Half the starting spots in the 2022 NBA All-Star Game seemed clinched before voting even began:
With the NBA announcing first returns on fan voting, it’s probably time to add the Bulls’ DeMar DeRozan to the list of locks – at Eastern Conference guard.
Eastern Conference guard
DeRozan holds a big lead in fan voting, which carries the most weight in the three-pronged formula used to determine All-Star starters. Plenty of media and fellow players will vote for him, too. He’s an established star having a deserving season.
The controversy: DeRozan is far more of a forward than guard with the Bulls. A wing, DeRozan generally fits nearly equally at shooting guard or small forward. But Chicago has Lonzo Ball and Zach LaVine at guard. DeRozan is more clearly a forward there. He even plays plenty of power forward in small-ball lineups.
That leaves only one spot for another Eastern Conference starting guard. The Nets’ James Harden, Hawks’ Trae Young and LaVine are running a close 2-3-4 in fan voting. The exact ranking could be crucial. Those three will get plenty of consideration from media and players, too.
Western Conference guard
The other Western Conference guard next to Curry is also a fascinating – even more open – battle.
The Suns’ Chris Paul is playing awesome but just sixth in fan voting. Another worthy candidate, the Jazz’s Donovan Mitchell is eighth. The Mavericks’ Luka Doncic is second, and that might be enough for him with even moderate support from media and players. The Grizzlies’ Ja Morant (third in fan voting and playing incredibly) is the best bet to finish high in all three categories.
Western Conference frontcourt
The race for final Western Conference frontcourt starter might be most wide open. None of the candidates are particularly traditionally inspiring with the Lakers’ Anthony Davis (still sixth in fan voting) and Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard, All-Star starters in recent years, both injured.
The Warriors’ Draymond Green (fifth in fan voting), Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns (seventh in fan voting) and Jazz’s Rudy Gobert (ninth in fan voting) are having the strongest seasons. But the Clippers’ Paul George has played pretty well too, and he’s third in fan voting. The Warriors’ Andrew Wiggins, fourth in fan voting, is closer to George than to fifth and has drawn some (probably narrow) media support.
The All-Star starters who lead each conference in fan voting will serve as captains for the All-Star draft. That’s on pace to be Curry and Durant. Though Antetokounmpo or LeBron could catch up, Curry-Durant has some drama.