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Dinero Talks: All-Star Edition
Warriors deserve most All-Star bids 

Outside of overwhelmingly respecting the greatness of Kobe Bryant by voting him in for his final season, fans spared coaches from having to snub too many truly deserving All-Star candidates when their choices for reserves in both conferences are revealed on Thursday night. 

Bryant, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Stephen Curry and Russell Westbrook were the right choices in the West. LeBron James, Paul George and Kyle Lowry are deserving starters, while Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony are Eastern Conference royalty and still performing at a high enough level that they would’ve been included by coaches had well-earned popularity not been their ticket in.

Votes had to be in well before Klay Thompson’s big night 45-point night as the Warriors moved to 42-4 in beating Dallas on Wednesday, but he had to be a lock to make the West roster even before his latest performance provided a rebuttal to anyone who doesn’t think he should be rewarded.

Curry was voted in by fans. Draymond Green just missed out on locking up one of the three frontcourt spots, finishing fifth, just over 50,000 votes behind San Antonio’s Leonard. He’s getting in. Thompson finished fourth in backcourt voting, but the Warriors obviously deserve three All-Stars. 

After dominating headlines with a historic start, Golden State has to have the most representation. 

Lillard, Love lead my high-profile snubs 

If Thompson gets in, it’s looking like either Houston’s James Harden or Portland’s Damian Lillard is going to be left without a seat at the table.

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The Western Conference always delivers the most glaring snub. They’ve had the most talent for well over a decade, so it makes sense that there’s always someone left out despite a deserving resume. A few years ago, back when Mark Jackson was closing out his tenure in 2013, Curry was the victim, beaten out by Tony Parker and then-teammate David Lee. Last season, it was Lillard, who vented via Instagram post, thanking coaches and Adam Silver for thinking he wasn’t good enough. He revealed he was disappointed and disrespected, but also knew he was “not the first or last guy to be snubbed.”

Because Blake Griffin got injured, Lillard ultimately earned a spot, but he may have to take the standby route again this season. Despite ranking sixth in the NBA with a 24.3 scoring average, I don’t see room for the Portland Trail Blazers star on the West team. Given the stiff competition for reserve spots in the West, Griffin’s run of five consecutive All-Star nods is also likely to end despite averages of 23.2 points, 8.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists over 30 games. Even though he’s out for the next six weeks, the fact Griffin is not going to be one of the seven names announced on TNT means the injury replacement route is at least temporarily closed. 

The game will be played at the Air Canada Centre on Sunday, Feb. 14. Here’s who I have getting in:

Western Conference

DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento: He’s the best big man in the game this season. Fans preferred small-ball when voting in starters, giving Cousins a major advantage. His 27.3 points per game rank third in the NBA, while his 11.2 rebounds per game ranks fourth.

Draymond Green, Golden State: The emotional leader for the defending champs has racked up eight triple-doubles and is posting career-high averages in scoring (14.6) rebounding (9.5) and assists (7.3). He’s a lock for his first All-Star team. 

LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio: Even though his averages in points (15.6) and boards are among the worst in his career, he’s made the transition from Trail Blazers’ go-to guy to a cog in the Spurs system quite effectively. He’s made four consecutive appearances and should get the nod considering how highly he’s thought up. It’s only logical that San Antonio’s first-half brilliance must be rewarded with a second All-Star bid, which also aids his cause.

Anthony Davis, New Orleans: Despite his Pelicans underachieving and injuries costing him a handful of games, the 22-year-old phenom is still joined by only Cousins in the 20-10 club, averaging just under 23 points and 10.2 boards per contest. It’s hard to imagine him not earning his third consecutive berth.

Chris Paul, L.A. Clippers: A model of consistency, CP3 will make his ninth straight appearance. He’s kept his team among the top-four in the Western Conference despite multiple distractions, posting roughly the same numbers (18.8 ppg, 9.6 apg) that have tormented Lakers fans since he joined L.A.’s other team in 2012 after David Stern dropped the hammer for “basketball reasons”.

Klay Thompson, Golden State: He started incredibly slow, which is the only reason he isn’t a lock. He averaged 25.3 points per game in December to turn his season around and is now averaging over 20 after his season-high 45-point explosion against the Mavericks.

James Harden, Houston: He ranks second in the NBA in scoring (27.7), but the Rockets have performed below expectations, leading to Kevin McHale’s firing and a seventh-place standing in the conference. That’s better than Lillard’s Blazers are doing, which makes the difference since neither guy will be making an All-Defensive team anytime soon.

Snubs: Damian Lillard, G, Portland; Dirk Nowitzki, F, Dallas; DeAndre Jordan, C, L.A. Clippers; Blake Griffin, F, L.A. Clippers; Andrew Wiggins, F, Minnesota; Marc Gasol, C, Memphis; Dwight Howard, C, Houston.

Eastern Conference

Andre Drummond, Detroit: The 2014 Rising Stars Challenge MVP is going to be part of Sunday’s showcase in his third season. Still just 22, born a few months after than Davis, expect the NBA’s leading rebounder (15.2) to be the youngest All-Star.

Pau Gasol, Chicago: At 35 years old, Gasol will likely be the game’s elder statesmen if he’s rewarded with his sixth appearance, which would make him 2-for-2 since joining the Bulls after being voted in by fans last season. He’s averaging 16.6 points and 10.9 rebounds and will be counted on to do more dirty work inside with Joakim Noah out for the season.

Chris Bosh, Miami: Last year’s All-Star game marked his last action of the season since he was admitted into a Miami hospital to deal with a dangerous blood clot after returning home from Brooklyn. Not only does it make for a great story for Bosh to make a triumphant All-Star return, he’s earned his 11th consecutive appearance with averages of 19.2 points and 7.6 rebounds, not to mention the most prolific 3-point shooting of his career.

Paul Millsap, Atlanta: The Southeast Division leaders haven’t had as prosperous a start as they did last season when four Hawks made the roster and Mike Budenholzer coached the team, but they still must be represented. Millsap leads Atlanta in minutes (32.7), scoring (18.6), rebounding (8.9), steals (1.9) and ranks just behind Al Horford with 1.4 blocks. This would be his third appearance if he beats Kevin Love out for this spot.

Jimmy Butler, Chicago: Following a breakout season that saw him make his first All-Star team, Butler has only gotten better in becoming the face of the Bulls. He broke Michael Jordan’s record for points in a half and has replaced former MVP Derrick Rose as the primary catalyst on both ends of the floor. Consider his second straight berth a lock. 

DeMar DeRozan, Toronto: After a one-year absence, count on the Raptors shooting guard to be in the mix, joining Lowry as a fan favorite and host for this event. His improved jumper has helped him average a career-best 23.0 points per game thus far for the Atlantic Division leaders and current East No. 2 seed.

John Wall, Washington: The Wizards have been the Eastern Conference’s most disappointing team, which actually leaves Wall vulnerable to the likes of Boston’s Isaiah Thomas and Charlotte’s Kemba Walker. He gets my nod as he’s averaging a career-best 19.6 points and 2.1 steals in addition to 9.8 assists, but his third straight appearance doesn’t appear to be a lock.

Snubs: Isaiah Thomas, G, Boston; Kevin Love, F, Cleveland; Kemba Walker, G, Charlotte; Reggie Jackson, G, Detroit; Brook Lopez, C, Brooklyn; Hassan Whiteside, C, Miami; Greg Monroe, C, Milwaukee.

Follow Tony Mejia on Twitter at @TonyMejiaNBA

  
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