Gilgeous-Alexander, Markkanen and Jackson celebrate breakout seasons with the first All-Star selection

The Western Conference All-Star reserves included three selections for the first time, led by Most Improved candidates Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Lauri Markkanen.

The announcement of the reserves on Thursday followed the unveiling of the starter a week earlier, when Los Angeles Lakers megastar LeBron James was named captain of the Western team.

He will be joined by Dallas Mavericks MVP candidate Luka Doncic, New Orleans Pelicans powerhouse Zion Williamson, back-to-back Denver Nuggets MVP Nikola Jokic, and Golden State Warriors icon Stephen Curry.

The Memphis Grizzlies are the only team in both conferences without a starter, but they will still send two players to All-Star Weekend with returning Ja Morant and Defensive Player of the Year Jaren Jackson Jr. with him earning. his first appearance.

Jackson leads the NBA with 3.3 blocks per game, although his combined 4.3 blocks and steals are well clear of runners-up Nic Claxton (2.6 blocks, 0.7 steals) and Anthony Davis (2.0 blocks, 1.3 steals) .

He is joined by another Gilgeous-Alexander pick of the Oklahoma City Thunder, and the Utah Jazz’s main offseason trade acquisition, Lauri Markkanen.

At 30.8 points per game, Gilgeous-Alexander sits fifth in the league, boasting elite efficiency splits of 50.5 percent from the field, 35.9 percent from three and 91 percent from the free throw line. He is also the only guard with at least one block per game (1.1), and the only player in the league averaging 1.5 steals (1.7) and a block.

While the Gilgeous-Alexander trajectory was telling, Markkanen’s rise is more surprising.

After never scoring more than 18.7 points per game or shooting better than 48 percent from the field, the Finnish star international is up to 24.9 points and 8.7 rebounds while shooting 52.1 percent from the field and blistering 43.4 percent. from deep

Also earning in the West reserves were Los Angeles Clippers wing Paul George – who leads all reserves this year with his eighth pick – as well as Portland Trail Blazers all-time leading scorer Damian Lillard with his seventh.

The Sacramento Kings were campaigning for two All-Stars because of their impressive third-place finish in the West, but had to settle for straight center Domantas Sabonis after arguably the point guard De’Aaron Fox is the biggest snub in the conference.

Fox leads the team in scoring at 24.3 points per game and is enjoying his first season shooting over 50 percent from the field, while Sabonis leads the league in rebounding at 12.4 in face the game to go with his 18.8 points (61.5 percent). shooting) and helps 7.1.

Aside from Jokic (10.0 assists per game), Sabonis is the only other inside player in the league with at least seven assists.

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