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Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook against the universe: NBA All Star game preview, odds, and prediction

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A look at Russell Westbrook’s obstacles for tonight’s All-Star showcase; plus a complete primer of both rosters

NBA: All Star Press Conference Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Storylines both competitive and personal abound tonight as Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook commands center stage upon the NBA's pinnacle showcase celebrating individual achievement.

In a plot twist seemingly manufactured from the hills of Hollywood, OKC's firebrand lone-wolf must stand united alongside antagonist Golden State's core as the next chapter unfolds in Westbrook’s melodrama with Durant.

And though palpable tensions no doubt exist between the former Thunder tandem, each has remained tight-lipped throughout a circus of media conjecture.

Neither sharp-tongued reporters, nor the sting of enduring a season's worth of riveting Durant performances could elicit even the faintest notion of Westbrook's trademark scowl ahead of this evening's pageantry.

Whatever acrimony remains will likely be placed aside as Westbrook aspires against conspicuous obstacles to win his third-consecutive All-Star MVP trophy.

Although, no matter how mum each party is concerning matters, do not expect a harmonious performance from Draymond Green, Klay Thompson or Kevin Durant while on court with Russell Westbrook.

With this stated, however, do expect an exciting contest between two loaded conference rosters.

NBA All Star Game 2017

  • Western Conference vs. Eastern Conference
  • Time: 8 PM ET
  • Venue: Smoothie King Center, New Orleans Louisiana
  • TV: TNT

All-Star Rosters Breakdown

Western Conference Starters

  • Point Guard: Stephen Curry: The linchpin for Golden State’s historic offense is making his fourth All-Star appearance while averaging 24.7 ppg and 6.4 apg. Curry leads the NBA in FT% (91.6).
  • Shooting Guard: James Harden: Harden leads Houston’s surprise resurgence (40-18) while boasting stellar averages of 29.2 ppg (3rd NBA), 11.3 apg (leads NBA), and 8.3 rpg. “The Beard’s” 15 triple-doubles ranks second in the association. Harden is now a five-time All Star.
  • Small Forward: Kawhi Leonard: San Antonio’s (43-13) Leonard has asserted himself as the NBA’s best two-way player, and is a serious threat for league-MVP honors. The 6’7 defensive stalwart averages 25.9 ppg as his Spurs’ seemingly endless run of elite play continues. Leonard is appearing in his second All-Star contest.
  • Power Forward: Kevin Durant: Though now an eight-time All Star, Durant (GSW-best 25.8 ppg) is making his first appearance as a Golden State Warrior. In addition to his raw stats and shooting percentages, the 6’9 forward (1.7 bpg) ranks tenth in blocks per game.
  • Center: Anthony Davis: All Star 2017 host-team Pelicans center Anthony Davis is having an offensive (27.7 ppg, 12 reb, 2.2 apg) career-year. The four-time All Star dominates on a nightly basis for a struggling (23-33) New Orleans iteration. Nevertheless, expect fireworks when Davis’ name is announced Sunday evening before the packed Smoothie King Center.

WESTERN CONFERENCE ALL-STAR RESERVES

  • Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder): Westbrook’s consistent and thorough dominance (31.1 ppg, 10.5 reb, 10.1 apg, 29.5 PER) headlines the NBA’s daily sounding board. No player has elevated his team (32-25) with less surrounding talent or experience. Westbrook is a lock within the league’s top-five MVP candidate hierarchy. As he readies for a sixth All-Star appearance, the unrelenting 6’3 guard leads the NBA in scoring, PER, and triple-doubles (27).
  • Klay Thompson: Thompson is the perfect compliment to both Curry and Durant. The three-time All Star furthers Golden State’s hegemony with grit and efficiency. GSW’s other “Splash Brother” averages 22.1 ppg while shooting 42.2% from deep; however, Thompson’s greatest statistic is an unbelievable 60 point, 29 minute performance vs. Indiana earlier this season.
  • Marc Gasol: In Memphis’ post “Grit and Grind” era, the 32-year-old Marc Gasol (20.6 ppg, 4.3 apg, 1.4 3PM —career highs) is enjoying a true renaissance campaign. While leading the Grizzlies to a creditable 34-24 record, Gasol (3x All Star) is making his first mid-season classic appearance since 14-15.
  • Draymond Green: Though Green’s overall shooting split has declined considerably from last season, the imposing all-around (10.2 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 7.3 apg, 5.2 DBPM) tactician rounds out Golden State’s (47-9) golden quartet. Green is making his second-consecutive All-Star appearance.
  • DeMarcus Cousins: While taking a slight step back in rebounding (10.1), Cousins has expanded his all-around offensive reach (27.8 ppg, 4.9 apg, 1.7 3PM) for the playoff-contending Kings — 24-33 #9 West, 1.5 games back of #8 seed Denver. “Boogie” is appearing in his third-consecutive All Star exhibition.
  • DeAndre Jordan: Finally, in his ninth season, this vital two-time All-NBA performer makes his All-Star debut. Jordan’s rebounding (13.7), and imposing rim protection (1.7 bpg) have kept the injury-riddled L.A. Clippers (35-21) among the conversation for elite status in the Western Conference.
  • Gordon Hayward: Utah (35-22 #5 West) owes much of its dramatic turnaround to the scoring prowess (22.2 ppg) of first-time All Star Gordon Hayward. The 6’8 small forward adds offensive pop to one of the league’s (101.6 DefRtg, tied 2nd) stingiest defenses.

Eastern Conference Starters

  • Point Guard: Kyrie Irving: Irving returns to the big stage for the first time since draining a miraculous game-seven dagger to seal Cleveland’s improbable 3-1 comeback vs. Golden State. While sporting a career-best scoring average (24.4), Kyrie’s Cavaliers (39-16) enter the mid-season break winners of four straight.
  • Shooting Guard: DeMar DeRozan: Though his Raptors are in recent disarray (33-24 #4 East), the “master of the mid-range” is having a phenomenal season. DeRozan earns a starting nod via sporting a career-high 27.3 ppg average.
  • Small Forward: Jimmy Butler: As league-wide offensive numbers continue to explode, Butler is among a bevy of All-Stars to sport a career-high in ppg (24.5). Furthermore, the three-time selection boasts career-bests in apg (5), rpg (6.3) and 3PM (1.2). Meanwhile, the Chicago Bulls (28-29) currently sit in the east’s seventh playoff spot.
  • Power Forward: LeBron James: After 14 seasons, and 1039 games (including numerous deep-playoff runs) “The King” is still going strong. James is averaging 25.9 ppg, 8.8 apg (career-high), and 7.7 rpg while averaging a Cleveland-return high 37.5 mpg. James is also connecting at a career-best 1.8 3PM clip to punctuate his 13th consecutive All-Star bid.
  • Center: Giannis Antetokounmpo: As Milwaukee is again ravaged by injury, “The Greek Freak” has delivered as a major bright spot for Bucks basketball. The tantalizing 6’11 do-everything threat is averaging 23.4 ppg, 8.6 rebs, 5.4 apg, 2 bpg, and 1.8 spg. Antetokounmpo makes a major statement by starting in his All-Star debut. The sky’s the limit for this 22-year-old.

EASTERN CONFERENCE ALL-STAR RESERVES

  • Isaiah Thomas: Always explosive, the diminutive Celtic has reached another competitive stratosphere. Thomas is crushing the league with a 29.9 ppg average. In addition, Boston (37-20) has won eight of ten contests leading into All-Star Weekend. The two-time All-Star is atop the short list of league-MVP candidates — and a dark horse to win All-Star MVP honors.
  • Paul Millsap: There is nothing flashy about either Atlanta or its now four-time All Star. However, Millsap (17.9 ppg, 7.9 reb, 3.8 apg, 1+ steal and blocks) has done nothing but keep Atlanta (32-24 #5 East) in the playoffs since joining the Hawks in 2013.
  • Kyle Lowry: While his Raptors just traded for Serge Ibaka, workhorse (37.7 mpg —NBA high) Kyle Lowry averages a career-best 22.8 ppg. The three-time All Star’s connects (3.3) and percentage (41.7) from range also represent career-highs. Toronto will need continued firepower from its potent back court following the break to mitigate a pronounced slide.
  • Paul George: Following a torrid winning streak, PG-13’s Pacers have entered crisis mode (29-28 #6 East, losers of six straight). Though the four-time All Star is holding his own (22.3 ppg, 6.2 rebs, 44/38/91 shooting split) rumor has it that Indiana is looking toward the trade deadline to provide its star with much-needed help.
  • John Wall: Currently, Wall (22.8 ppg, 10.6 apg, league-best 2.1 spg) captains the league's hottest charge. The Wizards have torn an upward path through the Eastern Conference (34-21, #3 East) after winning nine of ten. And as John Wall is now a four-time All Star, many feel his back-court mate Bradley Beal should be beside him this weekend.
  • Carmelo Anthony: The ten-time All Star is a late-replacement for injured Kevin Love. While Anthony (23.4 ppg, 6 reb, 44/37/82 split) looks the part, New York’s record (23-34 #12 East) suggests otherwise.
  • Kemba Walker: Walker (career-best 22.5 ppg) was voted in as a first-time All Star before his Hornets took a nosedive to lose nine of ten. Charlotte (24-32 #11 East) has major soul-searching to do in their next 26 contests if a third playoff appearance in four years is to be realized.

*Kevin Love (Knee) (20 ppg, 11.1 reb, 38% 3FG) is expected to miss the next six weeks for Cleveland after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery.

ODDS: Western Conference All Stars -5

Even with the Western Conference’s odds to prevail vs. the undersized, and over-matched East, Westbrook’s chances to claim a third-consecutive All Star MVP trophy are greatly hindered due to well-noted circumstances.

Even so, the NBA universe — and especially Oklahoma City Thunder nation —will attentively affix its gaze upon whatever the next chapter of Westbrook/Durant holds. Drama notwithstanding, tonight’s encounter should be among the most compelling All-Star games ever.