Blogtable: Which West player will get first All-Star nod?
Each week, we ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day.
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Name a player in the Western Conference who is most likely to make his first All-Star team this season.
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David Aldridge: Gordon Hayward, Utah. Monster output (23 ppg) in a contract year; he’s going to get pizaiiid next summer, and he should be rewarded this winter for his excellent play.
Steve Aschburner: Gordon Hayward, Utah. It’s tougher to find a first-timer in the West, because so many established All-Stars are having worthy seasons and keeping their teams aloft in the standings. This might have been Mike Conley’s year for his work and leadership in Memphis, until he suffered those fractures in his vertebrae (oof!). Hayward is averaging career highs in scoring (23.1), rebounding (6.4) and player efficiency (23.8) and, despite some mediocre shooting stats, is the likeliest Jazz player to be rewarded when the conference coaches sit down to flesh out the rosters, scanning the best candidates from teams with winning records, as is their wont.
Fran Blinebury: Until he got hurt and went to the sidelines, I thought it was finally going to be the breakthrough year for Mike Conley. But now I’m thinking young and big and loaded with talent and that’s Karl-Anthony Towns.
Scott Howard-Cooper: DeAndre Jordan, over Gordon Hayward and CJ McCollum. The Clippers should have two representatives and maybe three, and Jordan’s role as the interior defensive presence is obvious for the team that is No. 1 in defensive rating. McCollum has the potential road block of being the second-most deserving selection from a team hovering around .500. Two Trail Blazers in New Orleans is a tough sell under those circumstances.
Shaun Powell: Karl. Anthony. Towns. The young pup has pressed the gas pedal on his development and is already among the top big men in the NBA, let alone the West.While it’s true the Wolves overall are a bit disappointing given the expectations raised by the hiring of Tom Thibodeau, Towns is delivering almost nightly and proving that he’s the solution, not the problem. What’s unique about him is his range, coupled with his soft inside touch, coupled with his shot-blocking ability. It puts him in a very small class of skilled big men who impact both ends and who can flourish in the half court and up-tempo.
John Schuhmann: We may not have a first-time All-Star in the West, but if we do, it has to be a big man, because Stephen Curry, James Harden, Damian Lillard, Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook are taking backcourt spots, for sure. Three options are Rudy Gobert, DeAndre Jordan and Karl-Anthony Towns. With how disappointing the Wolves have been, it could come down to Gobert vs. Jordan, and the latter is more likely to make it, because he’s been around longer and his team is ahead in the standings.
Sekou Smith: DeAndre Jordan’s energy, effort and excellence at the position needs to be rewarded with an All-Star bid. He’s the linchpin for the team with the best defensive rating in the league. I thought he should have been on the list last season and I’m sure he felt the same way. But this isn’t a make-up pick, this is just overdue recognition for one of the best big men in the league.
Ian Thomsen: There may be no first-timers in the West because it’s brimming with experienced All-Stars. In the West you have to cut players who are worthy, and in the East you find yourself reaching for less-obvious candidates in order to fill out the 12-man roster. The most likely “rookies” in the more-talented West are Karl-Anthony Towns, who could become the NBA’s best player in a few years but may be excluded from the All-Star Game due to Minnesota’s poor start to the season; and Gordon Hayward, who is leading Utah on a potential run to the playoffs (for the first time in five years) but may ultimately be overwhelmed by the large number of established stars in the conference.
Lang Whitaker: He’s been in the discussion for a while, but it’s time for DeAndre Jordan to get an All-Star nod. He’s averaging 11 ppg and 12.9 rpg, as well as 1.7 bpg. Most importantly, he’s the defensive hub for the 16-6 Clippers, who are playing the best ball they’ve played in years. The clock may be ticking on the Big 3 era in Los Angeles, but they don’t look anything close to being done. And coming off a first-team All-NBA appearance, Jordan should be rewarded with his first All-Star selection.
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