The latest tallies, and final totals until voting closing on Monday, Jan.18, for the 2016 NBA All-Star Game were released Thursday, and with the exception of two tight races for the starting lineups, the leading vote-getters are far from surprising.
Nostalgic fans continue to fill Los Angeles Lakers’ guard Kobe Bryant’s ballot box as he tops all others with more than 1.5 million votes, followed by Warriors point guard Stephen Curry with 1.2 million, and Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James with more than 830,000.
Right now the Western Conference can expect a starting unit of Curry and Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook manning the backcourt, with Bryant, OKC forward Kevin Durant, and Warriors forward Draymond Green up front.
Green built a 12,000-vote lead over San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard, but Spurs supporters could pull out all the stops before the voting closes.
Currently the starting lineups for the Eastern Conference would have the Cavs Kyrie Irving and the Heat’s Dwyane Wade in the backcourt, with James, Indiana’s Paul George, and the Knicks Carmelo Anthony holding down the three frontcourt spots.
Similar to Green, Anthony has surged past Detroit Pistons big man Andre Drummond for a starting nod, though it’s a very slim 7,000-plus vote lead with four days remaining.
Still, the final tallies won’t matter for Leonard or Drummond, who will undoubtedly be selected by the NBA’s head coaches as reserves and will appear at Feb. 14’s matchup in Toronto.
But the same can’t be said for a number of very deserving players who will likely watch at home and rest up for the second-half of the season.
When it comes time for coaches to make their selections, some of the more obvious choices will include Leonard, Drummond, Warriors guard Klay Thompson, Heat forward Chris Bosh, Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry, Clippers forward Blake Griffin, Rockets guard James Harden, Pelicans forward Anthony Davis, Bulls guard Jimmy Butler, Kings forward DeMarcus Cousins, Hawks forwards Al Horford and Paul Millsap, and Wizards guard John Wall.
It’s a list that includes incredible star wattage, and is mostly made up of players on winning teams, but it doesn’t make the selection process any easier for coaches as they’re also beholden to specific guidelines. Coaches must select two guards, three forwards, and two wild cards, meaning someone will be left out.
And, should those projections play out, only one spot remains open on the East’s squad and the West’s is full which means as many as 11 of the 12 players listed below won’t be heading up north.
Here’s our list of 12 players who could make a case for this year’s All-Star teams but ultimately won’t get picked.
Kristaps Porzingis, PF, New York Knicks
Before we’re accused of button-mashing the hype machine, remember the Latvian’s completely revamped the Knicks culture and has helped them already win three more games than they did all of last season. He’s putting up 13.9 ppg, 8.0 rbg, and swatting two shots a game, and his game would certainly fit the free-flowing “dunkathon” that is the All-Star game.
Damian Lillard, PG, Portland Trail Blazers
The Blazers are just outside the West’s playoff standings at No. 9, but not because of Lillard. Ranking seventh in the league at 24.7 ppg, Lillard’s well on-pace to surge past both his career-best in scoring and passing (7.1 apg), yet Portland’s sub-.500 record hurts his chances.
Rajon Rondo, PG, Sacramento Kings
The former Celtic and Maverick has rejuvenated his career and image by keeping the Kings in playoff striking distance with his NBA-best 11.6 apg and 1.86 spg, all while helping Cousins grow as a player. He should the best shot of making the final roster of any one on this list, but Harden and Thompson likely keep him off.
DeMar DeRozan, SG, Toronto Raptors
Much like coaches did last year when they rewarded several members of the upstart Hawks with All-Star berths, DeRozan could be a guard or wild card for the East. Toronto’s second in the East largely due to DeRozan’s 22.9 ppg (10 th in the league) and he’s become more of a playmaker with 4.1 assists.
Isaiah Thomas, PG, Boston Celtics
A tiny blur of a pure scorer, Thomas has continued the tear that made him a fan-favorite late last season when Boston acquired him, sporting a career-best 21.6 ppg and 6.7 apg, all while keeping the Celtics above .500 and in contention for one of the East’s playoff spots.
Zaza Pachulia, C, Dallas Mavericks
Typically Dirk Nowitzki would stand as Dallas’ only rep in the All-Star Game, but Pachulia deserves consideration. The 31-year-old Georgian’s tied for seventh in the league with 20 double-doubles, the same number as Cousins, and nearly everyone else above him will make the All-Star squad. Though he might miss out if the coaches go with star power and pick the Rockets Dwight Howard or the Clippers DeAndre Jordan, with Davis a lock despite a decline in production and Griffin bettering his numbers from last season.
C.J. McCollum, SG, Portland Trail Blazers
An All-Star berth is supposed to reward the league’s best players, and to some degree those who’ve also emerged as the best in the first-half of the season. Enter third-year guard McCollum, who jumped from 6.8 ppg last season to 20.8 this year and like Lillard he’s the reason Portland is even in the postseason hunt.
Brook Lopez, C, Brooklyn Nets
The Nets third-worst overall record significantly hinders Lopez’s shot at a second All-Star berth, but he remains the best player to watch in Brooklyn with 19.7 ppg and 8.5 rbg. The rise of Drummond, and the continued success of Millsap and Horford, will likely leave Lopez out.
Kemba Walker, PG, Charlotte Hornets
As Walker’s posted the best shooting numbers of his five-year career (43.2 FG%, 35.5 3-point %) so have the Hornets flown in the East’s playoff race. Still, he suffers from a glut of guards in Wade, Wall, and Irving, who should be off since he’s missed 28 games this season.
Nikola Vucevic, C, Orlando Magic
Statistically Vucevic’s points and rebound totals are down, but he’s also posted a career-best 2.8 assists per game, and oh yea the Magic are relevant again in the East as they cling to the No. 8 seed. And maybe Vucevic’s just more efficient this year. He’s taking one less shot a game, and has teamed up well with Elfrid Payton. The two should be in future All-Star Games together, just not this year.
Gordon Hayward, SF, Utah Jazz
If the regular season ended today, the Jazz would own the West’s last spot thanks to Hayward and improved play from lots of Utah’s young players. But he’s clearly the leader, with an identical 19.3 ppg compared to last year, some improved rebounding and defense, and his best 3-point percentage (38.4) since his rookie year.
Andrew Wiggins, SF, Minnesota Timberwolves
The 20-year-old hasn’t translated his increased workload into more wins for the Timberwolves, though they are well in line to better last year’s 16-win campaign. But Wiggins is unquestionably one of the rising premier scorers in the league and the country should see those skills up against the rest of the NBA’s stars.