EURO-FLAVORED ALL-STAR VOTING: The first returns for 2020 All-Star fan voting have arrived, and boy, are the results a doozy. First and foremost, it has to be mentioned that Luka Doncic and Giannis Antetokounmpo lead the voting thus far, giving the 2020 All-Star game a heavy Euro flavor. Yes, that means Doncic outpaced LeBron James himself in votes, which just goes to show what a global brand the 20-year-old Slovenian already is. The fact that he found so much success in Real Madrid earlier in his career, one of the biggest clubs in the world, probably helped him out just a bit in that matter.
We also have to talk about Trae Young’s apparent popularity among fans. The sharpshooting, ball-handling wizard leads all guards in the East in votes, beating out the likes of Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker, who play in two major markets. In contrast, out west, Rudy Gobert is getting snubbed by fans for the second year running, as the French big man did not rank among the 10 leading frontcourt vote-getters. Comparing Young’s popularity to Gobert’s shows a pretty interesting juxtaposition in how fans view the importance of defense.
Derrick Rose also remains quite popular among fans, as the former league MVP sits fourth in the East among guards in votes, beating out Ben Simmons and Bradley Beal. What’s more, it’s intriguing to note that in contrast to earlier years, the injured superstars aren’t getting much love in this year’s All-Star fan votes. Stephen Curry sits fourth in the West in votes while Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant didn’t place in the Top 10 in their categories. Back in the day, Yao Ming and Kobe Bryant would get voted in without even playing.
POTENTIAL ALL-STAR DEBUTANTS: Now that we’ve seen the first All-Star-fan-vote returns, which account for 50 percent of the players’ vote (the media and current players fill out the other 50 percent), we ranked the 12 players who are likeliest to make their All-Star debuts this season.
LAST NIGHT IN THE ASSOCIATION: The Heat made a statement in the East by taking down the Raptors for the second time this season, by a final score that looked like it came straight out of the ’90s, 84-76. It was the second-lowest scoring game of the season. Denver also pulled out an impressive win, on the road against Indiana, 124-116. Michael Porter Jr. continues to impress for the Nuggets, scoring 25 points on 11-of-12 shooting. If he pans out… Denver is going to be scary.
TRADE MONGERING: We rank the five players who have been mentioned the most in trade rumors over the past week. Karl-Anthony Towns made a surprising appearance on this list.
MVP PICTURE: As has been the case just about every week, Giannis Antetokounmpo leads the way in our Top-10 MVP candidate rankings. Nikola Jokic also made his way into the list this week for the first time this season.
SNEAKER FREE AGENCY: In a somewhat surprising bit of news, Jimmy Butler and Jordan Brand decided to part ways, making the Heat star a big-name sneaker free agent.
ACTUAL FREE AGENCY: The Warriors and Andre Iguodala reportedly have interest in a reunion, one that can’t take place until the summer when the 2015 Finals MVP hits free agency.
In other free agency news, the Nets reportedly plan to waive the injured David Nwaba and replace him on the roster with Justin Anderson, who is averaging 21.2 points and 6.9 rebounds in the G League this year.
INJURY UPDATES: Jonathan Isaac, who has blossomed into one of the top defenders in the league this year, is set to miss at least two months with a severe knee sprain. In Brooklyn, Caris LeVert, the crafty perimeter scorer, will make his return Saturday after missing roughly seven weeks of action.
UNCOVERING GEMS: The Heat and Raptors have mastered discovering diamond-in-the-rough types and turning them into legitimate NBA-level rotation players, and sometimes more than that. ESPN goes behind-the-scenes on how the two franchises are able to do that so frequently.
REMEMBERING STERN: TrueHoop’s Henry Abbott discusses the complicated legacy of David Stern, who was brilliant but also ruthless.
A DEVELOPING UNICORN: Kristaps Porzingis is learning that he can make an impact even when he’s not scoring, an idea that’s helping turn him into a much more complete basketball player for Dallas.
NO DRAMA: Joel Embiid played down rumors of turmoil within the Sixers’ locker room, saying that there’s “nothing going on” behind the scenes. He did hint, however, that Ben Simmons should be shooting threes when he’s open, which seems obvious at this point.
PHILANTHROPIC CONTRIBUTION: For those that don’t know, Australia is undergoing massive brush fires right now, creating a very scary situation in the country. Top 2020 draft prospect LaMelo Ball is putting his money where his mouth is, donating a month of his NBL salary to victims of the crisis.
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