The starters for the 2013-14 All-Star Game in New Orleans will be decided solely by the fan vote, which as we've seen before, can lead to some interesting selections.
A week after the starters are announced, the reserves will be named by the coach of their respective conference. That's when the real fun starts.
With so many great players in the league, particularly in the Western Conference, we're bound to see some serious snubs.
Will the coaches in each conference defer to veterans instead of younger players? Will deserving stars on bad teams get left off? Let's predict which players will be the big snubs in the All-Star voting.
All stats courtesy of Basketball Reference and are current through games played on Jan. 19.
If the coaches in each conference selected the All-Star reserves based solely on production, Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond would be an easy choice.
Drummond is behind only LeBron James, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony in the Eastern Conference in Player Efficiency Rating (PER), he leads the league in offensive and total rebounding percentage, he's first in the East in field-goal percentage and he's third in the East in blocks per game.
Problem is, you could argue that he might be the third-best frontcourt player on his own team, a team that is six games below .500. Drummond has outperformed players like Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson, but the second-year big man's reputation pales in comparison to those players.
It won't be a surprise if Drummond gets left out of the All-Star Game, but that doesn't make it right. Few players have been as dominant as Drummond has been this year.
Yes, this is how loaded the Western Conference is.
You would think that Damian Lillard would be rewarded for the incredible first half of the season the Portland Trail Blazers have enjoyed. You'd also like to think that his multiple game-winners would factor in alongside his averages of 21.4 points and 5.8 assists, but Lillard is fighting an uphill battle.
Lillard has Kobe Bryant and Tony Parker to thank for that. Based on the latest ballot results, Bryant is a lock to be named a starter, despite barely playing this season.
That leaves the two wild-card spots, which could conceivably be Parker and Lillard, if it weren't for Dirk Nowitzki, who is having one of the best shooting years of his entire career.
That means it will most likely come down to Parker and Lillard. Both players are very similar statistically—Lillard scores a bit better and Parker distributes more effectively—but you have to think Parker (and Nowitzki) will get the veteran nod from coaches in the conference.
If Lillard is snubbed, it probably won't be for long. Bryant will almost certainly miss the All-Star Game, so Lillard should be tabbed as an injury replacement. If Paul can't go, other worthy point guards like Goran Dragic and Ty Lawson could be next in line, but Lillard will get the first crack if he's left off initially.
At 11-30, the Orlando Magic are absolutely one of the worst teams in the league. That may be hard to ignore in the case for Arron Afflalo as an All-Star.
That's a shame, because Afflalo has easily been one of the best players in the East this season with averages of 20.9 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game on a highly efficient 58.7 true shooting percentage. Afflalo has never made an All-Star Game before, but his numbers this year are way too good to ignore.
Even though Afflalo isn't pushing for it, he'd appreciate the nod, according to John Denton of the Magic's official website:
For one, it’s obvious I’m not one to push for fan votes. For me, it’s about team play, winning and it’s about the growth of my game and if I can get the respect of the coaches from that angle, it’s something that I would definitely appreciate.
I’m not trying to outvote D-Wade and these guys who are constantly in the limelight. I’m more of a basketball purist, I love the game and hopefully that will get appreciated from a different angle.
Afflalo has to worry most about Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan. Although he's much less efficient than Afflalo, his raw numbers are nearly identical. Most importantly, he's playing for the fourth-best team in the East right now, which will undoubtedly factor in heavily.
It's going to be very close, but here's guessing the coaches reward DeRozan instead of Afflalo with the last wild-card bid.
Perhaps Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins would be in this year's All-Star Game if the current format still required true centers, but that's no longer the case.
In any event, it's still surprising to see a player averaging 23.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 2.9 assists not be a lock for the All-Star Game, isn't it? In NBA history, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the only player (minimum 600 minutes) to have ever averaged those per-game numbers and not made an All-Star Game. Cousins may join him soon.
The depth of both the frontcourt talent in the West and the quality of teams is going to hurt his case. The Kings are at the bottom of the standings, and it seems very unlikely that guys like Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki are going to be cast aside because Cousins has better raw stats.
For what it's worth, though, Cousins does have a different kind of king in his corner.
"Big Cous is an All-Star, I believe," LeBron James told Chris Palmer.
Cousins has a lot of All-Star Games in his future, but it's hard to see how he's included this year.
New Orleans Pelicans big man Anthony Davis has been a nightmare for opposing coaches to game-plan for, but there's a lot in his way of an All-Star berth.
Like Cousins in Sacramento, Davis plays for one of the Western Conference's worst teams. And despite averaging 20.1 points and 10.4 rebounds while leading the league in blocks per game with 2.9 per, Davis has missed seven games due to injury. That may not seem like a lot, but every little bit counts when you're trying to unseat some off the game's best players from a reserve spot.
This may be the last time Davis ever misses an All-Star Game, but with guys like LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Love taking well-deserved reserve spots and the veterans hanging on, it makes sense that he's on the outside looking in. Maybe he'll get a few votes simply because the game is New Orleans, but his best shot is likely as an injury replacement.
Here are my final predictions for the starters and reserves from each conference:
Backcourt: Kobe Bryant, Stephen Curry
Backcourt: Chris Paul, James Harden
Frontcourt: LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Love, Tim Duncan
Wild Cards: Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker
Frontcourt: LeBron James, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony
Backcourt: John Wall, Lance Stephenson
Wild Cards: DeMar DeRozan, Paul Millsap