Who deserves to start for the Eastern Conference in the 2015 NBA All-Star Game? The 5-on-5 panel makes its picks. For our choices for Western Conference starters, click here.
1. Who should start at the first guard spot in the East?
Kevin Arnovitz, ESPN.com: Kyle Lowry. Setting aside the eye-popping real plus-minus and how he carried a team with few pure offensive threats during DeMar DeRozan's absence, Lowry deserves a big stage with a bright spotlight, and All-Star Sunday at Madison Square Garden is such a place.
Israel Gutierrez, ESPN.com: Jeff Teague. On a team with the best record in the East that also leads the conference in assists per game (26), it begins with the point guard. A lot like Tony Parker in San Antonio, Teague won't put up gaudy numbers often, but he's letting results speak for him.
Scoop Jackson, ESPN.com: John Wall. He might not be considered the best at the point guard position (who is?), but he might have claim to the pound-for-pound title. He's first in the league in assists, third in steals. With the most deceptive 17 points a game average in the NBA, Wall could be called the Steph Curry of the East.
Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com: Wall. Washington has been near the top of the conference the entire first half of the season, just as Wall has been near the top of the league's assist list -- he's the only player in the league currently averaging double digits. It should be the second straight All-Star appearance for Wall, who is now living up to his No. 1-pick status.
Brian Windhorst, ESPN.com: Teague. The highest player efficiency rating among East point guards? It's Teague and he's in command of an extremely impressive, team-oriented offense that has stunned the whole league. I wouldn't quibble with Lowry here either. It's hard to truly rank the East point guards, but team record sure is a good tiebreaker.
2. Who should start at the second guard spot in the East?
Arnovitz: Jeff Teague. I like John Wall a lot, but Teague blows him away as a shooter and can now fairly be characterized as a plus defender (worth mentioning that the Hawks rank ahead of the Wizards in team defense with less length). Teague has added heaping amounts of vision and savvy to his game and orchestrates one of the league's best offensive systems.
Gutierrez: Kyle Lowry. This was a bit tough, because Dwyane Wade's shooting numbers appear significantly more efficient than Lowry's (49.3 percent to 43.2). But Lowry's actual PER is just 1.4 points below Wade's. Factor in how crucial Lowry is to a 27-15 team and it becomes an easier decision.
Jackson: Jimmy Butler. Despite the January falloff, despite the fact that a strong argument can be made for Lowry in this spot, despite Teague's season-long play, Butler has two things working in his favor that the others don't: (1) a player of the month award and (2) other All-Stars who aren't his teammates saying he should have been in the MVP conversation early on.
McMenamin: Lowry. Considered an MVP candidate in the early portion of the season, the nine-year veteran is deserving of his first All-Star nod, putting up career highs in points (19.8), assists (7.6), rebounds (4.9) and steals (1.6) while keeping Toronto afloat when DeMar DeRozan was out. Plus, he doesn't know how not to play hard, so having him in the All-Star Game gives the exhibition a greater chance of staying competitive.
Windhorst: Dwyane Wade. Yes, he has missed a bunch of games with injury again, but that's reality. When he has been on the floor he's been a top-10 player and he's earned this spot.
3. Who should start at the first frontcourt spot in the East?
Arnovitz: LeBron James. I know he sat out a couple of weeks and Cleveland is a mess, but he still ranks No. 1 in the Eastern Conference in estimated wins added. In the West, he'd have to take a back seat to the firm of Brow, Spain and Blake, but in a conference still lean in the frontcourt, it's a pretty easy call.
Gutierrez: James. No explanation necessary, so let's use this space to predict how high up in the standings LeBron can lift the Cavs by season's end. I say to the No. 3 seed. They're currently 4 1/2 games behind third-seeded Toronto with 39 games to play. It'll be a fight, but it can happen.
Jackson: James. Flu, back problems, fatigue, falloff, extreme self-induced pressure, leadership ability in question; none of that makes a difference. LeBron is still a first-name-basis icon who happens to be the single most important player in all of American sports. Until that changes, an All-Star starting spot is his to lose.
McMenamin: James. He's a no-brainer, even with missing nine games because of knee and back soreness. He might be somewhat fed up with all the pressures that All-Star puts on his time but he still shows out, winning the game's MVP twice in 10 career appearances so far. Sadly for James' good buddy Carmelo Anthony, who shouldn't make it unless the fans vote him in, it will be another time that James shows up Anthony by taking the stage in Melo's home city. Earlier in the season it was James holding court with the more prestigious royals in Prince William and Kate Middleton, while Anthony spent time only with Prince Harry.
Windhorst: James. It hasn't been a great year for him. But even with the injuries he doesn't have a peer, especially in the East. When he's on, he's still unstoppable.
4. Who should start at the second frontcourt spot in the East?
Arnovitz: Jimmy Butler, whom I'm slotting as a small forward because this backcourt/frontcourt business is nonsense in a league where most teams play with two wings. Butler has cooled off during the Bulls' recent drought, but there isn't a more formidable two-way player in the East. A guy who was supposed to be a 3-and-D specialist has blossomed into a triple threat who can create for himself and serve as the fulcrum of the offense.
Gutierrez: Al Horford. I'm not a fan of simply rewarding winning teams by granting their players All-Star berths, but Horford wouldn't be just a token selection. Horford is one of the most well-rounded bigs in the game. And just as he did at Florida with Joakim Noah, he encourages ball movement and spreading the wealth, knowing that translates to winning.
Jackson: Nikola Vucevic. This spot by virtue of what they've done in the past and, more important, what they've done in the first half of the season, honestly belongs to either Chris Bosh or Pau Gasol. But sometimes you have to give love to the underdogs when they come out of nowhere and do the unexpected. Vucevic's 18.8 points a game (22nd in the league) and 11.0 rebounds (eighth) are Kevin Love-type numbers that not even Kevin Love is getting this season.
McMenamin: Pau Gasol. It has been a long time between drinks for Gasol, as he hasn't made the All-Star Game since 2011, but the 34-year-old's career has found a second wind in the Windy City. Plus, in what's sure to be a full-circle celebration for Kobe Bryant bookending his first All-Star appearance in 1998 at Madison Square Garden with what could be his last back at MSG, it will be only right to have Gasol as part of the festivities.
Windhorst: Horford. He has belonged here for some time, but has often been overlooked and had several seasons ruined by injuries. He's one of the best big men in the entire league, and the Hawks' record shows it.
5. Who should start at the third frontcourt spot in the East?
Arnovitz: Paul Millsap. This isn't a courtesy nod to the conference-leading Hawks, because Millsap has been the single most consistent big man in the East. You couldn't go wrong with either Pau Gasol or Al Horford, but I'll take Millsap's lunch-bucket résumé, which translates nicely in every metric on both sides of the floor -- defense, on/off and peripherals such as assist rate that demonstrate his versatility as an other-sized big man.
Gutierrez: Pau Gasol. Who would've thought a 34-year-old Gasol would be such a stable and at times dominant force for Tom Thibodeau's Bulls? I mean, he had a 46-and-18 game, for crying out loud. I would've guessed his legs would've fallen off by now playing for the Bulls.
Jackson: Al Horford. Part of this is because Roy Hibbert has virtually disappeared and that Joakim Noah has been hurt, but Horford has earned the right to finally start in an ASG. And even though his numbers aren't the sole reason the Hawks are the best team in the East, Horford's play and Tim Duncan-like presence on the court are.
McMenamin: Millsap. I saved an Atlanta player for last just to see if you were paying attention. Of course the Hawks deserve to be represented, and with the ballot doing away with the center position recently, Millsap is a fit in this spot. Yes, Jeff Teague leads the team in points and assists, but guard is a deeper position in the East and Millsap leads the Hawks in rebounds and shoots a better percentage than Teague while averaging only about half a point less than him anyway.
Windhorst: Gasol. He's having a strong season, really overachieving based on what was expected. Defensively he's struggled, which isn't a surprise, but he's looked younger and even dominant at times offensively in a conference short on dominant bigs.