The 2022 NBA All-Star Game is on the horizon and, on Thursday, the Inside The NBA panel revealed the 10 starters. There was one notable surprise in the form of Andrew Wiggins landing among the trio of Western Conference frontcourt players but, for the most part, the real dialogue will continue until the NBA announces the reserves in both conferences on Thursday, Feb. 3.
As a quick reminder, the five starters from the East are Kevin Durant (captain), Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, DeMar DeRozan, and Trae Young. The West starters are LeBron James (captain), Nikola Jokic, Andrew Wiggins, Stephen Curry, and Ja Morant.
From here, the NBA’s coaches will vote on the seven reserves for each side and the format is crucial. Two reserve guards must be chosen from each conference, with three reserve frontcourt players and two “wild card” choices that can come from any position. There is positional guidance from the All-Star voting ballot itself but, for the most part, it is open season and creative results are possible.
In this space, we’ll lay out the candidate pools (in alphabetical order) for each of the four position groups, with the coaches doing the rest in the coming days. Up first is the jam-packed guard race in the East, made more difficult by the bizarre inclusion of DeRozan as a guard despite playing the entirety of his season at forward.
- LaMelo Ball (19.4 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 7.7 apg; 42.4% FG, 36.3% 3PT, 88.6% FT) – At the time of this post, the Hornets are 27-22 and comfortably in the No. 7 spot in the East. While Miles Bridges and others have played well, Ball is driving a lot of the offense in Charlotte, and the numbers are impressive.
- Bradley Beal (23.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 6.5 apg; 45.5% FG, 30.1% 3PT, 83.7% FT) – It hasn’t been a good shooting season for Beal, but he is the centerpiece of a decent Washington team. The three-time All-Star is also averaging a career-best mark in assists and the second-best rebounding total of his career.
- Jaylen Brown (24.0 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 3.0 apg; 45.4% FG, 36.4% 3PT, 78.7% FT) – Brown has played in only 35 of Boston’s first 47 games, but he’s been good when he’s on the court. Playing in three-quarters of the games is enough to maintain candidacy, and Brown’s efficiency and productivity are strong.
- Darius Garland (19.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 8.2 apg; 46.7% FG, 36.4% 3PT, 90.7% FT) – With Collin Sexton and Ricky Rubio both out, Garland has been the only ball-handler for Cleveland at times this season, and he is enjoying a full-fledged breakout. The game is in Cleveland, adding to the mystique, but his play has earned consideration on the merits.
- James Harden (23.0 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 10.1 apg; 42.0% FG, 33.7% 3PT, 87.1% FT) – Even in a “down” year, Harden is putting up huge numbers on a good team. The nine-time All-Star is a mainstay at this point, and he has been thrust into more prominent duty with Kyrie Irving out for a while and now serving as a part-time player.
- Jrue Holiday (17.8 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 6.4 apg; 48.9% FG, 38.1% 3PT, 74.2% FT) – Holiday is one of the best defensive guards in the NBA and he’s still a prominent force on offense. The counting stats aren’t at the same level as other competitors, but the impact is up there.
- Zach LaVine (24.9 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 4.3 apg; 48.8% FG, 40.4% 3PT, 87.1% FT) – Charles Barkley famously thought LaVine should start over Trae Young, and Chicago is a great story. LaVine is playing at an All-Star level and, if you squint hard enough, you might even be able to make a case for him over DeRozan.
- Fred VanVleet (21.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 7.0 apg; 42.1% FG, 39.3% 3PT, 87.0% FT) – Toronto’s broadcast team has taken to calling him “Freddy All-Star” and VanVleet is playing incredible basketball. He’s a plus defender despite modest size, and VanVleet has been the best player for the Raptors this season.
- Jarrett Allen (16.1 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 1.9 apg; 68.9% FG, 68.8% FT) – As noted above with Garland, there will be a push for Cleveland representation but, again, Allen is deserving on his own. He’s been a force and, alongside Evan Mobley, has anchored an impressive and surprising Cavs defense.
- Jimmy Butler (21.4 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 6.0 apg; 48.4% FG, 23.6% 3PT, 88.2% FT) – The only knock on Butler is that he’s played in only 30 games. Otherwise, he’s been a two-way force for a top-tier team, and Butler is a five-time All-Star selection with a long track record.
- Khris Middleton (20.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 5.3 apg; 44.4% FG, 39.2% 3PT, 88.8% FT) – Middleton is sometimes forgotten, but he’s just plugging along at a star level. He’s best cast as a No. 2 or No. 3 piece but, in Milwaukee, that is what he is, and he’s very good at it.
- Domantas Sabonis (19.0 ppg, 11.9 rpg, 4.9 apg; 57.7% FG, 32.7% 3PT, 74.4% FT) – Sabonis might be dinged for Indiana’s dismal win-loss record, but the counting stats are there and this is the most efficient shooting season of his career.
- Pascal Siakam (21.0 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 5.2 apg; 47.7% FG, 33.3% 3PT, 72.5% FT) – Like Butler, Siakam might have a games question after appearing in only 33 thus far. He’s still playing well, though, and could be underrated at this point after vanishing into the wilderness last season.
- Jayson Tatum (26.0 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 3.9 apg; 42.7% FG, 33.1% 3PT, 84.2% FT) – Tatum has disappointed this season when compared to expectations, but he’s still playing at an All-Star level. It’ll be interesting to see how he’s viewed.
- Devin Booker (25.0 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 4.4 apg; 44.2% FG, 37.7% 3PT, 86.1% FT) – The Suns are the best team in the league and Phoenix doesn’t have a starter out of the West. It seems likely that both Booker and Chris Paul (see below) will make it, and they both should.
- Luka Doncic (25.2 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 8.7 apg; 43.5% FG, 30.0% 3PT, 75.3% FT) – Doncic isn’t having a great season by his standards, but he’s (by far) the best player on a top-six team in the West and the numbers are still there.
- Anthony Edwards (22.7 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 3.5 apg; 44.6% FG, 37.6% 3PT, 79.3% FT) – At the time of this post, the Wolves are the No. 7 seed in the West and, while Karl-Anthony Towns gets a lot of credit, Edwards should also receive some attention. The former No. 1 pick has ramped up his defense and he’s scoring at a prolific rate with solid efficiency.
- Donovan Mitchell (25.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 5.2 apg; 45.0% FG, 33.9% 3PT, 87.6% FT) – Mitchell’s numbers are quite similar to last year’s and that is a positive thing. Utah also has the best offense in the league and he’s the biggest individual reason for that success.
- Chris Paul (14.5 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 10.1 apg; 48.7% FG, 33.1% 3PT, 83.5% FT) – The Point God continues to defy the aging curve. He should be a lock.
- Anthony Davis (22.8 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 2.8 apg; 51.8% FG, 17.5% 3PT, 73.0% FT) – Davis is back from injury, returning on Jan. 25, and that gives him more of a chance to make the cut. His shooting has evaporated, though, and the Lakers’ lack of team success might join forces with his lack of playing time to make a tough decision.
- Paul George (24.7 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 5.5 apg; 42.1% FG, 32.3% 3PT, 88.0% FT) – George would be an absolute no-brainer if not for injury, but he’s appeared in only 26 games and hasn’t taken the floor since before Christmas. It’s a testament to how good he is that he’s even on the list.
- Draymond Green (7.9 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 7.4 apg; 53.7% FG, 28.6% 3PT, 59.7% FT) – Golden State is holding its breath about Green’s back injury but, even if he can’t play before the All-Star break, Green should be in. He was the leading DPOY candidate when he exited and the Warriors have the best defense in the league because of his presence.
- Rudy Gobert (16.0 ppg, 15.1 rpg, 1.2 apg; 70.7% FG, 69.0% FT) – Gobert was a serious candidate to start and should be a lock here. He remains the best rim protector in the league and, even with self-creation, Gobert is a big-time weapon for an elite offense.
- Karl-Anthony Towns (24.1 ppg, 9.4 rpg; 3.6 apg, 51.6% FG, 41.0% 3PT, 81.1% FT) – In a just world, either Towns or Gobert would be starting in place of Andrew Wiggins. Both should make the team anyway.