2017 NBA All Star Game Preview
The 2017 NBA All-Star game is right around the corner. Originally scheduled to take place in North Carolina, the weekend will now be hosted by New Orleans and the Smoothie King Center. The game is scheduled for Sunday, February 19.
Before we get there (and to the Slam Dunk Contest and Three-Point Contest), we first have to set the rosters. Fan voting for the all-star rosters, as well as player and media voting, is currently going on and will end on January 16. On January 19, we will know the official lineups. Until then, it is time to speculate.
We have some early returns on fan voting results as of 1/12, according to NBA.com. Fan voting counts for 50 percent of the determination in naming the 10 starters for the contest.
Based on the numbers thus far, our Eastern Conference all-stars would be LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving, and Dwyane Wade. There are very close battles for the final frontcourt and final guard spots, but right now, three Cleveland Cavaliers would be starting in the game.
Out West, the starting group currently includes Kevin Durant, Zaza Pachulia, Kawhi Leonard, Stephen Curry, and James Harden. Like the Cavs in the East, the Golden State Warriors have three starters in the West, though few expected the third banana to be Pachulia. He is obviously undeserving from a basketball standpoint, but the Pachulia faithful have once again flooded the voting thus far to get him in over the likes of Anthony Davis. Because of the tweak that fan voting only counts for 50 percent of a player's consideration now, Pachulia is not going to sneak in like he almost did last season. At guard, Russell Westbrook is lurking right behind both Curry and Harden for a starting spot.
Even if the starters remain the same as they currently stand, nearly everyone on the precipice of starting should receive a bench spot on the roster anyway. That includes DeMar DeRozan, Isaiah Thomas, and Jimmy Butler in the East and Anthony Davis, leading MVP candidate Russell Westbrook, and a few more Warriors in the West.
The lone exception could be Joel Embiid. Embiid has been phenomenal this season and could slide into the Eastern Conference's starting lineup if his support picks up a tick. However, he has played very little compared to some of his peers. Embiid currently ranks fourth in Eastern Conference frontcourt voting. Ranking fifth is Butler, who has played nearly 1,400 minutes already this season. Because of routine days off and minutes restrictions, Embiid has played less than half that total. It remains to be seen if voters will hold that against him or reward him for his crazy impressive per-36-minute figures.
Keep an eye on the center position. Because of the simple "frontcourt" distinction in voting, versatile and exciting forwards hog all the votes. There is no longer a starting center per se. However, there are a few centers who could deserve inclusion nevertheless. We know the fans aren't considering them, but maybe the players and media will.