Jimmy Butler still in the running for an All Star starter spot

Jimmy Butler remained fourth among Eastern Conference guards, but he still has a good chance of being voted a starter in the latest fan All-Star voting returns released Thursday.

Miami’s Dwyane Wade leads the Eastern Conference guards by a wide margin and surely will be one of the starters. The Cavaliers’ Kyrie Irving is second with fewer than half the votes Wade received. But there has been a backlash about Irving because he missed so many games and is just beginning to return to regular play. The fan voting concludes Jan. 18.

Butler in fourth is also behind Toronto’s Kyle Lowry. But Butler is only about 50,000 votes behind Irving for second and a starting position. It’s not likely this current voting has taken in the substance of Butler’s most recent play, including his record setting 40-point second half over Lowry and the Raptors Sunday.

Plus, the Bulls will play on national TV Thursday against Boston.

Washington’s John Wall is fifth behind Butler and has pointed out the inequity of a long injured player like Irving playing so little and being able to potentially start this season’s All-Star game. Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan is sixth in the voting and Derrick Rose is seventh, falling behind DeRozan in the latest tabulations.

Among front court players, the Bulls’ Pau Gasol remained fifth. Based on that voting among big men, it’s almost certain LeBron James, who leads the voting in the Eastern Conference, and Indiana’s Paul George will start. Detroit’s Andre Drummond is third, barely ahead of New York’s Carmelo Anthony, who is fourth.

There’s a good chance with the Knicks playing better and Drummond not putting up such big numbers lately that Anthony will pass Drummond for the third starting spot on the East team.

But ranking fifth among front court players, Gasol has a strong chance to join Butler in Toronto for the Feb. 14 game. Butler is a virtual certainty to be on the team the way he has played this season and surely will at least be added to the team in the coach voting for reserves if he isn’t voted a starter. The coaches select the seven reserves in a conference vote. Joakim Noah is 13th among East frontcourt players.

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg still has an outside chance to coach the team, but the Bulls would have to pass Cleveland in the standings by the end of January.

In the Western Conference, Kobe Bryant is the runaway overall vote leader as the only player with more than one million votes and basically double even James. Bryant is listed on the ballots this year as a frontcourt player, although he’s generally been considered a guard. Though he has so many votes it wouldn’t matter which position he was listed. Kevin Durant is sure to join Bryant in the frontcourt with Golden State’s Draymond Green and the Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard in a close race for that third starting spot among frontcourt players.

The Warriors’ Stephen Curry is the leader among West guards by a large margin and second in overall votes to Bryant. The Thunder’s Russell Westbrook likely will be the second starting guard for the West team. The Clippers’ Chris Paul is well behind in third.