Sport Who should start in the 2021 NBA All-Star Game? A first look at the front-runners

01:06  30 january  2021
01:06  30 january  2021 Source:   sportingnews.com

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It's still unknown if there will actually be an All-Star Game this season, but one thing we do know is that there will still be All-Stars.

Voting for the 2021 NBA All-Star Game opened at noon Eastern Time on Jan. 28 and will conclude at 11:59 p.m. on Feb. 16. As was the case last season, fans, media and players will select the starters for the Western Conference and Eastern Conference, whereas the NBA's head coaches will select the reserves.

Cast your vote for your All-Stars here

A lot can change between now and end of voting, but which players have positioned themselves to be named an All-Star starter?

Here's an early look at who the front-runners are at the two guard positions and three frontcourt positions up for grabs in each conference.

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Western Conference All-Star starter front-runners

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G: Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers

There are three players currently fighting for two guard positions in the Western Conference: Lillard, Stephen Curry and Luka Doncic. You can't go wrong with any combination, but Lillard gets the first spot for me. His numbers are slightly better than Curry's and his Blazers (9-8) are ahead of both the Warriors (10-9) and Mavericks (8-10) in the Western Conference standings. That's despite four of their five starters missing time recently with injuries. The Blazers can always count on Lillard.

G: Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks

Again, we're splitting hairs here, but Doncic gets the second guard spot for now. While he hasn't quite lived up to preseason expectations of being the favourite for MVP, he's still averaging a near triple-double with 27.4 points, 9.7 assists and 9.4 rebounds per game. He's bounced back quickly from a shaky start and the Mavericks should start rattling off more wins as they get everyone back to full strength.

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FC: LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers

We don't need to spend much time on LeBron's case. He proved that he's still the best player in the league when he led the Lakers to the championship last season and he's hit the ground running this season, establishing himself as the early front-runner for MVP. What he's doing in his age-36 season is remarkable.

FC: Kawhi Leonard, LA Clippers

Leonard's scoring is down slightly from last season, but he's still averaging 25.9 points per game while shooting 50.5 percent from the field, 41.9 percent from 3-point range and 90.0 percent from the free throw line, putting him in the mix to join the exclusive 50-40-90 club. He's also averaging a career-best 5.7 assists per game while sporting a miniscule turnover rate. He and Paul George, who is back in the All-Star mix following a down season, have the Clippers looking like a threat to win it all.

FC: Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets

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Jokic got off to a slow start last season. This season? Not so much. Through the first 14 games, Jokic was averaging a triple-double to the tune of 25.1 points, 11.4 rebounds and 10.0 assists. His assists have taken a hit lately, but he's still scoring and rebounding at a high rate. More importantly, the Nuggets are back to their winning ways. Riding a five-game winning streak, they're now closing in on the Jazz, Clippers and Lakers at the top of the Western Conference standings.

Apologies to: Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors; Paul George, LA Clippers

Eastern Conference All-Star starter front-runners

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G: Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards

Beal is leading the NBA in scoring with 35.4 points per game. He's been efficient, too, shooting 48.1 percent from the field, 36.6 percent from 3-point range and 88.5 percent from the free throw line. As much of a struggle as it's been for the Wizards (3-11), Trae Young started in last season's All-Star Game despite the Atlanta Hawks having the second-worst record in the league. It helps Beal's case that this spot isn't as crowded as some of the others, although James Harden could very well crash this party in the coming weeks.

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G: Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics

Brown came close to earning the first All-Star selection of his career last season. This season, he's almost certainly going to be an All-Star. He might even start. Not only is he among the league leaders in scoring with 27.1 points per game, his efficiency is off the charts. Through 17 games, Brown has connected on 44.1 percent of his 3-point attempts, 56.8 percent of his midrange attempts and 71.3 percent of his field goal attempts in the restricted area. His shot chart is a thing of beauty.

FC: Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets

Durant has played so well that it's easy to forget that he missed the entire 2019-20 season with a torn Achilles. He's up to 30.5 points per game on .517/.444/.860 shooting splits. The season is still young, but he's only ever had a higher True Shooting Percentage once in his career. To boot, Durant is posting 7.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game, both of which are around his career average. He hasn't skipped a beat.

FC: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

It's going to be difficult for Antetokounmpo to win a third straight MVP award, but he's still putting up MVP-like numbers. His averages of 26.8 points, 11.0 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 1.1 blocks? Only four players have ever posted them in a single season: Larry Bird (once), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (once), DeMarcus Cousins (once) and ... Antetokounmpo, who is on pace to do it a third time. The Bucks haven't been quite as dominant as last season, but they still have the second-best record in the Eastern Conference.

FC: Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers

Embiid has been arguably the league's Most Valuable Player to this point of the season. He's averaging a career-best 27.7 points per game, doing so on 54.6 percent shooting from the field and 40.0 percent from 3-point range, to go along with 11.1 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.4 blocks. The 76ers, who have the best record in the Eastern Conference, are 13-2 in the games he has played and 0-4 in the games he hasn't. He's been the catalyst to their success on both ends of the court. This is a no-brainer.

Apologies to: James Harden, Brooklyn Nets; Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks; Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics

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