NBA’s 65th edition of the All-Star Games will take place in -hopefully a less frigid Canadian city- Toronto, famous for ice hockey and rapper Drake. Itinerary for this year’s gathering of hoop stars will feature facets of fundamental nuances in the Skills Challenge, celebrate basketball’s global touch through Rising Star game that pitches international players against American players and then some human flight follows. Literal human flights have become the pinnacle of what All-Star weekend is all about. If one ever harbored the thought of seeing the human body touch “higher” heights, then contrary to what its’ motto says, the Olympics isn’t the place to go. Since Julius “Dr J” Irving won the inaugural slam dunk contest in 1976, the event has evolved into a must see show piece.

Sad, Toronto will be the final time fans get to see 1997 slam dunk champion Kobe Bryant play in the All-Star game. The five time NBA champion and Los Angeles Lakers legend had the most votes in the aftermath of announcing his retirement at season’s end. Who will coach the Eastern Conference team still dangles in the air as team coach David Blatt replaces game films with Leonardo Di Caprio’s academy nominated film,” Revenant” in his home plotting his revenge on the Cleveland Cavaliers should he nab another NBA job. Most likely new Cavaliers coach, Tyronne Lue will have the honour of directing from the sideline or maybe not.

What ever it is, the Eastern Conference will have LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Paul George, Dwayne Wade-yes D-Wade and adopted son of the homeland Kyle Lowry of the Toronto Raptors. Across the Missippissippi, Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook, Kobe Bryant, Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant will represent the East’s mirror conference. Players have until Thursday to impress NBA coaches to vote 14 of them into the All-Star game as reserves.

In all two guards, three front court players and two wild cards will be chosen as representatives for either conference. Now much has been said about players who deserve to play in Toronto; from Jimmy Butler, John Wall, Paul Millsap, Andre Drummond and DeMar DeRozan have been tabled as locks in the east. Over in the west, James Harden, DeMarcus Cousins, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Dirk Nowitzki look set to head north on Valentine’s Day. However, some players equally deserve a shot at mixing it up with the LeBron’s and KD’s. Reasons for their absence from the stellar exhibition roster range from fans pusillanimity toward such players (Gordon Hayward), adjustment to new environs (LaMarcus Aldridge) to being stuck on bad teams (Nikola Vucevic).

Here is’s run down of players who can easily draw fans to the Air Canada Center.

Eastern Conference

Kyrie Irving Point Guard

Irving’s minutes on the floor have dropped unsurprisingly (averaged 36.4 in 75 games last season to 21.7 in 17 games this season) as he continues to chip away rust accumulated from sitting out almost the entire second half of the year. However, given the All-Star’s fondness for sensational sequences, Kyrie ought to be a lock; check out Irving’s shakedown of Brandon Knight in 2013’s Rising Stars Game if in doubt.

Isaiah Thomas Shooting Guard

Thomas rise from the ashes of the Draft-pick 60 in 2011- to main stay of the Boston Celtics has been nothing short of amazing. The pint sized point guard’s play has seen move from Sacramento’s backlog to Bird’s former playground Messiah. For the season, Thomas is averaging 21.7 points and 6.7 assists as a member of Boston’s three man guard rotation involving Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley.

Tobias Harris Small Forward

Harris has been instrumental in Orlando Magic’s flare up earlier in the season that had them on pace for a return to the playoffs since 2011-2012. Conversely, the inexperienced team has falling off the radar in a much competitive Eastern Conference this year as they sit 12th with 20 wins and 24 losses. Harris though has showed why management invested $64 million dollars in four years in the offseason.

Pau Gasol Power Forward

Restoring the Spaniard at “4” echoes memories of the Lakers last championship years (2009 and 2010) where his partnership with Andrew Bynum proved very successful. These days, his frontcourt partners feature a revolving door of Bobby Portis, Joakim Noah, Cameron Bairstow, Nikola Mirotic and Taj Gibson. Despite the many changes including a new coach, Gasol has been a constant presence for the Chicago Bulls.

Al Horford Center

In the last All-Star game, Horford was one of four Atlanta Hawks players to play. Horford’s production has remained almost at par with his 2014-2015 stat line of 15.2 points and 7.2 rebounds as he is averaging 15.2 points and 7.1 rebounds in 46 games for the East’s thrird best team.

Western Conference

Mike Conley Point Guard

If there ever was an award dedicated to the most underrated players of the NBA, Memphis Grizzlies floor general will have the most awards. Conley has been at helm of Memphis’ ascent into bookmakers favorite team as the hardest team to beat especially in the postseason. Despite a sluggish start to the season, Conley’s inspired play has put Memphis right in the mix for a top four seeding. He is avaeraging 15 points and 5.9 assists per game.

Damian Lillard Shooting Guard

Following two consecutive appearances in the All-Star Game, Lillard missed out on a starting spot and will likely miss the coach’s cut due to no fault of his. Portland TrailBlazers management stripped Rip City off title contention by letting four starters leave in the offseason. However, the 2013 Rookie of the Year has dragged his team to beat expectations as they currently occupy the eight spot on the Western Conference standings.

Rudy Gay Small Forward

Sacramento’s future looks bleak as the team struggles to find a long term coach and a lack of identity but that did not stop Rudy Gay from re-upping with the Kings for three years worth a cool $40 million dollars. Gay has Sacramento in a dog fight for the last playoff spot in the conference.

Marc Gasol Power Forward

The “other” Gasol in his earlier years, Marc has grown to become the certified face of the Memphis Grizzlies grit and grind style. Gasol is still pulling the strings down low in the paint for Memphis as they seek to put a bad start behind them. Marc deserves to make a second successive apearance at the All-Star Game.

DeMarcus Cousins Center

“Boogie” is on a tear right now topping his career scoring averages in three games. Against Indiana Pacers he scored 48 points to break and set a new personal scoring record with 56 points in the loss to Charlotte Hornets. Aside his tempestuous attitude, Cousins is suffering from a league wide phenomenon that has no love for big men patrolling the paint like in times past.


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