Joel Embiid: 29.7 PPG, 3.1 APG, 10.8 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 1.2 BPG - 30.82 PER
As a frontrunner for the NBA MVP Award, Embiid has been a dominant factor in the 76ers’ surge to the top of the Eastern Conference. Averaging a career high 29.7 points at a career best 54% clip, the Philadelphia superstar is solidifying his status as one of the league’s premier big men. While injuries have always plagued Embiid since his college days at Kansas, he’s been mostly able to shake the injury bug this season, starting 23 of 29 games so far. Embiid also ranks second in the league this season in Player Efficiency Rating (PER), which is an aggregate calculation demonstrating a player’s total offensive and defensive impact on the court. Embiid is a clear front court starter for the Eastern Conference.
Kevin Durant: 29.0 PPG, 5.3 APG, 7.3 RPG, 0.7 SPG, 1.4 BPG - 25.23 PER
Quietly having one of the greatest comeback seasons in NBA History, the “Slim Reaper” has immediately propelled his new team to second place in the Eastern Conference standings. After a devastating Achilles injury, often a career-changing injury for taller forwards and centers (ex. Boogie Cousins), Durant is performing like he never left. Incredibly, in this comeback campaign, Durant’s statline is nearly identical to his averages for the 2013-14 season, in which he won the MVP Award playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Durant is easily cemented as an Eastern Conference front court starter.
Giannis Antetokounmpo: 28.2 PPG, 5.8 PPG, 11.4 PPG, 1.3 SPG, 1.3 BPG - 27.83 PER
The “Greak Freak” is once again achieving an MVP-worthy season, averaging over 28 points while shooting at an extremely efficient 56% rate. The two time, back to back, reigning MVP is also having an incredible defensive season to go along with his monstrous offensive numbers, clocking in with a defensive rating of 106.3, 16th among eligible players. Even though the Bucks are currently on a four game skid and are not quite performing to the high expectation set last year, Antetokounmpo is nevertheless deserving of a starting role in the All-Star Game with his 27.83 PER, third highest in the league.
Bradley Beal: 32.8 PPG, 4.7 APG, 5.2 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 0.5 BPG - 24.92 PER
After being part of an atrocious 6-17 start to the season, Bradley Beal has helped produce a three-game win streak for the Washington Wizards with the help of fellow star guard Russell Westbrook. Beal is averaging a league high 32.8 points per game, scoring more than 25 points in 17 consecutive games to start the season, passing Michael Jordan’s previous record of 16. Some critics will paint Washington’s terrible record as a black mark on Beal’s resume, but realistically, Beal has done everything he could possibly do for the Wizards. In fact, Beal has lost the last 10 games in which he scored more than 40 points. While Beal’s ridiculous offensive season has not quite translated to wins for Washington, he has undoubtedly earned his spot as an All-Star starting guard for the Eastern Conference.
Kyrie Irving: 28.3 PPG, 5.7 APG, 4.6 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 0.8 BPG - 24.64 PER
This is the tightest decision in the Eastern Conference, but Irving deserves the slight edge over fellow Brooklyn guard James Harden as a starter. Although Irving has missed a few more games than Harden, effectively abandoning his team for a week because he “just didn’t want to play,” when Irving does magically appear on the court, the man produces. Averaging his highest points per game, field goal percentage and three point percentage of his career, combined with some of his most tenacious defensive efforts since his days in Cleveland, Irving has earned the nod for All-Star Game starter.
Lebron James: 25.7 PPG, 7.9 APG, 8,1 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 0.5 BPG - 24.50 PER
With yet another incredible season, James is once again an All-Star Game starter lock, and almost certainly will be the captain of the Western Conference. This will be Lebron’s 17th All-Star Game appearance, behind only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (19) and Kobe Bryant (18). Lebron has led the Lakers to the second best record in the Western Conference (22-7), scoring 25.7 points per game while shooting an efficient 51% from the field. It will be interesting to see how James and the Lakers perform in the next two months after the injury of teammate Anthony Davis earlier this week.
Kawhi Leonard: 26.7 PPG, 5.0 APG, 5.9 RPG, 1.8 SPG, 0.6 BPG - 27.67 PER
“The Klaw” is yet another obvious choice to start in the All-Star game, combining his effective offensive performance with a defensive rating of 109.1, making him third-best in the league. Leonard has helped lead the Clippers to third in the Western Conference standings, just one game behind the Lakers. The two-time NBA Champion and Finals MVP has solidified himself as an annual top-five player in the league, and is on pace to rack up many more All-Star Starter nods in the coming seasons.
Nikola Jokic: 27.1 PPG, 8.1 APG, 11.1 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 0.6 BPG - 31.48 PER
Jokic is my midseason pick for the MVP award, averaging a near triple double on 57% efficiency and netting the highest player efficiency rating in the league with 31.48. In fact, if Jokic continues this season at the same trajectory, he would finish with the 10th highest single season PER in NBA history, only behind seasons by players Lebron James, Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain.
Luka Doncic: 29.1 PPG, 9.4 APG. 8.6 RPG, 1.0 SPG. 0.7 BPG - 26.84 PER
In only his third NBA season and at only 21 years old, Doncic already has the statistical production of a sure-fire hall of famer. With the highest player efficiency rating of any guard in the league at 26.84, Doncic should absolutely be an All-Star Game Starter. Doncic’s defensive play has also improved drastically from last season. In fact, he has the third lowest points-per-possession in the entire league, only allowing .41 points per possession when defending isolations.
Steph Curry: 30.0 PPG. 6.0 APG, 5.3 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 0.1 BPG - 25.72 PER
The second starting guard for the Western Conference is probably the toughest decision for this season’s All-Star Game, but I give Steph Curry the slightest edge over Damian Lillard for the final starting spot for two reasons: efficiency and impact. Not only is Curry averaging the second highest PPG in the league, but he’s also scoring at a 48.7% clip from the field and 42.5% from deep, while Lillard is only shooting 45% overall and 38.4% from deep. In addition, the Warriors are only 2 games behind the Blazers in the West, and Curry is keeping the Warriors alive without the help of star guard Klay Thompson. Lillard has the assistance of C.J. McCollum, who is quietly averaging 27 PPG, shooting 44% from deep, and has the eighth highest PER this season.