Kawhi Leonard has officially been named an All-Star starter for the third consecutive season.
The reigning All-Star MVP also finished third in fan and media voting among frontcourt players, and fourth in player voting behind Anthony Davis.
Leonard will start alongside LeBron James, Nikola Jokic, Stephen Curry and Luka Doncic, as it appears the league is returning to the East vs. West format and not the draft format in which the leading vote-getters in each conference select their teammates.
Leonard has no doubt 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 terror defensively, ranking second in the league in steals at 1.9 per game and consistently guarding the opposing team’s best player in fourth quarters. The Clippers currently sit as the third seed in the Western Conference, and have dealt with extended absences to Paul George and Patrick Beverley, during which Leonard has stepped up and carried his team (though he himself has missed seven of his team’s 30 games).
The All-Star reserves will be announced next Tuesday, and Paul George will hope to join his teammate in Atlanta by way of the coaches’ vote. George finished fifth in voting among frontcourt players, trailing only Anthony Davis in players who didn’t crack the starting five. George has also been a more than deserving candidate, averaging 24.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.5 assists on bonkers efficiency (50.8% / 47.8% / 90.5% splits). He’s only played in 20 of the Clippers’ 30 games, but his numbers and the LA’s record are likely too good for the coaches to deny.
The league also announced that it will once 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 ending to last year’s contest, and it brings a competitive feel to an otherwise meaningless exhibition game.
The All-Star game will be held on March 7 in Atlanta, and the league will partner with the NBPA to donate more than $2.5 million to historically black colleges and COVID relief. The skills challenge and three-point contest will be held prior to the game, and the dunk contest will take place at halftime. It wouldn’t be surprising if George is invited to participate in the three-point contest, given his percentages and frequency. Clippers forwards Marcus Morris Sr. and Nicolas Batum rank first and tenth in the league in three-point percentage respectively, so perhaps one of them will be invited as well.
In the meantime, the Clippers will face off against the Utah Jazz for the second game in a row, tipping off from Staples Center at 7 p.m. on Friday.