guard

Irving disappeared for a few games and the public still doesn’t have a ton of information on the situation, but when Irving has played, he’s been great. At the moment, Irving is averaging a career high in points per a game (27.6) while shooting career high from the field, three-point line, and free throw line. In fact, he’s on pace to join the prestigious 50-40-90 club.

Honorable Mention: N/A

 

Charlotte Hornets

Gordon Hayward, Front Court

Pretty much everyone laughed when the news broke that Michael Jordan and the Hornets were giving Hayward a $120 million dollar contact over four years. Hayward had become the fourth option on the Celtics and hadn’t looked close to the All-Star we saw in Utah. However, he has shown this season that he’s still capable of being the best player on a team with playoff potential. He’s averaging a career high in points (23.0) while also shooting a career high from the field (50.3%). So despite the added responsibilities, Hayward has become a more efficient scorer.

Honorable Mention: Terry Rozier

 

Chicago Bulls

Zach LaVine, Guard

The Bulls have been a bit disappointing, but LaVine is proving to be one of the best offensive players in the NBA. He’s averaging career highs in points, rebounds, assists, blocks, field goal percentage, three-point field goal percentage, and free throw percentage. LaVine isn’t just a dunking machine anymore. He’s becoming a go-to scorer, and an efficient one at that.

Honorable Mention: Lauri Markkanen

 

Cleveland Cavaliers

Andre Drummond, Front Court

Another players that’s currently is averaging a career high in points (18.5). He’s also the league leader rebounds per a game (15.1). However, his field goal percentage is also at a career low (47.2%, which isn’t a great who mostly shoots inside the paint). But Drummond deserves some recognition and consideration as he’s a big part of why Cleveland has gone from one of the worst teams in the league to potentially a surprise playoff team. Also, remember that time he dated Sam from iCarly and she publicly stated that he was a bad kisser? Not a lot of guys would recover as well as Drummond has. 

Collin Sexton, Guard

Sexton has continued to show that he’s capable of being one of the best scorers in the NBA. At the moment, he’s averaging a career high 24.1 points per a game. His shooting percentages from the field and from the three-point line have both increased, too. However, the biggest improvement Sexton has made this season is as a facilitator. He’s averaging a career high 4.1 assists per a game.

Honorable Mention: N/A

 

Dallas Mavericks

Luka Doncic, Guard

The Mavericks have been one of the most disappointing teams in the NBA this season. Yes, their second best player (Kristaps Porzingis) missed the beginning of the season. But there were high expectations for this team with Doncic continuing to show he’s a superstar as they pushed the Clippers to six games in the 1st round of last years playoffs. Despite the rough start for the team, Doncic continues to show he’s a superstar. He’s continued to improve as a playmaker with assists increasing and turnovers decreasing. His scoring is close to the same as last year and his field goal percentage is even a bit better. However, he’s shooting a Westbrook-esque 29.3% behind the three-point line on 7 attempts a game. Despite the struggles from behind the arc, if the Mavericks get back into the playoff race, Doncic should find himself in the middle of the MVP conversation.

Honorable Mention: Kristaps Porzingis

 

Denver Nuggets

Nikola Jokic, Front Court

One of the current front runners in the MVP race, Jokic has continued to show he’s a legit superstar. He’s averaging a career high in points, rebounds, and assists. His field goal percentage and three-point field goal percentage are career highs, too. He’s the only player in the NBA who ranks in the top ten in all of points, rebounds, and assists per a game. Jokic is the best offensive center in the NBA.

Jamal Murray, Guard

Murray put the league on notice with his performance in the playoffs last year. This season, he’s averaging a career high in points, but looks much closer to the fringe All-Star that he was in the regular season last year than the superstar we saw in the bubble.

Michael Porter Jr., Front Court

Porter missed a good amount of games due to Covid, but when he has been on the court, Porter has continued to show a lot of promise. He’s pushing Murray for the #2 option on offense behind Jokic. Porter is in the top ten in effective field goal percentage and top fifteen in true shooting percentage. He’s also made half of his three-pointers this season.

Honorable Mention: N/A

 

Detroit Pistons

Jerami Grant, Front Court

Many were baffled when the Pistons gave Grant his three-year, $60 million contract. However, he has thrived as the Pistons #1 option on offense. He’s averaging a career high in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and three-point field goal percentage. Grant has handled the increased usage percentage (18% to 26%) very well, but hasn’t seen a ton of team success.

Honorable Mention: N/A

 

Golden State Warriors

Stephen Curry, Guard

Curry doesn’t have a ton of help offensively, but that hasn’t slowed him down from still being one of the best shooters (and scorers) in the NBA. His 27.7 points per a game currently has him in the top five in the entire league while he also hits 40.8% of his nearly eleven three-point attempts a game. This isn’t MVP-level Curry, but he’s certainly the conversation to be a starter in the All-Star game.

Honorable Mention: Andrew Wiggins

 

Houston Rockets 

Christian Wood, Front Court

Many weren’t sure if Wood could sustain the numbers he was putting up for the Pistons after they traded Drummond and put Wood in the starting lineup. However, he’s been just as good if not better so far this season. He’s averaging a career high in points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, and three-point field goal percentage. The only player besides Wood that is averaging at least 20 points and 10 rebounds a game while shooting 55% from the field is Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Honorable Mention: Victor Oladipo, John Wall

 

Indiana Pacers

Malcolm Brogdon, Guard

Brogdon likely won’t ever be a superstar, but he continues to be consistently solid. He’s averaging 22.9 points per a game (a career high) while being the main distributor in the Pacers offense. He won’t have another 50-40-90 season, but his .457/.404/.896 shooting line is still great.

Domantas Sabonis, Front Court

Sabonis made his first All-Star game last season and has gotten even better this season. His scoring and assists averages have increased and he’s also started to become a threat from behind the three-point line (32.7% on 2.6 attempts a game). The only player with more double-doubles than Sabonis (18) this season is Jokic (20).

Myles Turner, Front Court

Turner is the league leader in blocks per a game (3.9,  a career high) and one of the front runners for Defensive Player of the Year. On top of being absolute dominant defensively, he’s also become a more efficient scoring. While his 14.1 points per a game aren’t a career high, he is does have a career high in effective field goal percentage (57.8%) and true shooting percentage (61.7%).

Honorable Mention: N/A

 

Los Angeles Clippers

Paul George, Front Court

At the moment, George is on pace to join the 50-40-90 club. He seems to have put last years playoff performance behind him and used the criticism as motivation. While he’s also shown some improvement as a playmaker and is averaging a career high 5.4 assists per a game, he’s also averaging a career high in turnovers per a game (3.8, eighth most in the NBA).

Kawhi Leonard, Front Court

George and Leonard are on pace to become the first teammates ever to become part of the 50-40-90 club in the same season. Similar to George, Leonard has also shown improvement as a playmaker and is averaging a career high 5.4 assists per a game. Unlike George, Leonard has cut down on his turnovers (1.6 per a game, his lowest since the 2015-2016 season).

Honorable Mention: N/A

 

Los Angeles Lakers

Anthony Davis, Front Court

Despite maybe underperforming a bit, especially compared to his performance in the playoffs, Davis is still one of the top players in the NBA and possibly the best defensive player in the NBA. His points per a game are his lowest since his second season in the league while his rebounds per a game are the lowest they’ve been since his rookie season. Although that’s disappointing, it may say more about just how good Davis has been in his career as he’s still a surefire All-Star.

LeBron James, Front Court

Well, he’s 36 years old and still in the middle of the MVP race. When James first entered the league, he showed he could be a great scorer. He mostly used his athleticism. Then, he started to grow into his body and started to use athleticism and strength to be one of the top scorers in the league. Next, he continued to improve as one of the best playmakers and defenders in the league. Now? James has decided to become a three-point sniper. He’s shooting a career high 40.9% behind the arc on 6.8 attempts a game. His previous best three-point shooting seasons were in 2012-2013 (40.6% on 3.3 attempts) and 2013-2014 (37.9% on 4 attempts).

Honorable Mention: N/A

 

Memphis Grizzlies

Ja Morant, Guard

Morant almost definitely won’t make the All-Star team. It’s not that he’s not good enough or doesn’t deserve to, but he’s only played in seven games (due to a combination of injuries and game cancellations). However, in those seven games, Morant has been phenomenal. He’s averaging just under 21 points and 8 assists per a game while improving his efficiency as a scorer (although his three-point shooting hasn’t improved). If Morant can keep it up and continues to play in every Grizzlies game (and their games aren’t cancelled), he could make it interesting.

Honorable Mention: Jonas Valanciunas

 

Miami Heat

Bam Adebayo, Front Court

The Heat have been a disappointment. Yes, Covid-19 and injuries have slowed them down, but they were in the NBA Finals last season and are currently two games ahead of the last place Detroit Pistons in the eastern conference. One of the lone bright spots in Miami has been Adebayo. His points and assists per a game are both up (20.1 and 5.3, respectively) while his scoring efficiency is improved. He’s also already matched his total three-pointers made from last season (2).

Honorable Mention: Jimmy Butler

 

Milwaukee Bucks

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Front Court

Antetokounmpo was going to have to have his best season ever to win a third straight MVP. However, he’s been somewhat underwhelming (by his standards). His points and rebounds per a game are down compared to his MVP seasons while his turnovers are up. In addition, he’s taken a step back as a three-point and free throw shooter. Despite the small setbacks, Antetokounmpo is still one of the most dominant players in the NBA and one of the best defensive players in the league.

Jrue Holiday, Guard

As expected when one goes from primary offensive option to tertiary offensive option, Holiday has seen a dip in most statistical categories. However, playing with Antetokounmpo and Middleton has allowed him to have a career high in both effective field goal percentage (55.6%) and true shooting percentage (57.9%). He continues to be one of the most underrated defenders in the NBA and is averaging a career high 2.1 steals per a game.

Khris Middleton, Guard

It’s that time of year where we look up and realize that Khris Middleton is yet again having an All-Star season despite receiving very little publicity. He’s averaging a career high in points, rebounds, and assists while being on pace to join the 50-40-90 club. Someday, we will appreciate how good of a second option Middleton has become.

Honorable Mention: N/A

 

Minnesota Timberwolves

Karl-Anthony Towns, Front Court

Towns has only played four games this season so he’s not going to make the All-Star team. However, he still deserves some recognition. He was incredible in the four games he did play. He averaged 22 points, 12.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 2.8 blocks in those four games and would likely be considered the best offensive center in the NBA if Jokic didn’t exist.

Honorable Mention: N/A

 

New Orleans Pelicans

Brandon Ingram, Front Court

Ingram is putting up pretty similar numbers to last season, a season in which he was named an All-Star. Combine the fact that he hasn’t taken another step forward with the Pelicans slow start and it’s tough to see Ingram making the team this season. Especially if Williamson gets the nod as coaches will have a tough time rewarding the Pelicans with two All-Stars.

Zion Williamson, Front Court

Williamson continues to be an absolute force offensively, especially inside the paint. He’s averaging 23.5 points a game and pulling down 7.6 rebounds a game. Yet, it still feels like Williamson could do more, especially on the defensive end where he’s only averaging 0.7 blocks a game (he averaged 1.8 in college).

Honorable Mention: N/A

 

New York Knicks

Julius Randle, Front Court

His incredible start to the season was never going to be sustainable, but Randle has still played well enough to be considered in the All-Star conversation. He’s averaging a career high in points, rebounds, assists, three-point field goal percentage, and free throw percentage. His 15 double-doubles are the fourth most in the NBA.

Honorable Mention:

 

Oklahoma City Thunder

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Guard

With both Chris Paul and Dennis Schroder out of the picture, Gilgeous-Alexander has become the clear cut #1 option for the Thunder and has continued to thrive. He’s averaging a career high in points, assists, field goal percentage, and three-point shooting percentage. Despite OKC looking like they were going to completely tank, Gilgeous-Alexander has been too good to let them and has them just outside the top 8 in the western conference.

Honorable Mention: N/A

 

Orlando Magic

Nikola Vucevic, Front Court

There would likely be more hype for Vucevic to make the All-Star team if his team was closer to mediocre as they have been in previous seasons. However, they’ve struggled with injuries and find themselves closer to the bottom of the standings than the playoffs at the moment. Despite the team struggles, Vucevic has had an excellent season. His 22.6 points per a game would be a career high and he’s shooting 44.1% from the three-point line on 6 attempts a game.

Honorable Mention: N/A

 

Philadelphia 76ers

Joel Embiid, Front Court

Like Jokic, Embiid is bringing back the big man. A true center hasn’t won the MVP Award since the turn of the century when Shaquille O’Neal won it. However, Embiid seems to be on track to change that. The 76ers are the best team in the eastern conference and are 14-2 when Embiid is in the lineup. He’s averaging a career high in points (28.3) while shooting a career best 54.5% from the field and 40.4% from the three-point line.

Tobias Harris, Front Court

Harris received a lot of criticism last year after the 76ers decided to pay him and let Butler go to Miami. However, Harris is trying to make good on his contract and has probably been the 76ers second best player this season. He’s averaging a career best 20.3 points per a game while shooting a career high 51.4% from the field and 46.4% from the three-point line. Harris has also shown some defensive improvement and is averaging a career best 1 block a game.

Ben Simmons, Guard

Yes, Simmons can’t shoot. Yes, he’s averaging a career low 13.3 points per a game. However, he’s still one of the best defenders and playmakers in the NBA. His 7.6 assists a game are good enough for sixth in the league and his 1.7 steals a game are the seventh best in the NBA.

Honorable Mention: N/A

 

Phoenix Suns

Devin Booker, Guard

While the Suns have not disappointed after their improvement in the bubble and big off-season, Booker hasn’t really taken a step forward. He’s still have a season worthy of being in the All-Star conversation, but his per game averages are down in points, rebounds, and assists. It’s somewhat understandable considering they added Chris Paul to the lineup, but Booker is also shooting worse from the field compared to last season and is shooting a career worst from the free throw line.

Chris Paul, Guard

His numbers may not jump off the page compared most of the guys on this list, but make no mistake: Chris Paul is still capable of being an All-Star. While Booker has struggled at times (and missed time due to injuries), Paul continues to run the Suns offense and play consistently solid defense. He dishes out 8.7 assists a game (fourth in the NBA) while getting 1.2 steals. To top it off, he’s shooting a career best 96.6% from the free throw line.

Honorable Mention: Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges

 

Portland Trail Blazers

Damian Lillard, Guard

Lillard continues to show each and every night that he’s one of the best offensive players in the NBA. His 28.9 points per a game are third most in the NBA and his 7.2 assists per a game eighth most. Portland has underperformed a bit, but they’ve also suffered a ton of injuries again. Lillard has kept them in the thick of the playoff race despite losing McCollum and Nurkic.

CJ McCollum, Guard

You have to feel for McCollum. With the way he was playing, he was almost definitely going to be an All-Star this season, which would’ve been his first selection. McCollum is in the discussion for best player in the NBA to never make an All-Star team and thanks to his foot injury, he’ll continue to be in that discussion. Before his injury, McCollum was averaging a career best 26.7 points, 5 assists, and 1.3 steals. In addition, his field goal percentage of 47.3% and three-point field goal percentage of 44.1% (on eleven attempts a game) were both career highs.

Honorable Mention: N/A

 

Sacramento Kings

De’Aaron Fox, Guard

Unless he takes a huge step forward, it’s going to be tough for Fox to make an All-Star team as long as he’s on a team as bad as the Kings. He’s certainly good enough to be in the All-Star conversation and is averaging a career best in points (22.1), but hasn’t improved vastly in any way.

Honorable Mention: N/A

 

San Antonio Spurs

DeMar DeRozan, Guard

The Spurs in the bubble reminded us that we should never count the Spurs out, especially while Gregg Popovich is still their head coach. They’re currently a game over .500 and on the cusp of the playoffs. DeRozan has continued to show that he’s still an All-Star and has been the best player on the Spurs. He may be averaging under 20 points for the first time since 2012-2013, but he’s averaging a career high in assists (6.6) and shooting a career best from the three-point line (35.1% on 1.9 attempts) and free throw line (87.8% on 6.5 attempts). He’s also become a much more efficient shooter compared to early in his career and has a 59.8% true shooting percentage and 51.4% effective field goal percentage.

Honorable Mention: Dejounte Murray

 

Toronto Raptors

Fred VanVleet, Guard

After surprising everyone last season by remaining competitive after losing Kawhi Leonard, the Raptors have been a disaster this season. They’re four games under .500 but, luckily for them, the eastern conference is top heavy and the Raptors are just 1.5 games out of the top eight. While the Raptors have a good core, VanVleet may be the only one who’s earned the right to be in the All-Star conversation this season (although Boucher has quietly been great). VanVleet is averaging a career high 18.8 points and his playmaking has remained solid. In addition, he set a Raptors franchise record and record for undrafted players by scoring 54 points in a game. However, his shooting percentages are down on the season.

Honorable Mention: Chris Boucher, Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam

 

Utah Jazz

Jordan Clarkson, Guard

One of the front runners for the 6th Man of the Year award, Clarkson is off to a hot start. He’s averaging a career high 17.7 points a game to go along with a career high 4.6 rebounds a game. In addition, he’s shooting a career best 46.1% from the field, 38.4% from behind the arc (on 8 attempts), and a NBA best 97.2% from the charity stripe.

Mike Conley, Guard

Conley is the President of the “Never Been an All-Star Club”. However, he has a good chance to be removed this year. His 16.6 points per a game are far from a career high, but he is doing it with a career best 55.5% effective field goal percentage. He’s also adding a solid 6.2 assists, 1.5 steals, and making 40.7% of his 7 three-point attempts each game.

Rudy Gobert, Front Court

Shaq can make fun of Gobert all he wants for not being the type of guy that averages 20 points a game, but Gobert remains one of the best defensive players in the league. Gobert is averaging a career high 13.8 rebounds (third in the NBA) and 2.7 blocks a game (second in the NBA). His 60.6% field goal percentage is also good enough for seventh in the league. He’s arguably been the best player on one of the top three teams in the NBA this season.

Donovan Mitchell, Guard

Maybe Shaq just really doesn’t like the Jazz? Despite maybe not going about it the best way, it’s possible Shaq did have a good point about Mitchell possibly never reaching that next level. Can he be more than a guy who’s in the All-Star conversation every year but not definitely an All-Star every year? His points and rebounds per a game are down from last season. While his assists (4.8) are a career high, he’s also averaging a career worst 3.2 turnovers a game. The most encouraging stat may be his career high 39.4% three-point shooting percentage (on 8.6 attempts). While Mitchell may be the best player on one of the best teams in the league, it’s possible the Jazz have improved more due to the improvements of Clarkson and Conley than Mitchell.

Honorable Mention: N/A

 

Washington Wizards

Bradley Beal, Guard

Yes, his team is terrible (even though half their wins this season have come against the Nets), but Beal should not be snubbed from the All-Star team like he was last season. He’s averaging a league leading 34.9 points a game (four points higher than the second most). He’s doing this while shooting the second best true shooting percentage of his career (58.8%). In addition, he’s pulling down a career high 5.1 rebounds a game.

Honorable Mention: Russell Westbrook

 

Eastern Conference All-Stars

Starting Lineup

Joel Embiid

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Kevin Durant

Jaylen Brown

James Harden

Reserves

Bam Adebayo

Bradley Beal

Kyrie Irving

Khris Middleton

Domantas Sabonis

Jayson Tatum

Trae Young

Just Missed (one guard, one front court)

Gordon Hayward

Zach LaVine

 

Western Conference All-Stars

Starting Lineup

Nikola Jokic

LeBron James

Kawhi Leonard

Luka Doncic

Damian Lillard

Reserves

Mike Conley

Stephen Curry

Anthony Davis

Paul George

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Rudy Gobert

Christian Wood

Just Missed (one guard, one front court)

CJ McCollum

Zion Williamson

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