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Chicago Bulls v Phoenix Suns

All-Star voting is LIVE, and Ayton’s first All-Star bid is closer than you might think

With injuries to Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard and Karl-Anthony Towns, some spots have opened up for first-time All-Stars among West bigs

Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

NBA All-Star voting is LIVE!

Voting tipped off on Tuesday, Dec. 20 at 9 a.m. AZ time and will conclude on Saturday, Jan. 21 at 9:59 p.m. AZ time. Fans can vote on the NBA App and Head to to more info too.

Fans can vote for All-Star starters — two guards and three front court (forward/center) starters per Conference. Total fan votes count 50% toward final selections, with players and media splitting the other 50%. Once the 10 starters are set, then the NBA head coaches pick the reserves (14 more players).

Suns fans can vote for Phoenix Suns stars Devin Booker, Chris Paul, Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges up to once per day either on the site or the NBA app. There’s no mention being able to vote on social media platforms this year.

There will also be “3-for-1” days where votes cast that day count triple. Those days are:

  • Sunday, Dec. 25
  • Sunday, Jan. 1
  • Friday, Jan. 6
  • Friday, Jan. 13
  • Monday, Jan. 16
  • during the last 24 hours of voting (10pm Jan 20 — 9:59PM on Jan 21).

For the past two years, the Suns have had two All-Stars — Devin Booker and Chris Paul — though neither have been voted in by fans/media/players as starters. Book and CP3 were picked by the NBA head coaches at the end of January.

This year, Booker is probably the only shoe-in to make the team. Chris Paul is in a decline and the number of stellar guards in the West is deep and astounding.

If the Suns get a second All-Star this year, it will have to be Deandre Ayton or Mikal Bridges.

Based on last year’s results, the one with the best chance is Ayton. Deandre Ayton finished 10th in fan voting a year ago while Mikal Bridges finished 18th. Ayton also finished higher i the players’ vote (6th) than Mikal did (18th). Neither got votes from the media panel (only 8 players got West front court players from the 100-person panel).

So it stands to reason that Ayton has a better chance to make the 2023 All-Star team than Bridges. I thought he had a good case to make it last year — and he was mentioned as a possibility on some national podcasts in December — but due to injury/illness he only appeared in 10 of 25 games from early December to end of January, including only 4 of 13 from Dec 27 to Jan 30 when all the deliberations happened.

This year has been different. Ayton has been putting up a lot better numbers than previous seasons when All-Star voting begins — he’s posted at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in 8 of his last 13 games, averaging 21.1 points and 11 rebounds over the last 15 — and the Suns are still on national TV for most of their games. Those 21.1 points are 8th among West forward/centers and the 11 rebounds are 5th. Only Nikola Jokic and Anthony Davis (who is injured indefinitely now) are better in both categories over that stretch. Again, 6 forward/centers from the West will be All-Stars this year.

On the down side, the Suns are not quite as good as last year — 19-13 record through 32 games vs. 26-6 a year ago — but a year ago at this time Ayton was hurt/ill during the All-Star voting period while guys like JaVale McGee, Frank Kaminsky and Bismack Biyombo were posting double-doubles in his absence.

Let’s set the stage on why I think Deandre Ayton has a good chance to make the All-Star team this year.

There’s six spots up for grabs. Four of them are spoken for: Nikola Jokic (Nuggets) and LeBron James (Lakers) are shoe-ins to get voted into starting spots. Almost certainly, Paul George and Zion Williamson will battle for the 3rd starting position, with the other being the first coaches’ selection. This would be the 5th time for Jokic, 19th for LBJ, 8th for Paul George and 2nd for Zion.

That leaves two spots up for grabs. You’d think Anthony Davis would be one, but he’s out indefinitely with a foot injury that will probably sideline him beyond the All-Star game if not much longer than that. Kawhi Leonard is out of the mx too, because he can barely play and doesn’t dominate like he used to. Karl-Anthony Towns was having a down year and is now injured for weeks to come. Rudy Gobert is anonymous in Minnesota.

That’s it for the All-Star regulars from prior seasons, with two front court spots remaining.

I believe it will come down to two of Lauri Markkanen (Jazz), Jaren Jackson Jr. (Grizzlies), Brandon Ingram (Pelicans), Domantas Sabonis (Kings) or Deandre Ayton (Suns).

Suns fans haven’t even been talking about Ayton as an All-Star, let alone the nation, but his chances are much better than you might think.

What about Portland’s Jerami Grant, you ask? Grant is averaging 21.9 points, including 44% on 6 threes a game. But because (I assume) teammate Damian Lillard is already getting a coaches’ vote, there’s no way they put two Blazers on the All-Star team unless Portland rises much higher than 6th in the playoff seeding.

Nope. It’s down to these five players because they’re either one of the top remaining scorers in the front court so far, or they’re a huge part of a really good winning team.

Lauri Markkanen of the Utah Jazz is a fun option, averaging over 22 points a game for the shocking Jazz who came into the season expected to tank for Wemby. But the Jazz have regressed to the back end of the playoff picture and Lauri’s got a reputation problem: he never been considered an All-Star level player before, and he’s never been a difference maker in the playoffs. To get into the game, West coaches would have to say he’s more dangerous than the players above him in the playoff race. Lauri’s best chance is the last-second Commissioner’s nod as an injury replacement. Adam Silver is known to give bids to feel-good first-timers when he’s got to pick a replacement, as he did for Devin Booker, Mike Conley and Dejounte Murray in recent seasons.

Domantas Sabonis (Kings) — 17.7 points, 11.6 rebounds, 6.4 assists — is having a really good year, but I just don’t see the Kings getting two All-Stars. Like the Blazers with Lillard, the Kings will likely see De’Aaron Fox voted in by coaches before Sabonis, especially with a low playoff seed. Sabonis — a two-time All-Star of the Pacers in the East’s down years — is the definition of a player who is quite good, but just isn’t incredibly good at any one thing and doesn’t have the wow factor to get votes anyway. His best chance to make the All-Star team is if the Kings have a top-six seed at the end of January AND the coaches bypass Fox to pick him instead.

Brandon Ingram (Pelicans) would be a shoe-in in he wasn’t hurt. As long as he comes back soon, he’s got a great chance to join Zion Williamson on the All-Star team. Especially if Williamson gets in as a starter and the coaches only have to vote on the one Pelican. Ingram was SO good in the playoffs against the Suns, and he continued that to start this season — 20.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, 4.7 assists — and helped the Pelicans become a major force in the West playoff picture. The issue is health. He’s only played 15 of the Pels’ 30 games so far and had a ‘setback’ on Dec 13 and there’s no timetable for his return. If he gets healthy and plays well for most or all of January, he’s in. This would be Ingram’s second All-Star selection as a coaches’ pick, so he’s already got their respect. But he’s got to get healthy.

Jaren Jackson Jr.’s case is almost exactly the same as Ingram’s. He’s probably the second-best player on a top West seed. If he can stay healthy and keep up his numbers — 17.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, 37% threes, potential Defensive Player of the Year impact — he will probably make his first All-Star game. He just hasn’t played much, only appearing 14 of the Grizzlies’ 30 games so far. Another demerit is that he was really up and down in last year’s playoffs and spent most of it in foul trouble (4+ fouls in 8 of 12 games). Coaches might discount his case for that.

Deandre Ayton, as I said above, has a sneaky good case to make his first All-Star game. Beyond the numbers I shared above, he’s got a difference-making playoff pedigree, always has to be game-planned against (a must for the coaches’ vote) and was a No. 1 pick at one point. He’s one of the most physically gifted players in the game who makes an impact on both ends of the court for a Suns offense that’s top 10 on both offense and defense the last three seasons. Do the coaches hate that he doesn’t dunk on them often enough, or discount his lack of foul-drawing against them? We’ll see.

If I had to put these guys in order of likelihood to get the coaches’ votes, here it is:

  1. Ingram — he’s already been picked by coaches once (2020) — it’s just about health, and whether teammate Zion Williamson is already in the starting lineup
  2. Jackson — Everyone loves this guy. If he stays healthy and the Grizz are still atop the West when coaches pick, he’ll probably be in
  3. Ayton — if one or both of Ingram/Jackson miss time in January AND Fox gets the Kings’ nod, Ayton has a great chance to make it as the 5th or 6th front court player
  4. Markkanen — like I said above, he fits best as an injury replacement nod from the Commissioner
  5. Sabonis — quietly great season, helping Sac into playoff seed, putting up Luka/Jokic-lite numbers, already a two-time All-Star in East; but won’t get in if Fox does

I think the final choices will come down to health and playoff seeding in late January when it’s time for the coaches to make their picks. They won’t have their old standbys to pick this time, so I expect to see some randomness here.

Could there be another Andrew Wiggins/BTS-type fan vote to screw it all up? Sure, but I think we’ve covered all the leading candidates from the top teams. Could Anthony Davis conceivably get that starting spot regardless of injury status? Probably not. He didn’t get voted in by the fans/media/players in 2021 after leading the Lakers to the Bubble-chip in 2020. The coaches had to put him in as a reserve.

We’ll see how it all plays out, but as long as Ayton stays healthy, puts up something around 20/10 for the next month — like he’s done for the past month — and the Suns are among the top 1 or 2 seeds in the West, we might just have our second Suns All-Star.

Cast your votes for the Suns in the All-Star game!

(Does not look like you can vote via social media this year — just the NBA App or this link above)

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