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Kawhi Leonard to Start in 2019 NBA All-Star Game

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Leonard joins Giannis, Kyrie, Kemba and Embiid as Eastern Conference Starters

Toronto Raptors Kawhi Leonard as 2019 NBA All-Star Game starter John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto’s Kawhi Leonard has been selected as an Eastern Conference starter for the 2019 NBA All-Star Game.

Leonard joins Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Joel Embiid as Eastern Conference starters. Out west, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Paul George and LeBron James get the nod.

Now, “Eastern Conference starter” is a bit of a misnomer since, as last year, two team captains will “draft” players from a pool of starters, then a pool of reserves, to make up the teams. The captains are Antetokounmpo and James, as they were the two leading vote-getters in their respective conferences.

Leonard may be too busy popping the champagne after buying his new house to celebrate, but we’ll offer him our heartiest congratulations anyway — and congrats to you too, Raptors fans, for helping Leonard rack up 3.5 million votes, good for fifth among all players.

Players and media also had a hand in the voting this year, and, frankly, it’s a good thing they did; overall I’d say they got these rosters exactly right, though cases can certainly be made for Anthony Davis and Ben Simmons. But fan vote alone would have seen Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose starting, and, well, that just would have been silly.

This will be Leonard’s third All-Star Game appearance; he’s been a starter each time, though of course, his two previous appearances were for the West. According to our good friends at Raptors PR, Leonard is just the sixth Raptor to make an All-Star team, joining Vince Carter, Antonio Davis, Chris Bosh, DeMar DeRozan and Leonard’s current teammate Kyle Lowry in receiving that honour.

Speaking of Lowry, he finished sixth in voting for Eastern Conference guards. There’s still a decent chance he makes it in as a reserve, since the coaches (who vote for reserves) are well aware of the value he has on the floor. Pascal Siakam, meanwhile, having a breakout year, finished seventh in voting for Eastern Conference forwards. That’s pretty dang special for a third-year guy who’s come out of nowhere to become the third-best player on a team with the most wins in the NBA.

The reserves will be announced next Thursday night, January 31; the player draft will be televised on February 7; and the game itself tips off in Charlotte on February 17.