Dallas is crazy about their Mavericks this year, and for good reason. Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis are two fundamental building blocks that can take the franchise to unforeseen heights. These two guys elevate this team and this city on a nightly basis and it would be an honor to have them represent Dallas in the 2020 All-Star game in Chicago on February 16th.
With a Western Conference loaded with All-Star level talent, sending our guys to play alongside the Worlds best will be no easy task. Even with Luka’s historic Rookie season he came up just short of All-Star status last season despite the voter’s best efforts.
Last year’s Western Conference All-Stars
The West will lose three players to injury with Durant, Thompson, and Curry all out for extended periods of time but it will gain Kawhi Leonard and D’Angelo Russell, both of which were All-Stars in the East last season.
The rest of the guys staying in the West this year are going to be tough to leap-frog. A big part of whether Luka or Porzingis can earn All-Star status this season is if the Mavs are in the top half of the Western Conference standings come time for coach and player voting.
I have no doubt that MFFLs in Dallas, Slovenia, Latvia, Spain, and the rest of the World will do their part and get these guys near the top of their respective fan voting categories. Fan voting opened on Christmas last year and lasted through Martin Luther King, Jr Day on January 21st.
One of the big difficulties in predicting the 2020 Western Conference All-Stars is whether Luka Doncic and LeBron James are classified as Guards or Forwards. Last year they were both listed as Forwards, however, they are first and second in the entire NBA is assists per game as of November 17th. Despite them both being their team’s primary Point Guards, I anticipate the NBA will continue to classify them as Forwards because of their size.
The Western Conference is so loaded with All-Star talent, cracking the top 12 is ridiculously hard, 8 of the top 10 players in Win Shares so far this season are in the Western Conference.
To get an initial idea of which players are performing the best so far this year I will look at two advanced metrics, Win Shares (WS) and Game Score (GmSc). Win Shares is an estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player. Game Score is a give a rough measure of a player’s productivity for a single game, but in this case we will use it to see who is putting up the biggest, most efficient stats across this young season.
Top 15 Win Shares in the Western Conference through 11/17
Top 15 Game Score in the Western Conference through 11/17
When a player shows up in the top 10 of both helping his team win and putting up big numbers I think it is safe to say they are strong candidates to lock down an All-Star spot. Players that are in the top 10 of both of these categories are James Harden, Damian Lillard, Luka Doncic, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Donovan Mitchell. That is 7 players who at this point would appear to be locks for the 2020 All-Star Game. Just outside the top 10 in both categories are surprising candidates Montrezl Harrell and Hassan Whiteside.
Last year there were 7 Forwards and 5 Guards, and given the dilemma mentioned earlier with Luka and LeBron, I expect this to again be the case in 2020. So with the information above, the locks so far appear to be as follows:
Locks for Western Conference All-Star 2020 as of 11/17
Forwards (4): Luka Doncic, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns
Guards (3): James Harden, Damian Lillard, and Donovan Mitchell
This leaves just 5 spots remaining, 3 Forwards and 2 Guards.
We already have 4 locks as determined by their ranking among the tops in Win Shares and Game Score as noted above. There are also two other Western Conference front court players that are not in the top 10 of both these lists but are MVP caliber players that I full expect to be 2020 All-Stars.
I don’t care how many games he takes off for “load management” but Kawhi Leonard, barring an injury that keeps him out for a month, should be an All-Star this year. He is the reigning Finals MVP, is posting numbers of 25.8 pts, 8.6 reb, 5.7 ast, 2.2 stl, and 1 blk per game and has his team as one of the top in the Western Conference.
Although Paul George missed the first 11 games of the season, he did not skip a beat when he came back. In his 4 games this season is off to a scorching start with 28.3 pts, 6.3 reb, and 4.8 ast per game. Paul George was third in MVP voting last season and looks like he is still the same player despite missing a bit of time. PG is too good and too exciting to be left off the team, I fully expect George to be another one of the Western Conference Frontcourt All-Stars.
That leaves 1 Forward spot for the rest of the Western Conference’s bigs and wings including Nikola Jokic who was fourth in MVP voting last season, Rudy Gobert who is your back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year, last year All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge, Montrezl Harrell and Hassan Whiteside who showed up in our Win Share and Game Score lists above, our Unicorn Kristaps Porzingis, and others.
To get a better idea of how these players compare, lets look at all of their stats side-by-side. Here is how Porzingis stacks up with some of the top Western Conference Forwards/Centers in Game Score through November 21st.
Game Score is by no means the all encompassing stat that should determine who makes the cut as an All-Star and who does not, but I think it can give us a good idea of who is performing and doing so efficiently. An easy scan down the right side of the table above will show that it looks like our guy Porzingis has quite a few Forwards/Centers to leap frog if he is going to have a chance at being an All-Star in 2020. He is in line with the others when it comes to points and rebounds but is really losing points on efficiency with his 40% field goal percentage. The Mavs have about 29 more games to go before All-Star voting opens at the end of December, plenty of time for KP to find his rhythm and vault to the top of this list.
Despite Harrell having the top Game Score of the Forwards/Centers listed above I do not see him as a front runner for the All-Star Game. I find it hard to choose a guy who plays a majority of his minutes against bench units. He is dominating in those minutes but I just don’t see it happening. Instead I would lean towards Nikola Jokic. Although he is not having a good of a season as he did last year, the Nuggets are once again near the very top of the Western Conference standings. As the best player on one of the top teams I think the Joker has earned the respect necessary to merit an ASG appearance.
Based on Win Shares and Game Score we had 3 locks for the 5 open Guard spots for Western Conference All-Stars, James Harden, Damian Lillard, and Donovan Mitchell. Narrowing down the rest of the Guards in the West to just two more spots is poised to be a crowded race.
There are about 10 players that I think have a legitimate claim for those two remaining spots. Let’s again take a side-by-side look at some of these candidates to get an idea of how they stack up through November 21st:
Andrew Wiggins is lighting it up in his 6th year in the NBA. He has definitely earned a bad rap in the court of NBA public opinion after the Jimmy Butler debacle, but there is no doubt that Wiggins can score. Andrew Wiggins is 54th all-time in scoring through a players first 5 seasons. If the Timberwolves improve their standings in the Western Conference between now and late December he has a great chance of snagging an All-Star spot.
Devin Booker is making a strong case for All-Star status this year. Scoring over 25 points per game while shooting better than 50/50/90 from the field/three/foul-line and at the same time he has skyrocketed his team from the dumps of the West to 7th i the Conference thus far. If the Suns keep winning then I have no doubt Booker earn his first ever Playoff appearance.
At this points in the season Andrew Wiggins and Devin Booker are the front-runners for the last few guard spots in the West but DeMar Derozan, Lou Williams, and Russell Westbrook are all strong candidates. I think any of these guys, depending on health and team performance can easily find themselves as 2020 All-Stars but at this point they are going to have to step it up to surpass Wiggins and Booker.
2019-2020 Western Conference All-Star Front-Runners
This is obviously a fluid situation as things will certainly change over the next 25-30 games. Injuries will happen, standings will change, and some players will not be able to maintain their hot start. Regardless I do not think the list will change much from what I have presented here. Luka Doncic is a lock but Kristaps Porzingis has some serious work to do if he is going to gain serious consideration for his second All-Star game appearance. He is certainly capable, it just depends on how quickly he can round into full form and how many games the Mavs can win.