Fans of the NBA have spoken and it's clear that they want to see Kyrie Irving in the All Star Game. After the show that he put on during All Star Weekend last year, I can't blame them. Kyrie won the 3-point shooting contest, destroyed Brandon Knight's ankles, and was generally awesome. He made the team as a reserve last year, but he's going to be voted in as a starter this time around.
But Irving isn't the only member of the Cleveland Cavaliers that could end up representing the team in New Orleans this February. A few weeks ago, the Cavs made a trade with the Chicago Bulls to acquired Luol Deng. Deng is a 2-time All Star, making the team each of the past two seasons. This year he's averaging a career-high in points, putting up 18.9 points to go along with 6.2 rebounds and 3.4 assists per night. He has a PER of 17.9, the second highest of his career, and plays his usual great defense on the wing. His numbers since coming to Cleveland are especially impressive, but it's a tiny sample of just 6 games. But what are Luol's chances of making the ASG for the third straight year?
What will the Eastern Conference All Star team look like?
I think we pretty much know the starters for the East, pending injury. Fan voting is broken down into "guards" and "front court" which means that you don't have to vote in an actual center. Based on the voting numbers, the Eastern Conference starting lineup will look like this:
Guard -- Kyrie Irving
Guard -- Dwyane Wade
Front court -- Paul George
Front court -- Carmelo Anthony
Front court -- LeBron James
Each team needs 12 players, so that leaves 7 spots left. But there aren't actually 7 spots left because there are some guys that we know will make the team as reserves. For example, John Wall is going to make the team. Roy Hibbert will make the team too. Both of the top teams in the conference will likely have three representatives, meaning that Chris Bosh and Lance Stephenson should make the team as well. So then there's three spots left.
The reserve spots are selected by the coaches and there's a number of directions that they could go. I don't think any team in the East *needs* to have an All Star representative, but I wouldn't be surprised if they choose to reward the Toronto Raptors for having the 4th best record in the conference (as of right now). If that's the case, then they'd have to choose between DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. Both are having really nice seasons and neither would be a bad choice. DeRozan is averaging over 20 points per game, but it's obvious how important Lowry has been to their success since Rudy Gay was traded. If it were up to me, I'd pick Lowry. I would be fine if either guy made the team, but I won't be mad if neither did. Both won't make it. Let's assume for our purposes that a Raptor will make the team leaving two unclaimed roster spots.
Who are the candidates for those final two spots?
Obviously Luol Deng is a candidate. But who else?
Arron Afflalo is having a tremendous year for the Orlando Magic. He's averaging 20.9 points per game and has a PER of 18.4. He's been great, but the Magic have not been. They're 11-30. Historically, the coaches don't love guys on teams that are that bad. But it can still happen and Afflalo has a good shot.
Joakim Noah is another guy that deserves consideration. His individual numbers aren't all that impressive, but everybody knows how valuable he is on defense. The fact that those Chicago Bulls haven't completely collapsed after the injury to Derrick Rose and the trade of Deng is incredible. If we could select coaches to the All Star team, Tom Thibodeau would be a lock. But we can't do that, so Joakim Noah could get picked to represent the Bulls in New Orleans. Coaches love guys that play hard, play defense, and commit themselves to the team. That's Noah.
David West is a beast and I'm sure that a number of people within the Pacers organization will tell you that he's just as important to their team as Roy Hibbert or Paul George. I don't know if people will like the idea of giving the Pacers four players, but it's happened before -- 6 times, actually. And if there's any team that deserves four players in the All Star Game, why not the 33-7 Indiana Pacers?
Paul Millsap is having a huge year too. Al Horford would almost certainly have made the team, but he went down with a torn pectoral and is out for the rest of the season. There's a good argument to be made for his teammate to make the team in his place. He's averaging 17.5 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. The Hawks currently have the 3rd best record in the conference and this team could probably use some more big men. If I had to bet, I'd say that at least one of Noah, West, and Millsap will make the team.
Who will actually make the team?
Remember that those guys are most likely fighting for the final two spots. Who makes it? If I had to guess right now, I'd say Noah and West. But that could change before the reserves are announced on January 30th. I think that if Deng were still on the Chicago Bulls, he'd be a virtual lock to make the team. Coaches have selected him the past two seasons and he's having one of his best offensive years yet. But now that he's on the 15-26 Cavaliers and Kyrie Irving will already make the team, I think that changes things. It may not be fair, especially because most of Deng's work came when he was on the Bulls. But coaches do value team record and like to reward players on teams that are winning. It'd be very unusual for the Cavs to have two players in New Orleans.
But I'll let you guys decide for yourselves. Who do you think should make the team?