The 2014 NBA All-Star Game isn’t for another few weeks, but the starting lineups will be announced on Thursday, Jan. 23—giving fans and analysts plenty to discuss up until the contest tip-off on Feb. 16.
While the anticipation surrounding the big announcement is palpable, we actually have a good idea of which players will be named to the starting lineup for both the Eastern and Western Conferences already.
Let’s take a look at where you can watch the announcement and make some predictions on the players that will have their names called.
When: Thursday, Jan. 23 at 7 p.m. ET
Watch: TNT (one-hour special edition of Inside the NBA)
Announcers: Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal and Kenny Smith
|Backcourt||Kyrie Irving||Cleveland Cavaliers|
|Backcourt||Dwyane Wade||Miami Heat|
|Frontcourt||Paul George||Indiana Pacers|
|Frontcourt||Carmelo Anthony||New York Knicks|
|Frontcourt||LeBron James||Miami Heat|
|Backcourt||Stephen Curry||Golden State Warriors|
|Backcourt||Kobe Bryant||Los Angeles Lakers|
|Frontcourt||Kevin Durant||Oklahoma City Thunder|
|Frontcourt||Blake Griffin||Los Angeles Clippers|
|Frontcourt||Dwight Howard||Houston Rockets|
Fans voted for months via the league’s website, Twitter, texts and traditional paper ballots, and the NBA periodically tallied up the results. The third and final early returns were released less than a fortnight ago and it seems that a good number of superstars have all but locked up their spot as a starter in New Orleans.
Here’s a look at the top vote generators for each position from both conferences:
|Eastern Conference Backcourt|
|1. Dwyane Wade (Mia)||718,109|
|2. Kyrie Irving (Cle)||652,522|
|3. Derrick Rose (Chi)||323,099|
|4. John Wall (Was)||278,516|
|5. Ray Allen (Mia)||190,086|
|Eastern Conference Frontcourt|
|1. LeBron James (Mia)||1,076,063|
|2. Paul George (Ind)||899,671|
|3. Carmelo Anthony (NYK)||702,869|
|4. Roy Hibbert (Ind)||385,964|
|5. Chris Bosh (Mia)||304,986|
|Western Conference Backcourt|
|1. Kobe Bryant (LAL)||844,538|
|2. Stephen Curry (GS)||677,372|
|3. Chris Paul (LAC)||651,073|
|4. Jeremy Lin (Hou)||471,980|
|5. James Harden (Hou)||338,788|
|Western Conference Frontcourt|
|1. Kevin Durant (OKC)||1,054,209|
|2. Dwight Howard (Hou)||509,116|
|3. Blake Griffin (LAC)||500,964|
|4. Kevin Love (Min)||483,031|
|5. LaMarcus Aldridge (Por)||404,793|
In the East it’s clear to see that Kyrie Irving and Dwyane Wade are shoo-in candidates for the backcourt gig. It’s a weak year for the conference in general, especially with Derrick Rose once again out with an injury and Rajon Rondo just returning.
Guards such as John Wall and Lance Stephenson undoubtedly deserve a spot, but they will have to hope for a spot on the bench via the coaches' vote.
The likely Eastern frontcourt is loaded with talent, but is lacking a true center.
LeBron James is the top vote-getter in the league, with only him and Kevin Durant generating more than 1 million ballots from fans. He’s a candidate to play the 5 in an immensely small lineup, with Carmelo Anthony and Paul George also lining up as forwards.
It’s highly doubtful anyone will make a surprise run to alter this starting five, as Roy Hibbert—who has the fourth-most votes in the Eastern Conference frontcourt—was more than 300,000 ballots short of teammate George.
The Western Conference races are a bit closer. Kobe Bryant is the top choice in the backcourt, despite the fact that the Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard only participated in six games after returning from injury before going down again.
The Black Mamba informed ESPN Los Angeles’ Ramona Shelburne that he would prefer that a younger talent get the nod over him, as he didn’t put the work in this season to earn a spot:
I really enjoy watching what the younger guys are doing and how they're performing. Even though there's so much respect from me to be able to go out there and play for the fans, I'd much rather see the young guys play in the game because they've obviously put the work in to be in it. I'd much rather go out there and see them participate.
He echoed that sentiment when speaking to Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times:
Kobe again says he doesn't deserve to get voted into the All-Star game, says "some of the younger guys" should get starting nod.— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) January 21, 2014
Regardless, Kobe’s legion of fans insured that he would make his 16th consecutive All-Star team in 2014. Stephen Curry will most likely join him in the backcourt, as the Golden State Warriors point guard pulled ahead of Chris Paul after the Los Angeles Clippers star succumbed to an injury.
The West’s frontcourt will undoubtedly feature Durant, while Dwight Howard and Blake Griffin will have to keep their fingers crossed during the announcement. Both big men had a narrow lead over some fierce competition.
Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge and Tim Duncan were all within 125,000 votes at the time of the third returns. Each member of this trio deserves to make a reserve spot, so hopefully the coaches find a way to avoid snubbing them.
Which side will win the All-Star Game?
This promises to be an incredible All-Star Game, but the West definitely has an advantage on paper. The starting lineup is strong and the bench is even better. The East will struggle to contain the West’s big men, especially when the starters leave the floor.
Regardless, it will be worthwhile to tune in and it should be nothing short of an immensely exciting affair.