Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
After winning MVP last season, Giannis Antetokounmpo looks like he could be heading towards another piece of hardware with the season he is compiling. He is currently 3rd in the NBA in total win shares, 1st in defensive win shares, and 1st in PER. His usage percentage is up from a season ago, which has lead to bigger numbers than ever before. The forward is averaging 30.9 points per game (career-high), 13.2 rebounds (career-high), with a true shooting percentage of 61.5%. His team is also tied for the best record in the NBA at 22-3. This guy is just another level right now and shows no signs of slowing down.
Joel Embiid, Philadephia 76ers
Joel Embiid has had a weird season. He has shown us those flashes of dominance that we all expect, but he has some nights where he just isn’t aggressive enough. Embiid heard these complaints and dropped 38 in his last game in Boston. His offensive statistics are all a bit lower than last season, but the addition of Al Horford next to him certainly plays a role in that. The lack of elite frontcourt players in the Eastern Conference should lead to Embiid earning a starting nod. He still plays at a very high level on the defensive end. He is 4th in the NBA in defensive rating and 13th in defensive win shares.
Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors
I’m not sure the fans will do the right thing and vote Siakam as a starter, but he 100% deserves it. The future of the Raptors was murky with Kawhi Leonard leaving in free agency, but Siakam has changed everyone’s outlook. The Raptors are 16-8, with Siakam leading the way. The Most Improved Player from last season is averaging 24.5 points per game with an eFG% of 51.2%. His defense has also been terrific. According to Synergy Sports, he is allowing 0.798 points per possession on defense, good for the 85th percentile in the NBA. One major difference in his game has been where he is shooting his shots from. 39.7% of his shots this season are coming from 16 feet and beyond. Last season, only 24.5% of his shots were from this distance.
Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat
When Jimmy Butler signed a max-deal with the Miami Heat, many critics said he didn’t care about winning and was chasing a check and the South Beach lifestyle. He has silenced everyone, as the Heat have the second best record in the Eastern Conference. Butler is currently 7th in the NBA in win shares with a true shooting percentage of 57.8%. His typical lockdown defense is still there, as he is second in steals per game. The biggest jump in his game is his passing. He is putting up a career-high 30.7% assist percentage, and a career high 7.0 assists per game.
Kemba Walker, Boston Celtics
Kemba playing for a legit team has been every bit as fun as I expected. The Celtics are 17-7, near the top of the Eastern Conference. Walker is shooting a career-high 40.8% from three, with a career-high 58.6% true shooting percentage and a career-high 23.1 PER. Kemba has been especially deadly in isolation, averaging 1.176 points per possession according to Synergy Sports. This puts him in the 94th percentile in the entire NBA for isolation scoring.
Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers
Ben Simmons was an All-Star in 2019 and his offensive numbers have not changed very much. He’s averaging 14 points, 8.4 assists, and 7.0 rebounds, with a true shooting percentage of 58.5%. The biggest difference this year for Simmons has been his progression into a All-NBA type defender. He is currently 1st in the NBA in steals per game, 5th in steal percentage, and fifth in defensive win shares. And look, he finally hit a three.
Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
At 21-years-old, Jayson Tatum is poised to make his first career All-Star game. The forward has taken a step forward with his scoring this season, averaging 20.6 points per game. His usage percentage is way up and his assist percentage is up. His defense has remained top-notch. It has been interesting to see him playing the four a lot more this year. According to Basketball Reference, Tatum is playing 90% of his minutes there, compared to 11% a season ago.
Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons
Andre Drummond remains a walking double-double each and every year. The Detroit big man is averaging 17.7 points per game this season and 16.6 rebounds. It should come as no surprise that he is first in the NBA in total rebounding percentage. His defense has also been very strong, as he is fourth in the NBA in defensive win shares.
Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks
It is still early this season, but there is no doubt that Trae Young has proven he has future MVP potential. His shooting is up across the board, as he has a 59.7% true shooting percentage and a 37.6% three point percentage. Young is 4th in the NBA in points per game, 3rd in assist percentage, and 4th in assists per game. This guy has many All-Star games to look forward to down the road.
Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
All I want is to see Bradley Beal on a successful team. Those hopes were diminished for now after he signed an extension with Washington this summer. Even though the Wizards might not win many games, it has been fun watching Beal take on the biggest role of his career. He has a career-high usage percentage, which has led to a career-high average of 27.4 points per game. This is with a career-low three point percentage that I am confident he will improve upon.
Malcolm Brogdon, Indiana Pacers
I can’t think of many free-agent signings that have made as big of an impact as Malcolm Brogdon. It has been a career season for Brogdon in Indiana, averaging 19.5 points per game and 7.5 assists, with an assist percentage of 36.3%. He has become a lot more aggressive, getting to the foul line more than ever before. The significant increase in usage has not hurt his efficiency, as Brogdon has a true shooting percentage of 59.4% and a PER of 22.2.
Bam Adebayo, Miami Heat
I wrote an article a few weeks ago that Bam Adebayo was developing into an elite big men. He is on well on track to prove me right. The 22-year-old center is enjoying career-highs in pretty much every category. He is averaging a double-double, with an average of 4.4 assists per game as well. The vast improvement on the offensive end hasn’t taken away from his elite defense. According to Synergy Sports, Adebayo allows 0.748 points per possession, putting him in the 93rd percentile in the NBA. Get this man to the All-Star game!
LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
The #WashedKing has not looked very washed this season. The addition of Anthony Davis has allowed to LeBron to thrive once again and has the Lakers sitting on a 22-3 record. The biggest difference this year with James has been his passing, as the Lakers have had him running point about 55% of the time. He is leading the NBA with 10.8 assists per game and an assist percentage of 51.6%. Even at almost 35-years-old, there is no bigger guarantee in the NBA than LeBron starting in the All-Star game.
Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers gave up the world to get Anthony Davis in a trade this summer and it has been worth every penny. He’s easily one of the frontrunners for Defensive Player of the Year at the moment. Davis is 2nd in defensive rating, 2nd in defensive win shares, 2nd in blocks per game, and 6th in block percentage. The elite numbers don’t stop on defense. Davis is averaging 27.2 points per game, has a true shooting percentage of 59.9%, and is near the top of the league in offensive win shares and PER.
Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Clippers
Imagine Kawhi Leonard had signed with the Lakers? Instead, Kawhi left Toronto for the Clippers and has not disappointed. Of course, he is still playing at an All-NBA level on the defensive side. He’s top ten in the league in defensive rating and steal percentage. Kawhi is only giving up 0.743 points per possession, putting him the 94th percentile. Leonard’s new surroundings have elevated his passing, as he is sporting a career-high 29.6% assist percentage after being at 16.4% last season.
Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks
Luka Doncic is doing things in his second season in the NBA that have never been done before. The 20-year-old already has two 40-point triple doubles this season. He’s 2nd in the NBA in win shares, 2nd in assist percentage, 2nd in player efficiency rating, and 3rd in points per game. Doncic has a true shooting percentage of 61.9%, compared to 54.5% in his rookie season. His play has spurred the Mavericks to the third-best record in the Western Conference and a 17-7 record. There are multiple MVP awards coming his way over the course of the next decade.
James Harden, Houston Rockets
James Harden is averaging 38.7 points per game and really doesn’t show signs of slowing down. The most impressive part is that he is doing all of this scoring with a true shooting percentage of 63.3%. His true shooting percentage, player efficiency rating, and offensive rating are all up from a season ago. Harden has attempted a league-leading 335 free throws, with the next guy at 260. The competition will be stiff with Giannis and Doncic, but Harden will be in the MVP debate at the end of this season.
Paul George, Los Angeles Clippers
An injury delayed the start to Paul George’s first season with the Clippers, but he has come back in top form. George is putting up the best true shooting percentage of his career at 60.4%, while shooting nearly 40% from deep. PG and Kawhi provide the Clippers with two elite wing defenders. The biggest difference in George this season is where his shots are coming from. For his career, he has shot 59.6% of shots inside the three point line. This season, he is shooting 42.2% of shots from this range.
Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns
Devin Booker has clearly become one of the best scorers in the NBA and is deserving of his first All-Star selection. The Suns made some improvements to the roster around Booker and the result has been a much more competitive team. The 23-year-old guard is averaging 25 points per game, while shooting 40% from deep, with a career-high true shooting percentage of 62.7%. The next part of his game he needs to work on is defense, but otherwise the sky is the limit.
Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
The Trail Blazers may be struggling as a team, but Damian Lillard has never looked better in a regular season. Lillard is 3rd in offensive win shares, 7th in points per game, and 11th in PER. Lillard has the best true shooting percentage of his career at 60.7%. Dame has been especially deadly in isolation, putting up 1.148 points per possession, which places him in the 92nd percentile according to Synergy Sports. I believe that Lillard can lead a turnaround for the Blazers this season.
Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz
I had MVP expectations for Donovan Mitchell entering the season. He hasn’t quite lived up to that, but is putting together a terrific third season. Mitchell is top ten in the NBA in points per game at 24.9 with a career-high 19.7 PER. His range has consistently improved over his career, shooting 36.4% from deep this year. If the Jazz want to be true title contenders, they’ll need Mitchell to reach the next level and make all of his teammates more effective.
Karl Anthony-Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves
After making the All-Star game the past two years, Karl Anthony-Towns has reached a new level this season. Besides averaging a double-double once again, KAT has a true shooting percentage of 65.1% and is shooting 41.4% from deep. 48.8% of his shots have come from deep this season, compared to 27% a season ago. He is a threat from anywhere. His passing has vastly improved, as he is averaging 4.5 assists and has a 23% assist percentage.
Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
It is almost criminal that Rudy Gobert has never made an All-Star team, but this year that will change. Gobert has been dominant at times, with the best effective field goal percentage in the league at 68.3%. The big man is 9th in the NBA in win shares and is averaging a career-best 13.4 rebounds per game.
Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
This one was tough. Jokic has underwhelmed this season, but I still think he will end up being deserving of an All-Star nod. The Nuggets are 15-8 with Jokic not living up his potential. They could be scary once he inevitably finds his game. He is currently averaging a double-double with 6.3 assists per game. His defense has actually improved from a season ago. According to Synergy Sports, Jokic is allowing 0.794 points per possession.