Kobe Bryant still on pace to start for the West in second round of All-Star returns
The NBA released the second round of fan voting results for the 2014 All-Star Game on Thursday, and while there weren’t any changes at the top of the order, several positional races remain as tight as ever.
Among Western Conference frontcourt players there looks to be but a single lock. Kevin Durant (Thunder) ranks second among vote-getters overall thus far with 850,728 votes, but behind him are three qualified candidates within 30,000 votes of one another. Dwight Howard (Rockets) currently ranks just behind Durant with 408,623 votes, and trailing him are Blake Griffin (Clippers) with 399,357 and Kevin Love (Timberwolves) with 377,941. Only two of those three players can be voted in as starters by the fans, though all four are likely to make the All-Star roster in some form.
Things are just as competitive among backcourt players in the West, where Kobe Bryant (Lakers) – despite struggling through just six games played and suffering another major injury — built a 200,000-vote lead en route to 723,031 votes overall. At the moment, Chris Paul (Clippers) is slated to be Bryant’s backcourt partner among the West starters with his 533,647 votes, though Stephen Curry (Warriors) is well within striking distance (at 481,698 votes) should the polls take a swing in his favor.
Bryant’s injuries did cost him his status as the West’s leading vote-getter, though, with Durant claiming the title in the first round of balloting and challenging LeBron James (Heat) for the top vote-getter overall. But that the Lakers guard is still tracking to be a shoo-in starter for what would be his 16th All-Star Game appearance is problematic in a different way. Bryant’s emphatic lead as a backcourt starter for the West could well deny an All-Star berth to a worthier candidate; while both Curry and Paul will have no problem making the roster, Bryant’s claim could stand in the way of Damian Lillard (Trail Blazers), Tony Parker (Spurs), Anthony Davis (Pelicans), Andre Iguodala (Warriors), Ty Lawson (Nuggets), or DeMarcus Cousins (Kings) making the team as a reserve.
This year’s fan vote selects the starters for the midseason showcase in New Orleans on Feb. 16. There is a wrinkle to the process that was initiated last year: Fans select two “backcourt” players and three “frontcourt” players rather than two guards, two forwards, and one center as they had in previous years.
Here are the projected starting lineups for each conference based on the first two rounds of balloting returns:
East: Kyrie Irving (Cavaliers), Dwyane Wade (Heat), Paul George (Pacers), Carmelo Anthony (Knicks), and James
West: Paul, Bryant, Durant, Griffin, and Howard
All 10 of those projected starters were 2013 All-Stars, and eight of them were All-Star starters last season. The only projected starting lineup newcomers are Irving, who would plug in for Celtics guard Rajon Rondo (an injury scratch in 2013, who was replaced by Heat forward Chris Bosh), and George, who would step in for then-Celtics forward/center Kevin Garnett (now with the Nets). Howard started last season as a member of the Lakers.