Ten players who could earn first NBA All-Star nod in 2017-18 season

Fran Blinebury

Fran Blinebury NBA.com


Aug 11, 2017 11:31 AM ET

Bradley Beal and C.J. McCollum have a solid shot at making the 2018 All-Star Game.

The regular season will only be a few weeks old when the ballots will go out for the 2018 NBA All-Star Game at Staples Center and most of the voters won’t even have to think about the first handful of names they’ll fill in:

LeBron James. Stephen Curry. Kevin Durant. James Harden. Russell Westbrook.

Everybody wants to see the marquee stars and there is nothing at all wrong with that.

However, with only 24 roster spots in a league with 450 players, inevitably a few deserving players get overlooked. Here are 10 players that could break through at L.A. in February:  

Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves

The 2016 Kia Rookie of the Year averaged 25.1 points, 11.4 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game and shot 54.2 percent from the field last season. And, at 21, he might be best center in the game. He was also the victim of four Warriors squatting on the West All-Star team a year ago. If the Timberwolves are in the playoff race, it shouldn’t happen again.

Last season, Karl-Anthony Towns dropped 40 points on the Lakers in a loss.

Mike Conley, Memphis Grizzlies

The Eddie Johnson of the 21st century -- aka, the poster boy for the overlooked. Conley has been performing at an All-Star level for years, but keeps getting squeezed out by the glut of point guards in the West. In his 11th season, he’s due.

Mike Conley burned the Spurs for 35 points in a win last season.

Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz

"The Stifle Tower" was a finalist for Kia Defensive Player of the Year last season and now he’ll see his offensive numbers go up in the wake of Gordon Hayward’s departure from Utah. The Jazz say they’re making him the focus of the team.

Rudy Gobert had a career-best 35 points against the Knicks last season.

Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers

Let’s face it: he’d be the reigning Kia Rookie of the Year in 2017 if he’d played more than just 31 games last season. He’s got all the tools and he’s downright fun, too, which makes him a perfect fit to shine at All-Star weekend. It's there for the taking ... if he can stay healthy.

Joel Embiid is already gearing up for the 2018 NBA London Game.

Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers

Paul George and Paul Millsap changing conferences opens up two spots on the East All-Star team. The Pacers’ big man with the nice jumper will get more touches now that George is gone and he’s the centerpiece of the offense.

Myles Turner has a little Summer League fun with The Starters.

Hassan Whiteside, Miami Heat

The league’s top rebounder last season, Whiteside also averaged 17 points, shot 55.7 percent and 2.1 blocks per game, too. He anchors a team that should be in the playoff race, but he might have to beat out Turner for the spot on East roster.

In April, Hassan Whiteside capped off a strong 2016-17 season.

Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards

Coming off his best season in the NBA (23.1 points per game, shooting 40.4 percent behind the arc), John Wall’s running mate could make for an All-Wizards backcourt if he stays healthy and delivers consistency again.

Bradley Beal showcased his scoring touch in the 2017 playoffs.

C.J. McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers

Half of the highest-scoring backcourt in the league, he’s improved through each of his first four seasons and fills it up from the 3-point line.  He’d likely have to bump out teammate Damian Lillard for the spot.

Can the Blazers thrive with a C.J. McCollum-Damian Lillard backcourt?

Kristaps Porzingis, New York Knicks

The 7-foot-3 Latvian has all the skills to excel and the perfect forum to do it in at Madison Square Garden. If Carmelo Anthony gets his wish to be traded out of New York, the young forward will get more chances to become an All-Star.

Kristaps Porzingis did it all in a win against the Suns last season.

Lonzo Ball, Los Angeles Lakers

He hasn’t played a single game or laced up his sneakers for an NBA practice. But if the ballyhooed No. 2 Draft pick lives up anywhere close to the hype and the Lakers are competitive, don’t discount the fan voting in L.A. from getting him in the race.

The Starters have a little fun with rookie Lonzo Ball.

Fran Blinebury has covered the NBA since 1977. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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