Who deserves to start for the Western Conference in the 2015 NBA All-Star Game? Our 5-on-5 panel makes its picks. For our choices for Eastern Conference starters, click here.
1. Who should start at the first guard spot in the West?
J.A. Adande, ESPN.com: Stephen Curry. Last year he was a surprising starter, beating out Chris Paul. This year there's a chance Curry could be the leading overall vote-getter. If so, the fans couldn't be more right.
Kevin Pelton, ESPN Insider: Curry. Not only has Curry been the most valuable player in the league this season, he's arguably the most entertaining. We need to retroactively go back and put Curry in more All-Star Games. It's amazing this will be only his second.
Ramona Shelburne, ESPN.com: Curry. If anyone says anyone other than Curry here, they need their press pass revoked. The guy is having one of the best shooting seasons in history. He'd be the MVP if voting took place today. And he's picked it up on the defensive end too. That "SportsCenter" commercial ain't lying. -- Curry for lunch in the ESPN cafeteria every day.
Ethan Sherwood Strauss, ESPN.com: Curry. Here's a stat: Curry is plus-504 this season in his 39 games of floor time. Derrick Rose was plus-498 after his entire MVP season. He alters defenses in a unique way and he has improved considerably defensively (leading the league in steals). He has been, in short, the best player of the season so far.
Royce Young, ESPN.com: Curry. The best player on the best team. Nothing all that complicated about this.
2. Who should start at the second guard spot in the West?
Adande: James Harden. It's a lot easier to choose the first two guards on the All-Star team than the final two. But in a crowded backcourt field, Curry and Harden clearly stand above the rest this season. All-Star Games are points bonanzas, so you've got to have the league's leading scorer in there.
Pelton: Harden. If Curry isn't the MVP, Harden is. You can make a case that Russell Westbrook has been the best guard in the West when healthy, but there simply isn't room for him in this starting backcourt.
Shelburne: Harden. I think the fans are probably going to put Kobe Bryant in this spot, and that's fine. All-Star Games are about stars and Kobe is going to play in only one, maybe two more of these. But Harden deserves this spot with the way he's elevated the Houston Rockets in a season when a lot of folks expected a drop-off after the losses of Chandler Parsons and Omer Asik last summer.
Strauss: Harden. He is nearly Houston's entire offense and he's made strides defensively. His passing has been especially good this season, as he keeps learning how to leverage the intense fear his drives inspire in the defense. It's a career year for Harden, who really shouldn't be losing a starting spot to Kobe nostalgia.
Young: Harden. The should-be starting backcourt is also probably the top two MVP candidates at the halfway point. Harden has upped his scoring while elevating his defense to be somewhere between decent and passable. He's not the West's best shooting guard; he's the league's best shooting guard.
3. Who should start at the first frontcourt spot in the West?
Adande: Marc Gasol. If the Grizzlies get a starter, it could make up for the possibility that a second deserving player on their squad, Mike Conley, is deprived of a spot on the All-Star team. Gasol is on pace for a career-best scoring season, and though he's tailed off a little in January, he has been the primary reason the Grizzlies are among the best in the West.
Pelton: Anthony Davis. While it hasn't yet been reflected in the Pelicans' record, this is the season Davis put it together and became one of the NBA's top handful of players. Nobody can impact a game -- real or All-Star -- in more different ways.
Shelburne: Davis. It's restoring my faith in All-Star voting that Brow is doing so well (922,381 in the last count) despite playing on a .500-ish team in a small-market city. He has absolutely blossomed this year. It's good to see that fans have noticed.
Strauss: Davis. He has become a legitimate superstar, slightly hindered by a team that can't get out of its own way. While Davis might not be quite as productive as traditional stats suggest (defensively, he still has things to learn), he's still incredible, and an incredibly exciting presence in a showcase game.
Young: Kevin Durant. You don't have to have a small forward in your starting five in this voting format, but it would feel a bit weird to start three centers, wouldn't it? (What we really need is the option to start three guards.) Durant is still the West's best small forward by a long shot, even though he has missed 23 games.
4. Who should start at the second frontcourt spot in the West?
Adande: Anthony Davis. I'm waiving the usual standings stipulation, because if the Pelicans were in the Eastern Conference they'd have a playoff spot. Also because it would give Davis one of the more unusual back-to-back All-Star appearances -- an injury replacement for Kobe in 2014, starter in 2015 -- but there's nothing fluky about an All-Star starter averaging 24 points, 10 rebounds and 3 blocked shots.
Pelton: Marc Gasol. With apologies to the ageless Tim Duncan, Gasol anchors my West starters in the middle. The former defensive player of the year is enjoying arguably his best offensive season, and his playmaking ability from the post will set up his talented teammates.
Shelburne: Gasol. The Grizzlies' success is more than just Gasol. But he is the backbone of their stout defense and efficient offense. He'd be getting a lot more MVP talk if it weren't for Curry. Even so, he's a surefire All-Star starter.
Strauss: Tim Duncan. He's leading the league in defensive real plus-minus, not that such accomplishments inform fan voting. Anyway, Duncan isn't merely still decent, or still crafty out there. He continues to be great at age 38. He's done the most to keep the Spurs afloat during the time Kawhi Leonard has missed.
Young: Davis. Team record is often a prerequisite for All-Star consideration, but when you're as outstanding as Davis has been, you can forget all about it. Though just 21-21 this season, the Pelicans could be a five-win team and it wouldn't matter. Davis has been that good.
5. Who should start at the third frontcourt spot in the West?
Adande: Blake Griffin. LaMarcus Aldridge's recent thumb injury provides an excuse to sneak Griffin into the starting lineup despite Aldridge's superior scoring and rebounding averages. Because maybe a starting All-Star spot would get Griffin back into the habit of driving and dunking instead of settling for jumpers. No need to establish the outside shot against minimal defensive resistance, right?
Pelton: Kevin Durant. Other West frontcourt players have been more valuable, but if you're building a cohesive lineup, there's no better option at small forward than Durant. By the end of the season, Durant will surely reclaim his spot as one of the West's most valuable players. So why deny him a spot because of bad timing with his injury?
Shelburne: This is a really tough one. Griffin is probably going to finish ahead of Tim Duncan, Durant and Aldridge. He's a worthy choice, even though he's averaging the fewest rebounds of his career (7.6). It's really hard to leave the reigning MVP out of this spot though. Yes, Durant has been hurt for most of this season. But he's back now and as good as ever. If we are just going on who deserves it the most, I'd go with Aldridge.
Strauss: Durant. This is hard to justify in terms of total production this season, but if you, like me, believe Durant is currently the league's best player, you're willing to overlook that. Durant proved his value just in how much the Thunder struggled in his absence. Now that he's back, we might as well see him back in the All-Star Game.
Young: Marc Gasol. Picking between Gasol and DeMarcus Cousins is tough, but Gasol's direct impact on the Grizzlies' record is tangible and obvious. He's the anchor of one of the league's most tenacious defensive teams, and he's upped his offense considerably.