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Who's in? Who's out? Sorting through the trickiest NBA all-star questions.

Players who were traded for each other in the offseason — Houston's Russell Westbrook and Oklahoma City's Chris Paul — will likely be vying over one of the Western Conference's last all-star spots. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]
Players who were traded for each other in the offseason — Houston's Russell Westbrook and Oklahoma City's Chris Paul — will likely be vying over one of the Western Conference's last all-star spots. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]

The NBA's interminable All-Star Game voting process concludes Thursday, when the 10 starters for the showcase on Feb. 16 in Chicago will be announced. That group won't include many surprises or much controversy, as LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic, Anthony Davis and Kawhi Leonard, the top five vote-getters among fans, are all worthy selections.

Go further down the ballot, though, and debates pop up on all sides. In preparation for the full roster reveal later this month, here's a look at The Washington Post's unofficial selections for the 2020 NBA all-star teams and a rundown of the five toughest questions facing voters.

East: Bam Adebayo, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bradley Beal, Jaylen Brown, Jimmy Butler, Joel Embiid, Khris Middleton, Domantas Sabonis, Pascal Siakam, Ben Simmons, Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walker

West: Anthony Davis, Luka Doncic, Paul George, Rudy Gobert, James Harden, LeBron James, Nikola Jokic, Kawhi Leonard, Damian Lillard, Donovan Mitchell, Chris Paul, Karl-Anthony Towns

1. Should Trae Young, this year's most polarizing candidate, be snubbed?

Young, the former Norman North and OU star who leads all East guards in the fan vote, is this year's most fascinating candidate because his strengths and weaknesses are both so extreme. He's an elite, charismatic and fan-friendly offensive talent who ranks third in points per game and fourth in assists per game. He's also an atrocious defender, ranking 463rd out of 465 players by ESPN's Defensive Real Plus-Minus metric, which seeks to quantify a player's individual impact on that end. Meanwhile, Young's Atlanta Hawks have the East's worst record.

Supporters will correctly argue that Young is a one-man band surrounded by an inexperienced and weak cast. Detractors will rightly counter that Young's defensive deficiencies make him part of the problem, and that the Hawks possess the NBA's second-worst offense despite Young's brilliance. There should be more to an all-star nod than gaudy individual numbers that haven't translated to team success, and there enough worthy guards on superior teams — Walker, Simmons, Brown and Beal — to make Young wait until next year.

2. How many Boston Celtics deserve a trip to Chicago?

After an offseason in which superstars paired up from coast to coast, the Celtics might be the only team in the league that can aspire to land three all-stars. The Los Angeles Lakers will get two with James and Davis. The Los Angeles Clippers will get two with Leonard and George. The Philadelphia 76ers should get two with Embiid and Simmons. And the Milwaukee Bucks deserve two with Antetokounmpo and Middleton.

Yet Walker, Tatum and Brown all have strong cases as major drivers of Boston's success. All three have enjoyed good health and averaged at least 20 points per game for one of the East's top three seeds. Walker has the largest role in the offense, Tatum has the best impact stats, and Brown has been a steady two-way player with strong efficiency. If one of the three is left off, it will probably be Brown, who is the least flashy member of the trio and has missed a few more games this his teammates.

3. Which other aspiring first-time selections have separated themselves from the pack?

Young, Brown and Tatum help make up a deep crop of potential first-time selections in the East that also includes Siakam, Adebayo, Sabonis, Malcolm Brogdon and Spencer Dinwiddie. Siakam's strong start to the season, which saw him flirt with inclusion in the MVP conversation, makes him a no-brainer. While the 22-year-old Adebayo is far from a household name, his efficient scoring, staunch defense and newly unveiled playmaking have made him one of the league's best breakthrough stories. He deserves to join Jimmy Butler, his Miami Heat teammate, in Chicago.

Sabonis and Brogdon are effectively fighting to be the Indiana Pacers' representative. The former has earned the nod — he leads Indiana in points, rebounds and minutes per game, while Brogdon's excellent start lost some momentum due to an injury absence that began in late-December.

Dinwiddie did well to keep the Brooklyn Nets afloat during Kyrie Irving's two-month absence, but he will likely be relegated to snub status. Among other East guard candidates, Beal has better individual numbers than Dinwiddie, and Simmons has played a central role on a far more successful team than the Nets.

4. Will the winner of the Chris Paul/Russell Westbrook blockbuster be rewarded?

The West roster is less complicated than the East, in part because there are so many deserving incumbents. Go ahead and pencil in James, Davis, Leonard, George, Harden, Jokic and Lillard, plus Doncic, who will be a first-time selection and a starter. That leaves just four spots to fight over.

That roster crunch could affect Paul and Westbrook, who were traded for each other last summer. Paul has led the Thunder into playoff position, assumed a massive leadership burden and elevated the play of his new teammates, all while being a plus player on both ends. Westbrook, by contrast, has filled the box score but has shot the ball poorly and been a persistent defensive liability. Paul's style is subtler and less explosive, but he should be rewarded with his first all-star selection since 2016. Westbrook, meanwhile, should be left off in favor of one of the West's rising stars.

5. Can Karl-Anthony Towns hang onto his spot despite his knee injury?

The last few spots will be fought over by Towns, who was a clear-cut all-star before recently missing 15 games with a knee sprain, and a host of potential first-timers, including Gobert, Mitchell, Devin Booker, Brandon Ingram and rookie Ja Morant.

Adjudicating those decisions is largely a matter of taste. Towns has eye-popping numbers and impressive efficiency, but he has played fewer games than any of the West's top candidates. Gobert is a modest scorer, but is arguably the league's most valuable defensive player and he has been key to Utah's torrid recent stretch. Mitchell, Booker, Ingram and Morant are all dynamic playmakers, and all project as perennial all-stars down the road.

The decisions here? Reward Towns for performing like a top-15 overall player when healthy. Select Gobert, a snub the past two years, because of his elite defense and underrated offensive contributions. And give Mitchell the nod over Booker for the final spot because he is the superior defender who also happens to be playing for a better team.

Ingram has emerged as a most improved player candidate this year, but he gets relegated to the snub pile due to the New Orleans Pelicans' unsteady play and porous defense. While Morant, 20, has drawn plenty of buzz in recent weeks and has played like a budding franchise player for the Memphis Grizzlies, he hasn't yet scaled the mountain to supplant the West's deep crop of veteran backcourt talent.

Related Photos
Players who were traded for each other in the offseason — Houston's Russell Westbrook and Oklahoma City's Chris Paul — will likely be vying over one of the Western Conference's last all-star spots. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]

Players who were traded for each other in the offseason — Houston's Russell Westbrook and Oklahoma City's Chris Paul — will likely be vying over one of the Western Conference's last all-star spots. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-ef51ddeb0a624fe4ead81fa8bb804a7c.jpg" alt="Photo - Players who were traded for each other in the offseason — Houston's Russell Westbrook and Oklahoma City's Chris Paul — will likely be vying over one of the Western Conference's last all-star spots. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] " title="Players who were traded for each other in the offseason — Houston's Russell Westbrook and Oklahoma City's Chris Paul — will likely be vying over one of the Western Conference's last all-star spots. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption>Players who were traded for each other in the offseason — Houston's Russell Westbrook and Oklahoma City's Chris Paul — will likely be vying over one of the Western Conference's last all-star spots. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-e0c47815c1fceb4971015c5b799563dd.jpg" alt="Photo - Players who were traded for each other in the offseason — Houston's Russell Westbrook and Oklahoma City's Chris Paul — will likely be vying over one of the Western Conference's last all-star spots. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] " title=" Players who were traded for each other in the offseason — Houston's Russell Westbrook and Oklahoma City's Chris Paul — will likely be vying over one of the Western Conference's last all-star spots. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Players who were traded for each other in the offseason — Houston's Russell Westbrook and Oklahoma City's Chris Paul — will likely be vying over one of the Western Conference's last all-star spots. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure>
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