Kawhi Leonard has been officially named All-Star starter for the third consecutive season.
The reigning All-Star MVP also finished third in fan and media frontcourt voting, and fourth in voting behind Anthony Davis.
Leonard will start alongside LeBron James, Nikola Jokic, Stephen Curry and Luka Doncic, as it appears the competition is returning to the East-West format and not the draft format in which the leading voice mixers in each conference select their teammates.
Leonard has undoubtedly earned his spot, averaging 26.7 points (ninth in the league), five assists and 5.9 rebounds per game this season. He’s also been a defensive scare, taking second place in the league in stealing at 1.9 per game and consistently guarding the other team’s top player in the fourth quarter. The Clippers currently sit as the third seed in the Western Conference and have faced lengthy absences from Paul George and Patrick Beverley, in which Leonard has stepped up and carried his team (though he himself missed seven of his team’s 30 games) .
The All-Star reserves will be announced next Tuesday and Paul George is hoping to join his teammate in Atlanta through the coaches’ voice. George finished fifth in the frontcourt voting, leaving only Anthony Davis in players who didn’t crack the first five. George was also a more than creditable candidate, averaging 24.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.5 assists on insane efficiency (50.8% / 47.8% / 90.5% splits). He’s only played in 20 of the Clippers’ 30 games, but his numbers and LA’s record are probably too good for the coaches to deny.
The league also announced that it will again use the ‘Elam Ending’ format, with the target score for the fourth quarter being 24 points (in honor of the late Kobe Bryant) above the leading team’s score after three quarters. This format led to an exciting end to last year’s game, and it adds a competitive feel to an otherwise pointless exhibition game.
The All-Star game will be held in Atlanta on March 7, and the league will partner with the NBPA to donate more than $ 2.5 million to historically black colleges and COVID aid. The Skills Challenge and Three-Point Match are held prior to the match, and the Dunk Match takes place during half-time. Given his percentages and frequency, it wouldn’t be surprising if George was invited to take part in the three-point competition. Clippers forwards Marcus Morris Sr. and Nicolas Batum are in first and tenth place respectively in the league in a percentage of three points, so maybe one of them will be invited too.
In the meantime, the Clippers will take on the Utah Jazz for the second game in a row, tipping from Staples Center on Friday at 7:00 PM.
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