The NBA will announce the starters of the 2021 NBA All-Star Game on Friday, a game in which most NBA stars have said they don’t want to play in due to, you know, a pandemic. As much as we absolutely need another round of NBA players playing horse in their driveways and backyard courts, the All-Star announcements (and not an actual game you greedy bastards) come at a time when most basketball fans need a break from what’s actually going on in the real world. This season is different from most for many reasons and one of them is that there are about 50 players who actually deserve to be named an All-Star this year. Unexpected youngsters like Shai Gilgious-Alexander, Collin Sexton, and Jerami Grant are having breakout season while veterans including DeMar DeRozan, Julius Randle, Andre Drummond, and even John Wall are having a career renaissance and are leading teams most thought were going to be at the bottom of the standings to playoff contention. Some selections were simple, some were excruciating, without further ado here are my picks for the 2021 NBA All-Star teams.
Eastern Conference Starters
Guard: Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
Guard: Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics
Frontcourt: Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets
Frontcourt: Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
Frontcourt: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
The frontcourt trio in the East is probably the easiest choice to make this season. Durant, Embiid, and Giannis are all having remarkable seasons and sit respectively somewhere in the top 10 of the MVP conversation. Durant is playing just as well if not slightly better than ever in his career, even after being sidelined for 18 months with what could have been a career ending Achilles injury. KD is averaging 29 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game on a near 50/40/90 split (52.4/43.4/86.9) for the third place Nets. At 32 Durant could realistically win his second career MVP award while leading the Nets super team to the third championship of his career. Embiid might be the current odds on favorite to win the MVP (currently third according to FanDuel) and has led the Sixers to the best record in the East. Giannis is still Giannis and while he won’t win a third straight MVP, he is still one of the best players in the league and will be an absolute force to be reckoned with in the Eastern Conference Playoffs. The guard selections were much harder to make. I went will Beal simply because he’s been the best offensive guard in the league and leads the NBA in scoring at 32.9 points per game. At the second guard position I selected Jaylen Brown as a starter over Kyrie Irving and James Harden because Brown has been playing at a high level on both sides of the floor for the entire season. Brown is up to 26 points per game with 5.7 rebounds and 3.4 assists. Tatum is still the leader and most talented player on the Celtics but Jaylen Brown deserves a lot of credit and is a sneaky MVP dark horse.
Eastern Conference Reserves
Guard: Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls
Guard: Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn Nets
Frontcourt: Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
Frontcourt: Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks
Frontcourt: Domantas Sabonis, Indiana Pacers
Wild Card: James Harden, Brooklyn Nets
Wild Card: Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers
Of the reserves Tatum, Middleton, Kyrie, and Harden are mortal locks to make the team. Tatum is having the best season of his young career averaging 25.6 points, 7.1 rebounds, and a career high 4.5 assists per game for a pretty good Celtics team. Middleton is one of the best two way players in the NBA and is in serious contention for a 50/40/90 season (51/44.4/90) and is going to make his third straight All-Star team. Since Kyrie came back from his mental health break he’s been one of the best offensive players in the league. In the last 13 games he’s averaging 28.8 points on 55 percent shooting. Kyrie’s new teammate James Harden has been the one of the best playmakers in the NBA since he got traded and started giving a shit in Brooklyn. That leaves three open slots that about 15 players have a chance to fill. I picked Zach LaVine, Domantas Sabonis, and Ben Simmons to round out the roster. LaVine is an offensive monster averaging 28.5 points per game and the Bulls are officially back so he has to be an All-Star. Maybe Adam Silver can coax him into another dunk contest if he actually makes the team. I had to find a way to get a Pacer in there since they’re one of the few Eastern Conference teams that aren’t pretty bad. It came down to Sabonis and Malcolm Brogdon with Sabonis being the easy choice to make back to back All-Star games. Sabonis has become a great playmaker from the post averaging a career high 5.7 assists per game. I reserved the last wild card spot for someone who can actually play defense and that person is undoubtedly Ben Simmons. Simmons leads the league in defensive box plus minus and averages a combined 2.5 blocks and steals per game. The former top pick is arguably the best wing defender in the league and will give the East their best chance to lock down LeBron, Curry, and Lillard. Guys who just missed the roster include: Bam Adebayo, Julius Randle, Trae Young, Nikola Vucevic, and Gordon Hayward.
Western Conference Starters
Guard: Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors
Guard: Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
Frontcourt: LeBron James, Los Angeles
Frontcourt: Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Clippers
Frontcourt: Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
Four of the five starting spots in the West are no-brainers. LeBron, Kawhi, and Jokic in the front court are miles ahead of any other forwards in the West, and Steph Curry is playing like his unanimous MVP self even though it’s for a middling team. LeBron is the MVP of the league so far and Jokic isn’t terribly far behind while Kawhi is always the biggest superstar who has to exert the least effort in order to take over a game. The second guard spot is where you can go a few different ways. There is a very substantial case to be made for Luka Doncic starting in place of Damian Lillard. Doncic is nearly averaging a triple double and is arguably the most impactful player for any one team. I chose Lillard as the starter because his play has vaulted the Blazers into a top five seed in the West, mostly without C.J. McCollum, and is every bit the offensive threat that Luka is, maybe minus a little playmaking ability. I want to see Steph and Dame just bomb logo threes during a game that absolutely should not actually take place.
Western Conference Reserves
Guard: Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks
Guard: Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz
Frontcourt: Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers
Frontcourt: Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
Frontcourt: Paul George, Los Angeles Clippers
Wild Card: Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans
Wild Card: Chris Paul, Phoenix Suns
Like the East, the West reserves have several complete locks to make the team including: Luka, Anthony Davis, Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert and Paul George. Luka arguably should be a starter ahead of Lillard. The Slovenian superstar is arguably the most important offensive player in the game averaging 29.1 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 9.4 assists per game. Donovan Mitchell is the leader of the best team in the league and his teammate Rudy Gobert is in line to win his third DPOY award this season for the Jazz. Paul George has missed the last seven games with a foot injury and should be back before the All-Star break. The same can’t be said for Davis who strained his achilles and will likely be sidelined for a few weeks. There’s a good chance that Davis gets picked for the team and then someone else takes his spot as an injury replacement. That leaves two wild-card spots open in the loaded West. I decided to pick Zion Williamson only because he’s one of the most exciting players in the NBA. Contrary to what J.E. Skeets wants you to think, Zion is a walking highlight, especially since Stan Van Gundy figured out how to properly use him as a driver and a cutter from the wing. Zion is averaging 25 points per game and dunking all over the league in his second season and will be one of the most exciting All-Star players for the next decade and a half. The last spot is reserved for the point god Chris Paul. CP3 is the reason the Suns are actually good this season and deserves to make his 11th and what might end up being his last All-Star game. The snubs in the West include: Mike Conley, Devin Booker, De’Aaron Fox, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, DeMar DeRozan, and Christian Wood.