NBA

NBA All-Star Power Rankings (1/2/22)

(📸 ClevelandSports.org)

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to another edition of my NBA All-Star Power Rankings series! Here, I’ll detail the current landscape of the league’s best players and condense my thoughts into one All-Star ballot. Players will be arranged into tiers based on their level of play, which is entirely based on the degree of impact the player provides by helping teams gain higher seeding and home-court advantage for the Playoffs. To add a final disclaimer:

This list is not my “prediction” of the league’s actual All-Star teams lineups. This is a reflection of my evaluations of players, and where that would place them in the NBA’s award hierarchy.

Absolutely

Within the league’s top-25 or so players is a group that has fully established itself as All-Star-caliber (or better). There’s little to no doubt in my mind that these players should be headed to Cleveland in February.

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo (East)
  • Jimmy Butler (East)
  • DeMar DeRozan (East)
  • Kevin Durant (East)
  • Joel Embiid (East)
  • James Harden (East)
  • Zach LaVine (East)
  • Trae Young (East)
  • Mike Conley (West)
  • Stephen Curry (West)
  • Anthony Davis* (West)
  • Luka Doncic (West)
  • Paul George* (West)
  • Rudy Gobert (West)
  • Draymond Green (West)
  • LeBron James (West)
  • Nikola Jokic (West)
  • Donovan Mitchell (West)
  • Ja Morant (West)
  • Chris Paul (West)
  • Karl-Anthony Towns (West)

Because these are players whom I firmly believe are All-Stars, I won’t belabor any points. I will address the two asterisks next to Anthony Davis’s and Paul George’s names, which were added due to uncertainty surrounding their injury status come February. Davis and George are both currently out with a sprained MCL and a torn elbow ligament, respectively. Both will be re-evaluated in a few weeks’ time.

Probably

The “Probably” group includes players I currently believe are All-Star-level, but I may not be entirely sold on their status. A lot of these players will make my final ballot, but whether it be injuries, a lack of signals, or general uncertainty about their playstyle, I distinguish them from those I wholeheartedly believe are All-Stars.

  • Bam Adebayo (East)

A unique mold of player for the modern game, Adebayo is on track to replicate his All-Star success from the last two seasons. He provides a level of spacing as a threat from the mid-range (39% on 8.6 attempts per 75) to tie into a strong overall scoring package, which he pairs with elite defense that has remained on the perennial DPOY watch.

  • Bradley Beal (East)

Beal’s outside shooting slumped out of the gate, which was an attribute of his that was crucially valuable to an elite off-ball package. Resultantly, I can’t view him as an All-Star lock, but his passing and shot creation have been trending upward, which boosts his value in a floor-raising role, also helping to mask his questionable defensive play.

  • Jrue Holiday (East)

Holiday is a player that provides a ton of value that the box score doesn’t capture. Adjusted Plus/Minus models have always looked fondly upon his shooting, passing, and tough brand of point-of-attack defense. After a while, it becomes hard to ignore what the analytics are communicating.

  • Khris Middleton (East)

Minutes played alongside the Greek Freak have depleted Middleton’s scoring punch so far, (Middleton averages 28.5 points per 75 on 59% True Shooting as the lone star.) but his skills have still carried over: spacing, passing, and shot creation. My only setback is how those skills map to his overall impact; the metrics are concerningly low on Middleton thus far.

  • Jayson Tatum (East)

After a rapid ascension in 2020, Tatum seems to have stagnated slightly. His shooting and scoring have been in decline, and he doesn’t have the playmaking chops like Lillard to make up for some of that value. He’s otherwise adding some on defense. This is one of many “Playoffs will tell” cases.

  • Damian Lillard (West)

Lillard feels like an obvious choice most other seasons. The only reason I put him here is his early-season shooting slump. He’s quickly picked up where he left off previously, but his struggles have dented his scoring effectiveness and have slightly offset the continued value he brings as an elite playmaker.

Maybe

The league’s talent pool is stacked, and as a result I nearly overwhelmed the nominal threshold of an All-Star player being within the sport’s top-25. Since there’s a numerous amount of other players that provide impact in similar vain to these “probable” stars, the “maybe” talents serve as high sub-All-Stars and potential injury replacements.

  • Jarrett Allen (East)
  • LaMelo Ball (East)
  • Darius Garland (East)
  • Fred VanVleet (East)
  • Devin Booker (West)

Again, perhaps these players could be viewed as legitimate All-Stars. The 2022 season hasn’t fully taken shape yet, which could mean rearrangement among the previous two tiers. I’m on the absolute fence with some of these players (e.g. Booker and Conley), whether it be more lack of indicators or too little room in the actual ballot.

Note: I’m omitting the “Not Quite There” tier from previous editions of this series due to the influx of information that comes as the season progresses.

Final Ballot

Once again, we reach the trickiest part of this exercise. It was difficult enough to sort the closest calls, but the task extends when putting these players into their All-Star slots. Similar to the previous editions, the ballots are structured to include two teams for either conference: five starters with two backcourt and three frontcourt players, five reserves (same restrictions), and two “wild cards” (no positional restrictions).

Eastern Conference

Starters:

  • G: James Harden
  • G: Trae Young
  • F: Giannis Antetokounmpo
  • F: Kevin Durant
  • C: Joel Embiid

Reserves:

  • G: DeMar DeRozan
  • G: Zach LaVine
  • F: Jimmy Butler
  • F: Jayson Tatum
  • C: Bam Adebayo

Wild Cards:

  • W: Jrue Holiday
  • W: Khris Middleton

The two closest calls here were 1) whether to give the last frontcourt reserves slot to Adebayo or Middleton and 2) whether to give the second wild-card slot to Middleton or Bradley Beal.

Western Conference

Starters:

  • G: Stephen Curry
  • G: Luka Doncic
  • F: LeBron James
  • C: Rudy Gobert
  • C: Nikola Jokic

Reserves:

  • G: Damian Lillard
  • G: Donovan Mitchell
  • F: Anthony Davis*
  • F: Paul George*
  • C: Karl-Anthony Towns

Wild Cards:

  • W: Chris Paul
  • W: Draymond Green

Given the injuries to Davis and George persist, the roster would be rearranged to bump Draymond Green up to a frontcourt reserve slot, give Mike Conley the vacant wild card slot, and move Kristaps Porzingis into the second frontcourt reserve slot.

Data from:

  • Backpicks.com
  • PBPStats.com

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