This season, the NBA's best and brightest will be in Houston, Texas in February to play in the NBA All-Star Game. And while we're all used to seeing LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant in the spotlight, new budding stars will be selected to play in the game as well. Here are five that deserve to play in Houston this February and which players they could replace from last year's teams.
The blockbuster trade that occurred just before the beginning of the season has worked out quite well for the Rockets, as it looks like they've acquired their star of the future in James Harden. Harden ranks in the top 10 in the NBA in PER (23.22) and is fourth in the league in scoring, averaging 26 points per contest. With the Rockets hovering slightly over .500, it looks like Harden is a shoo-in, and he will likely pair up once again with former teammates Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
Who he could replace: Steve Nash
The Golden State Warriors are one of the surprise teams this season, and Stephen Curry is a major reason why. The fourth-year guard is the top 10 in the NBA in points per game and three-pointers made per contest, while also averaging a respectable 6.5 assists per game. The field of Western Conference guards is very deep, and he may split some votes with his teammate David Lee, but Curry definitely deserves to play in Houston.
Who he could replace: Tony Parker
It might seem hard to believe, but Josh Smith has still never made an All-Star team. Smith has put up the numbers fans have to come to expect from him, including 16.6 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game. Additionally, the Hawks have fared just fine this year after trading Joe Johnson in the offseason, so it may finally be time for Smith to get the credit he's deserved for years.
Who he could replace: Luol Deng
There's been no sophomore slump for Kyrie Irving this season, as he's averaging 22.7 points per game to go with 5.6 assists per game and a PER over 20. His candidacy is hurt by the fact that the Cavs aren't performing very well this year, as well as the fact that he missed some time due to injuries, but none can deny his All-Star worthiness when he is on the court. Even if Irving doesn't make the team this year, he has plenty of All-Star appearances ahead of him.
Who he could replace: Derrick Rose
The 76ers rewarded Holiday with a contract extension this season, mostly banking on his potential, and so far this season, Holiday has proven that he will be worth every penny. Holiday currently ranks in the top 15 in the NBA in points per game (18.6) and is in the top three in assists per game (8.9). Most importantly, Holiday has kept the 76ers in the playoff hunt even without offseason acquisition Andrew Bynum, and that might be enough to earn him a spot on the East roster.
Who he could replace: Joe Johnson