The Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder forwards were among 10 players named to the Eastern and Western Conference All-Star teams, honors which were announced Thursday night on TNT.
A longtime fan-favorite, this season's iteration of the All-Star game will be held on Feb. 17 at Houston's Toyota Center.
Though the All-Star festivities are always notable, this season saw the implementation of some new ideas from the NBA. For the first time, the league eliminated the center spot from fan balloting and the positions are split up into frontcourt and backcourt selections. What's more, the NBA will also try a new format for the State Farm All-Star Saturday Night.
As for the men honored, most won't come as much of a surprise. The NBA released the third returns of ballots on Jan. 3 and the finalized roster looks mostly like those returns. James stayed in the lead in Eastern Conference votes, while Kobe Bryant headed up the entire process.
Nevertheless, with the Western Conference's roster looking like an All-Los Angeles team, there is bound to be much discussion over these selections in the coming days.
With that in mind, let's take a look at the starting lineups from both conferences and highlight some of the most deserving choices.
|Eastern Conference All-Star Starting Lineup|
|BC Rajon Rondo (PG, Boston Celtics)|
|BC Dwyane Wade (SG, Miami Heat)|
|FC LeBron James (F, Miami Heat)|
FC Carmelo Anthony (F, New York Knicks)
FC Kevin Garnett (F/C, Boston Celtics)
|Western Conference All-Star Starting Lineup|
|BC Chris Paul (PG, Los Angeles Clippers)|
|BC Kobe Bryant (SG, Los Angeles Lakers)|
|FC Kevin Durant (SF, Oklahoma City Thunder)|
FC Blake Griffin (PF, Los Angeles Clippers)
FC Dwight Howard (C, Los Angeles Lakers)
Most Deserving Selections
LeBron James (F, Miami Heat)
One day the youngest player to ever reach 20,000 career points, the next the Eastern Conference's leading vote-getter. The life of LeBron James certainly has come a long way since "The Decision" fiasco, hasn't it?
As for James' on-court play this season, it's arguable that he's in the midst of his finest professional campaign. He's averaging what seems to have become his standard stat line, 26.0 points, 8.1 rebounds and 6.9 assists per game, but doing it in a more efficient fashion than ever.
At 28 years old, James is setting a career high in field goal percentage—an astounding 54.6 percent prior to Thursday night—for the second straight year. What's more, James has also added more wrinkles to his already astounding offensive repertoire.
After spending much of his 2011-12 season refining a deadly post game, LeBron came back this year with new-found efficiency behind the three-point arc. James is knocking down a shade under 40 percent of his threes this year, all while taking nearly one more per game than he did a season ago.
With the Heat still firmly the favorite to be the Eastern Conference representative in the NBA Finals, James' All-Star selection was a deserved foregone conclusion.
Carmelo Anthony (F, New York Knicks)
After spending much of his first season-and-a-half in New York satiating the schadenfreudian wishes of those Nuggets fans hoping to see his demise, Carmelo Anthony's 2012-13 season has served as his unalienable justification for forcing his way out of Denver.
The Knicks star forward has led his team—one that many picked to finish as a mid-tier playoff team—to the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference coming into Thursday night. He's done this despite being without co-star Amar'e Stoudemire for much of the season and adjusting to a new role as a full-time power forward.
Since taking over that role at the beginning of the season, Anthony's play has ascended to never-before-seen heights. He's averaging a career-high 29.3 points and 6.4 rebounds per game and doing it by using a brand new weapon: excellent three-point shooting.
After having a career 32.2 percent shooting rate from beyond the arc heading into this season, Anthony is knocking down 42.1 percent of his threes while taking 6.6 per game thus far. To put that in perspective, that is four per game more than his career averages.
That efficiency beyond the arc has led to 'Melo setting a career high in PER at 25.81 and getting deserved MVP consideration alongside James and Kevin Durant.
Kevin Durant (SF, Oklahoma City Thunder)
There weren't many ways (arguably) the NBA's second-best player could get better coming into this season, but Durant found them and is turning in easily his best NBA season.
Though Durant was always an efficient scorer for a guy whose points mostly come on the perimeter, he's taken it to an unforeseen level this year. He's shooting a career-high 52.5 percent from the field thus far, including a jaw-dropping 45.2 percent rate on his jump shots.
Nevertheless, we all knew Durant could score and do so at a high level. Durant's most impressive ascent has actually become in fixing two of his biggest weaknesses: on-ball defense and passing.
Once a mediocre-at-best defender when he entered the NBA, Durant is averaging career highs in steals (1.6) and blocks (1.3) per game and has become increasingly prone to taking the opposing team's best scorer down the stretch.
What's more, Durant's increasing role as a distributor has helped the Thunder nullify some of the effects of losing James Harden. Durant's 4.2 assists per game are far and away his career high, and he's become excellent at finding teammates cutting to the basket.
With the Thunder's 31-8 record leading all NBA teams, it's nice to see the fans recognize a man who would probably win the league's MVP if voting took place on Thursday.
Kobe Bryant (SG, Los Angeles Lakers)
As most NBA fans know, there are many problems with the 2012-13 Lakers. They've been unarguably the league's biggest disappointment and are 17-21 (11th in the Western Conference) through Wednesday's games.
Very few of those problems lay at the foot of Bryant, who continues to be an ageless wonder. The 34-year-old guard is leading the NBA in scoring at 29.9, which is his highest scoring rate since the 2006-07 season.
As seems to be the trend this season, Bryant's scoring improvement has come thanks to a markedly improved efficiency from the field. The Lakers legend is knocking down a career-high 47.8 percent of his shots this season, including his highest rate from beyond the arc in a decade.
That's undoubtedly thanks in part to Mike D'Antoni's system, which has allowed Bryant to play off the ball at an exponentially higher rate.
On the team side of things, perhaps Bryant's most important trait is that he's stayed healthy all season long. Despite coming into the season with a foot injury, Bryant is the only member of the Lakers' Big Four who has yet to miss a game this season.
First #MambaTweets, now #MambaStarts. Seems like a fitting conclusion to one of Bryant's most impressive first halves of any season.
(All individual stats are up to date as of Jan. 17 and are courtesy of basketball-reference.com)