The Western Conference sent six frontcourt players to the NBA All-Star Game in 2022, and there’s a chance four of them won’t be back for the 2023 contest on Feb. 19 at Vivint Smart Home Arena.
That’s a testament to the fierce competition in the West at the forward and center positions, which might yield a couple of first-time All-Stars in Jerami Grant and Lauri Markkanen, while welcoming the return of stars such as Anthony Davis, Domantas Sabonis and Zion Williamson.
As explained previously, the starting groups for both conferences feature two guards and three frontcourt players while the reserves consist of two guards, three frontcourt players and two wildcard selections. Six frontcourt players participated in the 2022 NBA All-Star Game for the Western Conference, which used its two wildcard spots on guards Luka Doncic and Donovan Mitchell.
Listed alphabetically, here’s a look at eight frontcourt players (and no, we didn’t forget to list Draymond Green, Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns) from the Western Conference that figure prominently in the battle for spots in the 2023 NBA All-Star Game.
Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers
Season stats: 28.1 ppg, 12.4 rpg, 2.7 apg
Respect to LeBron James, but the Lakers are Davis’ team now, and he’s playing like it by putting up monster numbers to carry a struggling squad. The eight-time All-Star should be a lock to return to the big stage for the first time since the 2020-21 season, but he’s got to stay healthy (he’s missed just three games so far) and maintain the production. Davis earned Western Conference Player of the Week honors for games played from Nov. 28 to Dec. 4 after averaging 37.8 points, 13.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 3.3 blocks, marking the eighth time he’s captured that honor in addition to producing 30-plus points in each of his last three outings.
Jerami Grant, Portland Trail Blazers
Season stats: 22.4 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.7 apg
Rightfully, Damian Lillard reigns as the star of the show in Portland. But the brass finally got the point guard some legitimate co-stars in Grant and Anfernee Simons, as the Blazers now feature three players averaging 20 points or more for the first time in team history. Heading into Wednesday’s 128-112 win at San Antonio, Grant, 28, had led the Blazers in scoring on 10 occasions and paced them in rebounding three times, in addition to finishing as the assists leader in one contest. From Nov. 25-29, the likely first-time All-Star racked up the most points (105) in a three-game stretch in his career.
LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
Season stats: 26.5 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 6.5 apg
Consider this one a lock given the fact James has earned All-Star recognition every season since 2004-05, his second year in the league. The team captain for five All-Star Games, and the MVP of the contest on three occasions, James, 38, still seems impervious to age in Year 20, grinding out strong showings against the NBA’s best competition. Coming up on his 38th birthday, James notched his 511th career 30-point performance in Tuesday’s loss to Boston to pass Wilt Chamberlain for No. 2 all-time.
Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
Season stats: 24.6 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 9.0 apg
The reigning two-time Kia MVP should be another lock having followed up a 31-point triple-double in Saturday’s win against Utah with 43 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists in a 141-128 win against the Washington Wizards on Wednesday. That victory kept the Nuggets in the thick of the hunt for the conference lead. The performance against Utah (31 points, 12 rebounds, 14 assists and a season-high four blocks) marked Jokic’s first career game with that stat line, placing him in the company of James as the only two players in NBA history to put up at least 31/12/14/4 in a game. Going into Wednesday’s game, Jokic ranked No. 1 in NBA history ahead of Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in total games (87) by a center in which they led the team in points, rebounds and assists.
Lauri Markkanen, Utah Jazz
Season stats: 22.1 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 2.2 apg
He returned to the lineup Tuesday with a 19-point double-double to power a win against the first-place Pelicans, a welcome sight for Utah after he missed three games due to injury. Before joining Utah in the Donovan Mitchell trade, Markkanen had five total double-doubles in the previous two seasons. He’s already produced 11 such performances through his first 27 games with the Jazz while becoming the franchise’s first player since Adrian Dantley (1979-80) to churn out 100-plus points and 40-plus boards in their first five games with the team. Markkanen appears at this point to be a fringe All-Star, but considering the game will be played in Salt Lake City, it makes sense to add him to the West player pool.
Domantas Sabonis, Sacramento Kings
Season stats: 17.5 ppg, 11.6 rpg, 6.4 apg
Sacramento’s leading scorer and rebounder in three games of this current six-game road trip, Sabonis got his first triple-double of the season on Dec. 4. In doing so, he became the sixth player in Kings history to post a triple-double. In 27 games, Sabonis has tallied 19 double-doubles, and after Wednesday’s 124-123 win at Toronto, the 26-year-old ranks No. 1 in the NBA in double-doubles. Tossing Joel Embiid into the spin cycle isn’t easy, but Sabonis made it look that way Tuesday dropping 22 points to go with 10 rebounds and five assists in Tuesday’s loss to the Sixers.
Andrew Wiggins, Golden State Warriors
Season stats: 19.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 2.2 apg
Wiggins’ teammate, Draymond Green, could be a fit here, too. But it’s unlikely the Warriors get two frontcourt players into the All-Star Game. Wiggins made his first All-Star Game in 2022 as a starter, and then validated the nod with a stellar showing in the 2022 NBA Finals en route to a title. Wiggins has missed some time this season, but he’s scored 20 points or more in 13 outings, pouring in 30 points twice. Wiggins has also put together two double-digit rebounding performances. At the All-Star break last season, the Warriors were No. 2 in the West. Golden State is No. 10 today, but is well within striking distance of the conference lead.
Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans
Season stats: 25.0 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 4.3 apg
Click-click, another lock for what would mark his second NBA All-Star Game appearance. One of the NBA’s most explosive young hoopers, Williamson apparently offers advice, too, as it appears the forward told the Utah Jazz “you better bring help” after this monstrous dunk on rookie Walker Kessler during a 26-point, nine-rebound showing in Tuesday’s 121-100 loss. The 22-year-old is shooting 60.5% and averaging 25.6 ppg in his career, which makes him the only player in NBA history to average 25 ppg or more while shooting 60% or better from the field. Williamson is also creeping into the Kia MVP conversation as the leading scorer for a New Orleans squad that has surprised the rest of the West.
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