By Matt Bagdat,
Sports Business Editor
In what has become a controversial topic of discussion every year, the NBA announced its starters for the 2017 All-Star game to be played in New Orleans. The Eastern Conference’s starters will be Kyrie Irving, DeMar DeRozan, Jimmy Butler, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and LeBron James.
Despite all five being household names for NBA fans, 14-time All-Star LeBron James is the only returning starter of the group. James’ teammate, Cavaliers’ point guard Kyrie Irving was named to his fourth all-star game, however this will be his first start in his young career. The New Jersey native emerged as a true superstar with his clutch performances during last season’s NBA Finals. DeRozan will be Irving’s partner in the backcourt, as the Raptor’s star is averaging a career-high 28 points per game this season.
While the East’s backcourt has two of the league’s most talented scorers, its frontcourt features some of the league’s most versatile players. Jimmy Butler has taken his game to the next level, as he has become the new face of the Bulls. Bucks’ forward Giannis Antetokounmpo is one of the most unique players the league has seen in some years, as the “Greek Freak” has limitless potential.
Despite the East’s lineup featuring some of the league’s best players, the selections did not come without controversy. Fans and analysts of the league were taken by surprise when Isaiah Thomas was not named as a starter, as DeMar DeRozan finished with nearly 40,000 more votes than the Celtics’ guard. The former second round pick is tied for second in the league in scoring, averaging over 28 points per game as the Celtics push for a high playoff seed.
On the other side of the league, the Western Conference’s starting five features Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant and Anthony Davis. Curry, who was last year’s league MVP, set a record for the most three-pointers made in a single season. He also helped lead the Warriors to their second straight NBA Finals appearance, despite coming up short.
Curry will be joined by Rockets’ star James Harden, who has taken his game to a new level after making the switch to point guard. Harden has the unique opportunity to lead the league in both points and assists per game. In the frontcourt, Durant will make his eighth all-star appearance. It will be his first as a member of the Golden State Warriors, after making the highly controversial move in the offseason. Kawhi Leonard, who has become the new face of the Spurs will make his second straight start, and Pelicans’ star Anthony Davis makes his first start.
While Isaiah Thomas was not named a starter in the East, what appears to be more shocking is the fact that Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook was not named in the starting lineup. Currently averaging over 30 points, ten rebounds, and ten assists, Westbrook has a chance to be the first player since Oscar Robertson in 1961-62 to average a triple-double over the course of a season, according to ESPN. His exclusion from the starting lineup despite his incredible production has left many people clueless. Kings’ center DeMarcus Cousins was also a very surprising omission, as he has been very productive as well this season.
Regardless, both sides are full of the league’s most talented players, and the All-Star game will be filled with scoring as always. February 19th is approaching quickly, and until then, there are plenty of great matchups for NBA fans to enjoy.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, January 24th print edition.
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