Difficult decisions await later this month when the NBA officially opens voting for the 2023 NBA All-Star Game, set for Feb. 19 at Vivint Smart Home Arena. That’s especially apparent when eyeing the glut of talent vying for backcourt spots in the Western Conference, which, at this point, appears to feature stiffer competition than the Eastern Conference will at that position.
That’s not to say that earning a trip to the All-Star Game as an East guard won’t be difficult, considering the fact two 2022 All-Star guards from the West — Donovan Mitchell and Dejounte Murray — went East in the offseason, thus bolstering the pool of talent in that conference’s backcourt. Interestingly, those departures didn’t leave much of a dent in the depth out West, which may feature as many as four players in the 2023 NBA All-Star Game that didn’t participate in the 2022 contest.
Keep in mind that the starting groups for both conferences feature two guards and three frontcourt players, while the reserves are comprised of two guards, three frontcourt players and two wildcard selections. Seven guards from each conference played in the 2022 NBA All-Star Game.
Here’s a quick look at eight guards from the Western Conference that should figure prominently in the mix for the 2023 NBA All-Star Game, listed alphabetically.
1. Desmond Bane, Memphis Grizzlies
Season stats: 24.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 4.8 apg
Bane hasn’t played since Nov. 11 as he continues to recover from a Grade 2 sprain of his right big toe suffered in a win against the Minnesota Timberwolves. In just his third season, Bane has become a legitimate co-star opposite Ja Morant, and he’s averaging career highs in points (24.7), rebounds (4.9) and assists (4.8), shooting 45.1% on 3-pointers. Depending on how much time he misses, Bane is probably one of the frontrunners to win Kia NBA Most Improved Player (he finished fifth in last season’s voting for the award).
2. Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns
Season stats: 29.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 5.8 apg
Spoiler alert: expect Booker to rise in the next Kia Race to the MVP Ladder. Without Chris Paul (out the last 11 games with a heel injury), Cameron Johnson (out the last 13 games with a torn right meniscus), and Jae Crowder (who hasn’t played all season), Booker has carried the Suns to the best record in the West. Naturally, you would expect dropoff from a team missing three starters for so long. But Booker isn’t having it and showed as much in dropping 51 points in Wednesday’s win over Chicago.
3. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Season stats: 31.4 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 7.0 apg
Curry led the Warriors to three straight wins before falling Tuesday to Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks in an epic duel that came down to the end. Curry scored 32 points in the loss to go with five rebounds and five assists, amassing his 13th game this season with 30 points or more. That total trails only Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (15) and Doncic (14). Golden State is 11-11, just within striking distance of eighth place. Without Curry, the Warriors wouldn’t even be close.
4. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks
Season stats: 33.5 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 8.6 apg
The 23-year-old MVP candidate put on a show on Tuesday in becoming just the sixth player to post five or more 40-point triple-doubles in Dallas’ win against Golden State, joining the likes of Oscar Robertson (22), James Harden (16), Russell Westbrook (13), Wilt Chamberlain (7) and LeBron James. Overall, Doncic scored 41 to go with 12 rebounds, 12 assists and four steals in the win. In just his fifth season, Doncic is now tied with Dirk Nowitzki for the second-most 40-point outings in Mavs history (20), trailing only Mark Aguirre (22).
5. De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento Kings
Season stats: 24.0 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 6.0 apg
“Swipa” produced his second-lowest point total of the season in Monday’s loss to the Phoenix Suns, and over his last three outings entering Wednesday’s win against the Indiana Pacers, he was shooting 35% (17 of 49) after hitting 61% in the three games before that. From Nov. 9-22, Fox led Sacramento on a seven-game win streak, dropping 28 points or more in four of those contests. Fox and Domantas Sabonis have become a formidable duo that give the Kings a real shot at making the postseason for the first time since 2006.
6. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City Thunder
Season stats: 31.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 6.1 apg
The NBA’s fifth-leading scorer, Gilgeous-Alexander sat out of Wednesday’s win against the San Antonio Spurs due to a left hip contusion. Before that, the 24-year-old had five consecutive 30-point games, the most by a Thunder player since Paul George in 2019. TNT’s Charles Barkley believes Gilgeous-Alexander should be an All-Star starter — and he’s probably correct in his assessment. Gilgeous-Alexander is just the second player in league history to rack up 30 points or more on at least 50% from the field in 10 of his first 14 games of a season.
7. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
Season stats: 26.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 7.0 apg
The six-time All-Star missed his fifth consecutive game (strained right calf) on Wednesday, but the 32-year-old appeared to be back in All-Star form through his first 11 games. During that span, Lillard averaged 26.3 ppg and 7.0 apg, including a pair of 40-point nights in back-to-back games in October. The Blazers are 4-6 this season without Lillard and 19-44 under those circumstances going back to the start of 2021-22. Lillard is reportedly targeting a return for Sunday’s home matchup against Indiana (9 ET, NBA TV).
8. Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies
Season stats: 28.2 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 7.6 apg
As well as he’s played so far, we still haven’t seen Morant with his full complement of weapons. That’s led to a lack of consistency as Memphis has lost three of its last five games. The 23-year-old spent the first part of the season starring opposite Bane but without Jaren Jackson Jr., who sat out Memphis’ first 14 games recovering from offseason foot surgery. By the time Jackson returned on Nov. 15, Bane was missing his second straight game with a sprained right big toe. Coming off his first All-Star nod, Morant likely earns a second trip in 2022-23.
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