And just like that, the NBA has surpassed the first quarter of the 2021-22 season. This year has been off to a chaotic start, with plenty of teams still finding their footing at this juncture, especially in the Western Conference. The Western Conference All-Stars race is bound to be a tight one, as plenty of young talent have emerged as likely candidates for the annual festivities this year. Through the month of December, here are our Western Conference All-Stars predictions.
Click here to see the 2021-22 NBA Eastern Conference All-Stars Predictions.
NBA Western Conference All-Stars Predictions
1. Stephen Curry (captain)
Should be no shock here. Stephen Curry is enjoying arguably the best season of his career, topping his 2015 unanimous league MVP campaign. Set to break the record for most career three-pointers, in a little over half the time it took Ray Allen to do so, Curry is on the verge of history. He has nearly single-handedly brought the Golden State Warriors back into contention since the departure of Kevin Durant and the two-year absence of Klay Thompson.
Curry needs no further endorsement to join the Western Conference All-Stars, but it is still worth noting the MVP-caliber season he is enjoying. Curry is third in the NBA in scoring at 27.1 PPG, the Golden State Warriors have the second-best record in the NBA at 21-5, and Klay Thompson is ever so close to returning to the lineup after missing the last two seasons. Safe to say that Warrior basketball is back in full swing, and that is thanks to Curry.
2. LeBron James
Putting aside the consistently inconsistent start for the Los Angeles Lakers, LeBron James will add an 18th All-Star appearance to his resume, tying Kobe Bryant for 2nd-most all time behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s 19. While it does not dramatically translate to the stat sheet or the eye test on the floor, James is finally starting to show the slightest bit of his age as he has missed 12 of the Lakers’ 27 games thus far due to injury. At this point of his career, James’ focus is on the postseason and adding to his illustrious resume in the back nine of his career.
For as long as James is in the NBA, he will continue to participate in the yearly All-Star festivities, and this season will be no different. He’s not playing for All-Star votes. His focus should be elsewhere, such as putting on his GM hat and using his influence to get himself, AD, and Russ some much needed help, a sentence that I never thought I would say.
3. Anthony Davis
Joining LeBron on the 2021-22 Western Conference All-Stars here is one of his running mates, Anthony Davis. Davis has been catching plenty of flack from the media for the Lakers’ lackluster start, as that is part of the job of being the team’s superstar, and especially being LeBron James’ teammate. Nonetheless, the stat sheet would tell you that Davis has arguably been the team’s best player this season, and that is probably correct.
Aside from contributing a bountiful scoring load of over 24 points per night, Davis anchors the team’s defense, tied for second in the league in blocks with 2.2 per contest. He also pulls down over 10 boards a night, as he shares a crowded frontcourt alongside Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan. With the Lakers likely to have at least two representatives on the Western Conference All-Stars, sooner or later the rest of the team will buy into their roles, or LeGM may have to clean house. It may be safe to say that Davis is the only Laker whose job is safe according to LeBron.
4. Nikola Jokic
The reigning MVP is building on his historic season a year ago with yet another stellar showing. Now down both Michael Porter Jr and Jamal Murray, Nikola Jokic is now shouldering a load nearly double the one he had to last season, and so far it has been working. Jokic is fourth in the league in scoring at 26.5 PPG, second in rebounds at 13.5 per, and 11th in assists with 7.2 per night. Jokic also clocks in at the very top in efficiency with a rating of 37.0.
Jokic’s outstanding performance has helped keep Denver in playoff contention when most of their other weapons have been neutralized for the most part. Currently the 8th seed with a 13-13 record, they see themselves in the play-in tournament today, but the talent dropoff between them and the 9th, 10th seed, and so on, is by a half mile.
5. Chris Paul
Chris Paul and the Phoenix Suns are proving to the NBA that last season’s NBA Finals run was no fluke. After coming up short against the Milwaukee Bucks in the Finals, the Suns had plenty to prove this season, as the clock continues to wind down on Paul’s career. However, Point God has not shown any signs of age. Despite putting up the lowest scoring average of his career, he counters by leading the league in assists with 10.2 a night, and that has arguably been the driving force behind the team’s fast start.
Paul has set up his team for plenty of good looks, as the team has seven players averaging double figures this year. The Suns have been humming with a league best record of 21-4 record. While his counting numbers are not overly impressive, he’s landed himself as one of the early favorites for Most Valuable Player, as he is one of the few players who truly define what the word “valuable” means, and he very well be the most valuable in the league.
6. Devin Booker
While much of this Phoenix Suns’ success has been attributed to Chris Paul’s playmaking and leadership, Devin Booker has taken a substantial leap as one of the elite tier players in the NBA, and that was apparent both in last year’s Finals run and in the early part of the 2021-22 season. Booker has continued to provide an abundant scoring output of over 23 points per night on 46% shooting and a career high 40% from three on over five shots a night.
Booker and the Suns have established themselves as an elite nightmare matchup for any team in the league. They have plenty of weapons to hurt you from just about anywhere on the floor, and Booker’s long-range shooting, combined with his ability to score at the rim, make him one of the best three-level scorers in the league. That, along with Paul’s playmaking, opens up plenty of opportunities for his teammates, and it has made the Suns all the better.
7. Luka Doncic
Coming in at number seven on the NBA Western Conference All-Stars predictions roster is none other than Luka Doncic. Luka continues to take a mediocre, middle of the line Dallas Mavericks squad and put them over the top in terms of the organizations expectations. Very few players are able to say that their game truly makes their teammates better, and Doncic is in that tier. Especially with how young he still is, Doncic has established himself as a player that any team can feel confident enough to build around.
While running mate Kristaps Porzingis has been a helpful contributor this year with the Mavericks, Doncic is the straw that stirs the drink. His averages don’t tell the whole story, but they are up there with the rest of the NBA’s elite. He scores a nightly 25.6 PPG (ninth in the NBA), 8.5 assists (fourth), and comes in at 11th in efficiency with a rate of 25.7. While the Mavs are not quite a championship favorite, they have their franchise star to build around for the future, and hopefully find some added help for the Slovenian superstar.
8. Paul George
Continuing the stacked Western Conference All-Stars roster is Paul George. Being down his co-star Kawhi Leonard through this season, Paul George has been having one of his best years of his career, and has seemingly flown under the radar despite of it. Averaging 25 PPG, the most since his last season in Oklahoma City. He also averages a career high in assists at 5.4 a night. George continues to also be one of the league’s best two-way wings with 1.9 steals per contest, tied for fifth in the NBA.
The Los Angeles Clippers are right in the middle of the pack in a loaded Western Conference. Each playoff contender in the West can be placed on a tier, and the Clippers find themselves in the one beneath the Warriors, Suns, and Jazz. Nonetheless, George has propelled a deep, experienced, and talented Clippers roster to playoff contention ready to silence any and all critics of their recent shortcomings, although they may have to wait until Leonard returns to the fold.
9. Ja Morant
Although currently out with a sprained knee, Ja Morant also landed in the NBA’s Health and Safety Protocols during his absence. Nonetheless, Morant was playing the best basketball of his young, short career at the start of the season. He was an early favorite to gain plenty of All-Star votes, as he is bound to see plenty of visits to the annual festivities in his career. Morant is out likely a month with his injuries, but that leaves plenty of time for his to return and play up to an All-Star caliber once more.
Fans are dying to see Morant and his explosive playstyle when the lights are shining brightest. In just 19 games, Morant numbers grew drastically from his first two seasons. His scoring is up to 24PPG, and he dished out 6.8 assists, while shooting a career high 36% from beyond the arc on 4.6 attempts. If Morant is able to come back in time and continue to help this young, gritty Memphis Grizzlies team maintain its playoff course, fans will have no choice but to give Morant his due.
10. Donovan Mitchell
Donovan Mitchell and the Utah Jazz have forced themselves into the conversation for the NBA’s elite clubs. Though coming up short in the postseason these last few years, Mitchell has already established himself as Utah’s focal point and franchise star moving forward. The front office has put together nearly a perfect system around Mitchell, with an elite big around the paint in Gobert and plenty of shooting on the outside.
Mitchell’s counting numbers are on par with the upward trajectory his game has been on in his short career. 11th in scoring at 24.8 PPG. He powers an offense that is first in offensive rating at 117.7, and in efficient field goal percentage at 57.4. Though the West is stacked with plenty of accomplished, seasoned, and (some) all-time superstars, leaving Mitchell off of the Western Conference All-Stars is as much as a snub as it gets.
11. Karl-Anthony Towns
While the team has stagnated through the entirety of his young career, Karl-Anthony Towns still flies under the radar for the NBA’s elite big men, and the type of historic offensive output he produces time and time again. With the arrival of Anthony Edwards a season ago, and teaming with longtime friend D’Angelo Russell, Towns’ offense is less called upon, and now he is able to stick to his strengths and play his game more.
Towns is 12th in the league in scoring at 24.3 points a night, while also flashing his elite playmaking alongside two ball-dominant guards with over three assists a night, which is third amongst centers. Towns shoots the ball at an elite clip as he is near the 50/40/90 club with 50/42/82 splits on the season. That elite class of talent is far from unattainable for KAT, and his stats speak for himself as to why he should be amongst this year’s Western Conference All-Stars.
12. Damian Lillard
Why did I not say this name earlier? Well, it hasn’t exactly been “Dame Time” in Portland at any point really this season. Statistically speaking, this has been Damian Lillard’s worst performing season of his career. His shooting has taken a significant dip as he is down to just 30% from beyond the arc, and his average has dropped to just 22 a night. Dame just returned from injury, so he continues to shoot his way out of his struggles, but it has been to no avail.
It is time for Dame to run from the grind before it is too late for him. The Portland Trail Blazers are a trainwreck organization, from top to bottom. Their GM is out of office, CJ McCollum suffered a collapsed lung and will miss extensive time, and the overall outlook of the team is very grey. That all being said, Lillard is a household name in this league, with a game built for the limelight of the All-Star Game. Lillard will still rack up votes, and he has plenty of time to turn his game around to round out the Western Conference All-Stars.
As much as it pains me to say, Lillard is on the cusp of a dangerous decline. Maybe one that is not with the likes of Kemba Walker, but still a step down from what his ceiling is. Hopefully, this is not the case.
Honorable Mentions / Potential Replacements
The West is loaded with All-Star talent, but only 12 can make the roster. Here are some honorable mentions that could serve as potential replacements for the Western Conference All-Stars.
Main Image Credit:
Embed from Getty Images