2023 All-Stars So Far (1/4/23)

There is some incredible basketball being played this NBA season. 

As we approach the halfway point of the 2022-23 season with the start of a new year, six players averaging 30+ points per game, the MVP race is a dogfight, and both conferences are ultra-competitive. As a result, making All-Star selections come February will be challenging (to say the least). There is a crowd of deserving guys and snubs are inevitable (might be time to expand the rosters). 

That being said, today I’m handing out my All-Star nods based on the first three months of the season. While these are guaranteed to change later, possibly in a week, I wanted to stop and appreciate some of the outstanding hoops I’ve watched. Let’s go!

Eastern Conference Starters

G: Donovan Mitchell 

Electric two-guard Donovan Mitchell has been playing like the best guard in his conference. After all, the man dropped 71 freaking points in a game. He’s posting career-highs in points per game, field goal percentage, and three-point percentage and has pushed the Cavaliers over the edge into the true playoff competitor tier. He’s also shown consistent defensive effort, silencing the critique many gave him after his tenure in Utah. 

G: Jaylen Brown

Representing the best team in the league (record-wise) in the starting lineup is Jaylen Brown. He too is putting up a career-high mark in points per game, creating shots at all three levels and looking like the best second option in hoops. His two-way impact for a top squad in basketball lands him a spot amongst the league’s brightest stars. 

F: Kevin Durant (Captain)

After a couple of seasons’ worth of turmoil and controversy, the Nets are streaking and looking like the contenders they’re supposed to be. Spearheading that is the Easy Money Sniper. With a new wave of super-duper stars beginning their reign, Durant has been left out of best in the world/MVP talks that he very much belongs in. He’s scoring on mind-boggling efficiency even for his sky-high standards while having possibly the best defensive campaign of his career, reminding everyone why he’s one of the greatest players ever. 

F: Giannis Antetokounmpo

While Giannis’s title as best in the world is being challenged this season, that doesn’t take away from who he is. He’s led an injury-ridden Bucks roster to a record well over .500 with his usual interior dominance, shedding even the biggest defenders like they’re nothing on his way to a thunderous slam. Recent struggles have led to quick criticism for the Greek Freak— but said struggles come from games where he dropped 45 points. Standards that high is one of the reasons why Giannis still holds the throne. 

F: Joel Embiid

The first center to average 30+ since Moses Malone in 1982, Joel Embiid is on another level this season. He’s elevated himself into the highest echelon of players by becoming virtually unstoppable inside the arc. He’s finished 19 contests with more than 30 points, including two fifty-pieces, and only four with less than 25. If the 76ers can play themselves a few spots higher in the standings, the MVP award might finally belong to the Process. 

Eastern Conference Reserves

G: Trae Young

Despite a down year efficiency-wise, Young is averaging a 27-point double-double. He remains one of the league’s most thrilling offensive players when he’s feeling it and the All-Star game would be incomplete without him. 

G: Kyrie Irving

Off-court antics dictate most of the conversation around Irving but his on-court talent is undeniable. He makes the most difficult shots look effortless with handles so smooth they’re simply otherworldly. With the way both he and his team have been playing lately, Uncle Drew is a no-brainer pick for All-Star so far. 

F: Jayson Tatum

Tatum coming off the bench is criminal, but it has to happen because of positioning. That being said, JT has solidified himself as a full-blown superstar because of his all-league play on both ends for the top-seeded Celtics. He’s one of the most complete players in the NBA and is in the handful of true MVP candidates at this point in the season. 

F: Pascal Siakam

Spicy P had an All-NBA campaign in 2021-22 and is building off that this season, playing the best ball of his career. He’s a force to be reckoned with inside the arc, slashing his way to the paint or nailing a flurry of pull-up jumpers nightly on his way to a career-high scoring average all while leading the league in minutes. Siakam is well on his way to another all-league nod.

F: DeMar DeRozan

The Bulls may be underperforming and underwhelming, but DeMar DeRozan has continued his late-career resurgence. His mid-range excellence is unwavering and he’s making a case to win the inaugural Clutch Player of the Year honor. He entered the exclusive 20,000-point club this season and should make his sixth All-Star appearance in February. 

WC: Julius Randle

This may seem like a surprising pick, but it’s very much deserved. The Knicks are competing for a spot in the postseason and Julius Randle is leading the charge. He’s wreaking havoc in the paint where he’s been very efficient, bullying defenders to get to his spots. He’s looking like the 2020-21 Randle that made an All-NBA team and should be in the All-Star game again.

WC: Tyrese Haliburton

After showing flashes of stardom in his first season and a half with the Kings, Haliburton has blossomed into a star in Indiana. He’s the engine of a top-ten offense and he’s been sensational in that role, dishing out a double-digit assist average while being one of the most efficient passers. Combine that with his highly efficient three-level scoring and it’s clear that Haliburton deserves to be a first-time All-Star. 

Honorable Mentions: Darius Garland, James Harden, Jimmy Butler, Kristaps Porzingis

Western Conference Starters

G: Stephen Curry

Yes, the Warriors are severely underperforming, and yes, he’s hurt right now, but through the 26 games he’s appeared in Steph Curry is averaging 30 points per game on 50/40/90 splits. He’s 35 and is still hooping like he’s in his prime. He should be an All-Star starter if he returns to the hardwood in time. 

G: Luka Doncic (Captain)

At just 23 years old, the Slovenian Sensation Luka Doncic is already contending for best player in the world. His offensive talent is so out of this world that it’s borderline magic (hence his nickname). He’s been on a record-breaking tear in the last couple of weeks and has earned the ability to draft his All-Star teammates in February.

F: Zion Williamson

The Pelicans are in the tight race for the one seed in the West even with Brandon Ingram sidelined for an extended period of time. The primary reason for that success is Zion. The 6’6” forward built like a football player has elevated his game to an All-NBA level. He’s the only player on the same level as Giannis when it comes to slashing and has used his powerful combination of strength, bounce, and touch to be one of the most efficient paint scorers in the league. 

F: Anthony Davis

An untimely foot injury has brought a halt to the Brow’s best season since 2019-20, but if he recovers by the break he’s a lock for the starting lineup. He looks like the top-five AD of old on both ends of the court and was perhaps the Defensive Player of the Year favorite before his injury. 

F: Nikola Jokic

The most unassuming superstar in basketball is on his way to potentially completing an MVP three-peat. The Nuggets are looking like a championship team and Nikola Jokic is the hub of their top-five offense. He’s scoring on career-best efficiency while distributing a career-best assists per game, cementing himself as a top-three player.

Western Conference Reserves

G: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Shai is having nothing short of an incredible year. He’s averaging an efficient thirty points per game, he’s the front-runner for Clutch Player of the Year, and he’s pretty much the only reason the Thunder don’t have the worst record in the association. He’s this good at just 24 years old and has many fans drooling at the mouth thinking about how great he’ll be in his prime. 

G: Devin Booker

Choosing methodical scoring machine Devin Booker to be an All-Star was as easy as he makes getting buckets look. The best shooting guard in the NBA is as reliable as they come and Phoenix’s struggles in his absence have proven he is crucial to their championship aspirations. 

F: Domantas Sabonis

The Kings have been an exciting surprise team this year. They’re firmly in the playoffs right now, mostly due to their high-caliber fast-paced offense. Domantas Sabonis is a key cog in their attack. He’s arguably the best big-man passer outside of Nikola Jokic, a fantastic roll man, and a patient and strong post scorer. De’Aaron Fox will likely miss out on the All-Star game (spoiler alert) due to the West’s guard depth, but Sabonis should represent the Beam Team in Salt Lake City.

F: LeBron James

Father Time is slowly beginning to creep up on LeBron, but he keeps warding him off with performances like his 47-point near-triple-double masterpiece on his birthday. The King may be long removed from his throne but he’s still an All-Star at age 38.

F: Paul George

Kawhi Leonard has been an inconsistent presence for the Clippers, but they are still a playoff team because Paul George is picking up his slack. The ever-efficient swingman is playing his usual standout two-way basketball and his aesthetically pleasing offensive game is meant to be on display in the All-Star festivities. 

WC: Damian Lillard

Abdominal surgery robbed us of Dame Time for a large chunk of the 2021-22 season but he’s back in full force. The Trail Blazers have cooled down since their hot start but their all-time leading scorer has not and is on track to making his seventh All-Star appearance in February

WC: Ja Morant

The league’s resident human highlight reel is once again leading the young and hungry Grizzlies to a top seed. Along with his mind-blowing layup package and high-flying slams, Ja is rounding out his scoring arsenal by drawing more fouls and hitting more mid-range jumpers this season. The All-Star game wouldn’t be the same without his aerial antics.

Honorable Mentions: De’Aaron Fox, Anthony Edwards, Lauri Markkanen, Jaren Jackson Jr.

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