NEW: Casey’s NBA all-star predictions

photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

By Sean Casey 

The NBA all-star game voting is coming to a close, and the game is set to take place on March 7.

The all-star game usually entails an accompanying weekend, but this year, all the events will be happening on one night. There will be no rising stars game or celebrity game like usual, but the league’s best players will still be competing in the skills challenge and 3-point contest, which is set to take place before the game, and the dunk contest, which will be the halftime entertainment.  

The all-star game itself is usually highly anticipated and looked forward too, but this year with limited fans and the risk of having all the NBA’s star players in one place at the same time, there is more concern than hype for some people. 

Although I believe the game will still be entertaining, a lot of the excitement for the game from myself and many other fans is the anticipation of which players are selected to play. Being an all-star is a great honor, and something that players can keep on their career resumes forever. However, there could only be 12 from each conference, so this sparks much debate on who should be on, and who should be left off. There are so many talented players in the league right now, and it is hard to choose just 12 from each conference. As of today, an astounding 42 players are averaging more than twenty points per game. That is a remarkable number and really displays the amount of talent in the NBA. 

The picks I will give are not so much my predictions. I would consider it more of my ballot on who I think deserves to be in there. I will leave off some people who are deserving of an all-star nod, but I’ll say it again, there are only 12 spots in each conference, so there is a chance I snub your favorite player. Each conference gets a starting five with two guards and three forwards, another five off the bench with the same criteria, and then two wild cards with no position limitations. Without further delay, let’s get into the all-stars. 

Eastern Conference 

Starters 

G: Bradley Beal– Beal is leading the league in points per game with 32.8 and is the only reason why the Wizards are not in last place in the east right now. 

G: James Harden- It’s hard not to account for those five games in Houston where Harden did not exert any effort, but since arriving in Brooklyn, Harden has been very good. Leading the league in assists per game and playing well when Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant are not on the floor, I think Harden has earned his right to be a starter. 

F: Kevin Durant- Durant has had a tough go this year with COVID-19 protocols and nagging injuries, but when he has been on the court, you would never guess he is coming off a ruptured achilles. Durant looks like himself, getting buckets wherever and whenever he wants, and will most likely be the captain for the Eastern Conference. 

F: Giannis Antetokounmpo- Giannis has taken a slight step back this year coming off of back-to-back MVP’s, but he is still playing great basketball is on one of the best teams in the East, and still one of the best defenders.  

F: Joel Embiid- Embiid is playing like a man on a mission after coming off of a first-round playoff sweep by the Celtics last season. Embiid has arguably been the most impactful player is the league this year, having the 76ers hold first place in the East with a 19-10 record. When Embiid has not played, the 76ers are 1-5 and when he does play, they are 18-5. The Joel Embiid for MVP hype train is real, and the 76ers are rolling. 

Bench 

B: Jaylen Brown- Jaylen Brown has taken a huge leap offensively this season, averaging nearly 26 points per game compared to his 20 points per game last season. His defense has been great too, and although the Celtics are in a slight slump right now, that shouldn’t take anything away from how great on both offense and defense Jaylen Brown has been. 

B: Ben Simmons- The criticism for Ben Simmons has been loud this season, but I really do not get why. We understand he can’t shoot, but look at the other parts of his game. He is one of the league’s best defenders and probably the best defenders out of the guards, playmaking is great, and he is on the one seed in the east. The Simmons slander is too much, and he is an all-star in my eyes. 

B: Khris Middleton– Middleton is quietly becoming a perennial all-star and people don’t seem to realize. He is not the most electric player, but his defense and scoring have both been tremendous this year and he deserves more recognition. 

B: Jayson Tatum– Tatum’s defense has not been amazing this year, but offensively he is so great you cannot leave him off the all-star team. His scoring is obviously his best attribute, but he has been a great playmaker this year creating open shots for his teammates. 

B: Bam Adebayo– Bam has been the steady force on a dysfunctional Miami Heat team that is struggling with injuries and Covid issues greatly. Bam has had to be the teams number one guy with Butler missing time, and he has not disappointed and has been great on both sides of the ball, and a great rebounder. 

WC: Kyrie Irving- It’s hard for me to put three Brooklyn Nets on my ballot, but I have to include Kyrie. If he continues to play how he is now, Kyrie is set to join the 50-40-90 club on 28 points per game. His three-point shooting has been unreal. He had a little stint where he missed some games for reasons we still don’t know, but when kyrie plays he is one of the most fun players in the league and a deserving all-star. 

WC: Julius Randle– The last wild card spot was tough, but I had to go with Julius Randle. Randle has been better than anyone could have imagined and is a huge reason why the Knicks are in the playoff picture as of now. He is averaging a double-double with 23 points and 11 rebounds, and is among the league leaders in minutes per game. There are a bunch more guys in the east that deserve an all star nod, but I couldn’t give it to anyone other than Randle himself. 

Western Conference 

Starters 

G: Stephen Curry- Curry has not been in many people’s MVP discussions, but what he is doing on this Golden State team is remarkable. Curry is putting up identical numbers from his 2015-16 unanimous MVP season, and has been must-watch television on a nightly basis. He is reminding everyone that wrote him off that he is still the best point guard in the NBA right now. 

G: Damian Lillard- Lillard is carrying an injury-ridden Portland team, putting up nearly 30 points per night. With no C.J McCollum or Jusuf Nurkic for a long stretch of games, Lillard has the Trailblazers remaining in playoff contention as a top five seed in the west. Lillard has been the most clutch player in the league this year statistically and is the reason why the Trailblazers have been winning their games when it comes down to the wire. I am writing this after Lillard scored 43 points and had 16 assists in a game they won by 2 against the Pelicans thanks to Dame hitting the game winning free throws. 

F: Kawhi Leonard- Kawhi is being Kawhi, quietly averaging 26 points per game, and has the Clippers at the third seed in a very tough Western Conference. This is some of the best regular season basketball Kawhi Leonard has played, and he should definitely be awarded with an all-star start. 

F: Lebron James– Somehow in year 18, we are still talking about Lebron for MVP. Many people thought that Lebron would take a back seat during the regular season and let Anthony Davis take control, but it seems the opposite is happening. Lebron is playing hard night in and night out, and the Lakers have a target on their back every night they go out and get every teams best shot, but they still have the second best record in the league and the best defense. 

F: Nikola Jokic– Jokic is having his best season to date and is asserting himself as a top ten player in the league. He dropped a career high 47 points, and then a week later set a new career high with 50. His playmaking as always has been phenomenal, and he seems to be in better shape not looking sluggish at all when closing out games like he would in seasons past. 

Bench 

B: Luka Doncic- It’s hard not to put Luka as a starter for the year that he is having, almost averaging a triple double, but I think Lillard has done more with less around him and Lillard’s team has the better record.

B: Donavon Mitchell– Mitchell is the best player on the best team in the league. The jazz are putting the league on notice, and with Mitchell averaging 24 points per game, the Jazz are a legit threat at keeping the one seed in the west. 

B: Paul George– Paul George is having an unbelievable bounce back year after a bad showing in the bubble and is showing that he is one of the best two-way players in the league. 

B: Anthony Davis– Anthony Davis may be injured for the all-star game, but if he is healthy than he definitely deserves to play in it. He is not having one of his best season’s offensively, but defensively he is fantastic. He is the defensive anchor on the best defensive team in the league.  

B: Rudy Gobert– Right now Gobert is on pace to earn his 3rd defensive player of the year award after placing top 3 but not winning it last year. Gobert is obviously the best rim protector in the league, but when he is switched onto guards, he makes it very tough for them, and offensively his rolling off of pick and rolls is a big reason why the Jazz get so many open threes. 

WC: Chris Paul- It seems that wherever Chris Paul goes, he makes everyone on his team better. His impact is enormous on this young Suns team, and right now he is scoring 17 points per night. More importantly, he is making everyone around him better and has the Suns sitting at the fifth seed in the West after missing the playoffs last year. 

WC: Devin Booker- This last wild-card spot in the West was a tough decision between Zion Williamson, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Booker. Obviously, I ended up going with Booker. As much as Chris Paul helps the Suns win games, Booker adds a lot as well. He is averaging 24 points per game on great efficiency and has been one of the best scorers in the league this year. 

Opinion: Top-10 NBA rivalries

By Jordon Hall

1. Heat vs. Bulls:

The rivalry goes back to the 1990s when Pat Riley defected from the New York Knicks and joined Alonzo Mourning in Miami to take on the dynasty of Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls. Fast-forward about 15-years later and it’s maybe the most heated rivalry in the NBA today. Both teams have arguably the two best players in the NBA; LeBron James and Derrick Rose. The two-time NBA and Finals MVP against the only player not named James to win an NBA MVP since 2008. Both are without a doubt two of the most explosive players in the NBA today.

Dwyane Wade, the Chicago native, is not afraid to get rough with the Bulls. Joakim Noah has stated many times he hates the Heat more than any one man on the planet. Carlos Boozer, Chris “Birdman” Andersen, Luol Deng, Nazr Mohammed and Chris Bosh have all gotten physical in the rivalry since it started three years ago when “ The Big 3” came together. These teams play four times and then more in the playoffs.

2. Heat vs. Nets

When Miami’s “Big 3” started, it ticked off the Celtics’ “Big 3” because Boston coined the term first and also never liked James and Wade.

Continue reading “Opinion: Top-10 NBA rivalries”