According to the NBA's third wave of All-Star voting returns, Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry leads all Western Conference players with 958,014 nods in the fan-fueled selection process:
But outside of the league's MVP frontrunner, the Warriors possess several candidates worthy of consideration for the seven hotly contested reserve spots.
From the sharpshooting Klay Thompson to combo-forward extraordinaire Draymond Green and even a potential flyer like Andrew Bogut who's capable of catching fire over the next month, there's no shortage of Bay Area ballers contending for a select few openings out West.
Stephen Curry the Shoo-In
Trailing only LeBron James in the league's fan vote, Curry is a mortal lock to lace up his kicks as a Western Conference backcourt starter alongside Kobe Bryant.
On track to become the first player since Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade in 2008-09 to average at least 20 points, seven assists and two steals for a single season, Curry has been positively brilliant on both ends of the floor, according to Basketball-Reference.
Going beyond basic box score numbers, it's clear Curry's defensive performance hasn't been a fluke. According to NBA.com, the Warriors have been a gargantuan 8.5 points better per 100 defensive possessions with him on the floor and 23.5 points better per 100 possessions overall.
And if you want a really deep figure, here's one worth digesting: Following Wednesday's 117-102 win over the Indiana Pacers, Curry leads the league in VORP, which measures a player's value compared to that of a replacement-level player. According to Basketball-Reference, Curry's VORP rating sits at 7.8, while James Harden is the only other player whose mark has exceeded seven this season.
Additionally, Curry has soared up the league's all-time three-point shooting leaderboard and just became the fastest to drill 1,000 triples in league history, as SportsCenter notes:
See you in the Big Apple, Steph.
The Case for Klay Thompson
After totaling 40 points and dropping a season-high six threes Wednesday night, Klay Thompson is now tied with LeBron James and Damian Lillard for the second-most 40-point games in the NBA this season. Only James Harden (three) has compiled more, according to Basketball-Reference.
Curry's absurd 2012-13 aside, Thompson could become the first player to average at least 20 points and shoot better than 43 percent from beyond the arc since Richard Hamilton and Mike James in 2005-06, per Basketball-Reference.
And while Thompson makes his hay and solidifies his reputation by toeing the three-point line, his game is much more versatile than conventional stats would lead us to believe. Namely, Thompson has emerged as a real off-the-dribble threat now that defenders are programmed to chase him off of the arc.
Knocking down 42.9 percent of his pull-up jumpers, per NBA.com, Thompson's offensive arsenal continues to expand with each passing game.
Grantland's Jonathan Abrams recently explained how Thompson's growth appears to be influenced by Curry:
Thompson has flashed new dimensions of his game this season. He attacks off the dribble more than in previous years, visiting the paint more frequently and more aggressively. When he comes off a ball screen, then splits a double-team before lofting a feathery runner from a step inside the free throw line, Thompson appears to be incorporating touches of his backcourt partner’s game.
Posting a career-best defensive rating of 101, as well, Thompson appears to have padded his resume enough to earn appropriate recognition and make his first career All-Star appearance.
Green Means Go?
Draymond Green may very well wind up being the most divisive All-Star candidate in either conference.
While the midseason exhibition isn't generally a showcase for Jack-of-all-trade types like Green, his influence on Golden State's rapid ascent up the Western Conference standings deserves to be acknowledged on a grand stage.
What makes Green so special, though, is that he isn't restrained by the confines of traditional positional labels. Warriors assistant coach Alvin Gentry touched on those nuances with The Washington Post's Chelsea Janes:
I don’t know if you can lock him into any position. He’s just a really good basketball player – he can be whatever you want him to be. I don’t think you can pigeon-hole him to one position, pigeon-hole him to one thing we’d like him to be: We just like what he brings to the table, mainly the intangibles.
With budding confidence in his jump shot, Green is knocking down a career-high 34 percent of his attempts from three while converting 43.8 percent of his shots between 10 and 16 feet, per Basketball-Reference. That represents a 22.4 percent improvement from last season.
But here's where things get really nutty: As things stand, Green is averaging 11.9 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists through 33 appearances. Over the past 10 years, here's a list of the players who have met those statistical benchmarks over the course of a single season, per Basketball-Reference: Kevin Love (2013-14), LeBron James (2012-13), Pau Gasol (2008-09, 2010-11), Kevin Garnett (2004-05, 2005-06, 2007-08), Dirk Nowitzki (2004-05, 2006-07, 2007-08) and Tim Duncan (2006-07).
Leading the league in defensive win shares (2.5) and defensive rating (95.5), as well, Green's candidacy should be supported by coaches far and wide thanks to his wild production across the board.
On the Periphery
This one's admittedly the biggest stretch of the bunch, but viewed through the lens of his defensive contributions, Andrew Bogut has a fairly strong case.
Already in possession of the league's top defensive rating (96.2), Golden State's efficiency on that end improves to an unthinkable 91.2 with Bogut on the floor, according to NBA.com. However, that's not entirely surprising when you consider Bogut has already recorded the fifth-best defensive box score plus/minus in league history (minimum 20 games) with a mark of 6.1, per Basketball-Reference.
Also consider Bogut is limiting opponents to 39.5 percent shooting at the rim, which ranks No. 2 overall among players who face five such attempts per game, according to SportVU player tracking data.
However, with seemingly lackluster box score averages and nearly a month of action missing from his resume due to a buildup of fluid in his right knee, banking on Bogut's admission would truly be an exercise in wishful thinking.
Who's In, Who's Out?
With James Harden, Chris Paul and Damian Lillard on track to receive reserve gigs assuming Kobe maintains a stranglehold on the No. 2 backcourt spot, Thompson will need to pin his hopes on capturing the conference's final opening in order to join Curry.
Based on their production of late, Kevin Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge and Tim Duncan seem to be the odds-on favorites to nab the three backup frontcourt positions, leaving one wild-card slot up for grabs. Thompson certainly has a strong case, especially since he ranks No. 5 overall in West backcourt voting, but perhaps coaches will thrust Russell Westbrook ahead of Golden State's swingman based on his second-ranked player efficiency rating (29.40).
Should some combination of those players fill out the West ballot, that will leave advanced stat All-Stars like Green and Bogut hungry for their first berths in 2016.