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The NBA is filled with plenty of players who are chasing stardom in the league. Some are closer to reaching that goal than others; here are five players who likely will make their first All-Star game this season.
1. SHAI GILGEOUS-ALEXANDER
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is one of the most mesmerizing young players to watch. When the Oklahoma City Thunder made him the centerpiece of their rebuild, high expectations for his future in the league arose. This season, Gilgeous-Alexander is making it clear that he is destined for greatness. He is averaging 31.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 1.3 blocks, and 1.7 steals. At this point in the season, he has had a league-leading 15 games with at least 30 points, including a season-high 42 points against the Washington Wizards.
These numbers make Gilgeous-Alexander a top five scorer in the NBA, and maybe one of the most impressive ones, too. He has a great mid-range shot and crafty finishes at the basket that translate to insane scoring performances, while he attempts an average less than three three-pointers per game. The Youngster already cracked the 5,000 career-point mark and has been carrying the Thunder on his shoulders all season long. Pretty much every game they won came as a result of his efforts.
To top that off, Gilgeous-Alexander and Stephen Curry are the only players in league history to average 30 points on 50/40/90 shooting for the first fifteen games of a season. He is truly having a stellar season and even entered the MVP conversation. If anyone belongs in the All-Star game this season, it is Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
2. DESMOND BANE
Desmond Bane is not only one of the best shooters in the league, but also a part of one of the best backcourts in the NBA. Bane rose up to become the Memphis Grizzlies’ second star next to Ja Morant and together the two of them make the Grizzlies possible contenders.
It is Bane’s third season now, and he looks like a much different player than when he first came into the league. He is a candidate for the Most Improve Player award, as he also was last season, since he improved defensively, as a shooter, and as a playmaker. The last improvement is arguably the most important one, as Bane can now initiate an offense even when Morant is out.
Bane can also create his own shot now, which he was struggling with just about a year ago. This is important because it means that he does not have to rely on Morant’s ability to drive and collapse defenses to allow a kick-out pass anymore, but the two still thrive on that play. Teams are learning not to leave Bane open at the three-point line anymore, though, and sometimes even swarm him like they only do with Curry otherwise.
Thus, Bane expanded his arsenal from catch-and-shoot threes and especially mastered the sidestep three to avoid close outs. He is also shooting exceptionally well off the dribble, which not many players other than the likes of Curry and Damian Lillard excel at.
Bane is currently out with a toe injury, but he will be back soon and will continue to lead the Grizzlies. When we last saw him play, he was averaging 24.7 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.8 assists. He shot 46.5 percent on field goals and 45.1 percent on three-points while attempting 8.8 threes per game. If Bane sustains that kind of play after his return, the Grizzlies could very well be sporting two All-Stars on their young team.
3. DE’AARON FOX
De’Aaron Fox came into the league in 2017 as the fifth overall pick. Consequently, high expectations for his future in the league arose and now, he is fully living up to them. Fox is averaging 25.1 points, 4.9 rebounds and 6.1 assists. He is also shooting 53 percent from the field, 38.9 percent from three and 82 percent on free throws.
Especially his high free throw percentage is important, because as one of the fastest players in the league, he drives a lot and is bound to make it to the free throw line several times a game. After the first month of this season, Fox was actually already leading the league in field goal percentages on drives.
Fox is thriving on the new Sacramento Kings’ roster that is a result of them trading away youngster Tyrese Haliburton. He is now the primary ball-handler, grew as a leader and playmaker, has a great pick-and-roll partner in Domantas Sabonis, and finally has plenty of shooting and spacing around him to open up the floor for his attacks.
Last but not least, he is leading the league in clutch points, adding some dramatic flair to his All-Star case. He has carried the Kings to a good start into this season and their longest winning streak in quite some time, as he won them several games and sometimes did so in noteworthy comeback fashion.
4. TYRESE HALIBURTON
Tyrese Haliburton seems to be benefitting from the trade that sent him to the Indiana Pacers just as much as former teammate De’Aaron Fox. Haliburton leads the Pacers in points, assists and steals while averaging a double-double with 19.6 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 11.1 assists.
The youngster is an efficient scorer, shooting 47.7 percent from the field and 37.8 percent from three, but his biggest and most fascinating strength is his passing ability. Haliburton leads the league in assists and also has an insane assist to turnover ratio. Over the last five seasons, the rest of the players in the league combined for three games with at least 15 assists and 0 turnovers. In his short career, Haliburton already recorded three of those games, all by himself.
Besides the almost 20 points he scores himself per game, Haliburton also creates an impressive 29.6 points per game with assists. Haliburton is a rare kind of player and a great point guard who deserves to be an All-Star.
5. LAURI MARKKANEN
Lauri Markkanen and the Utah Jazz are one of the biggest surprises this season. While everyone expected them to be anything but good, they sneakily played their way to the top of the Western Conference, led by Markkanen.
The Finn is having a breakout season after the Cleveland Cavaliers gave him up to acquire Donovan Mitchell. He is putting up career numbers all over the place with 21.7 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 2.3 assists, while leading the team in points and rebounds.
Utah is Markkanen’s third team, after four years with the Chicago Bulls and one with the Cavaliers, and it seems to be exactly what he needed to go from a solid role player to a star. He has more opportunities and options now because he is more than just a spot up shooter waiting for his more ball-dominant teammates to do their thing. Now, he truly is a three-level scorer and has newfound freedom on a Jazz team that is just working with what they have and making the best of it.
This strategy is not only successful for Markkanen but also some of his teammates. The Jazz might not keep winning like they did at the beginning of the season, as other teams pick up the pace and find their rhythm, but Markkanen should continue to deliver for his team and would make be a deserving addition to the All-Star squad.