The 2014 NBA All-Star Game will not take place until Sunday, Feb. 16 in New Orleans, but the starting lineups have officially been announced for all of us to debate.
The full starting lineups for each conference are as follows:
Sure, Kobe Bryant and even Dwyane Wade being included as starters is questionable at best considering how much time each has missed with injury, but the All-Star Game is about the fans. If the fans want to see the two legendary superstars on the floor, who is to argue with the voting process?
It is always interesting to see which conference wins the actual game, but the winner of the MVP award seems to be more memorable in the long run. With that in mind, let’s discuss the three most likely MVP candidates from the starting lineups.
First, a note. A big man simply isn’t going to win the MVP award in this year’s game. There hasn’t been a center (or low-post playing power forward even) not named Shaquille O’Neal to win the All-Star Game MVP award in the past 10 years, and there certainly won’t be one this year.
The game is built for transition dunks and alley-oop passes, which isn’t exactly Kevin Love’s forte.
The argument can be made that Blake Griffin’s game is perfectly suited for an All-Star Game, and it is, but he won’t see the court enough to win the MVP. Expected reserves like Dwight Howard and LaMarcus Aldridge will be on the court too much for the Los Angeles Clippers forward to take home the trophy.
Believe it or not, LeBron James has only won the All-Star Game MVP twice during his illustrious career.
I guess Skip Bayless was always right—LeBron is clearly not clutch.
James may only have two All-Star Game MVP awards, but the defending MVP of the entire league will thrive in the All-Star environment. He will throw down plenty of dunks in transition, have no problem setting up teammates on alley-oops and throw in the occasional three-pointer when the game gets tight down the stretch.
James is posting a ridiculous 28.9 PER through the season’s first half behind nightly averages of 26.2 points, 6.9 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 1.29 steals. Sure, turnovers have been something of an issue this year, but he has the ball in his hands almost every single possession, so that is to be expected.
Of course, it’s not much of a stretch to suggest that James can win the MVP award of an All-Star Game, but he’s the best player in the world for a reason. Not including him on this list would have been a mistake.
If the Eastern Conference wins, expect James to take home the honors.
James may be the best player in the world, but a legitimate argument can be made on Kevin Durant’s behalf.
In fact, the Oklahoma City Thunder superstar has been must-see television since Russell Westbrook went down with an injury. He is averaging better than 38 points a game in his last 11 contests and topped 45 points in four of those. He also set a career high of 54 points against Golden State in that stretch.
Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News pointed out just how special the past month of basketball has been for No. 35:
Kevin Durant has never been better than he's been this month. He's averaging 37 ppg while leading his team - minus Russell Westbrook - to wins in the past week alone over the Rockets, Warriors, Blazers and Spurs. What's he trying to do, unseat LeBron James as MVP?
While Durant may or may not unseat James as league MVP, he is the odds-on favorite to take home the All-Star Game MVP if the Western Conference wins the game.
Durant puts up video game-like numbers against the best defenses in the league on a consistent basis. Imagine what he will do in the All-Star Game when nobody even pretends to be playing defense.
It isn’t difficult to imagine a scenario at the All-Star game where one player gets red-hot from behind the three-point line and torches the opposition throughout the contest.
If that is going to happen, the most likely candidate is probably Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors.
Curry isn’t only the best three-point shooter in today’s NBA, he is the best of all time. At least he is if you take Durant’s word for it, per ESPN’s Jemele Hill:
Yes, Curry’s 38 percent clip from downtown is somewhat lacking if you want to make the case that he is the best long-range shooter ever, but his percentage is lower than others because he often shoots with multiple defenders in his face off the dribble. Some of the best three-point shooters ever were more catch-and-shoot players who were open far more often.
While Curry’s best chance at All-Star Game MVP is heating up from behind the arc, he will also tally some assists. He rarely gets enough credit for his passing (Curry is averaging better than nine assists a night), and with so many talented teammates, he will mix in some jaw-dropping dimes with all his threes.