The 2014 NBA All-Star Game rosters will be announced on Thursday night during a one-hour special edition of Inside the NBA (which airs on TNT at 7 p.m. ET), but it’s a worthwhile and fun endeavor to speculate on which five superstars from each conference will have the honor of being named a starter.
Fans are the ones who decide whether or not a player is worthwhile of a starting nod, voting via the All-Star Game’s website, Twitter, text message and good, old-fashioned paper balloting.
Of course, when you leave a decision like this solely up to the legion of fans who love this league, you’ll get some interesting, unexpected results.
You can get a glimpse of which stars the voting collective have been leaning toward nominating as starters by checking out the third returns, released by the league on Jan. 9.
Here’s an abbreviated list of those returns, showing just the top five ballot generators for both the backcourt and frontcourt positions in the Eastern and Western Conference:
|2014 All-Star Game Third Returns|
|Eastern Conference Backcourt|
|1. Dwyane Wade (Mia)||718,109|
|2. Kyrie Irving (Cle)||652,522|
|3. Derrick Rose (Chi)||323,099|
|4. John Wall (Was)||278,516|
|5. Ray Allen (Mia)||190,086|
|Eastern Conference Frontcourt|
|1. LeBron James (Mia)||1,076,063|
|2. Paul George (Ind)||899,671|
|3. Carmelo Anthony (NYK)||702,869|
|4. Roy Hibbert (Ind)||385,964|
|5. Chris Bosh (Mia)||304,986|
|Western Conference Backcourt|
|1. Kobe Bryant (LAL)||844,538|
|2. Stephen Curry (GS)||677,372|
|3. Chris Paul (LAC)||651,073|
|4. Jeremy Lin (Hou)||471,980|
|5. James Harden (Hou)||338,788|
|Western Conference Frontcourt|
|1. Kevin Durant (OKC)||1,054,209|
|2. Dwight Howard (Hou)||509,116|
|3. Blake Griffin (LAC)||500,964|
|4. Kevin Love (Min)||483,031|
|5. LaMarcus Aldridge (Por)||404,793|
As you can see, there are some questionable players receiving a lofty number of votes.
Jeremy Lin is the most glaring outlier, having hauled in an incredible 471,980 All-Star votes at the time. He’s a decent player but has been surrounded by trade rumors and plagued by inconsistency and injury.
The Taiwanese-American star is only averaging 13.5 points, 4.3 assists and 2.4 rebounds per game—mostly utilized in a reserve role for the Houston Rockets and often a starter in name only. Those simply aren’t All-Star numbers, especially not in a loaded Western Conference.
While it’s fortunate that he’s not likely to make an unexpected come-from-behind finish in the race for the two starting backcourt spots in the West, one of the players ahead of him isn’t much deserving either.
Kobe Bryant is a stone-cold lock to start despite playing just six games for his downtrodden Los Angeles Lakers in 2013-14. He was the fourth-highest vote getter in the league at the time of the third returns and is preventing healthy, bona fide stars such as Chris Paul and James Harden from earning a nod.
Don’t blame the Black Mamba for this, as he told Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times that he doesn’t deserve consideration for the spot and it should go to a younger player:
Bryant echoed that sentiment in an interview with ESPN Los Angeles’ Ramona Shelburne:
I really enjoy watching what the younger guys are doing and how they're performing. Even though there's so much respect from me to be able to go out there and play for the fans, I'd much rather see the young guys play in the game because they've obviously put the work in to be in it. I'd much rather go out there and see them participate.
At least the Eastern Conference doesn’t appear to be on the verge of installing any head-scratching starters this year. While it lacks a true center, the projected starting five for this weak conference is arguably the most talented bunch it could possibly field.
LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George make up one heck of a talented frontcourt, while Kyrie Irving and Dwyane Wade are worthy of their backcourt spots—especially with many teams in the conference playing quite poorly.
Expect the coaches’ vote to help round out both these rosters with many deserving but less popular players.
No matter what, it should be an exciting All-Star Game in New Orleans. Here’s who you can expect on the court when the action tips off on Feb. 16:
|Projected 2014 All-Star Game Starters|
|Backcourt||Kyrie Irving||Cleveland Cavaliers|
|Backcourt||Dwyane Wade||Miami Heat|
|Frontcourt||Paul George||Indiana Pacers|
|Frontcourt||Carmelo Anthony||New York Knicks|
|Frontcourt||LeBron James||Miami Heat|
|Backcourt||Stephen Curry||Golden State Warriors|
|Backcourt||Kobe Bryant||Los Angeles Lakers|
|Frontcourt||Kevin Durant||Oklahoma City Thunder|
|Frontcourt||Blake Griffin||Los Angeles Clippers|
|Frontcourt||Dwight Howard||Houston Rockets|