Sorry, Kobe. If Bleacher Report ran things, you would not be a 2016 NBA All-Star.
Twenty-four Bleacher Report NBA writers and editors cast their 2016 NBA All-Star Game ballots, and we found many, many more qualified candidates.
Bryant, who currently leads the All-Star fan vote by a ridiculous margin, will be an actual All-Star in Toronto regardless of what our heartless, nostalgia-hating experts believe. But in a colder world, where fans are silenced and sportswriters rule, Stephen Curry and LeBron James would be co-starring without the declining Bryant.
Our voting system was simple: Starter votes were worth 1.5 points, reserve votes were worth one point, and frontcourt/backcourt designations only mattered for starters.
Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors (36 points, 24 starter votes)
You were expecting Eddy Curry? Curry leads the NBA in pretty much every offensive statistical category that matters: points per game (29.9), player efficiency rating (31.7), true shooting percentage (.674), three-point field goals (186), field goals (387), win shares (9.1), win shares per 48 minutes (.328), box plus/minus (11.8) and offensive box plus/minus (12.0)—you name it. We're at the point where any missed Curry shot—from virtually anywhere on or off the court—is a shock. Calling him a mere All-Star doesn't do him justice.
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder (35.5 points, 23 starter votes)
With Kevin Durant back in the fold this season on a full-time basis, Russell Westbrook's numbers have dipped to...still-insane levels. Westbrook leads the league in steals (102), is second in assists (405), second in player efficiency rating (29.4) and seventh in points per game (24.2). The Thunder run offense through Westbrook more than Durant, as evidenced by his 33.3 usage percentage. Durant's is 28.8, 15th-highest in the NBA.
Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs (35.5 points, 23 starter votes)
Depending on how you and Charles Barkley structure your sentences, Kawhi Leonard could reasonably be called the best basketball player on the planet. Leonard is the best two-way player in the NBA, without much argument. The most reliable individual defensive metrics place him at the top of the NBA (defensive win shares), top two (defensive rating) or top 10 (defensive box plus/minus). Anecdotally, he's the best perimeter defender we've seen in years.
But Leonard's perimeter shooting has elevated his stature to All-Star starter realm: The former "defensive specialist" is shooting 48.1 percent from deep, trailing only J.J. Redick. Blame the Spurs.
Kevin Durant, OKC Thunder (35.5 points, 23 starter votes)
Pencil in a seventh All-Star appearance for the 27-year-old. The self-proclaimed best player in the world isn't far off his 2013-14 MVP form after only playing 27 games last year due to a foot injury. He's only missed seven games, he's averaging 35.6 minutes a game, and the Thunder occupy the third spot in the historically unfair Western Conference. Durant is unequivocally back, the Thunder are back, and 2016 free-agency speculation headaches are right around the corner.
Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors (35 points, 22 starter votes)
Remember when 2016 NBA All-Star Draymond Green was a bench player with more question marks than answers? We do too, because it was only one year ago. Nine triple-doubles later, as the central instigator on a historically awesome Golden State Warriors team, Green deserves to be an NBA All-Star starter.
Western Conference Reserves
DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings (23 points, four starter votes)
Cousins continues to be a statistical monster among mortals. The eternally embattled Kings center ranks in the top five in points per game, rebounds per game and usage percentage. But there's more: Cousins has reinvented himself in a ridiculously unexpected way—he's attempted 121 threes this season after taking only eight all of last year (his previous career high was 22 in 2012-13). He's made 33.9 percent of them!
That's not elite, but it's scary. The NBA's toughest low-post matchup must now be respected on the perimeter.
Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers (23 points)
Motion to rebrand CP3 as StillP3? Hear us out! "Still" is the only word that really captures Chris Paul's narrative at 30. He's still one of the best point guards in the game. He's still on a mission for the conference finals. He's still a pest defender. He still creates for teammates like nobody else. Only one problem: The guy never stays still.
Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans (23 points)
Ravaged by injuries through the first few months of the season, Anthony Davis and the Pelicans didn't have much of a chance in 2015-16. The Pelicans must find Davis—and his unprecedented skill set—an All-Star-caliber perimeter complement. In the meantime, we'll have to settle for baffling highlights and gaudy box scores.
James Harden, Houston Rockets (22 points)
It's been a weird, frustrating year for Harden and the Rockets, too. Last year's MVP silver medalist leads the league in turnovers and missed shots, and Ty Lawson hasn't shouldered the burden as expected. But Houston asks the world of Harden, whose 37.5-minute-per-game average trails only two players. While his shooting volume inflates his scoring numbers, Harden remains one of the most efficient scorers in the NBA.
Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors (17 points)
Steph Curry and Draymond Green steal the headlines these days, but Klay Thompson is still splashing like a bro. He's shooting 43.1 percent from deep, only slightly down from his 43.9 percentage mark last season, and he's second in total threes made. Guess who's first.
Blake Griffin, L.A. Clippers (15 points)
It's a testament to Griffin's clout and ever-evolving game that he's here despite spending all of January on the shelf. Griffin rated among league leaders in key categories such as player efficiency rating and usage percentage before a partially torn left quadriceps tendon sidelined him on December 26. We won't hold it against Griffin that the Clippers went 9-1 without him against a string of mediocre teams.
Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers (14.5 points)
The LaMarcus Aldridge-Damian Lillard breakup seems to have been an equally beneficial move. Aldridge is happily racking up wins in San Antonio, and Lillard is tallying numbers like never before. Lillard's 24.7 points per game represent a high-water mark, as does his 21.8 PER and 31.4 usage percentage. He still leaves plenty to be desired on the defensive end, but hey, so does the All-Star Game.
Others receiving votes: Dirk Nowitzki (10 points), LaMarcus Aldridge (six points), Derrick Favors (three points), Tony Parker (two points), Kobe Bryant (two points), Karl-Anthony Towns (two points), Mike Conley (one point).
West Head Coach
Luke Walton, Golden State Warriors (14 votes)
Most rookie head coaches would have cost their team a few games by sheer ignorance alone. But Walton has proved to be a stabilizing force. Any time an NBA champion manages to improve on a championship season, you have to give the coaching staff credit for avoiding the cliched but true post-title hangover.
Also receiving votes: Gregg Popovich (10 votes).
Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls (34.5 points, 21 starter votes)
Long gone are the days when Derrick Rose ran Chicago. It's Butler's team now, as Bleacher Report's Sean Highkin noted:
Rose used to be that guy for the Bulls, years before the injuries wiped out his ability to impose his will. Now, it's Butler, the one player on this roster whose on-court performance has been beyond reproach as he's posting a 57.1 true-shooting percentage while using a career-high 24.6 percent of the Bulls' possessions and playing his usual lockdown defense.
Butler deserves the starting nod, but the league leader in minutes played could probably use a break All-Star Weekend.
Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors (27.5 points, nine starter votes)
The NBA finally came to its senses last year and put Kyle Lowry in an All-Star Game. While a 2016 fan vote is possible, Lowry deserves recognition as the best point guard in the Eastern Conference. John Wall, who's been nothing short of All-Star-caliber, is Lowry's stiffest competition, but Lowry has Wall edged in points per game (20.8 to 20.3), rebounds per game (5.2 to 4.3), steals per game (2.3 to 2.2), net rating (plus-5.8 to minus-0.8) and PER (22.7 to 20.7).
LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers (36 points, 24 starter votes)
You get it.
Paul George, Indiana Pacers (33.5 points, 19 starter votes)
Paul George has made believers out of NBA fans and analysts all over again. Technically, his return from injury—one of the most devastating NBA injuries of the past decade—already happened at the end of last season. But it wasn't until George came out of the gate this season with ravenous fire that we really knew he was back—back to exploring the heights of his own ceiling. He regressed back to the mean over the past month, but the way he's handled a switch to power forward and brought the Pacers back to playoff-caliber has been nothing short of extraordinary.
Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons (32 points, 16 starter votes)
The fans won't vote in Drummond, and they will be wrong. The reasons are manifold. Drummond's teammate, Spencer Dinwiddie, noted a good one in the Player's Tribune—that the Pistons center has five of the six 20-20 lines in the NBA this season. He's far and away the league's best rebounder, owning 100 more than DeAndre Jordan, the NBA's second-best rebounder statistically.
Eastern Conference Reserves
John Wall, Washington Wizards (26.5 points, seven starter votes)
The one-man fast break has the Wizards squarely on his back. Without the help of Bradley Beal for much of this season, Wall has helped fill the void. Statistically, he's where an elite point guard should be: among the top five in assists per game and steals per game, and logging heavy minutes (he's 11th in the NBA at 35.8 per game).
Chris Bosh, Miami Heat (23.5 points, five starter votes)
Hassan Whiteside's day will come, but his teammate, Chris Bosh, remains the better contributor to winning basketball. Somehow, despite Whiteside's insane production, the Heat are, by some measures, worse with Whiteside on the floor (and evidenced by Whiteside's position on the bench in crunch time). But Bosh makes the Heat tangibly better—his plus-3.3 net rating dwarfs Whiteside's plus-1.3 net rating.
Paul Millsap, Atlanta Hawks (23.5 points, five starter votes)
The Atlanta Hawks won't get their entire team in the All-Star Game, as they basically did last year. It will—and should be—Millsap, who's carried the team offensively for much of the season. And he's only getting better as the season progresses: He's scored 18 or more points in 11 consecutive games.
Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks (22.5 points, three starter votes)
In October, the 2015-16 season was shaping up to be another meaningless season for Anthony. But Knicks rookie Kristaps Porzingis has breathed new life into the Knicks, and the good vibrations have extended to Anthony.
Bleacher Report's Jared Dubin noted improvement in one of the last areas Knicks fans of yore would have guessed: "The difference appears to be in the quality of his passes, which is reflected by how often they have turned into potential assists, actual assists and adjusted assists (assists plus free-throw assists and secondary or 'hockey' assists, per the SportVU database)."
DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors (17 points)
This isn't a "Toronto's hosting the All-Star Game, so let's give it another All-Star" nod. DeRozan has earned his All-Star spot. He'll earn plenty more this offseason when he (likely) opts out of his contract with the Raptors and seeks the max deal of a lifetime.
Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat (11.5 points, one starter vote)
Happy birthday to Dwyane Wade, aka the "Benjamin Button" of the Miami Heat. Wade turned 34 this past weekend, halfway through a season of fairly surprising production and health. Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra suggested one reason, via Bleacher Report's Zach Buckley: "These things don't happen by accident. I've said before, it's three-to-one. He's putting three hours (of training) to one hour of competition. And he was healthy going into the summer, which allowed him to do that for the first time in a long time."
Reggie Jackson, Detroit Pistons (11 points)
Pretty much everyone was wrong on Jackson. Most analysts called Detroit's five-year, $80 million contract a serious overpay for a player who had only shined in short stints for the Thunder. But Jackson's been elite-ish in a feature role, averaging 19.5 points per game and becoming a legitimate three-point threat (career-high 35.4 percent on three-pointers on four attempts per game).
Others receiving votes: Isaiah Thomas (9.5 points, one starter vote), Kevin Love (nine points), Pau Gasol (four points), Al Horford (four points), Hassan Whiteside (five points), Nicolas Batum (three points), Kristaps Porzingis (two points), Kyrie Irving (two points), Jae Crowder (two points), Nikola Vucevic (two points), Kemba Walker (two points), Brook Lopez (one point).
East Head Coach
David Blatt, Cleveland Cavaliers (10 votes)
Remember when all we did was talk about Blatt's incompetence? We don't do that anymore, which means he must be doing a damn good job keeping LeBron James happy and other egos satisfied. He has the hardest job in the league, and he's winning games. Welcome to the All-Star Game, David Blatt.
Others receiving votes: Brad Stevens (six votes), Frank Vogel (five votes), Stan Van Gundy (one vote), Dwane Casey (one vote), Mike Budenholzer (one vote).
All stats obtained from Basketball-Reference.com.
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