NBA

My 2021 NBA All-Star Game Ballot (Part 1?)

(📸 CBS Sports)

Mere weeks away from the event, the NBA has launched its annual fan voting process, which will partially determine the players who will represent the best and brightest in basketball. This year’s ballots are in a strained position, as a single month of data and film breakdown will be used to evaluate players for the delayed 2021 season as opposed to a regular four months, which leaves unsustainable hot starts and shaky box scores in higher consideration. With that in mind, I’ll reveal the rosters from either conference I would assemble if they were my choices.

Criteria

My selection process is fairly straightforward. I won’t be taking team records into account; this is a list that recognizes players, not units. I also won’t be treating unstable box score stats as if they are accurate representations of how good a player is. Instead, I’ll only penalize players for firing blanks in the first month of the season if it’s a true indicator of some form of decline. The same goes for deceptively uber-efficient scorers. The traditional “box-and-record” (it’s almost poetic this can be abbreviated “B/R”) approach doesn’t have a place in this criteria. I’ll be choosing players based on their on-court impact and ability to put casts of varying quality in position for home-court advantage come Playoff time.

Rather than simply revealing my ballot, I’ll also group my actual and potential electees into tiers, because there’s obviously wiggle room with every list. This will hopefully clear the air if one of my picks seems disconcerting.

“Absolutely”

These are the players I am entirely confident in voting for, ones who would distinctly pass the threshold for “All-Star level” player if the season ended today. I would find it an outright crime if one of them were to miss the count.

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo (East)
  • Bradley Beal (East)
  • Jimmy Butler (East)
  • Kevin Durant (East)
  • Joel Embiid (East)
  • James Harden (East)
  • Kyrie Irving (East)
  • Stephen Curry (West)
  • Anthony Davis (West)
  • Luka Dončić (West)
  • Paul George (West)
  • Rudy Gobert (West)
  • LeBron James (West)
  • Nikola Jokić (West)
  • Kawhi Leonard (West)
  • Damian Lillard (West)

Most of the names in this tier are fairly self-explanatory, so I’ll refrain from delving too deep as to why I think Kevin Durant or LeBron James should be an All-Star this season. Truth be told, the only player I see garnering even the slightest of controversy here is Jimmy Butler. Yes, his efficacy on the offensive end is lagging far behind most of his cohorts so far, but he’s added some extra spice to his defensive makeup: strong reads, great deflector, and the general playmaking on that end to counterbalance his early-season shooting woes.

“Probably”

Although I’m not entirely sold on this next bunch as definitive All-Star level players, I think there’s a small room for doubt that they belong on the ballot.

  • Bam Adebayo (East)
  • Khris Middleton (East)
  • Jayson Tatum (East)
  • Myles Turner (East)
  • Trae Young (East)

Perhaps it’s a bit early, but I’m buying in on Myles Turner. His offense barely keeps itself afloat at times, so this is a choice clearly based on his being an absolute flyswatter on the defensive end. Past the blocks per game numbers and stunning rim protection, Turner is becoming one of the league’s best defenders very fast. He makes a strong argument as having been the sport’s most underrated player in the past three years.

“Maybe”

If I squint hard enough, I can see a reasonable case as a legitimate All-Star for all of these players. However, not all of them will end up on my final ballot because of either a lack of spots or significant reasons for doubt.

  • Jaylen Brown (East)
  • Jrue Holiday (East)
  • Kyle Lowry (East)
  • Domantas Sabonis (East)
  • Pascal Siakam (East)
  • Ben Simmons (East)
  • Devin Booker (West)
  • Chris Paul (West)

“Not quite there”

These are players who, if need be, could fill a spot as an injury replacement for the All-Star Game. They’re as the tier name suggests, “not quite there,” but on the verge of entering the conversation.

  • Malcolm Brogdon (East)
  • Gordon Hayward (East)
  • Zach LaVine (East)
  • Marcus Smart (East)
  • Nikola Vučević (East)
  • Kemba Walker (East)
  • Mike Conley (West)
  • DeMar DeRozan (West)
  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (West)
  • Brandon Ingram (West)
  • C.J. McCollum (West)
  • Donovan Mitchell (West)

This last tier was the hardest for me to assemble considering how many guys could rightfully belong in the group. However, I chose to only include players who showed the clear-cut potential to end the season at or near All-Star level. Think of the “not quite there” players as “sub” All-Stars.

Final Ballot

The previous groups lay out a wide range of options for players who could be worthy of making the final cut, but positional restrictions and a roster cap mean not every one of them will make an appearance on the following list. Using the tiers as a framework along with the aforementioned positional requirements decreed by the NBA (four guards, six forwards, and two wild cards), here is my selected roster for either conference.

Eastern Conference

Starters

  • (G) Kyrie Irving
  • (G) James Harden
  • (F) Kevin Durant
  • (F) Giannis Antetokounmpo
  • (F) Joel Embiid

Bench

  • (G) Bradley Beal
  • (G) Trae Young
  • (F) Bam Adebayo
  • (F) Jimmy Butler
  • (F) Khris Middleton

Wild Cards

  • (W) Jayson Tatum
  • (W) Myles Turner

Western Conference

Starters

  • (G) Stephen Curry
  • (G) Luka Dončić
  • (F) LeBron James
  • (F) Kawhi Leonard
  • (F) Anthony Davis

Bench

  • (G) Damian Lillard
  • (G) Chris Paul
  • (F) Paul George
  • (F) Rudy Gobert
  • (F) Nikola Jokić

Wild Cards

  • (W) Devin Booker
  • (W) C.J. McCollum

Keep in mind that a lot of the players at the end could be reasonably switched out with similar-impact players in my eyes, but if I had to decide which ones to send to Indianapolis, this is my ballot. I intend on doing a follow-up to this post in the week or so leading up to the actual game if there are any changes, although I don’t expect much of the starting lineup and front-end of the bench to undergo any switches.

Thanks for reading and have an awesome day!

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