What a fun NBA season it has been. All the awards races are competitive, and All-Star voting should be equally competitive as well. There are some usual locks for the All-Star game in both conferences as always. LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Demar DeRozan, and Giannis Antetokounmpo are all locks in the east. In the west, the locks are Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and Anthony Davis. Here are five players who are poised to make their first all-star appearance and why they should make it.
Oladipo has been sensational this year in Indiana. He is averaging 24 points, five rebounds, and four assists per game on 48 percent shooting from the field — all easy career highs. The most significant change to his game has been his improved three-point shooting. For his career he has been an average at best shooter from deep, shooting 35 percent, but this year, he is shooting 41 percent from deep. He also is helping the Pacers win. Currently, Indiana is 24-20 and in the sixth seed in the east. More importantly, the Pacers are awful without him. Indiana was 0-5 in the five games Oladipo missed. Credit Oladipo for improving his shooting, and also his body. He got a lot stronger this year, and it is paying off averaging a career high in free throw attempts. Oladipo is also an excellent defender. He should be a no-brainer All-Star pick.
Trust the process! The kingpin of the process is having a monster season. Embiid is averaging 23.8 points, 10.8 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 1.9 blocks per game. His minutes are up to 31 a game, and he has started to play in some back-to-backs. However, he has still missed nine games due to injury. Philadelphia is 20-20 and just one game out of the last playoff spot in the east. With Embiid they are 18-13, without him, they are 2-7. Like Oladipo, he is the key to his team’s success. The most prominent improvements in Embiid’s game this season has been his improved passing and rebounding. He is a complete player, who can do everything on both ends. Missing nine games is not enough to keep him out, and he should be a lock to make his first all-star appearance.
The Unicorn started the season on fire but has cooled off a bit since. However, he is still playing all-star level basketball. For the season Porzingis is averaging 23.7 points, 6.9 rebound, and 2.3 blocks per game. He got a lot stronger in the offseason, and that allowed him to take more contact. It has paid off, as he is averaging a career-high 6.1 free throw attempts per game. The other area where he has improved is his three-point percentage. He is shooting a career-best 38 percent from deep. Add it up and he has become more efficient than ever. New York is 20-24 and three games out of the last playoff spot in the est. Not great but way better than expected, and it’s because of the rise of Porzinings. Combine his scoring with his elite shot-blocking and Porzinigs should make his first all-star game.
Even after a sad loss to Orlando, the Wolves are on the rise. A big part of that is the addition of Jimmy Butler, who will be an All-Star the other part is the rise of Towns. While Towns’ numbers may be down from last season, it’s because he is asked to do less, and therefore he has become more efficient. Towns is averaging 20.1 points and 12 rebounds per game. He has improved in a couple of areas. One he is averaging a career low in turnovers and a career high in three-point percentage. He has a career-best true shooting percentage and assists ratio. Towns merely has become more well-rounded. His defense has improved mightily as well. Minnesota is also 29-17 and only a half-game behind the Spurs for the three seed in the west. Towns is a big part of that, and he deserves to be rewarded by making his first All-Star team.
The Joker is coming off perhaps his best game of the season in a win over Dallas. He had 29 points, 18 rebounds, and seven assists. For the season, Jokic is averaging 1.2 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 5.1 assists. His versatility is what makes him so dominant. While his shooting overall from the field is down, he has improved in several areas. Jokic is posting career highs in rebounding, three-point percentage, free throw attempts, assists, and steals. He has missed eight games due to injury, but he is quietly having a terrific year. Denver is currently 23-21 and the eight seed in the west. With Jokic, they are 20-17, and without him, 3-4. Not a huge difference, but Jokic is their most valuable player. He has done enough to make his first all-star appearance.