NBA All-Star Game 2021: When and Where to Catch Captains, Starters AnnouncementFebruary 16, 2021
NBA All-Star Game 2021: When and Where to Catch Captains, Starters Announcement
The NBA All-Star game is a chance to showcase the league's biggest and brightest celestial ballers.
While the basic appeal needs no further explanation, perhaps the most exciting aspect is when the spotlight falls on a first-time participant.
It means the basketball landscape has shifted to welcome an ascending star. Last season, a whopping 10 players made their All-Star debuts, and three did so in the starting lineup: Luka Doncic, Trae Young and Pascal Siakam.
The number won't be that high this time around, but there's a chance a first-timer or two could be among those selected to start the world's greatest pickup game.
After laying out the scheduling particulars for the upcoming announcement of the captains (the top vote-getters in each conference) and starters, we'll spotlight three players with arguably the best chances of debuting as All-Star starters.
NBA All-Star Game, Starter Announcement Schedules
NBA All-Star Game
When: Sunday, March 7
Where: State Farm Arena, Atlanta
NBA All-Star Starters Announcement
When: Thursday, February 18
TV: TNT during NBA Tip-Off
Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics
For the second consecutive season, the Boston Celtics should have an ascending swingman make his All-Star debut.
In 2019-20, it was Jayson Tatum, who should be locked into a second straight selection. If he gets there, he'll almost assuredly be joined by Jaylen Brown, who's showing why the Celtics kept him out of trade talks during the 2018 Kawhi Leonard sweepstakes.
Brown's numbers are peaking almost across the board in both volume and efficiency. His career-high 26.0 points per game are bolstered by a blistering 60.1 true shooting percentage. His personal-best 3.1 assists are impressively paired with an 11.0 turnover percentage, the second-lowest of his career.
"He's now handling the ball so fluidly to create his own shot that it's jarring compared to the clunkiness of his handle as a freshman at California and a youngster in Boston," The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor wrote.
If any All-Star newbie cracks the starting five, it'll probably be Brown.
Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls
It's never easy to discern the value of big numbers on a sub-.500 squad, but at a certain point, All-Star production is All-Star production.
Zach LaVine has reached that point.
His shoot-first mentality has plagued his percentages in the past, but he's shredding nets at such a ridiculous rate that the Bulls would likely welcome even more attempts.
The 25-year-old has launched his way into top-10 scorer status (28.2 points per game, seventh overall) and somehow boosted his accuracy, too. He's converting 51.9 percent of his field goals and 43 percent of his long-range looks, both of which are easily career highs.
Occasionally a one-note contributor in the past, LaVine has also upped his rebounding (5.5) and assists (5.2) to levels they've never previously reached.
All together, he's become one of only eight players averaging 25 points, five boards and five dimes, a group otherwise flooded with previous MVP winners and present MVP candidates.
Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans
Injuries limited Zion Williamson to just 24 appearances last season, but those outings were so outrageous he still snagged an All-Rookie first-team spot.
Turns out, that was just a warning shot from the now-20-year-old.
His brute strength and boundless hops are the first attributes that jump off the page, but they're so impactful because they're joined by a tremendous set of basketball skills. Elite athleticism alone isn't powering him to 24.4 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.9 assists per night.
With Williamson tapping more into his shot-creation skills, even the sky seems too low of a limit for the Big Easy's budding star.