PG – Chris Paul
Stats: 17.6 ppg, 9.6 apg, 5.2 rpg, 2.2 spg, 46.3% FG, 40.4% 3P, 31.5 mpg, 5.8 win shares (3rd,) 22-10 (4th in West)
Chris Paul is having one of his best seasons as a pro in his entire career. This is quite the accomplishment considering Paul’s impressive career, but he has been one of if not the best true point guard in the NBA. Stephen Curry has taken a step back this season, and James Harden and Russell Westbrook are both having better statistical seasons than Paul, but neither can command their team better. Only Kevin Durant and Harden have better win share totals this season, and no player has a higher win share rate (.294 per 48 minutes) or more steals (67.) Paul is also 4th in Value Over Replacement Player (2.9,) 3rd in box plus/minus (10.0,) offensive rating (127,) assists percentage (48.7%,) and 2nd in steal percentage (3.5%.) The all-time leader in win share rate is having another superb season this year, and has earned a spot in the starting line-up.
SG – Russell Westbrook
Stats: 31.7 ppg, 10.9 apg, 10.4 rpg, 1.3 spg, 43.1% FG, 33.7% 3P, 35.0 mpg, 5.2 win shares (9th,) 19-12 (6th in West)
Anybody who averages a 30-point triple double through this much of a season while leading his mediocre team to a projected playoff berth deserves to start in the all-star game if not win the MVP award. The year Westbrook has had in his first without Kevin Durant on the roster has been flat-out spectacular. Westbrook has answered any doubts and speculation about the Thunder and himself that might have come as a result of Durant leaving. Westbrook has led them to a very respectable 19-12, and in that leading effort, Westbrook has been the NBA’s leader in PER (30.7,) assist percentage (59.4%,) usage (42.2%,) box plus/minus (+14.5,) and Value Over Replacement Player (4.5.) In addition to all this, the Thunder are 19.1 points per 100 possessions better with Westbrook on the court. He’s making history this year, and has earned a starting spot.
SF – James Harden
Stats: 27.4 ppg, 11.9 apg, 7.9 rpg, 1.4 spg, 43.8% FG, 34.8% 3P, 36.7 mpg, 6.3 win shares (2nd,) 22-9 (3rd in West)
James Harden is my choice for the MVP award this season. In his new role as the primary ball handler for the Rockets, Harden has thrived, and so has Houston. Harden is putting up jaw dropping numbers on a team that has some good veterans like Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon, Patrick Beverley, Trevor Ariza, and some good young pieces like Clint Capela, Sam Dekker, and Montrezl Harrell, but this group was definitely not expected to be 3rd best in the Western Conference. In addition to leading the league in assists per game, Harden is also the leader in offensive win shares (5.0,) and is 2nd overall.
PF – Kawhi Leonard
Stats: 24.4 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 3.1 apg, 2.0 spg, 0.5 bpg, 47.1% FG, 40.1% 3P, 33.5 mpg, 5.6 win shares (5th,) 25-6 (2nd in West)
The youngest NBA Finals MVP ever is back this season better than ever. Leonard is averaging career highs in points, assists, free throw percentage (92.2%,) PER (27.3,) usage (30.0%,) and offensive box plus/minus (+5.0.) Leonard is leading the reloaded Spurs into contention without Tim Duncan for the first time in Leonard’s career, and Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are only older as well. Any player who leads this good of a team as the 25-6 Spurs are and with Leonard’s individual output deserves recognition such as starting in the all-star game.
C – Kevin Durant
Stats: 26.2 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 4.5 apg, 1.5 bpg, 1.2 spg, 53.8% FG, 39.5% 3P, 34.0 mpg, 6.6 win shares (1st,) 27-5 (1st in West)
Kevin Durant might be a lot of people’s least favorite player nowadays after leaving his Oklahoma City Thunder team to chase rings with the powerhouse Golden State team, but one cannot deny that the NBA’s leader in win shares on the NBA’s best team who is putting up Durant’s big numbers is going to be a starter in the all-star game. The versatile 7’0″ Durant has been spectacular this season after fading away during last year’s playoffs. Durant is having a career year in field goal percentage, rebounds, blocks, turnovers (2.1,) offensive rating (125,) defensive rating (100,) and defensive box plus/minus (2.4) all while playing the fewest minutes per game of his career.
6 – Rudy Gobert
Stats: 12.5 ppg, 11.9 rpg, 2.6 bpg, 0.6 spg, 69.8% FG, 32.7 mpg, 5.4 win shares (6th,) 18-13 (7th in West)
Rudy Gobert has been unbelievable this season. In a league where it was thought traditional centers could no longer dominate, Gobert has controlled the game many times this year for Utah. Gobert not only has the 6th most win shares in the league, but he is the leader in defensive win shares with (2.3,) field goal percentage, true shooting percentage (71.9%,) offensive rating (133,) and the Jazz are 13.0 points per 100 possessions better with Gobert on the court. With Derrick Favors in a slump, and Gordon Hayward and George Hill fighting injuries, Gobert has been the undisputed leader of the 18-13 Jazz. Gobert is on track to lead this defensively elite Jazz team to their first playoff berth since 2011-2012.
7 – Stephen Curry
Stats: 24.1 ppg, 5.8 apg, 4.2 rpg, 1.8 spg, 46.6% FG, 39.9% 3P, 33.2 mpg, 5.2 win shares (8th,) 27-5 (1st in West)
The reigning back-to-back MVP Stephen Curry finds himself in the midst of a relative down year. Curry, however, is still a high level player. Curry’s stat-line is very impressive considering he is playing alongside stars like Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. Curry is still the NBA’s leader in free throw percentage (93.3%,) and his offensive and defensive ratings of 120 and 104 are still high level. Curry had such an unbelievable season last year that it is hard not to look at Curry’s individual season as a disappointment, but Curry is still the best shooter in the league and a spectacular offensive player.
8 – Anthony Davis
Stats: 29.7 ppg, 11.6 rpg, 2.7 bpg, 2.1 apg, 1.5 spg, 49.3% FG, 37.3 mpg, 4.7 win shares (12th,) 11-21 (12th in West)
Anthony Davis is having another great year for the Pelicans, who are not having a great season themselves. Davis received, at the time, the largest contract in NBA history in 2015, and he has not made Pelicans General Manager Dell Demps regret it one bit. Davis’ scoring, rebounding, and blocking numbers are unbelievable. The fact that he does those things at an unbelievably high level, steal 1.5 times per game, and stretch the floor on offense, are what made him one of the most valuable players to have on a team in the entire NBA. The Pelican’s record is not high enough to justify a starting spot for Davis, but neither is the team around Davis to use the record against Davis. He is a very special player, and will be all-NBA if he stays healthy.
9 – Damian Lillard
Stats: 27.0 ppg, 6.2 apg, 4.5 rpg, 0.9 spg, 45.4% FG, 35.3% 3P, 35.8 mpg, 4.2 win shares (13th,) 13-19 (9th in West)
Damian Lillard and John Wall are the two forgotten players in the point guard conversation. The talk is centered around Westbrook, Paul, and Curry, but Lillard is right up there in terms of his production offensively. Lillard’s defense is very mediocre – and even worse this season – but he has put the Trailblazers on his back in so many games since LaMarcus Aldridge left Portland. Lillard’s 4.2 offensive win shares is 5th in the league, and his 6.9 offensive box plus/minus is 7th. Lillard is slightly younger than Paul, Westbrook, and Curry, so there is a very real chance he could be the best point guard in the league one day. Nonetheless, he deserves an all-star selection after getting gypped last year
10 – DeMarcus Cousins
Stats: 29.1 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 3.4 apg, 1.5 bpg, 1.2 spg, 45.6% FG, 38.0% 3P, 34.7 mpg, 3.8 win shares (19th,) 13-17 (8th in West)
11 – Draymond Green
Stats: 10.6 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 7.3 apg, 2.2 spg, 1.3 bpg, 43.1% FG, 31.8% 3P, 32.9 mpg, 3.9 win shares (18th,) 27-5 (1st in West)
Draymond Green isn’t putting up the sexiest numbers, but he is definitely still an all-star level player. The fact that he is top 20 in win shares as the 4th leading scorer on his team shows the versatility of his game. In fact, Green’s numbers distinguish him. Green is the only player this season averaging 10 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, and 2 steals per game, and Magic Johnson and Fat Lever are the only other players in history to do so. Green is leading the NBA in defensive box plus/minus at 5.0, and he brings so much to the Warriors. Last year the Warriors were 25.6 points per 100 possessions better with Green on the court, and while he hasn’t had that kind of impact this season, Green is still at a very high level.
12 – DeAndre Jordan
Stats: 11.4 ppg, 12.9 rpg, 1.7 bpg, 0.6 spg, 65.9% FG, 31.5 mpg, 4.1 win shares (16th,) 22-10 (4th in West)
DeAndre Jordan is having another great season as the 3rd member of the Clippers big three, but he has never been an all-star. Few players are more deserving of being an all-star than Jordan, who has led the league in field goal percentage each of the past four seasons. Few players have the kind of two way impact as Jordan, who has had offensive and defensive ratings of 123 and 98 since the start of the 2013-14 season. The fact that the Clippers, a Western powerhouse in recent history, are 16.2 points per 100 possessions better with Jordan on the court – with a great big like Mo Speights off the bench – is impressive. It is simply confusing that Jordan was 1st-team All-NBA last year, yet not an all-star ever. Oh, and he’s only missed seven games since 2010. Give this man an all-star selection.
13 – Marc Gasol
Stats: 20.0 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 4.1 apg, 1.5 bpg, 0.9 spg, 45.2% FG, 43.0% 3P, 34.0 mpg, 3.6 win shares (22th,) 20-12 (5th in West)
Another great year for Marc Gasol as he’s attempting to will the injured Grizzlies to the playoffs. Gasol’s stat-line doesn’t look as impressive as Karl Towns or some of the other players that won’t make the all-star team, but none of those players make their teams 16.8 points per 100 possessions better when they’re on the court. Gasol is 9th in defensive win shares this season with 1.7, but his most impressive accomplishment is leading Memphis to a 20-12 record with a new head coach, Chandler Parsons missing 24 games, James Ennis missing 14 games, Wade Baldwin missing 12 games, Troy Daniels missing 11 games, Mike Conley missing 10 games, and Tony Allen, Vince Carter, and Zach Randolph each missing 7 games in this young 2016-17 season. The fact that they have a better record than Utah, Oklahoma City, Portland, and the other teams worse than them out West is very impressive, and Gasol deserves his fair share of the credit.