Tonight at 6pm Central, the starters for next month’s All-Star Game in Utah will be unveiled on TNT’s tip-off show. A week from today on February 2, the reserves will come out in the same fashion. As we wait to find out if Giannis Antetokounmpo will again captain his own squad, we writers picked who we felt deserved the honor. Below are our picks broken up by conference, starters, and reserves, plus some rationale for why we chose what we did.
We went by the official roster composition that coaches, players, and fans use to select All-Stars: two starters plus two reserves at guard, three starters plus three reserves in the frontcourt (forwards and centers), and 2 wild card spots that can come from either grouping. Additionally, we conformed to the league’s classification of certain players on the ballot: for example, Jaylen Brown and DeMar DeRozan are listed as guards despite primarily playing the 3 for their teams with some run at the 2. We don’t make the rules!
Van: Some broad consensus here! Giannis is a given around here. Mitchell should probably be discussed more in the MVP race, and Tatum seems as likely as anyone to take home that hardware. Who knows if Durant will be back by February 19th and though Embiid will likely surpass him in terms of games played soon (Embiid has appeared in four fewer contests at this point), I feel KD has had the more impactful season. Embiid would get the starting nod if KD misses out anyway. I hate to give Irving any plaudits given how antisemitic and generally problematic he is, but he’s averaging nearly 27 per night over 36 games, so objectively I had to him the nod over Brunson and a second (though warranted) Celtic.
Julie: I think, and so does the rest of Brew Hoop, that the East frontcourt should be set in stone, although Kevin Durant could have... actually, no, he’s not better than these three anyway at this point. If picking just the five best players in the East was allowed, he would have been in over Tyrese Haliburton in my starting five, as that was my only tough decision. I chose Tyrese because Indiana is not rotting in the basement of the Eastern Conference standings and is actually in good position to make the play-in tournament. The losing streak immediately following his injury is more evidence of how important the NBA’s assist leader is to his team. Donovan Mitchell has been everything the Cavs need and more.
Dru: The two massive trades out of Utah during the off-season have certainly told different stories, haven’t they? Gobert is still trying to find his rhythm in Minnesota, while Mitchell is a bonified superstar in Cleveland. So for me (and the rest of Brew Hoop) Donovan Mitchell has solidified his spot as an All-Star starter beyond a shadow of a doubt. My one outlier is our very own Jrue Holiday. Some may call me biased (and that would be fair), but my rationale for starting Holiday is that I simply wouldn’t want any other guard in the East to start over him. We don’t weigh defensive prowess heavily enough when we vote for All-Stars, and outside of Donovan Mitchell, no other guard is as valuable as Jrue Holiday.
Mitchell: So you might be asking me...why Jalen Brunson? Why him over Jrue, or Kyrie, or anybody else? Part of it is availability; Brunson is in the top 20 league-wide for minutes played, and he has taken the lead role bestowed upon him by the Knicks and is putting up outstanding numbers offensively. Did you know he actually has more Offensive Win Shares (per Basketball-Reference) than Donovan Mitchell? Brunson was a core piece of last year’s Dallas Mavericks, and even if the Knicks are a second-tier team in the Eastern Conference, they’re as good as they are in large part because of Brunson. That gives him an outsized impact on my ballot compared to the rest of the available guards.
Kyle: This seemed pretty straightforward to me. Durant being hurt meant the frontcourt pick themselves. Donovan Mitchell was an easy lock and I don’t have a big argument with the other guard spot.
Riley: The only “controversial” pick I have in my starting five is leaving Joel Embiid off in favor of Kevin Durant, but I’m a petty SOB, and I will be damned before giving the Sixers any plaudits. KD is helped by having played five more games than Joel, and we get the added bonus that the Nets were humming along with him before promptly crashing back to earth the second he started missing games.
Van: Brunson and Brown are easy calls, even among many worthy guards. Though Haliburton may not play either, he’s more deserving to me than Young (his injury replacement?), whose performance this year raises some red flags. I don’t feel the Knicks (or Heat) deserve two All-Stars, plus with Siakam and Adebayo (who Jimmy Butler is barely outscoring) having such big seasons, they go over the resurgent Randle, who might be KD’s injury replacement. I can’t in good faith pick Holiday over the three guards I mentioned before, but his recent play is more than enough to receive his first selection in ten years.
Julie: Kevin Durant was the clearest name to put here, and then Jaylen Brown was as well. Trae Young is an elite scorer to add in, and my backup backcourt is rounded out by another Buck in Jrue Holiday, who has been keeping this team afloat among the injuries. I also have Pascal Siakam and Bam Adebayo in at the frontcourt since they are both also having great seasons that are among the best in their careers. I just don’t know who else to put in there, maybe Julius Randle, Jimmy Butler, or DeMar DeRozan, but I don’t think any of those players are playing as well as Siakam or Adebayo. Finally, I decided to include a “future” player for the All-Star Game and took Rookie of the Year Favorite Paolo Banchero, especially since the Magic haven’t been a complete disaster at this point in large thanks to his play.
Dru: The reserve guards were a no-brainer for me; Haliburton and Brunson bring a level of competitiveness to their teams that is sorely missed when they sit (just take a look at the Pacers' record since Haliburton’s been hurt). The one controversial pick here is that I gave the nod to Brook Lopez to come off the All-Star bench while no one else did. The only other player that I almost chose instead would’ve been Julius Randle, who’s having a bounce-back season... but so is Brook. And Brook is older. To me, his age makes his renaissance more impressive.
Mitchell: I know that Pascal Siakam and Trae Young are All-Star-level players, but their teams are struggling enough and sufficiently joyless (as compared to some of their peers) that I saw fit to leave them off my ballot. There were some must-adds at the guard position (Kyrie Irving, Tyrese Haliburton, Jaylen Brown, and our own Jrue Holiday) in part because the frontcourt seems somewhat light this season. Rounding things out, Kevin Durant was a no-brainer, and Bam Adebayo’s two-way play earned a nod. Julius Randle was a surprising member of my team, in part because of his improvements this year (he was All-NBA 2nd Team not too long ago!) despite his status as a Knick.
Kyle: Haliburton deserved a spot and even though he’s annoying and problematic, Kyrie not talking has been beneficial. Jrue deserves to make it over Trae in my opinion, and the frontcourt was just dudes that needed to fill the spot
Riley: I generally look to give most playoff-zone teams at least one All-Star if the ballots and positions allow. Brunson is an easy pick having lived up to the free agency hype even if the Knicks are destined to barely finish above .500 for eternity. Nobody likes Trae Young, but he’s still capable of scoring in chunks and is a knife’s edge away from averaging a double-double. Embiid speaks for himself, and Bam figuring out how to play basketball is a depressing development. Siakam is fine—a little more inefficient this year but his totals are up—though now that I think about it, Jarrett Allen should’ve gotten a shout from me. Kyrie Irving is an antisemite, and James Harden is the definition of a loser, so they can kick rocks.
Van: Again, some pretty easy calls to make, to the tune of four starters we agree on. Jokic and Doncic are MVP favorites, LeBron is having an outstanding season at age 38 (!), and Morant leads the team with the third-best record in the association. So let’s discuss the other frontcourt spot. With Zion sidelined since January 2nd (and Brandon Ingram out since November), New Orleans tumbled down the standings a bit with their recent swoon, but their star averaging 26 a night merits recognition for that great start through the holidays. If he remains out by mid-February, Sabonis is the obvious replacement in the starting lineup.
Julie: I seriously thought about Steph Curry, but Golden State doesn’t deserve an All-Star starter with how bad they have played relative to expectation. Luka is a no-brainer along with Jokic, and LeBron is still getting after it. Ja Morant has led Memphis again to another great season, without Jaren Jackson Jr. and Desmond Bane for large portions of the season. Finally, I chose Sabonis over Zion Williamson because I didn’t really consider Zion mainly due to injury. But also, Sabonis leads the NBA in rebounding, he is getting more assists than Zion, and the Kings are currently better in the standings.
Dru: Solid consensus on the Western starters for the All-Star game. Luka and Ja are playing at elite levels, LeBron is winning a battle with Father Time, and Jokic is once again looking like the MVP of the league. I went with Zion Williamson to start because you can see the work he put in during the last year plus while he was injured, and he came out swinging this season. Yes, as Julie mentioned, he went down with another injury. But before he got injured, the Pelicans were hovering around the top of the Western Conference. In Zion’s absence, they’ve fallen to number 4 and are currently sporting a five-game losing streak.
Mitchell: Of course Zion Williamson is the most fun Western Conference player to put in the All-Star Game... but he’s hurt right now and played in 29 games. Perhaps I should have emphasized the impressive performance he achieved before this injury... but I can’t ignore Domantas Sabonis and his central role in dragging the Sacramento Kings out of mediocrity. That, to me, is the best way to highlight the glory of The Beam, even if the highlights aren’t as good without Zion in this spot.
Kyle: Hit the Staples button, don’t overthink this.
Riley: Zion hasn’t played enough to warrant a starting nod, but I’m merely happy that he’s been healthy enough to even be in the conversation. Sabonis got piled on for having the temerity of being acquired by the Kings in exchange for Haliburton, so I’m happy that he dug in and has proven himself a valuable contributor for two franchises now.
Van: We love a second All-Star for the teams leading the West, and Gordon has been Denver’s clear second-best player through half the year. His shooting percentages from the field are career-highs by a mile, and he takes the opponent’s best player on defense. JJJ is my pick from Memphis over Bane because he has a slight edge in games played, plus he is a DPOY frontrunner. The West’s backcourt is stacked; Curry, SGA, and Lillard are starters most other years. That makes Fox a very reluctant cut for me in favor of Gordon, though the Kings have been great... just not as good as the Nuggets. Markkanen is a lock, and the Clippers have been far too disappointing for George to make it in, especially over a second Grizzly. Same goes for the Suns, who’d have Booker in SLC if we’d seen him since Christmas. AD will reportedly return soon, and if he had played since December 16th, I guess I’d have to put a second Laker in given his near-MVP play. Alas, he’s made of glass.
Julie: Backup guards were easy, with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Stephen Curry, and De’Aaron Fox all arguably playing better than Ja Morant, with Ja getting my starting nod due to record. But Shai has made something out of nothing, Curry is still averaging close to 30, and De’Aaron has helped Sabonis lead Sacramento to the NBA’s best offense. As for forward, I went with Zion because the writers who didn’t have Sabonis had Zion as a starter, so a bit of peer pressure made me think that maybe he’s actually not just a hype train. Lauri Markkanen went here for me because similarly to Haliburton and the Pacers, Utah was in the same boat and Markkanen saved them for now. The last frontcourt spot was tough for me. AD played 25 games, Deandre Ayton isn’t spectacular, Jackson hasn’t played that much either, and then I considered the likes of Rudy Gobert and even tried to see if Dallas had a good forward. I settled on Paul George because he has played 3⁄4 of the season or so, is still putting up solid numbers, and keeping the Clippers around. As for Desmond Bane, I decided to choose a second player from Denver or Memphis and went with Bane over Jackson due to games played, and Denver’s second-best player isn’t as clear cut. I wish I could have removed a forward spot for Damian Lillard.
Dru: I’m sort of shocked no one else picked AD to be an All-Star reserve. Sure, the dude is made of glass, and he might go down on any given night, but do you remember the stretch of games he played before his injury when he was putting up some of the most impressive stat lines we’ve seen from just about anyone this season? Check his game logs from November 13th up until his injury. During that stretch, the Lakers looked like they had a pulse and we’re actually... wait for it... winning games. That stretch from November 13th–December 13th is the only month so far that the Lakers had a winning record. Just sayin’.
Mitchell: I’m realizing that I’ve got a heavy guard bias in my ballot. All four of my wild card spots (East and West) went to backcourt players. Weird how that works out. Anyways, most of my roster matches everybody else, so we don’t need to rehash anything here.
Kyle: No logic, just vibes
Riley: As before, I’m generally aiming to include as many of the playoff teams as I can wherever possible. Phoenix isn’t exactly awash with candidates and looks set to fall off a cliff any minute, yet in spite of his desire to fistfight everyone in the organization, Ayton has kept chugging along (JJJ not playing as much hurt him here). Curry v. Lillard is a duel between exciting guards on cruddy teams, so that’s a coin flip. Regarding CJ, I wanted to acknowledge that the Pelicans have 1) a better seed than I’d have guessed heading into the year and 2) have done so with Zion and Brandon Ingram missing a lot of games. McCollum is the glue that keeps it all held together, so he gets a wild card spot for me.
That’s who we chose, but what about you, dear reader? What are your twelve-man groups for each conference? What did we get wrong? Let us know in the comments.