The Toronto Raptors may boast a pair of All-Stars in their backcourt, but the city of Toronto will be playing host to many more of the NBA's best and brightest when the 2016 All-Star Game is held in Air Canada Centre on Feb. 14.
We already knew which popular players would be on the court for the opening tip. Now, the reserves have completed the two rosters—barring any injuries that force those selected to decline their invites:
|Full All-Star Rosters|
|Eastern Conference||Western Conference|
|Backcourt Starter||Kyle Lowry||Stephen Curry|
|Backcourt Starter||Dwyane Wade||Russell Westbrook|
|Frontcourt Starter||Carmelo Anthony||Kobe Bryant|
|Frontcourt Starter||LeBron James||Kevin Durant|
|Frontcourt Starter||Paul George||Kawhi Leonard|
|Reserve||John Wall||Chris Paul|
|Reserve||DeMar DeRozan||James Harden|
|Reserve||Jimmy Butler||Draymond Green|
|Reserve||Paul Millsap||Anthony Davis|
|Reserve||Andre Drummond||DeMarcus Cousins|
|Reserve||Isaiah Thomas||Klay Thompson|
|Reserve||Chris Bosh||LaMarcus Aldridge|
|Head Coach||Tyronn Lue||Gregg Popovich|
Eastern Conference Breakdown
Offense rules the day for the Eastern Conference's bench, especially given the presence of a one-way contributor such as Isaiah Thomas. He's fully deserving of inclusion after averaging 21.6 points and 6.6 assists for the Boston Celtics, but he could be a massive liability on the defensive end against the premier guards on the Western roster.
Fortunately, the East also boasts dangerous offensive players who have grown on the point-preventing side. Chris Bosh, DeMar DeRozan, Andre Drummond and Paul Millsap all qualify, even if none is known for his lockdown skills. Jimmy Butler and John Wall are, however, which will come in handy against the potent backcourt of their opponents.
There won't be too many three-pointers launched up by this group of reserves, but expect lots of slashing from the foul-drawing guards and plenty of thunderous slams from Drummond.
Western Conference Breakdown
Apparently the West is still pretty deep, if for no other reason than the impossibility of highlighting just one portion of the reserves. Do we lean toward the guards, who are represented by Chris Paul, James Harden and Klay Thompson? Do we focus on the dynamic forward and center combination of Draymond Green, DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis and LaMarcus Aldridge?
This set of All-Star backups doesn't necessarily have a distinct identity, and that's because it's so loaded with established talent that operates in vastly different ways.
Paul, Green and Davis are do-everything stars at their respective positions, while Aldridge has started to play a similar style for the San Antonio Spurs. Harden is the all-around offensive specialist, and Thompson continues to establish himself as one of the NBA's most potent spot-up threats. Then there's Cousins, whose blend of physicality and finesse allows him to dominate the center position like few others have in recent memory.
No matter how this group plays, it'll be both fun and effective.
Most Entertaining Players
Important as the mid-range exploits of Aldridge and the playmaking flair of Green can be during regular-season action, that's not typically what thrills crowds on the All-Star stage. Those attending the contest in Toronto—as well as the millions watching at home—want to see dunks, fancy dribbling and plenty of perimeter shots.
In the East, that means we're looking to Wall, who can blaze by virtually any opponent and finish with flair at the rim or use his handles to lose a foe without turning to the wheels. Drummond is another candidate. Per NBASavant.com, he has 77 dunks on the season—many of which have come in rim-rattling fashion—and he'll surely add to that total while suiting up north of the border.
It's harder to pick the favorite out West, even if we immediately eliminate Aldridge, Green and Thompson from contention. For our money, Davis and Cousins are the best choices, due to their knacks for defying the laws of physics that typically confine big men to more limited roles.
Throughout the entire NBA, only two qualified players are averaging at least 14 points, eight rebounds, three assists and a steal: Green and Millsap. It's those two versatile power forwards who serve as the X-factors for their respective conferences.
Each has been able to take on any role. Whether as playmakers, scorers, floor-spacing options or defensive aces, they've almost always been able to make positive impacts.
In the All-Star Game, cogs like these two can sometimes fail to make an impression. They can be overlooked for the more glamorous players who dazzle crowds but don't always know how to fade into the background while still boosting their team's chance at victory.
But if used properly, they'll each have a significant shot at changing the outcome.
Welcome to the Party
One of the most exciting parts of any All-Star game is the ability to welcome new members into an exclusive fraternity. Throughout all of NBA history, 403 different players have been selected to represent one of the two conferences, and that number will swell to 407 in 2016.
Kawhi Leonard was named the 2014 NBA Finals MVP and the 2015 Defensive Player of the Year, but he'll be making his first All-Star appearance for the Spurs—and doing so as a starter. Green is the other first-timer for the West, and both feel like locks to return in the future.
In the East, Drummond and Thomas are strutting their stuff on the midseason stage for the first time, though it seems highly unlikely 2016 will serve as the only appearance for either up-and-coming star. The former is only 22 years old, while the latter will turn 27 just before the game (but is only starting to realize his full offensive potential).
On the flip side, 2016 could also be the last time we see some All-Stars.
Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade still represent the East, primarily because of their popularity, and there's no telling if they'll fall out of contention once the votes stop pouring in. Chances are good they'll both be back at least one more time, even if they aren't guaranteed to return.
But in the West, we can safely say this will be the last All-Star appearance for Kobe Bryant, who is retiring at the end of the season. Look for an MVP push from the Los Angeles Lakers megastar, since he'll want to put on one final show for all those tuning into the festivities.
Why would we select anyone else?
Stephen Curry has been the runaway favorite for MVP during the 2015-16 campaign, and the All-Star Game is a perfect opportunity for him to showcase the full extent of his skills without worrying about falling off the 73-win pace. The stage is ideal for launching crazy-deep triples and attempting to embarrass opponents with fancy dribbling shows, and it just so happens that Curry already does both during the flow of a typical game.
Plenty of standouts could assert their supremacy on the exhibition, but the reigning NBA MVP's game is ideal for this showcase. Regardless of the eventual outcome, picking against the Golden State point guard would be foolish.
Though the East has made significant strides this season, the West still boasts too much top-tier talent.
Just look at the starting lineups, where Bryant is joined by four of the world's five best players. No matter how you order them, Curry, Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, Leonard and Kevin Durant have established a tier of their own in the NBA's individual hierarchy. And James is the only one suiting up for the Eastern Conference.
That's too much talent to overcome, especially when considering the malleability of the Western reserves. Assuming both squads actually want to emerge victoriously in addition to putting on a crowd-pleasing show, players such as Davis, Cousins, Green, Harden and Paul are all way too skilled to be slowed down in this setting.
Every All-Star Game since 2009 has been decided by single digits. The highlight-laden nature of the exhibition almost necessitates close games, as no side is determined to embarrass the other on the scoreboard.
That won't change in 2016, but it'll be close as the individual talent of the West proves too much for the East to overcome.
Prediction: West 155, East 146
Adam Fromal covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @fromal09.
Unless otherwise indicated, all stats are from Basketball-Reference.com or Adam's own databases and are current heading into games on Jan. 28.
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