The reserves for the 2014 All-Star Game have yet to be announced, but the starting lineups for both teams are exciting enough to ramp up the anticipation.
The West All-Stars beat the East All-Stars 143-138 last season. There's a plethora of old and new for this year's event, but there are a few select players we should be most excited for.
Kyrie Irving, PG, Cleveland Cavaliers
Many expected vast improvements from Kyrie Irving this season, but he's played just about as well as last season. The Cavaliers have struggled thus far, to say the least, but it's been no fault of Irving's.
His 21.5 points and 6.2 assists per game leads Cleveland in both categories, as so do his 1.3 steals per game. Irving chipped in 15 points and four assists in last year's All-Star Game, which was his first appearance.
This season will mark Irving's first start for the East, and his array of ball-handling skills and ability to score are well-suited for the style of the All-Star Game.
It was some time ago, but Irving's 34-point night with 8-of-8 three-point shooting in the 2012 NBA Rising Stars Game is still imprinted in our memory. It wouldn't be far-fetched to predict a similar performance this year, as he's a dynamic scoring threat in each and every game.
LeBron James, SF, Miami Heat
LeBron James needs no introduction, especially in the context of All-Star Game appearances. He currently ranks fifth all-time in All-Star Game scoring, as well as second in All-Star points-per-game average at 25.1 (trailing Kevin Durant's 28.8 average).
While his play is exciting in its own right, James has appeared envious of Durant's incredible scoring run this season. In an interview with ESPN.com, James said:
I get jealous sometimes when I look over at KD and he's like 16-for-32 (from the field) and then 14-for-34. ... Man. But there are games where I have it going, and then at the end of the game, I'm like, damn, I shot just 12-for-16? Why don't I get up at least six or seven more? I definitely notice it.
LeBron went on to say he's "not much of a forced-shot guy," but he'll have no such restrictions in the All-Star Game. He'll be exciting to watch, regardless of whether he goes off or not.
But you can bet LeBron will come in with a bit of a chip on his shoulder, looking to have a big game scoring the ball against Durant.
Paul George, SF, Indiana Pacers
Much like Irving, big things are expected of Paul George in his first All-Star Game starting nod. He had 17 points in last season's matchup as a reserve, playing just 20 minutes off the bench.
George has cemented himself as a top-10 player this season, averaging 23.3 points per game as opposed to last year's 17.4 per game. You could liken his game to a poor man's version of Durant, but he's just as spectacular.
George's popularity has sky-rocketed this season, as he received the third-most votes behind James and Durant. His athleticism is off the charts and should be on full display in the All-Star Game.
It's clear that his place as one of the league's best players is reserved, but George will have the chance to really prove it against the NBA's best, which is absolutely a scenario that many are looking forward to.
Blake Griffin, PF, Los Angeles Clippers
Much like LeBron, Blake Griffin's inclusion needs no explanation. He's been a magnet for highlight plays, namely due to his off-the-charts athleticism. The All-Star Game is all about big dunks and exciting basketball, and Griffin is arguably the quintessential player to be added.
Griffin won't get to that number in the All-Star Game (unfortunately), although it's possible he'll hit in the high single-digit range.
The lack of defense in this game leads to a high volume of open attempts at the rim, and Griffin will be leading the charge.
Stephen Curry, PG, Golden State Warriors
Many, including myself, were disappointed at Stephen Curry's snub in last season's All-Star Game. Fellow Warriors teammate David Lee was given the nod, but Curry clearly has the upper hand this season.
He was not only voted in for his first appearance this season, but he was voted in as the starting point guard for the Western Conference.
Just as dunking is to Griffin, shooting is to Curry, and he's unstoppable when he gets in a rhythm. He has averaged 29.2 points while shooting 40 percent from deep over his last five games, per ESPN.com, which will likely carry into All-Star Weekend.
Many would hope that is the case, as the West will be extremely exciting to watch. With Curry on the outside, Griffin on the inside and everyone else thrown in, the amount of highlight plays possible exceeds imagination.
Curry's had his fair share with Golden State, and he will likely have a couple more for the West squad.
Kevin Durant, Small Forward for the Oklahoma City Thunder
At this point of the season, Kevin Durant is the unquestioned favorite to net the regular season's MVP award. If he keeps up his recent level of play, he may as well be a lock for the All-Star Game MVP as well.
For the month of January, Durant's averaged a dominant 36.6 points per game on 53.9 percent shooting from the field, converting 41.8 percent from three-point range. It's been a historic run of scoring—perhaps the best we've seen in a decade.
Durant has scored 30 or more points in 12 straight games, including a 54-point explosion against the Warriors on Jan. 17.
There's no reason this trend shouldn't continue into All-Star Weekend either, as Durant already ranks as one of the league's all-time best performers in the contest. He ranks first in points per game at 28.8, well ahead of James' 25.1 and Oscar Robertson's third-place average of 20.5 points.
Of all his selections, Durant has failed to score over 30 points just once, which was during his first appearance in 2010:
|Durant's All-Star Game Scoring|
He was crowned All-Star Game MVP in 2012, but it's pretty safe to predict he'll take home this season's award, too. It isn't a lock, but Durant's shown a blatant disregard to score at will in these games, and I mean that in the best way possible.
If Durant comes into the game with the same routine and ready to score, watch out. Wilt Chamberlain holds the All-Star Game record for points in a single contest at 42, but that's almost child's play for Durant.
Expect a big game, as Durant looks ready to take the NBA as his own.
NBA All-Star Game Career Statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com