Ranking the 'Watchability' of the 2014 NBA All-Stars

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistFebruary 4, 2014

Ranking the 'Watchability' of the 2014 NBA All-Stars

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    The 2014 NBA All-Star Game will be all about entertainment. 

    A few years from now, you won't remember the final score. You might not even remember that the Western Conference won, although that technically isn't guaranteed to happen since the East could pull off the big upset.

    However, you will remember the highlights. If there's a moment like Tracy McGrady throwing the ball to himself off the backboard, Kyrie Irving crossing up Brandon Knight (which happened in the Rising Stars Contest, but still...) or Kobe Bryant actively trying to slow down LeBron James, it will be ingrained in your memory banks for quite some time.

    So, which players are most likely to create those highlights?

    We're talking about dunks, difficult jumpers, three-point barrages and dribble moves that leave your jaw on the floor. Anything that's going to entertain you is relevant.

    There's no scientific way to rank the watchability of these players, because it's an inherently subjective exercise. These are simply my rankings, and I'll acknowledge that I have certain stylistic biases, like preferring guard play to big-man play.

    Of course, you have your own as well, so don't hesitate to leave your own rankings in the comment section.

    Note: All stats, unless otherwise indicated, are accurate as of Feb. 4 and come from Basketball-Reference 

The Injured Guys

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    Apologies to Chris Paul and Kobe Bryant, but they don't deserve to be ranked. 

    They would each shoot up the rankings if they were healthy enough to play. However, if they're going to sit out, they aren't going to be even remotely watchable. 

    You have to play to be exciting, after all. 

22. Joe Johnson

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    Team: Brooklyn Nets

    Position: SG

    Age: 32

    All-Star Appearance: Seventh

    2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 15.6 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.2 blocks, 14.6 player efficiency rating

    Primary Watchability Calling Card: Iso Joe

    Joe Johnson should not be an All-Star, and it's hard to be more watchable than the players who actually belong. He's just going to be massively outclassed, because he in no way deserves to be featured ahead of players like Kyle Lowry, Arron Afflalo, Lance Stephenson and Jeff Teague. 

    Take it away, Zach Lowe

    Not in the discussion: Joe Johnson, ranked a robust 141st in PER, right behind Alec Burks, Miles Plumlee, Jeremy Lamb, and Mario Chalmers. That stat underrates Johnson. He’s a versatile player capable of scoring in a number of useful ways and defending multiple positions, and he’s finding his role within a Nets roster stocked with ball-dominant stars. He plays for a high-profile team for whom he’s made several high-profile clutch buckets, including game-winning buzzer-beaters in Phoenix and Oklahoma City. He is a very nice person.

    Alas, he has no real All-Star case, especially in relation to Lowry and Arron Afflalo. His entire platform rests upon those few key buckets and the notion that he “carried” the Nets back to relevancy in January. That is simply not true. Johnson did score at least 25 points in five of six games during a stretch that began on January 6, but he hasn’t scored more than 13 points in a game since, and he preceded that hot streak with five consecutive single-digit scoring games.

    Apologies for the long quote, but it's necessary. Lowe goes on to further dismantle Johnson's All-Star case in his article on Grantland, and the whole thing is worth a read. 

    However, the point is already clear. 

    Johnson does not belong, and his skills in isolation can only take him so far. You need the ball in order to thrive in isolation, and there's no way that will actually happen. Everyone else is far more talented, and it would be a travesty if we were forced to waste time watching the least-deserving All-Star in recent memory (excluding fan-vote selections) go to work at the expense of everyone else. 

    Through sheer opportunity cost alone, Johnson checks in at the worst spot in the rankings. 

21. Roy Hibbert

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    Team: Indiana Pacers

    Position: C

    Age: 27

    All-Star Appearance: Second

    2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 12.3 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.3 assists. 0.4 steals, 2.5 blocks, 16.7 PER

    Primary Watchability Calling Card: Shot blocking and verticality 

    Roy Hibbert may deserve to be an All-Star because he's played such incredible defense for the historically excellent Indiana Pacers, but that doesn't mean he has an All-Star style of play. 

    This game is meant for uptempo basketball and offensive highlights, not for a guy who's going to stay in the paint and exhibit principles of verticality as he tries to block shot after shot. When games routinely see teams hit 150 in the scoring column, defense isn't exactly a top priority. 

    If you appreciate fundamental defense, you'll enjoy watching Hibbert. But that's still not the primary reason for the All-Star festivities. 

    Being a deserving All-Star and an entertaining All-Star aren't necessarily the same thing, as Hibbert so clearly proves. 

20. Joakim Noah

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    Team: Chicago Bulls

    Position: C

    Age: 28

    All-Star Appearance: Second

    2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 11.6 points, 11.3 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.1 steals, 1.3 blocks, 18.9 PER

    Primary Watchability Calling Card: Energizer Bunny imitations

    Joakim Noah's game, much like Roy Hibbert's, isn't made for the All-Star Game. 

    That said, the Chicago Bulls big man has a few advantages on his counterpart from the Eastern Conference. 

    First, he's a nonstop bundle of energy. As he proved during last year's midseason activities, he is going to bring that contagious hustle to a game that doesn't matter. He's going to play hard and scream, simply because he doesn't understand how to play at anything less than 100 percent. 

    Additionally, Noah's passing and ability to run the break are always entertaining. It's not every day you see a big man barreling down the court and maintaining his possession the entire time. 

19. Chris Bosh

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    Team: Miami Heat

    Position: PF

    Age: 29

    All-Star Appearance: Ninth

    2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 16.6 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 0.8 steals, 1.0 blocks, 20.0 PER

    Primary Watchability Calling Card: Mid-range jumper

    Chris Bosh's game is a little more exciting than the arsenals that are possessed by the Eastern Conference's offensively challenged centers, but that still doesn't make it all that watchable. 

    The Miami Heat big man thrives when he's able to spot up and knock down jumpers. Whether they're mid-range looks or attempts from beyond the arc, Bosh tends to knock them down, and that's why he's been able to post one of the most efficient seasons of his career. 

    However, that gets boring after a while. 

    Bosh does have the ability to use a devastating pump fake and get to the rim for a lefty-style jam, but he only uses it infrequently. If that played a larger portion of his offensive game, he might stand a chance to rank higher. 

    Alas, he's one of those players who is more effective than watchable. 

18. Dwyane Wade

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    Team: Miami Heat

    Position: SG

    Age: 32

    All-Star Appearance: 10th

    2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 18.9 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.6 blocks, 21.6 PER

    Primary Watchability Calling Card: Cutting ability

    If Dwyane Wade were fully healthy, he'd rank a lot higher. 

    A D-Wade with two working knees is one of the more entertaining players in basketball, as he has an insane knack for hitting trick shots and off-balance jumpers right around the paint. He's a tremendous cutter with an innate ability to rise up through contact and throw down a huge slam. 

    But he doesn't have two working knees. 

    Here's Sun-Sentinel.com on his potential All-Star plans: 

    He’s missed 13 of the Heat’s 45 games due to his knee, and if he needs that much time off this season missing the All-Star event should be a no-brainer. He’s playing a career-low 33 minutes in the games he has played. He’s still a star when he plays—53.8 percent shooting is a career high—but the big question for the Heat this spring remains his health.

    It's all about the uncertainty here. 

    Wade might end up on that injured-player slide, but he could also rank significantly higher if he attempts to use the big stage as a springboard toward proving his worth. This spot in the rankings is just an average of the two. 

17. LaMarcus Aldridge

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    Team: Portland Trail Blazers

    Position: PF

    Age: 28

    All-Star Appearance: Third

    2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 24.3 points, 11.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 0.9 steals, 1.0 blocks, 23.1 PER

    Primary Watchability Calling Card: Turnaround mid-range jumper

    LaMarcus Aldridge is playing like the best power forward in basketball. 

    Between his offensive genius, his improved work on the boards and his defensive impact, the Rip City big man has made more of an impact than any other player at his position. However, that doesn't make Aldridge the most entertaining 4 in the All-Star Game. 

    In fact, he trails four other players at his position. 

    The watchability stems from his sheer dominance and knack for hitting that ultra-difficult turnaround jumper from mid-range. However, that's about it. 

    Aldridge is going to get his numbers, but he'll compile them in rather quiet fashion. 

16. Dirk Nowitzki

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    Team: Dallas Mavericks

    Position: PF

    Age: 35

    All-Star Appearance: 12th

    2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 21.6 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.6 blocks, 24.2 PER 

    Primary Watchability Calling Card: One-legged flamingo fadeaway

    Dirk Nowitzki basically falls into the exact same category as LaMarcus Aldridge. 

    He's a dominant player, but his game isn't glamorous. 

    Nowitzki struggles on the boards and doesn't make the same level of defensive impact that the Portland Trail Blazers enjoy from their big man, but his offense is slightly more entertaining to watch. Not only does his three-point stroke give him more range than his counterpart in Rip City, but his signature shot is better as well. 

    Aldridge's turnaround jumpers are great, don't get me wrong. 

    But few signature moves can top the lasting appeal of the unblockable one-legged flamingo fadeaway that the German 7-footer pulls out on a regular basis. 

15. Kevin Love

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    Team: Minnesota Timberwolves

    Position: PF

    Age: 25

    All-Star Appearance: Third

    2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 25.5 points, 13.1 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.4 blocks, 27.4 PER

    Primary Watchability Calling Card: Fundamental excellence

    Kevin Love is a supremely dominant player, and he's one of those guys who you can't take your eyes off when he's on the court. 

    However, that's not going to be the case when he's surrounded by other superstars. 

    It's not that Love lacks athleticism. Nothing could be further from the truth, as the UCLA product is one of the more athletic power forwards in basketball. There's a reason he excelled at his draft combine back in the day, so don't make the mistake of selling him short in that category. 

    But Love's greatness comes from his three-point shooting, rebounding dominance and the knack for doing little things. Outlet passing, for example, where he's thrived more than anyone since Wes Unseld retired. 

    Problem is, those aren't too exciting in an All-Star Game.

    The shooting is, but the rebounding isn't. It's also unlikely that Love will have enough chemistry with the other Western Conference representatives that he feels comfortable throwing those full-court outlets that Corey Brewer has made a habit out of catching. 

14. Paul Millsap

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    Team: Atlanta Hawks

    Position: PF

    Age: 28

    All-Star Appearance: First

    2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 17.7 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.8 steals, 1.2 blocks, 20.2 PER 

    Primary Watchability Calling Card: Nonstop motor

    There's a solid chance many of you haven't had the pleasure of watching Paul Millsap play for the Atlanta Hawks. 

    I don't blame you. 

    The Hawks aren't exactly a League Pass special, especially since Al Horford was knocked out for the season with another pectoral injury. 

    But that's going to make you quite surprised when you see just how exciting Millsap's game is. He may be an undersized power forward, but he's brimming over with energy and uses his long, lanky arms to counter any challenges he might have in the vertical department. 

    On one play, he might throw down a ridiculous dunk that can and should be turned into a poster. On the next, he might step out to the perimeter and knock down a shot from beyond the three-point arc. 

    The 28-year-old first-time All-Star is in no way comparable to Kevin Love in terms of pure excellence at the power forward position, but Millsap's versatility allows him to create more highlights than his counterpart on the Minnesota Timberwolves. Maybe not in a regular-season setting, but certainly in a game intended to promote flashiness and excitement. 

13. Dwight Howard

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    Team: Houston Rockets

    Position: C

    Age: 28

    All-Star Appearance: Eighth

    2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 18.3 points, 12.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.9 steals, 1.8 blocks, 21.3 PER

    Primary Watchability Calling Card: Power dunks

    Dwight Howard is no longer quite as exciting as he used to be. 

    The big man still throws down—he throws down hard—but he requires help to get into that position and connect his hand to the orange circle that is raised 10 feet off the ground. D12's dunks now come off rolls to the basket and transition plays. Gone are the days that he created his own throwdowns out of the post. 

    In fact, his post game has regressed over the last few years.

    Maybe it's because his health is declining and his back keeps acting up. Maybe it's because he's more interested in having fun than getting better.

    Believe what you will. 

    Regardless, D12 is so dependent on the setups he receives from other players that his watchability factor has dipped, even though he should technically still be in his athletic prime. 

12. Tony Parker

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    Team: San Antonio Spurs

    Position: PG

    Age: 31

    All-Star Appearance: Sixth

    2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 18.4 points, 2.4 rebounds, 6.4 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.2 blocks, 20.4 PER

    Primary Watchability Calling Card: Craftiness around bigger players

    Don't make the fatal error of calling the San Antonio Spurs boring. 

    They've been one of the more entertaining teams in basketball over the last few seasons, especially because Gregg Popovich has placed more of an emphasis on offense than defense. But it all starts with Tony Parker, who is the engine that makes San Antonio go. 

    The speedy French floor general is tremendous with the ball is his hands, and he has an innate ability to navigate around bigger players and create openings at the rim. A stellar finishing ability and creative instincts combine to make him quite the effective finisher. 

    So why doesn't he rank higher? 

    Well, there are two reasons. 

    First, he won't have the same type of ball dominance that he requires with the Spurs. Second, when was the last time you saw him dunk?

11. DeMar DeRozan

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    Team: Toronto Raptors

    Position: SG

    Age: 24

    All-Star Appearance: First

    2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 22.0 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.5 blocks, 18.3 PER 

    Primary Watchability Calling Card: High-flying cuts

    This may be DeMar DeRozan's first run with the big boys, but you can bet that he's going to make it count. Especially if he wants to avenge Kyle Lowry, who belongs in the game after emerging as the No. 1 point guard in the Eastern Conference over the last few weeks. 

    Yes, better than John Wall. Yes, better than Kyrie Irving. 

    Please, please, please let DeRozan put Joe Johnson on a poster even though they're on the same team, just out of respect for Lowry. 

    On a more serious note, DeRozan is going to create at least one of those aforementioned posters during his first foray into the All-Star Game. He may have gotten into the contest because the rest of his game improved, but the man has some serious hops, and that's still his primary calling card in terms of watchability. 

    The 24-year-old has been in the Slam Dunk Contest multiple times for a reason after all. 

10. James Harden

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    Team: Houston Rockets

    Position: SG

    Age: 24

    All-Star Appearance: Second

    2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 23.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.5 blocks, 21.2 PER

    Primary Watchability Calling Card: Creativity getting to the hoop

    James Harden's beard works in his favor. How can you not love watching the man with a follicular forest on his face go to work? 

    His three-point ability, knack for finishing through contact and slippery handles also make him entertaining. 

    Few players are better at working into the teeth of the defense, and Harden is completely averse to taking inefficient shots. He can finish plays at the rim, but he can also pull up and drain jumpers when he's shifty enough to create space. 

    But not everything is a positive. 

    Sometimes, he can be downright painful to watch. When he decides that he wants to get to the free-throw line over and over, he slows down the game immensely and makes it tempting to find the remote and change the channel. 

9. Damian Lillard

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    Team: Portland Trail Blazers

    Position: PG

    Age: 23

    All-Star Appearance: First

    2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 20.7 points, 3.6 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.4 blocks, 19.0 PER 

    Primary Watchability Calling Card: Shooting/athleticism combo

    Damian Lillard enjoys the best of both worlds. 

    Although he doesn't always play the most exciting brand of basketball, he has the ability to explode for points in one of two ways at any given time. 

    The 23-year-old is one of the more underrated athletes in the NBA. You don't typically get to witness his hops because he's more dependent on his shooting stroke, but when the opportunity arises, Lillard can throw down with the best of them. 

    Oh, and he can shoot the rock. 

    Few players are better off the dribble, and Lillard loves coming around screens and elevating for a three-point try. He's never shown fear during his professional career, and it's doubtful he'll allow the All-Star stage to change his style of play. 

8. John Wall

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    Team: Washington Wizards

    Position: PG

    Age: 23

    All-Star Appearance: First

    2013-14 Per-Game Stats19.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, 8.5 assists, 2.0 steals, 0.4 blocks, 20.2 PER

    Primary Watchability Calling Card: Explosiveness

    How explosive is John Wall? 

    Let's put it this way: Even though he still doesn't have much of a jumper, he still averages 19.8 points per game. Defenders know that he's going to attempt to drive right by them, and he still manages to get to the hoop with relative ease. 

    Wall is one of the quickest players in the NBA with the ball in his hands, and that applies both to his coast-to-coast ability and his knack for getting to spots in a half-court set. 

    A threatening jumper would push him over the top, but even his current game allows him to rank as one of the 10 most-entertaining All-Stars in the current field. 

    That's how explosive he is. 

7. Carmelo Anthony

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    Team: New York Knicks

    Position: SF/PF

    Age: 29

    All-Star Appearance: Seventh

    2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 27.3 points, 8.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.6 blocks, 25.0 PER

    Primary Watchability Calling Card: Microwave scoring ability

    I can sum up Carmelo Anthony's watchability in one number: 62. 

    Vinnie Johnson's nickname may have been "The Microwave," but few players can heat up as quickly as 'Melo. He might not have the most visually appealing game because his points tend to come when he's hitting difficult jumpers from a set position, but they still come in bunches. 

    When he is firing away and connecting, he becomes must-watch television. 

    How many players are actually capable of hitting 62 in a single game? 

    Not Kevin Durant. Not LeBron James. Not Stephen Curry. Not many players throughout NBA history, in fact. That trio of current stars may eventually get there, but they haven't done it yet. 

    'Melo will get up and throw down occasionally, but scoring on jumpers is still his method du jour when it comes to lighting up scoreboards. And he makes it just about as entertaining as possible when he gets going. 

6. Paul George

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    Team: Indiana Pacers

    Position: SG/SF

    Age: 23

    All-Star Appearance: Second

    2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 22.8 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.8 steals, 0.3 blocks, 21.3 PER

    Primary Watchability Calling Card: Smooth athleticism

    Paul George is an interesting superstar when it comes to his watchability. 

    He does it all, and he does it all well. There's no denying that, especially after he has used the 2013-14 season to prove that he's a well-rounded stud who can win games with defense or offense. 

    However, he's not quite as violent and unpredictable as players with similarly well-rounded games. "Smooth" is the word you have to use when describing George, even when he's exhibiting all sorts of craziness in the athleticism department. 

    He can hit on a 360-degree windmill dunk in transition and make it look easy. 

    Is that good or bad when we're discussing watchability? 

    That's up to you. Just know that George kicks off what I'd consider the elite tier of entertaining All-Stars, and it's a class occupied by only six players. 

5. Blake Griffin

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    Team: Los Angeles Clippers

    Position: PF

    Age: 24

    All-Star Appearance: Fourth

    2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 23.3 points, 9.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.6 blocks, 23.3 PER

    Primary Watchability Calling Card: Dunks. All the dunks.

    Blake Griffin is so much more than a dunker. 

    When we're talking about his impact for the Los Angeles Clippers, that matters. We have to focus on his improving post moves (Griffin has been one of the most effective back-to-the-basket players in the NBA), his incredible passing skills, his developing jumper and his Doc Rivers-inspired defense. 

    But for this article? You can throw all that stuff out the window. 

    I just want to see Blake dunk. A lot. 

    There's no one in the NBA better at in-game dunks, and yes, I'm including the variety that don't actually involve him touching the rim. LeBron James, Paul George and a few others might be better at open-court slams, but if I want a poster created, the mix of volume and highlight-worthiness that Griffin brings is unmatched. 

4. Kyrie Irving

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    Team: Cleveland Cavaliers

    Position: PG

    Age: 21

    All-Star Appearance: Second

    2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 21.7 points, 3.1 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.4 blocks, 20.0 PER

    Primary Watchability Calling Card: Yo-Yo handles

    There isn't a better dribbler in the NBA. 

    Even though he's only 21 years old, Kyrie Irving has the best handles in basketball, and he's never afraid to use them. With quick dribbles, subtle fakes and changes of direction on dimes, he has all the tools in the bag and the body control to boot. 

    How many times have you seen him slide past defenders or spin around them? 

    He's unbelievable at navigating through traffic, and it's almost like he sees the action unfolding in slow motion. 

    Irving's season has been quite overrated, but there's no denying his entertainment factor. Especially because he's still young and exciting, the 21-year-old floor general is nearly the most watchable point guard in the NBA. 

    Don't believe me? Just ask Brandon Knight

3. Stephen Curry

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    Team: Golden State Warriors

    Position: PG

    Age: 25

    All-Star Appearance: First

    2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 24.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 9.0 assists, 1.8 steals, 0.2 blocks, 23.4 PER

    Primary Watchability Calling Card: Shooting off the dribble

    Stephen Curry is the best shooter in the NBA, bar none. 

    However, he's not your typical spot-up shooter who thrives from beyond the arc. Far from it. 

    Curry is so special—and so entertaining—because he can create his own looks anywhere on the court. With his potent combination of shifty handles and a lightning-quick release, it's all a defender can do to get a hand up and at least partially contest the shot. 

    There's a reason that Kevin Durant called Curry the best shooter in NBA history. He might not have the resume to back up K.D.'s claim, but he's on track to earn such an honor because he does a fantastic job of opening up opportunities for himself without the help of his teammates. 

    There's also a chance that he comes out to the All-Star Game intent on proving himself. After all, he was by far the biggest snub last year, and he might be out for revenge. 

2. LeBron James

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    Team: Miami Heat

    Position: SF/PF

    Age: 29

    All-Star Appearance: 10th

    2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 26.2 points, 6.8 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.3 blocks, 29.1 PER

    Primary Watchability Calling Card: Basketball

    LeBron James does it all. 

    Seriously, let's just go through the list of ways that he can create highlights: 

    • His constantly improving shooting stroke, which allows him to make perimeter jumpers. 
    • His post game, which is only getting better and better. 
    • Those insane cross-court passes.
    • The dunking ability, which is through the roof, regardless of whether someone is in the way. 
    • Chase-down blocks. 
    • Lockdown defense, at least when he sets his mind to it, which hasn't happened as often as it should in 2013-14.
    • His status as a one-man fast break when he pulls down a rebound and sees an open lane. 

    There are no holes in this man's arsenal, as long as the All-Star Game doesn't turn into a free-throw shooting contest. 

1. Kevin Durant

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    Team: Oklahoma City Thunder

    Position: SF

    Age: 25

    All-Star Appearance: Fifth

    2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 31.1 points, 7.6 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.8 blocks, 31.0 PER 

    Primary Watchability Calling Card: Offense

    As Shaun Livingston said via Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News: "Everything past halfcourt is an option for him. It's like a video game."

    Video game.

    That's got to be the best way to describe Kevin Durant, whose string of 30-point games was only stopped against the Brooklyn Nets on Jan. 31 because he was too good. He scored 26 points on 10-of-12 shooting and added another seven points, and the Oklahoma City Thunder were so far ahead after three quarters that he sat the final 12 minutes and allowed his streak to be snapped. 

    Durant is at the top of the basketball world right now, and you don't have to worry about your jaw dropping when you watch him go about his business. 

    It starts and stays on the floor.