The NBA announced Thursday that Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan has been voted in as a starter for the 2018 NBA All-Star Game.
DeRozan finished second in fan voting among Eastern Conference guards, which makes up 50 percent of the vote. DeRozan received 998,999 fan votes, nearly 50 percent ahead of the names behind him and sixth among all East players. He also finished second in media voting (25 percent) and second in player voting (25 percent). His composite score ranked him – you guessed it – second among East guards, behind only Kyrie Irving.
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) January 18, 2018
While the NBA is doing away with the East vs. West format this year in favor of captain-selected teams led by top vote-getters LeBron James and Steph Curry, the selection of the 24 All-Stars remains the same, including five voted starters and seven reserves selected by each conference’s coaches. From here, those coaches will have a few days to vote for two guards, three frontcourt players, and two wildcard slots, which will determine the remainder of the rosters. Those will be announced Jan. 23. The teams will then be selected off-camera and revealed on a TNT special on Jan. 25.
Here are the starters from the two conferences:
DeRozan ranked second among East guards in each of the two earlier fan voting returns. This marks the fourth career All-Star nod for DeRozan, third most in franchise history behind Chris Bosh and Vince Carter, who made five appearances each. It’s the second time he’s been voted as a starter (Carter started four).
There is a case to be made that DeRozan is having the best single season ever for a Raptor right now, another step forward as he continues to push himself beyond reasonable expectations for improvement. In 43 games, DeRozan is averaging 25.2 pints, 4.1 rebounds, five assists, and 1.1 steals, shooting 48 percent from the floor, 35 percent on threes, and 82.5 percent from the line, and the bulk of his advanced stats are at career-best levels – his true-shooting percentage (57.7) has never been higher, he’s shooting more threes at a higher efficiency than ever before, his assist and steal rates are at a career-best without an increase in his turnover rate, and catch-alls like Win Shares, Box Plus-Minus, and Real Plus-Minus have never been so kind to him. The Raptors are outscoring opponents by 6.9 points per-100 possessions when DeRozan is on the floor as a result, out to the best start in franchise history.
— Kyle Lowry (@Klow7) January 18, 2018
That he gets to do this in Los Angeles is pretty damn awesome.
DeRozan on starting an ASG in LA: "It’s really like a dream when you think about it… For me to have the opportunity to not just be in it but start in it, it makes me feel like a kid all over again. It’s a humbling thing. Everything about it is something I would never believe.” pic.twitter.com/Pily6zuJCy
— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) January 18, 2018
That the Raptors have been so strong at the team level highlights another All-Star note – Dwane Casey and his staff figure to be coaching. While a lot can happen between now and the Feb. 4 cut-off for coaches, the Raptors have a four-game edge on Cleveland with nine and eight games remaining, respectively. Since Brad Stevens is ineligible to coach a second year in a row, Casey is in the driver’s seat to become the first Raptors coach behind an All-Star bench.
“Nothing. Zero. Nothing at all,” Casey said at practice Thursday when asked what that would mean to him. “I haven’t thought about it. My whole thing about right now is winning. Winning the next game, winning the next play. And if you do that, whatever happensm happens. That’s the way you have to approach this game. I know it’s good fodder for media and all that but my whole concentration is how do we compete against the San Antonio Spurs and then after that game, how do we compete against the Minnesota Timerwolves? I’m boring, I’m old but that’s the way I have to think.”
Whether Kyle Lowry will be joining DeRozan is a matter of some question. While most advanced metrics still show Lowry playing at an All-Star level, a decrease in minutes and a shift in role on offense have muted his averages to some degree. He’s putting up 16.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, 6.9 assists, and 1.3 steals per-game, shooting 41.6 percent from the floor. But Lowry’s box score line has never really captured his full value. He leads the league in charges drawn, for example, and his high volume of threes at a 38.9-percent clip has his true-shooting percentage at a tidy 58.9, the second-best of his career. He’s also posting an historic rebound percentage for a player his size, is right around the 30-percent mark for assist rate, where he’s lived the last few years, and still measures strong by whatever catch-all stat you choose. What’s more, the Raptors are outscoring teams by 7.1 points per-100 possessions with him on the floor, too, despite less time with his vaunted Lowry-and-bench units.
The Raptors have pushed hard to get DeRozan and Lowry in the game together, but Lowry ranked eighth in both early returns of fan voting, eighth in the final return, tied for sixth in media voting (technically, everyone was, with zero votes), and seventh in player voting, good for a composite score tied for seventh (with Isaiah Thomas). He’ll need the East coaches to give him the nod here, and there are a number of interesting names fighting for those final seven spots (up to four of which can be guards). Victor Oladipo would seem to be something close to sure-things, and Lowry will be in a battle with Bradley Beal, John Wall and whichever of Al Horford, Kristaps Porzingis, Kevin Love, Andre Drummond, and Ben Simmons don’t make up the three frontcourt spots for the two wildcard slots. At least two of those names are missing out, barring injury.
Lowry has a $200,000 bonus in his contract that triggers if he makes the All-Star Game and meets a few other criteria (like 65 games played), so next Thursday’s announcement will be a pretty big deal to him.