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How Many Warriors Deserve to Be All-Stars This Year?

Dave Schilling@@dave_schillingWriter-at-LargeJanuary 7, 2018

OAKLAND, CA - MAY 04:  Draymond Green #23 and Klay Thompson #11 of the Golden State Warriors react with Stephen Curry #30 against the Utah Jazz during Game Two of the NBA Western Conference Semi-Finals at ORACLE Arena on May 4, 2017 in Oakland, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Somehow, the NBA All-Star Game has never meant less and never meant more at the same time. In lieu of the traditional conference vs. conference battle for supremacy, the contest is now the most expensive game of pickup basketball in history. But the reason that’s happening is we live in an era where the only way to win a championship is to assemble your own all-star team though cunning, guile, chicanery and a willingness to pay the luxury tax. I’m not saying that being an NBA general manager is exactly like picking a team on the playground, but it’s never been closer.

That brings me to the Golden State Warriors. Sorry to all of you Clippers fans who sat through Saturday’s game with the Warriors. I truly feel empathy for you. Even you, Clipper Darrell. Poor Darrell was so distraught at not only losing franchise avatar Blake Griffin to a concussion, but also at Los Angeles’ systematic dismantling by the Dubs that the superfan audibly begged Steve Kerr to take Steph Curry out of the game.

Kerr, being the kind-hearted fellow that he is, obliged. With the game in hand, Golden State played the entire fourth quarter with whatever the opposite of the Death Lineup is.

The Warriors’ four main offensive weapons are as dangerous as ever and are all perennial All-Stars. But the competition for All-Star spots has never been heavier, thanks to some key moves from East to West. Yes, conferences still matter in the voting. So, which Dubs should get the call and which ones might as well put their phones on silent?

Who’s In?

I’m not making a case for Curry to be an All-Star. To do so would be equivalent to arguing that pizza tastes better than chalk. You’ve won before you even open your mouth. Same with Kevin Durant. If those guys are healthy February 18, they’ll be in Los Angeles. One of them might even end up a captain in this new All-Star format.

Here's my pick for All-Star starters, if voting happened today and it were up to me, exclusively: 

East

  • LeBron James
  • Kyrie Irving
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo
  • Joel Embiid
  • DeMar DeRozan

West

Curry was having an above-average statistical season before his ankle injury, and he sure looked fully locked in against the Clippers, dropping 45 points in only three quarters. Durant sat out Saturday, but he’s outpacing his performance from his first Warriors season in several categories (PPG, three-point percentage, blocks and assists). Oh God, I think I made a case for Durant and Steph after promising I wouldn’t.

Who’s on the Bubble?

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 6: Draymond Green #23 of the Golden State Warriors handles the ball against the LA Clippers on January 6, 2018 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloadin
Adam Pantozzi/Getty Images

Here’s where things get complicated for those of you who don’t live in the San Francisco Bay Area. Draymond Green has yet to replicate the statistical heights of the history-making 2015-2016 season, but he hasn’t needed to. The addition of Durant last year lifted the scoring burden from Green, and from Klay Thompson for that matter. Green’s taking fewer attempts inside the arc per game than last year—4.4, down from 5.1. That’s his lowest showing in that category since 2013-2014. The rest of his year feels like a clone of 2016-2017, though his free-throw percentage has jumped up to almost 80 percent. That was good enough for an All-Star selection last season, so why not this year?

Well, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony and Jimmy Butler are in the Western Conference now. George and Anthony have both been designated frontcourt players by the All-Star voting system. George is leading the league with 2.4 steals per game and is tied for fifth in made threes per contest with 3.2. Butler’s a guard now after making the East All-Stars as a small forward last year, which is working in Green’s favor. Not working in his favor is Rockets center Clint Capela, who is quietly having a career year in Houston. Green will likely make it back to the All-Star Game for the third season in a row as a reserve. If anyone is getting bumped, it’s Marc Gasol, since Memphis is having one of its worst seasons in years.

I’m leaving Draymond off my ballot, considering both the way the format is set up and the backlog of elite frontcourt players in the West. If the conferences don’t matter in the actual game, I’m not sure why they should matter in the voting, but I’m not commissioner of the NBA...yet.

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 6: Klay Thompson #11 of the Golden State Warriors during the game against the LA Clippers on January 6, 2018 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading
Adam Pantozzi/Getty Images

Thompson is having a hell of a year, even if his stats are in line with his historical levels of production. He’s creating more shots himself after years of relying on off-ball movement and screens to get open looks. This is where Butler gets in the way. He should be a shoo-in All-Star yet again. Damian Lillard was snubbed last year and is having another strong season, and Portland is hanging around the low end of the playoff picture. In year three, it’s fair to say Devin Booker is not a fluke, though he’s putting up points for a bad Phoenix Suns team. Klay makes it, because he’s Klay.

Who Should Probably Book a Flight to Cancun Tomorrow?

Nick Young is about to be robbed again, folks. If there’s one thing we deserve in a meaningless exhibition filled with irrational heat checks, it’s Swaggy P firing off errant long-distance threes like a defective shoulder-mounted rocket launcher. It’s truly not fair, and if you love your country, you’d vote Nick Young for All-Star 2018. Has anyone ever had a coach scold them for shooting too much in an All-Star Game? If not, we need to see it.

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