The 2015 NBA All-Star Game gets going at 8:30 p.m. ET Sunday at Madison Square Garden in New York City, and the Western Conference is ready with one of the most impressive rosters you could imagine. It probably shouldn't come as any surprise given how many good teams are in the West, but the East is going to have a seriously tough time defending last year's victory.
Guys like Damian Lillard and DeMarcus Cousins were added as injury replacements, and that alone goes to show you the kind of talent that's bubbling in the conference these days. Here's a breakdown of the players who will be representing the West in NYC on Sunday:
Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors: Curry isn't just been the best player on the Warriors, he might be the best player in the entire league. We've never really seen a shooter of Curry's caliber before, and he's filled out the rest of his game with a superb array of dribble-drives and other moves. Golden State coach Steve Kerr has also figured out how to mask Curry's defensive limitations, and the result has been a career-high 2.1 steals per game. Get ready for the Splash Bros to rain down threes Sunday night.
James Harden, Houston Rockets: One of two players chosen by head coach Steve Kerr to replaced the injured Blake Griffin and Kobe Bryant in the starting lineup. Harden's game isn't pretty, but there's little doubt about its effectiveness. Get past the aesthetics of Harden's rough-and-tumble style, and you see one of the most efficient scorers in the history of the game. Whether it's outside, where Harden is taking six three-pointers a game and hitting 39 percent of them, or inside, where Harden is drawing nearly 10 free throws a night, there aren't many places on the court where he can be stopped.
Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors: The other replacement starter selected by Steve Kerr. Here's to guessing the Warriors are pretty happy they resigned Thompson instead of dealing him over the summer. The 25-year-old shooting guard has fulfilled his potential as one of the game's premier perimeter scorers, and feats like scoring 37 points in a single quarter show that there's still room to grow. Even if Thompson isn't fantastic in every area, he's so ridiculously good at shooting that he'll continue to be one of the most dangerous guards around.
Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder: Davis takes that mantle of "game's biggest young name" from Durant, who has to be considered a veteran after seven-plus seasons, multiple Finals trip and an MVP award. The 26-year-old battled a significant injury for the first time earlier this season, and has since seen his numbers drop significantly from a year ago. He's still one of the game's most productive players, averaging 25.9 points on 51 percent shooting, but it's taken a while for KD to get back to his old workload.
Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies: It's been a long time since Gasol was simply "Pau's brother," and now he gets some further recognition with his first All-Star Game start. The Memphis center missed the game the past couple years, partially due to the time he missed early last season, but he's established a reputation as one of the game's best defenders and offensive facilitators. That Gasol has added more scoring this season, putting up a career-high 18.5 points per game, only makes him that much more impressive.
LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers: Aldridge isn't shutting down despite an injured thumb that'll eventually require surgery, and that's likely because he's been so good on one of the best teams in the league. The 29-year-old is averaging a career-high 23.7 points per game, and he's one of the few players around the NBA to average a double-double.
DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings: One of the big early snubs before being added as an injury replacement, Cousins has been one of the most productive players in the league this season. Things have been fairly chaotic in Sacramento, but there's hope as long as Cousins is around. The big man has put up 23.6 points and 12.3 rebounds per game, and looks pretty much unstoppable when his game is on. Some of the unfortunate habits from earlier in his career have popped up again since the firing of Michael Malone, but in the right situation Cousins could truly blow up.
Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs: In most cases, you'd guess this was some kind of legacy nod to one of the game's all-time greats. Not with Duncan, who continues to lead the Spurs on both sides of the floor at age 38. There might not be a smarter big man in the league, and even though the miles have obviously taken a toll, Duncan's figured out how to stay productive as his athleticism has waned.
Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers: After saying he felt "disrespected" by not receiving an All-Star bid, Lillard was added to the West roster as the injury replacement to Blake Griffin earlier this month. The honor is certainly well-deserved -- Lillard has been fantastic for Portland this season, averaging 21.6 points, 6.3 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game, all career-highs. Whether Lillard feels much better after being a secondary choice for the team isn't clear, but expect the Blazers guard to continue balling out in the second half.
Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers: Excitement for Paul has been tempered as a new generation of point guards emerges, but he's still among the best at the position. With 17.8 points and 9.7 assists per game, Paul's numbers speak for themselves, and it's no coincidence that the Clippers are once again among the league's top teams. When CP3 is on the court, there's just not a ton you can do to stifle Los Angeles' league-best offense.
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder: After missing the beginning of the season due to injury, Westbrook has returned with a vengeance. His numbers are borderline absurd -- 25.9 points, 7.6 assists, 6.3 rebounds, 2.2 steals per game -- but they're entirely believable when it comes to Russ. There's no player in the league who's more exciting to watch on a night-to-night basis, and that could lead to some awesome highlights against a lazy defense on Sunday.
Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks: Nowitzki was added to the team as a last-minute replacement for Anthony Davis. This will be his 13th All-Star Game. The veteran is averaging 18.3 points and 6.0 rebounds per game this season for the 36-19 Dallas Mavericks.
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Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers: Griffin will miss the game due to a elbow injury, and his extended absence could be a major blow to the Clippers' championship aspirations. L.A. is significantly better when he's on the court, for good reason, and after playing well for 51 games this season, his presence will be sorely missed. Griffin took his biggest leap last season, when he scored a career-high 24.1 points per game, but he's somewhat made up for losing a couple points on the scoring average by dishing a career-high 5.1 assists per game.
Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers: And then there's Kobe, who would've started had he stayed healthy. The Lakers legend appeared in 35 games this season, averaging 22.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists per contest, but shot an ugly 37 percent from the floor. Unlike Duncan, Kobe's spot on the team would've been a bit more debatable.
Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans: Davis will miss the game due to a sprained right shoulder he sustained on Saturday night, and it's really a shame. Sometimes it's hard to believe that Davis is a real player and not some piece of fiction created to tickle our imaginations. It's even harder to wonder just how good the 21-year-old phenom can be. Davis is in just his third season, but he's already one of the game's elite players and could be gunning for MVP trophies soon.