clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2023 NBA All-Star Predictions

In the most competitive NBA ever, who will make the All-Star team?

NBA: All Star Game-Team Durant at Team LeBron Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA All-Star Game is under a month away, and one of my favorite activities each season is the ultimately fruitless exercise of speculating about the year’s All-Stars.

There are currently six players averaging over 30 points per game, which made predicting the All-Stars — especially distinguishing between starters and reserves — as difficult as it’s ever been. With that said, I narrowed it down to 28 players: five starters and seven reserves from each conference, as well as two potential injury replacements from each.

Eastern Conference

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Atlanta Hawks Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Starters: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, Jayson Tatum (frontcourt); Donovan Mitchell, Jalen Brunson (backcourt).

Deciding the Eastern frontcourt starters was the hardest part of this entire exercise, as Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, Jayson Tatum and Kevin Durant all deserve spots. I ultimately ended up eliminating Durant (at least from the group of starters) due to the amount of games he’s missed — Durant is out indefinitely after spraining his MCL on Jan. 8.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, the two-time MVP, is a shoo-in for every All-Star Game until his waning years in the league. He is averaging the quietest 31 points and 12 rebounds per game of all time, as he has generally been from the upper echelon of MVP discourse by fans and media in recent months. That being said, Giannis got the most All-Star fan votes in the Eastern Conference, so he will likely be a team captain.

Joel Embiid has spent the past three seasons in the shadow of Nikola Jokić as far as accolades and attention go, but make no mistake: Embiid is a monster. This seven-footer is averaging 34 — yes, thirty-four — points per game on 64.4% true shooting.

After running out of gas in the NBA Finals last season, Jayson Tatum came out guns blazing in 2022-23. He’s putting up 31 points and 8.4 rebounds per game on efficiency comparable to his hot-shooting first few NBA seasons, when he averaged half as many points. Tatum is clearly the best player on the best team in the NBA, so a starting spot in the All-Star Game is more than deserved. The frontcourt trifecta of Antetokounmpo, Embiid and Tatum combine for 95.5 points per game — in comparison, entire NBA teams averaged just 93.4 points per game in the 2003-04 season.

A 71-point outburst alone would be enough to get almost any player into the All-Star Game, but Donovan Mitchell has done so much more than that this season. Mitchell is already a three-time All-Star, and he is averaging a career-high 28.3 points per game on across-the-board career-best shooting splits of 48/40/87%. The Eastern Conference guards were by far the hardest group to narrow down for my All-Star predictions, but Mitchell is easily the best among them.

The final guard spot in the starting lineup came down to a few players, but I ultimately landed on Jalen Brunson. In a matter of months, Brunson’s much-maligned contract that he signed this past offseason quickly became a gross underpay, as he is having his best all-around season by far. Brunson is the best player on an overperforming Knicks team, a group initially with play-in aspirations who are playing well enough to possibly avoid the tournament altogether and make the playoffs as the sixth seed.

Reserves: Pascal Siakam, Kevin Durant, Julius Randle (frontcourt); Tyrese Haliburton, Jaylen Brown (backcourt); DeMar DeRozan, James Harden.

Pascal Siakam has continued to improve every season since entering the league, and he is currently the lone bright spot in an otherwise-disastrous Toronto Raptors season. Siakam was an All-Star in 2020 and is now averaging 25.2 points and 6.5 assists per game (both career highs) and 8.2 rebounds per game (nearly a career high).

Out of all the reserves, Kevin Durant is most deserving of a starting spot, but he is currently out with an injury and it is unknown when he will return. That being said, in his 15th NBA season (16th if you include his year missed with an achilles injury), Durant is still one of the best pure scorers in the league. He may be one of five players remaining from the 2007 Draft class, but he’s still giving the youngsters buckets night in and night out. Durant is averaging just shy of 30 points per game on near 50/40/90 shooting, simply obscene numbers for a player his age who suffered such a devastating injury so recently.

The Knicks are relevant once again, largely thanks to Brunson. However, it would be foolish to overlook the impact Julius Randle has had on the team’s success. After struggling through a brutal slump last year, Randle is now averaging more points and rebounds on higher field goal percentage than he did in his 2020-21 campaign that saw him selected to All-NBA Second Team.

Tyrese Haliburton started over Brunson in my original draft of this list, but at the last minute I decided to switch them, so treat them as interchangeable. Haliburton is the new Point God in the NBA — he leads the league with 10.2 assists per game, and it feels like half of those dimes are ripped straight from a Magic Johnson highlight reel. Haliburton also adds 20.2 points per game to a shockingly good Pacers team, who were 23-18 before suffering a brutal losing streak when Haliburton went down with an injury. Had he not gotten injured, Haliburton would be starting over Brunson.

Jaylen Brown is coming off a Finals appearance and is the second best player on the best team the NBA. He’s torching defenses for 26.9 points per game while grabbing seven rebounds, all while being a plus-defender on one of the best defenses in the NBA. Brown may be a bit of a wild card — he’s liable to go for anywhere from five to 45 points on any given night — but he is overdue for his second All-Star appearance.

DeMar DeRozan is quietly averaging 26 points per game and, like Siakam, is the lone bright spot in an otherwise dumpster fire of a season. DeRozan could be wearing the jersey of a team other than the Chicago Bulls by the time the All-Star Game rolls around, but he deserves to represent whatever team he plays for.

James Harden was my final selection, and he barely made it over a group of other guards. That being said, Harden has looked amazing next to Embiid. He may never be even a competent defender, but he makes up for it by being one of the most potent offensive threats in the league. Harden is averaging 21.5 points per game on average efficiency — a far cry from his Houston heyday — but he’s contributing an eye-popping 11.2 assists per game (he does not qualify to lead the league in assists because he’s missed too many games). You know Harden is deserving of this spot because I just gave him a string of backhanded compliments and still chose him over Jrue Holiday and Darius Garland, who are two of my top five favorite players.

Since there are so many players deserving of All-Star nods — and so many players missing time, as well — I’ve selected two injury replacements should any of the above players get hurt ahead of the All-Star Game: Darius Garland and Kyrie Irving.

Western Conference

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Los Angeles Lakers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Starters: LeBron James, Nikola Jokić, Domantas Sabonis (frontcourt); Luka Dončić, Steph Curry (backcourt).

LeBron James will play in every NBA All-Star Game until he finally succumbs to the undefeated record of father time. LeBron is less than a decade younger than my dad, yet he is dominating the NBA like he’s still in his prime; meanwhile, I’m routinely cooking my dad by double digits in backyard pickup games. He’s in the midst of his third best scoring season, posting an average of 30.2 points per game with just under nine rebounds to boot — at age 38!

Nikola Jokić is not just one of the most skilled passers the game has ever seen. He’s one of the greatest offensive talents in the history of basketball, period. Say what you will about the devaluation of triple doubles, but a center averaging a triple double over a season? That was an unfathomable thought until Jokić came around to do it this year. The twice-reigning MVP is on pace for his third straight, and he undeniably deserves it.

Who would have thought that the mind-bending Domantas Sabonis/Tyrese Haliburton swap from last season would end up as one of the biggest win-win trades in NBA history? It’s a great time to be a Sacramento Kings fan, due in large part to Sabonis’ dominance — he’s averaging 18.7 points, 12.5 rebounds and 7.4 assists on 60.9% shooting from the field. My Kings fan friend will be thrilled that I’m putting this in writing: Light the beam!

Luka Dončić starting in the All-Star Game is an inevitability from here on out. The 23-year-old is on a collision course with his fourth All-Star selection (think about that), and is getting better every season. Dončić is posting a wild average nightly stat line of 33.8 points, 9.1 rebounds and 8.6 assists as the sole factor keeping the Dallas Mavericks out of the NBA’s gutter.

The second starting guard spot was a three-way toss-up among Steph Curry, Ja Morant and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, but I ultimately gave the spot to Curry because he’s the reigning Finals MVP. Curry is averaging 29.2 points per game on near-50/40/90 shooting splits and, like Dončić, is the sole reason his team is above the lottery.

Reserves: Lauri Markkanen, Jaren Jackson, Zion Williamson (frontcourt); Ja Morant, Shai-Gilgeous Alexander (backcourt); De’Aaron Fox, Damian Lillard.

Lauri Markkanen is the surprise player of the season, and he should run away with the Most Improved Player award. Markkanen has jumped from scoring 14.8 points per game as a role player on a slightly above-.500 team last year to scoring 24.8 points per game as the leading man on a different slightly above-.500 team this year. He has a strong case to start over Sabonis.

The Memphis Grizzlies are firmly in second place in the West, and Jaren Jackson’s season-long defensive clinic is a major reason why. He missed the first few weeks of the season, but since returning Jackson has been terrorizing opposing bigs, blocking a whopping 3.3 shots per game as the anchor of the best defense in the NBA.

A guy like Zion Williamson would be winning MVPs in the NBA of old, but in today’s ultra-talented league, he’s relegated to All-Star reserve status. Williamson delivers 26 points and 7 rebounds nightly on 61% shooting from the field, and his Pelicans have become NBA appointment viewing.

For the first time — but certainly not the last — the top two picks of the 2019 draft will share the court at the All-Star Game this year. Ja Morant really should be starting, and if he is selected over Curry that would be more than understandable. Morant recently led the second-place Grizzlies to an 11-game win streak, tying a franchise record, while averaging 28 points and 8 rebounds per game on 53% shooting during that stretch.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has finally arrived. He has been the NBA’s worst-kept secret since being traded to the Thunder, always playing at an All-Star caliber level but never playing enough games to justify a selection (mostly due to OKC’s shameless tank job). Now he is averaging over 30 points per game, which nearly automatically punches a player’s ticket to the All-Star Game. In fact, the only players to average 30 points per game for a season and not be selected as All-Stars were Adrian Dantley in 1983 and Bradley Beal in 2020. Additionally, SGA’s supernova scoring ability has the Thunder on the precipice of the playoffs way ahead of schedule, as they are bubbling just below the play-in but only a game and a half out of fifth place.

De’Aaron Fox has been a hot preseason pick to make his first All-Star Game for about four years running now, and he is finally primed to make it. Alongside Sabonis, Fox has brought the Sacramento Kings — the team with the longest active playoff drought in all of American sports — back to relevance. Every NBA fan can get behind the ritual lighting of the beam, and it’s time Fox made his first All-Star appearance.

I wrote down something like ten candidates for the final reserve spot, but I ultimately decided that Damian Lillard earned it. Lillard is quietly putting up 29.3 points per game on a Portland Trail Blazers team that looked like a playoff lock before dropping 12 of their last 18 games.

My two injury replacements in the West are Anthony Davis and Aaron Gordon. Davis would surely be an All-Star if he was not injured, and Gordon has been the second best player on the top seed in the West. Also, I really want to see him in the dunk contest.

This year’s All-Star ballot is perhaps the most difficult in NBA history, as there are nearly twice as many players deserving of All-Star consideration than there are spots. In no particular order, here are the players that I cut from my original long list of candidates: Jrue Holiday, Bam Adebayo, Paolo Banchero, Kristaps Porzingis, Jimmy Butler, Brook Lopez and Evan Mobley (East); Desmond Bane, Devin Booker, CJ McCollum, Paul George, Alperen Sengun and Jerami Grant (West). If you’re counting, that means I considered a staggering 41 players for my list.

All-Star starters will be revealed Jan. 26 at 7 p.m., and rosters will be determined playground-style ahead of the All-Star Game on Sunday, Feb. 19.

What did you think of my list? Comment down below!