LeBron James, Joel Embiid? Of course, but other All-Stars not so easy

Some NBA All-Star starters are obvious this season. Joel Embiid, for example. Some All-Star starters aren’t so easy. Which two among Steph Curry, Damian Lillard and Donovan Mitchell do you take?

Who should be a starter and who is named actually a starter are two different things because of voting by fans, players and media.

On Thursday, the East and West All-Star starters for the March 7 game in Atlanta will be announced on TNT. The reserves – picked by the league's head coaches – will be announced on Tuesday.

USA TODAY Sports NBA writers Jeff Zillgitt and Mark Medina get to the bottom of it and select their All-Star starters:

East starters


Kyrie Irving, Guard, Brooklyn Nets: Irving is averaging a career-high 28.3 points, posting the coveted 50/40/90 line – 53.4% from the field, 44.2% on 3-points (a career-high) and 91.8 from the free-throw line.

Bradley Beal, Guard, Washington Wizards: Beal leads the league in scoring at 33.1 points per game and is tied for the most games (16) with 30 or more points this season. He’s shooting 47.6% from the field and had a career-high and franchise-record 60 points against Philadelphia on Jan. 6.

Just missed the cut: Boston's Jaylen Brown, Philadelphia's Ben Simmons, Brooklyn's James Harden


Joel Embiid, Center, Philadelphia 76ers: Embiid is having the best season of his career (29.6 points, 10.8 rebounds, 54.3% from the field, 40% on 3s, 85.1% on free throws) for the East-leading Sixers.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Forward, Milwaukee Bucks: Maybe not MVP Giannis but definitely All-Star Giannis: 28.2 points, 11.4 rebounds and 5.8 assists on 56.3% shooting.

Kevin Durant, Forward, Brooklyn Nets: Back from an Achilles rupture and in All-Star form, averaging 29 points and 7.3 rebounds and shooting 52.4% from the field and 43.4% on 3s.

Just missed the cut: Orlando's Nikola Vucevic, New York's Julius Randle, Charlotte's Gordon Hayward, Miami's Bam Adebayo

 Jeff Zillgitt

West starters


Stephen Curry, Guard, Golden State Warriors: Following a slow start, Curry has kept the Warriors as a playoff contender by showing he can still remain the league’s best shooter even with diminished talent around him. He ranks second in the league in scoring (30.1 points per game), while leading the league in 3-pointers made (140). Curry also had scored at least 25 points on 50% shooting for 11 consecutive games, a feat the Elias Sports Bureau said has not been done since Michael Jordan in 1995-96. 

Donovan Mitchell, Guard, Utah Jazz: Mitchell is the biggest reason for the Jazz having the NBA’s best record and becoming a legitimate championship contender. Despite what Shaquille O’Neal might say, Mitchell is a star and has what to takes to deliver the Jazz a title. The Jazz have raved about Mitchell adding to his scoring presence with his improved decision making and an elevated 3-point shot (a career-high 39.2%).

Just missed the cut: Portland’s Damian Lillard


LeBron James, Forward, Los Angeles Lakers: Even at 36 years old and in his 18th NBA season, James has remained the league’s best player. He has stayed healthy. He has continuously mastered his scoring, passing and chemistry with teammates. And he has become an increasingly dependable 3-point shooter to complement his driving abilities.

Kawhi Leonard, Forward, Los Angeles Clippers: Leonard has checked all the boxes in what has made him one of the league’s best players in recent years with his scoring, defense and passing. But unlike the previous two seasons, Leonard has not harbored as many injuries that prompted the Toronto Raptors and the L.A. Clippers to sit him in most practices.

Nikola Jokic, Center, Denver Nuggets: Jokic has become the NBA’s best big man with his superior passing, post-up game and outside shot. Because of those qualities, Jokic has recorded a league-leading six triple-doubles and is on pace for career highs in points, rebounds and assists.

Just missed the cut: Utah’s Rudy Gobert

— Mark Medina

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