Predicting NBA All-Star Rosters After First Quarter of 2013-14 Season

Grant Hughes@@gt_hughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistDecember 17, 2013

Predicting NBA All-Star Rosters After First Quarter of 2013-14 Season

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    The initial voting returns on the 2014 NBA All-Star Game are in, and it's starting to look like the annual February exhibition will feature a mixture of familiar faces and first-timers.

    Oh, and there's going to be a boatload of controversy.

    We'll get into the specifics in a moment, but as usual, there are a number of fan favorites currently occupying starting positions ahead of some deserving newcomers. If that sounds familiar, it's because it happens almost every year.

    It wouldn't be an NBA All-Star Game without the typical ballot-box stuffing and cries for voting reform.

    With a couple of months between now and the actual game itself, there's still plenty of time for fan sentiment, injuries and fickle coach selections to alter the composition of the league's late-winter showcase.

    Based on the first quarter of the 2013-14 season, here's who stands the best chance to be a part of the festivities.


    *Voting results accurate through first returns released Dec. 12, 2014 via

    **Stats accurate through games played Dec. 16, 2013.

Eastern Conference Backcourt Starter: Dwyane Wade

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    Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

    2013-14 Per-Game Statistics: 19.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.9 steals, 0.6 blocks

    Previous All-Star Games: Nine


    Despite skipping the second night of back-to-back sets on a routine basis, Dwyane Wade still has more votes than any other Eastern Conference guard. It's not as though Wade is undeserving of the honor—his overall statistics are still solid and he's a critical component of a Miami Heat team that everyone assumes will be in the thick of it down the stretch this year.

    But there's also a little familiarity at work here.

    Wade has been an All-Star in each of the past nine seasons. Voters want him there, he's a household name and even if he's performing a little below his peak levels, he's going to be in the starting lineup for the East.

Eastern Conference Backcourt Starter: Kyrie Irving

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    Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

    2013-14 Per-Game Statistics: 20.9 points, 3.1 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.2 blocks

    Previous All-Star Games: One


    A season with big expectations has fallen a little flat for Kyrie Irving's Cleveland Cavaliers. But because of a historically weak Eastern Conference, the Cavs still have every opportunity to climb all the way up to the No. 3 spot—if they could ever get their act together for more than a couple of games at a time.

    Irving's numbers have taken a small dip since last season, but fans have already bought into the idea that All-Star Weekend belongs to Irving. Whether he's winning the Three-Point Shootout, crossing up Brandon Knight or releasing a Pepsi commercial, Irving has consistently put his stamp on the annual exhibition during his brief career.

    Only Wade has more votes among East guards, and the next closest backcourt player is miles behind Irving. Forget penciling him in; you can write Kyrie's name into the starting lineup in ink.

Eastern Conference Frontcourt Starter: LeBron James

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    Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

    2013-14 Per-Game Statistics: 25.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, 6.5 assists 1.4 steals, 0.3 blocks

    Previous All-Star Games: Nine


    The overall leading vote-getter and two-time defending MVP is a pretty safe bet to start the All-Star Game—particularly when he's redefining shooting efficiency and making the game look easier than ever.

    LeBron James is a lock to make his 10th All-Star Game and will be a part of the starting lineup alongside Wade yet again as the East tries to work through its inferiority complex against the West.

    Barring injury, LBJ will be right at the center of February's festivities. Literally.

    Since the league took out the designated "center" position from the ballots a couple of years ago, it's now possible to field a roster that features three forwards and a pair of guards. Since James is the biggest frontcourt player in the starting lineup, he's going to match up against a conventional 5 this year.

    Per B/R's Ethan Skolnick, James said: "That is hilarious. That is crazy! I would start at center in the All-Star Game? Against Dwight Howard?"

    LeBron taking a lumbering big out to the three-point line on offense? That sounds like a recipe for highlights. Get the popcorn ready, folks. We're in for a show.

Eastern Conference Frontcourt Starter: Paul George

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    Ron Hoskins/Getty Images

    2013-14 Per-Game Statistics: 23.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 2.0 steals, 0.3 blocks

    Previous All-Star Games: One


    Paul George got his first All-Star nod last season, and he's primed to follow it up with his first starting gig. 

    Trailing only James in voting for the East frontcourt, the man largely responsible for leading the Indiana Pacers to the league's best record is more than deserving of a place in the first unit.

    Although a huge portion of George's value comes from the defensive end (he's first among all NBA players in defensive win shares, per, something tells me the vast offensive improvement he's shown this season will serve him well.

    Never afraid of the big shot, George is going to fit in quite nicely among the league's elite.

Eastern Conference Frontcourt Starter: Carmelo Anthony

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    2013-14 Per-Game Statistics: 26.3 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.7 blocks

    Previous All-Star Games: Six


    Cue the complaining.

    Carmelo Anthony is rebounding better than he has at any point in his career, has cut his turnover rate and is shooting the ball just one percentage point below his career-average mark. His peripheral numbers are solid, he looks pretty much the same as he always has and he's gotten his typical heavy dose of votes this year.

    So what's the problem?

    Well, unless you've been unconscious for the past six weeks, you're probably aware that the New York Knicks have been stinking up Madison Square Garden in particularly embarrassing fashion. They're a disjointed mess, and much of the blame for their struggles logically falls at the feet of their best player.

    Maybe that's fair, and maybe it isn't. But rest assured that plenty of fans are going to be a little upset when 'Melo graces the starting lineup for the East.

Eastern Conference Reserve: John Wall

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    Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

    2013-14 Per-Game Statistics: 19.5 points, 4.4 rebounds, 9.3 assists, 2.1 steals, 0.4 blocks

    Previous All-Star Games: Zero


    If we were selecting All-Stars on merit, and not making predictions based on voting tallies, John Wall would be in the starting lineup. In the middle of his best season yet, the Washington Wizards point guard has made improvements in two key areas: durability and perimeter shooting.

    Wall suffered from some rotten injury luck in his first three seasons, missing 13 games as a rookie and sitting out 33 more last year. He's been healthy this season, though, and his consistent presence on the court has been a big positive for the Wizards.

    His outside shot has looked better as well. Keep in mind that any mention of Wall's improved jumper is a relative thing; he's only shooting 31 percent from long distance. But he's taking a career-high 3.7 long-range attempts per game and is knocking them down far more consistently than he has in the past.

    Toss in a career-best 9.3 assists per game and you've got yourself a deserving All-Star starter. Alas, Wall will have to wait his turn as Wade and Irving dominate the voting.

    Still, it looks like we'll see the fourth-year pro finally make his first All-Star Game appearance.

Eastern Conference Reserve: Roy Hibbert

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    2013-14 Per-Game Statistics: 12.9 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.3 steals, 3.0 blocks

    Previous All-Star Games: One


    A terrible start from the field prevented Roy Hibbert from making the 2013 All-Star Game, but he's practically a lock to make it this time around. The Pacers are the East's best team, and you can bet that East coach Erik Spoelstra will be glad when coaches around the league recognize that fact by voting in a second Indiana player.

    Hibbert is the league's most impactful interior defender, and with James likely to start at center, the imposing big man will be a welcome reserve against the much larger West squad.


Eastern Conference Reserve: Al Horford

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    2013-14 Per-Game Statistics: 17.8 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.5 blocks

    Previous All-Star Games: Two


    Al Horford hasn't been a part of the past two All-Star Games. He played just 11 games during the 2011-12 season, so his absence in that contest was understandable. But the fact that he wasn't involved in last season's exhibition was a little surprising.

    After all, he put up his typically solid averages for an Atlanta Hawks team that cruised into the playoffs.

    There won't be a similar snub this time around. Horford is hitting 55 percent of his shots from the field and is one of just four players averaging at least one steal and 1.5 blocks this year, per

    It's a good thing fan voting doesn't determine reserves, though. The woeful show of support from Atlanta voters doesn't even have Horford among the top 15 frontcourt nominees in the East.

    Come on, Hawks fans. At least act like you care.

Eastern Conference Reserve: Chris Bosh

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    2013-14 Per-Game Statistics: 14.6 points, 6.1 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.9 steals, 1.2 blocks

    Previous All-Star Games: Eight


    Based on the surface numbers, it's hard to make the case the Chris Bosh deserves to be a part of the festivities in New Orleans. He's scoring fewer points per game than he has in any season since his rookie year, and he's playing a career-low 28.7 minutes per game.

    But Bosh is still pretty much the same player he's been over the past three seasons, which is to say he's hitting jumpers, using possessions efficiently and doing precisely what the Heat need him to do.

    Coaches recognize that stuff, and they'll be sure to reward Bosh's diligent work with yet another All-Star nod.

Eastern Conference Reserve: Andre Drummond

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    2013-14 Per-Game Statistics: 13.3 points, 12.6 rebounds, 0.3 assists, 1.7 steals, 1.4 blocks

    Previous All-Star Games: Zero


    Conventional wisdom would have Joakim Noah fitting into this slot, but something tells me that when the coaches vote to select a backup big man, they won't be able to ignore the incredible numbers the 20-year-old Drummond has been putting up this season.

    Yes, the foul shooting needs work. And yes, it'd be nice if we ever saw Drummond do anything on offense besides dunk.

    But this guy is a complete beast, and he's done enough damage against enough Eastern Conference opponents this year for every coach with a vote to know how devastating of a force the second-year behemoth truly is.

    If anything, coaches won't want to motivate this budding star with an All-Star snub. He's a bad enough dude as it is; there's no sense in adding fuel to the fire. Expect Drummond to make the first of many All-Star appearances this year.

Eastern Conference Reserve: Arron Afflalo

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    2013-14 Per-Game Statistics: 21.6 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.0 blocks

    Previous All-Star Games: Zero


    Every fiber of my being says the coaches are going to select Jeff Teague as the second reserve guard in the East. But by any worthwhile measure, the nod should go to the Orlando Magic's Arron Afflalo. He's been incredible through the first quarter of the season.

    So, maybe we can put an asterisk next to this slide and call it the "Wishful Thinking" section of these predictions.

    The 28-year-old wing has hit 41.5 percent of his triples, defended well and raised his scoring average for the sixth consecutive season. It'll be tough to get noticed because of the Magic's unimpressive team performance, but if there's any justice, Afflalo will somehow find his way onto the East's bench this February.

    Some enterprising Magic fan needs to start a grassroots campaign to get him a little love.

Eastern Conference Reserve: Brook Lopez

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    Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sport

    2013-14 Per-Game Statistics: 20.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.5 steals, 1.9 blocks

    Previous All-Star Games: One


    The final reserve spot could go to a number of deserving candidates. David West, Paul Millsap, Teague and even Jordan Crawford have defensible cases.

    But now that Brook Lopez is back from injury and playing even better than he did in his first All-Star-worthy campaign a year ago, he's got the best chance to fill out the roster. You just don't leave legitimate 7-footers who hit 57 percent of their shots while also reliably getting to the line off of this roster.

    The Brooklyn Nets' atrocious start might hurt Lopez's case, but he's hardly the problem. In fact, without him, who knows how bad the Nets might be?

    Lopez is a good bet to snag a spot in New Orleans. 

Western Conference Backcourt Starter: Chris Paul

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    Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

    2013-14 Per-Game Statistics: 19.8 points, 4.7 rebounds, 11.3 assists, 2.4 steals, 0.1 blocks

    Previous All-Star Games: Six


    According to, Chris Paul is averaging more assists per minute this year than he has in any year of his illustrious career. Perhaps in a show of appreciation for CP3's generosity, the early returns from fan voting indicate he's been gifted with a starting spot for the West.

    Only one Western Conference guard has more votes than Paul. We'll get to that travesty in a moment, but it's equally important to note that another fan favorite is hot on CP3's heels. If the Golden State Warriors mount the kind of social media campaign for which they've become famous, Stephen Curry could give Paul a run for his money.

    I'm betting Paul will hold onto his spot, but not by much.

Western Conference Backcourt Starter: Kobe Bryant

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    2013-14 Per-Game Statistics: 12.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, 6.8 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.0 blocks

    Previous All-Star Games: 15


    If ever we needed proof that the All-Star voting process is little more than a popularity contest, look no further than this: Kobe Bryant has the second-most votes in the West and the third-most overall.

    Bryant has been rusty since his return from a torn Achilles. He's turning the ball over at an alarming rate, clearly lacks the athleticism he flashed last year and has only begun to rediscover his rhythm. There's a good chance he looks much better in a couple of months, but there's no way he'll rate as one of the two best guards in his conference.

    The fans want to see Kobe compete against the game's best. So, that's what they'll get.

    And let's immediately rule out any chance of him sitting out the game. He'll be looking at this contest as a way to prove he still belongs among the game's elite.

    I have a feeling said elite will be out to show him that his days as top dog are long gone.

Western Conference Frontcourt Starter: Kevin Durant

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    Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

    2013-14 Per-Game Statistics: 28.5 points, 8.3 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.5 steals, 1.0 blocks

    Previous All-Star Games: Four


    Kevin Durant leads the league in scoring and is averaging his highest per-game assist and rebound totals ever. In addition, he's the focal point of a 19-4 Oklahoma City Thunder team that still has yet to lose a home game this year.

    So, yeah, I'd say he deserves to be the leading vote-getter in the West.

    Barring some natural disaster, the cancellation of the game itself or the some sort of gross vote-counting error, KD is going to lead the West into battle.

Western Conference Frontcourt Starter: Dwight Howard

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    Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

    2013-14 Per-Game Statistics: 17.4 points, 13.2 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.8 steals, 1.8 blocks

    Previous All-Star Games: Seven


    It's become commonplace to bag on Dwight Howard. His poor public relations performance over the past two years has made him plenty of enemies.

    Listen to chatter around the league and you'll hear pundits lamenting his turnover woes, critics ripping his poor body language and detractors complaining about his horrible performance in the post.

    Apparently, none of those things bother fans.

    With Marc Gasol still nursing a bad knee, there's really not much of a case for any other centers to start ahead of Howard. But remember, the voting categories are divided into frontcourt and backcourt sections, so if you're a strong believer in LaMarcus Aldridge or Kevin Love, you've still got another six weeks to hit the polls.

    For now, though, Howard has a decent grip on a starting spot.

Western Conference Frontcourt Starter: Blake Griffin

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    Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

    2013-14 Per-Game Statistics: 20.3 points, 10.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.7 blocks

    Previous All-Star Games: Three


    Blake Griffin has been an All-Star in every year of his NBA career, excluding the 2009-10 campaign he lost to a knee injury. Right now, it looks like that trend will continue.

    What's less certain is whether Griffin will start or come off the bench this year. He's currently in possession of a narrow, 17,000-vote lead over Kevin Love. That kind of margin can disappear quickly, and with Love putting up video game stat lines on a nightly basis, Griffin had better start generating some big numbers of his own if he wants to be in the starting lineup.

    The Los Angeles Clippers probably have an active enough fanbase to assure that the Blake Show holds onto his lead, but this is already a much closer race than anyone anticipated.

Western Conference Reserve: Stephen Curry

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    Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

    2013-14 Per-Game Statistics: 24.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, 8.9 assists, 1.8 steals, 0.3 blocks

    Previous All-Star Games: Zero


    It might actually be better if Curry didn't finally make his first All-Star Game. After all, when he got snubbed last season, he went on to dazzle fans with a fantastic second half. He drilled the New York Knicks for 54 points in Madison Square Garden, then led the Warriors in a pair of thrilling playoff series, despite a pair of bum ankles.

    Wouldn't it be fun to see what he'd do if he missed out again?

    Then again, Curry is so deserving of a berth that excluding him would be almost indefensible.

    He's doing everything for the Dubs this season, leading them in scoring while ranking third in the NBA in assists per game. And even though he's been charged with creating almost everything for Golden State on offense, he's still finding the energy to take over games in the final minutes.

    The All-Star Game needs Curry. Warriors fans have had him to themselves for too long.

Western Conference Reserve: Kevin Love

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    2013-14 Per-Game Statistics: 25.0 points, 13.6 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.4 blocks

    Previous All-Star Games: Two


    I guess I kind of spoiled this one by talking about Love in the Griffin slide. But if you didn't have a strong suspicion that the Minnesota Timberwolves do-it-all forward was going to be among these predictions, you probably haven't been paying very close attention to the 2013-14 season.

    Love's twice-broken hand put an end to his modest two-season streak of All-Star nods, and another injury is the only thing that could possibly prevent him from making it back onto the West's roster this year.

    Put simply, Love has been stuffing the stat sheet in a way that has caught the attention of voters and coaches. So even if there's not a strong voting push from the few Minnesotans who aren't frozen into Midwest ice cubs in January, Love's definitely heading to New Orleans.

Western Conference Reserve: James Harden

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    2013-14 Per-Game Statistics: 24.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.5 blocks

    Previous All-Star Games: One


    Earlier this season, James Harden came under fire for sleepwalking on defense. The evidence was hard to ignore; it really did appear that the Beard was content to play one end of the court while totally ignoring the other.

    This isn't really a new development for Harden, though. He's never been a great defender, and it's not uncommon for breakout stars to meet with renewed scrutiny once the surprise of their rapid ascent wears off.

    But Harden has remained a highly efficient offensive player who shoulders a disproportionate share of the scoring responsibility for his team. He's been slightly better defensively since his November swoon, but on the strength of his offense alone, Harden is a deserving All-Star.

    With the fifth-most votes among West backcourt players, Harden won't get to start the game. But he'll get in when the coaches inevitably tab him.

Western Conference Reserve: Tony Parker

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    Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

    2013-14 Per-Game Statistics: 17.5 points, 2.6 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 0.4 steals, 0.0 blocks

    Previous All-Star Games: Five


    Let's get something straight: As it pertains to the San Antonio Spurs, the All-Star debate is not about whether or not Tony Parker deserves a spot as a backup. It's about whether the team with the league's best differential—by far—should actually have more than one representative.

    If winning were the only criteria, there'd be two or three Spurs heading to New Orleans.

    Deride Parker's pedestrian superficial numbers all you want. He's in charge of an elite offense that simply doesn't function without his relentless penetration and careful passing.

    It hurts to leave Tim Duncan on the sidelines, but the big man would probably rather rest up anyway. Parker absolutely belongs in the All-Star Game, and it seems safe to assume the coaches will give him the recognition he's owed.

Western Conference Reserve: Russell Westbrook

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    Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

    2013-14 Per-Game Statistics: 21.0 points, 5.4 rebounds, 6.7 assists, 2.0 steals, 0.1 blocks

    Previous All-Star Games: Three


    If I had the final say, Russell Westbrook would win a spot among the West reserves on the strength of his recent comment about long two-point shots alone.

    Per Royce Young of, Westbrook had this response when asked about his increased three-point-shooting volume:

    There's no need to take long 2s. If you're going to take a (long) 2, you might as well take a step back and shoot a 3. ... It's a better percentage if you just back up a step or if you go in a step instead of taking a long 2. It's a bad shot.

    How great is that? The guy who takes more flack for shot selection is correctly explaining one of the key analytical tenets to good NBA offense. From now on, let's all agree to leave Westbrook's decision-making alone.

    Clearly, he knows what he's doing.

    The coaches who'll decide the reserves also know what they're doing, which is why they'll definitely put Westbrook—possibly the most dangerous attacking guard in the league—into his fourth consecutive All-Star Game.

    It's the smart thing to do.

Western Conference Reserve: LaMarcus Aldridge

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    2013-14 Per-Game Statistics: 23.5 points, 10.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.9 blocks

    Previous All-Star Games: Two


    With all the chatter about LaMarcus Aldridge finally getting some respect this season, you'd think the guy had been a forgotten man for the first seven years of his career.

    But remember, the Portland Trail Blazers' MVP candidate has actually been a part of the past two All-Star Games. So, it's not as if he's been invisible.

    Still, Aldridge has been fantastic this year, and as the best player on the NBA's most surprising team, he's an iron-clad lock to make his third straight appearance with the West's best. You can bet that he'll be out to make a bigger impression this year, too.

    Aldridge went scoreless in 11 minutes in his most recent All-Star trip.

Western Conference Reserve: Damian Lillard

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    2013-14 Per-Game Statistics: 20.2 points, 3.5 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.3 blocks

    Previous All-Star Games: Zero


    One good Blazer deserves another; Damian Lillard is the second Rip City candidate with a good chance to make a trip to New Orleans.

    Granted, there are a handful of other stars out West who are equally worthy of a spot. Dirk Nowitzki, Ty Lawson, Eric Bledsoe and Mike Conley are all regrettable omissions. And Anthony Davis would warrant more consideration than anyone were he not out for an indeterminate amount of time with a broken hand.

    But there are only so many spots available, and Lillard earns his place here because he's a huge part of what has made the Blazers so good.

    Without his penetration, Portland's offense wouldn't be nearly as effective. With Lillard a constant threat to get into the lane, opponents have to pay special attention to him. And when he inevitably works his way to a vulnerable spot in the defense, the resulting collapse brings the Blazers' patented pitch-and-fire offense to life.

    So, with apologies to many of the other deserving options, Lillard seems like the guy with the best chance to catch the eye of the voting coaches.

Complete Rosters

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    2014 NBA All-Star Game Roster Prediction Recap


    Western Conference Starters: Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, Dwight Howard

    Western Conference Reserves: Stephen Curry, Kevin Love, James Harden, Tony Parker, Russell Westbrook, LaMarcus Aldridge, Damian Lillard


    Eastern Conference Starters: Kyrie Irving, Dwyane Wade, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James

    Eastern Conference Reserves: John Wall, Roy Hibbert, Al Horford, Chris Bosh, Andre Drummond, Arron Afflalo, Brook Lopez