By Joshua M Hicks (@jhicks042)
NBA All-Star Weekend 2020 is almost here and the brightest stars and celebrities are coming to Chi-Town for what could will be the livest ASW in quite a while.
Our first step to the big festivities took place Thursday night as the starters for the All-Star Game were announced on TNT. Remember, though these leading vote-getters all represent their respective conferences, the players will be selected by the top vote-getters, representing as team captains for the squads who will wind up playing on February 16th at the United Center.
Representing the East as starters are Kemba Walker, Trae Young, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Pascal Siakim and Joel Embiid while the West starters are Luka Doncic, James Harden, LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis.
There’s no lack of players in the league who are All-Star worthy — and I have no qualms with the starters, as you can see below — but here are the players I believe should fill out the rosters in Chicago next month:
- Giannis Antetokounmpo – The Greek Freak has been making a solid case as to why he deserves to repeat as the league’s MVP. Having improved in almost every category of his stats from last year’s MVP season, Antetokounmpo is averaging 30 points, 13 rebounds, 6 assists on 55 percent from the field and 32% from three-point range while also leading the Bucks to the No. 1 seed in the East.
- Joel Embiid – The Sixers big man is arguably the best post-player in the game, and he has played like it in spurts so far throughout the season. Averaging 23 points and 12 rebounds on 47% from the field and 32% from the three. The Sixers are sixth in the East, but if Embiid plays at this caliber come playoff time, this team will be very scary to face at any seed.
- Pascal Siakam – Siakam really made a name for himself last season as part of a championship run in Toronto. Siakam also won a major award last season (Most Improved Player), but similar to Giannis, he has improved on top of last season’s success, averaging 24 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists on 46% and 38% from the three. With the Raptors currently third in the East, Siakam is showing he is a true franchise cornerstone player that can keep a championship contender afloat, especially with the departure of their Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard.
- Kemba Walker – Walker has gelled in pretty well with his new team, and his performance highlights not only the fact that he is having another All-Star year, but the success of the Celtics, who currently sit fourth in the East, as a team. Walker isn’t matching the statistics he had as a clear No. 1 option in Charlotte, but he is shooting the ball at a more efficient rate than he ever has in his career, averaging 45% from the field and 39% from three.
- Trae Young – Although the Hawks are on the low end of the Eastern Conference, Young has been on a tear this season. In only his second year, Young has become one of the most exciting players in the league, improving his play greatly and showing himself to have a great impact on the game in spite of having just about nothing around him on one of the league’s worst teams. Young averages 29 points and 9 assists on 44% shooting and 37% from three.
Reserves (according to In The Scope):
- Bam Adebayo – The third-year player for the Miami Heat has surprised the league with his diverse game, making a strong case for Most Improved Player. Adebayo is averaging 16 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists and playing a key role in Miami having a successful season so far, sitting as the No. 2 seed.
- Jimmy Butler – Butler should join his teammate Adebayo in the All-Star game. We all know he is one of the best two-way players in the game, but this year may be the most significant of Butler’s career due to his leadership and timely contributions. Averaging 20 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists, he’s the unquestioned leader of one of the league’s best stories.
- Kyrie Irving – All-Star games are known for flashy plays and razzle-dazzle under the bright lights, so Irving is the type of guy you must have on your team. Irving has only played 15 games, but within those 15 games he has played like the shifty offensive killer we all are accustom to. Baring he can stay healthy over the next couple weeks, it would be nice to see him be himself in another All-Star platform.
- Zach LaVine – LaVine is having a career year and playing at a high rate although his team is squarely out of the playoff race at the moment. When the Bulls do win it is often because LaVine performs in clutch moments and is displaying his improved offensive arsenal. LaVine is averaging a career high 25 points and shooting 39% from three. The All-Star game should feature a hosting team’s best player if he is worthy. LaVine has proven that he is.
- Derrick Rose – Last but not least, if we’re talking about true representations of Chicago basketball, we must not forget the hometown sensation in D-Rose. A return to the All-Star platform is not only well-deserving of D-Rose this year but it’d be great timing. Averaging 18 points and 6 assists on 49% shooting, this is already a season to remember for Rose, but to return to one of the league’s biggest stages in his hometown is a reunion worth writing in the history books.
- Jayson Tatum – Tatum has made a major jump from last season to be one of the top go-to players offensively for the Celtics, especially in clutch situations. Tatum has boosted his scoring average five points from last year (21 ppg) and improved in his rebounding and passing. His overall effectiveness has helped keep Boston a top-five team in the East.
- Bradley Beal – Beal may not be on a thriving team in the Washington Wizards that is currently without John Wall, but he has stepped up and performed at All-Star levels consistently night in and out, averaging 27 points and 6 assists, both career highs.
- LeBron James – Even in year 17, King James is still ruling the kingdom as the best player in the league, and isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. James is averaging 25 points, 8 rebounds and league high 11 assists a game while leading the Lakers to the best record in the league.
- Anthony Davis – What’s better than one Chicago reunion? How about two? Besides joining his teammate in the All-Star weekend festivities, Davis will also be enjoying a homecoming experience on one of the biggest stages Chicago has had post-Dynasty. Assisting James as the go-to person within the Lakers offense and being an encouraging anchor on defense, Davis is averaging 27 points, 12 rebounds and roughly 3 blocks a game.
- Kawhi Leonard – The league’s innovator in load management, Leonard has carefully rode his body to a legacy-defining NBA champion and Finals MVP within the past year along with transferring much of the league’s base of power back to LA. On the court, Leonard’s latest All-Star appearance is representative of his status as the league’s most elite two-way player, averaging 27 points and 2 steals a game.
- James Harden – Harden has made everyone “Fear The Beard” this season, averaging just under 37 points a game for a second straight season, a kind of extended scoring run the league hasn’t seen since Kobe Bryant in the mid-aughts.
- Luka Doncic – Like Young, Doncic has turned the NBA upside down with his aggressive play and offensive skillset and made Dallas into a competitor in the in the West again. Played at an extremely high rate, Doncic has become the new triple-double king, averaging 29 points, 9 assists and 10 rebounds on the season.
Reserves (according to In The Scope):
- Carmelo Anthony – After being out of the game for two years due to his supposed lack of skill and supportive chemistry, Melo has put on a great comeback story. In his 17th season Anthony has shown he can still hoop with not missing a beat, averaging 16 points a game as a third option and sometimes clutch option for the Blazers.
- Damian Lillard – Dame Dolla has cashed in this season, although Portland’s poor record speaks otherwise. Lillard is averaging 28 points a game, and recently erupted for 61 points against the Warriors.
- Paul George – PG-13 has a chance to potentially bring a movie reel full of highlights to one of its biggest and most entertaining stages. Coming back from double surgery, he has made himself one-half of one of the best duos in the league with Leonard.
- Russell Westbrook – Westbrook has continued to be Westbrook, even in a different uniform in Houston. Russ has averaged nearly another triple-double so far and remains a fan favorite that always demonstrates his competitive edge and can get you some memorable highlights at any given time, no matter the game.
- Devin Booker – Booker has been the star of the Suns since he was drafted, but this year he has played at an elite level, and found ways to keep the Suns relevant against good competition. Booker is averaging 27 points and 6 assists.
- Brandon Ingram – Ingram has made the most of his new fresh start with the Pelicans and is having a career year, averaging career highs in points (26), rebounds (7) and assists (4).
- Donavan Mitchell – Mitchell is continuing where he left off last year, and his leadership has helped made the Jazz the second-best team in the West. Mitchell is averaging 25 points and 4 assists.
The NBA All-Star Game’s Draft Night will be aired live on TNT, Thursday, February 6 at 6 p.m. CT.
Joshua M. Hicks is a Senior Writer for WARR Media