A spot in the starting lineup of the NBA All-Star Game is a big deal. It’s not as prestigious being named to the All-NBA teams after the season, but it’s arguably more memorable in the minds of the fans.
Of course, those fans alone were the ones who’ve been responsible for voting on the All-Star starters for decades. That changes this year, as fan voting is only half of the equation. NBA players and basketball media members each will make up 25 percent of the pie, as well.
So yes, Warriors role player Zaza Pachulia was among the top three vote-getters in the Western Conference frontcourt in last Thursday’s voting update, but don’t coun’t on the Georgian taking the tip in New Orleans on Feb. 19.
A second round of updates will be released Thursday. Fan voting ending Tuesday.
amNewYork won’t be part of the media voting panel, but here are our picks for the most deserving All-Star starters in each conference. Note: All stats through Tuesday’s games.
Frontcourt: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks), Jimmy Butler (Bulls), LeBron James (Cavaliers)
Antetokounmpo, “The Greek Freak,” is the no-brainer here. He may have surpassed LeBron as the top player in the East. Both average at least 23.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 1.5 steals.
Butler, averaging 25 points and 6.7 rebounds, narrowly beats out Kevin Love (Cavaliers) for the other frontcourt spot.
Guards: DeMar DeRozan (Raptors), Isaiah Thomas (Celtics)
DeRozan, followed narrowly by Thomas, lead the conference in scoring. That gives them the edge.
John Wall (Wizards) is the East’s top playmaker, and DeRozan’s teammate Kyle Lowry is having an incredible half-season. Even Kyrie Irving (Cavaliers) would be a fine choice.
Frontcourt: DeMarcus Cousins (Kings), Anthony Davis (Pelicans), Kevin Durant (Warriors)
Davis’ 2.5 blocks per game lead the league, and he’s second in scoring average. Durant has adjusted well to Golden State and remains an elite scorer.
Cousins, who averages 28 points and 10 rebounds, edges Kawhi Leonard (Spurs) in what’s practically a pick ’em.
Guards: James Harden (Rockets), Russell Westbrook (Thunder)
Without question, these are the top two players in basketball this season.
Westbrook leads in scoring, while Harden is tops in assists. Both regularly notch triple-doubles, but only Westbrook is averaging one with 31.2 points, 10.6 rebounds and 10.4 assists.