The starting lineups for the 2023-24 NBA All-Star Game have been unveiled, and there will be plenty of big names and marquee matchups on Feb. 18 at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

LeBron James made history by being named to his 20th All-Star Game, passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the most All-Star nods in NBA history. He’ll be joined on the Western Conference squad by Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, Phoenix Suns forward Kevin Durant, Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic and Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

In the East, Giannis Antetokounmpo will team with Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid, Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, Bucks guard Damian Lillard and Indiana Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton.

The 73rd edition of the event — hosted by the Pacers — will be a return to the traditional Eastern Conference vs. Western Conference format. LeBron and Antetokounmpo are the captains.

After Thursday’s announcement, there remains plenty to break down: Which side will win? Which players were overlooked? Whose selection was the most surprising? Is the return of the East vs. West format actually a good thing?

Our NBA insiders answer the biggest questions.

1. Who is this year’s biggest All-Star starter snub?

Andrew Lopez: Damian Lillard getting to be a first-time starter this late into his NBA career is great and he’s deserving, but Donovan Mitchell could have certainly been the backcourt starter alongside Tyrese Haliburton. Mitchell, who has missed nine games this season, has done his part to keep the Cleveland Cavaliers in the top four of the Eastern Conference despite injuries to Darius Garland and Evan Mobley, who each have missed half the season. Mitchell is scoring 27.6 points per game (above his career average of 24.8 points), while posting career highs in assists (6.2), rebounds (5.4) and steals per game (1.9).

André Snellings: Kawhi Leonard. He’s been outstanding this season for the LA Clippers and has played almost every game — including the first four back-to-backs of the season — with little to no load management. Though his box score numbers are good, his true value shows up in the impact stats that estimate how his presence has correlated with team success. The Clippers have outscored their opponents by 11.3 points per 100 possessions with Leonard on the court, but have been outscored by 2.9 points per 100 possessions with him off, per Basketball-Reference. And the Clippers have won 18 of their past 20 games in which Leonard has played with an average scoring margin of a whopping 11.1 points.

Bobby Marks: No offense to Lillard, but I do not understand how the voters (fans, media and players) overlooked Jalen Brunson. The New York Knicks guard is averaging a career-high 26.6 points and shooting 42.3% on 3-pointers. In January, Brunson ranks fifth in points per game (29.0) and ninth in assists (9.0), and has four 40-point games this season, matching his total from last season. New York has the fifth-best record in the Eastern Conference and are 19-0 against teams below .500.

Kevin Pelton: All of the starters are deserving, so I wouldn’t say anyone was snubbed, but I thought Mitchell was the strongest candidate left out. He got my vote alongside Haliburton in the East backcourt. Brunson, Lillard and Mitchell all have relatively similar box score stats, but Mitchell scores as better by advanced metrics by virtue of his higher usage rate (32% of the Cavaliers’ offense) and a steal rate about double the other two contenders.

Ohm Youngmisuk: Leonard will likely be named as an All-Star reserve, but he deserves to be a starter as much as anyone. The red-hot Clippers have won 25 of their past 32 games and Leonard has been their best player. In the past 20 games Leonard has played, the two-time Finals MVP has averaged 25.4 points while shooting 56.5% from the field, 49.5% on 3-pointers and 92.1% on free throws. He has been the focal point of double teams almost nightly and he is still the only player averaging 25 points on 55% shooting and 90% on free throws since Dec. 1.


2. Which selection was the biggest surprise?

Pelton: I’m pleasantly surprised that fans picked up on what Tyrese Haliburton is doing in a small market. The Pacers’ run to the in-season tournament final undoubtedly buoyed his candidacy given how little exposure Haliburton had previously gotten on national TV during his career with lottery teams in Indiana and Sacramento.

Snellings: I’ll go with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, just because he and Haliburton are the least household names among the starters. Haliburton got extra attention from the in-season tournament and the Pacers’ “Greatest Show on the Court” highlight-friendly offense. Gilgeous-Alexander also plays in a small market and his own style of midrange-heavy, fundamental basketball is not often leading SportsCenter. But he just gets buckets and he’s led the surprising Thunder to the top of the Western Conference standings. SGA is arriving on the big stage, and the fact that people realize it enough to vote him a starter is a nice surprise.

Lopez: LeBron James is still a starter — and a very deserving one at that — in his record 20th NBA All-Star Game. Considering everything he has accomplished, nothing should surprise us about James, but it still is a little eye-popping what he’s doing at 39. He’s averaging 24.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 7.4 assists this season for the Lakers.

Marks: Damian Lillard in the East. The Milwaukee guard continues to hit big shots in the clutch but is only shooting 42.3% from the field. And he has 11 games of four-plus turnovers this season. The Bucks’ 31-13 record certainly has played a role in why he was selected.

Youngmisuk: Lillard. It’s not that Lillard isn’t deserving. And he certainly has the name recognition and big-shot making ability. But New York’s Jalen Brunson is averaging more points per game (26.6 vs. 25.3) and shooting considerably better from behind the arc (42.3% vs. 34.7). Cleveland’s Donovan Mitchell is also sixth in scoring in the league, averaging 27.6 points to go with 6.2 assists and 5.4 rebounds while keeping the Cavs fourth in the East.


3. What would be your preferred format: East vs. West, draft, or something else?

Marks: How about the USA vs. the World in the years that the Olympics are held? There would be plenty of intrigue with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Canada), Luka Doncic (Slovenia), Giannis Antetokounmpo (Greece), Nikola Jokic (Serbia) and possibly Victor Wembanyama (France) in a starting five against an American side. And then rotate every year: East vs. West, then to the draft format of years prior in which the two highest vote-getters select the teams.

Pelton: Bring back the draft. I think the NBA might have overreacted by moving away from the format after last year’s attempt to pick teams on the court prior to the game fell flat. Having captains draft their teams wasn’t enough to sustain competitive play on its own, but it also wasn’t the reason recent All-Star Games have been snoozers.

Lopez: Whether you like East vs. West or the draft better, I think it’s time the teams themselves expand. If you don’t want to see 30 All-Stars, that’s understandable. The game has seen 24 All-Stars per year since 1982 — the rosters and league have grown since then. NBA rosters are now at 15 active players and three two-way spots. It’s time for the All-Star Game itself to catch up.

Snellings: I actually like the East vs. West format, because it allows natural rivalries to form over time. I remember when several All-Stars took things personally (particularly late in games) and turned the exhibition into a slugfest. There were years of Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson going at it. Or the dominant bigs of the West having to face the elite guards of the East every season. In the ’80s, we’d get highlight reel alley-oops from Isiah Thomas to Dominique Wilkins because they’d played on All-Star teams together for years and started developing on-court chemistry. Ultimately, that chemistry and those rivalries can make the game more fun.

Youngmisuk: I’m old-school and happy to see the East vs. West format is back. I understood why changes were made to the scoring format (i.e, the Elam Ending) and having player-picked All-Star squads, but I’ve always enjoyed seeing the best from each conference go up against each other with rival players teaming up together.


4. Which side has the better starting five?

Lopez: The Western Conference starters feature three of the top four players in the MVP race, according to ESPN BET, in Nikola Jokic, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Luka Doncic. And oh, then there’s LeBron James and Kevin Durant as well. The West has the edge here.

Snellings: I’ll go with the East because the players fit together better and have higher highlight-reel potential. The elite floor general (Haliburton) who will get everyone looks wherever they want, including over the rim. The guy (Lillard) who will routinely take (and make) 42-foot shots in game action. The super athlete (Giannis) who might casually dunk from the foul line because he has a 10-foot wingspan. The guy (Tatum) who can get so scorching-hot he might drop 55 points. The unguardable, dominant big … check, in Embiid. Great fit, and lots of upside for “SportsCenter” highlights.

Marks: The West because of the backcourt of Gilgeous-Alexander and Doncic. Gilgeous-Alexander is having an MVP-type season and Doncic once again is heading toward an All-NBA selection. It also doesn’t hurt that the frontcourt consists of former MVPs — Durant, James and Jokic.

Pelton: I’d lean toward the West. I suspect if we were drafting without captains, four or five West players might go before the third East player, after Antetokounmpo and Embiid. Still, the real difference between the two conferences will be seen when reserves are announced. The West pool is much deeper there and some notable names won’t make it.

Youngmisuk: The West is stacked with flashy playmakers who make All-Star Games memorable. Doncic and Gilgeous-Alexander make for a dynamic and versatile backcourt. And the West boasts James and Jokic in the frontcourt, two more triple-double playmakers who handle the ball as basically the point guards on their respective teams. Durant will find his various scoring spots on the floor. And we aren’t even talking about a bench that could feature Stephen Curry, Anthony Davis and Kawhi Leonard, to name a few.


5. What All-Star reserve battle are you watching most closely?

Youngmisuk: The West reserve guards will be fascinating to watch. Stephen Curry, Anthony Edwards, De’Aaron Fox and Devin Booker are all in the top 14 in scoring. How about James Harden? All he has done is help the Clippers become the hottest team in the NBA with his elite passing and 8.5 assists per game. The Clippers could make the argument for three All-Stars in Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Harden. And then there’s Nuggets guard Jamal Murray, who is seeking his first All-Star nod and entered Thursday night averaging 24.6 points and 7.1 assists in January for the defending champions.

Lopez: Can young stars like Philadelphia’s Tyrese Maxey or Toronto’s Scottie Barnes manage to break through? Maxey and Barnes, both among the favorites for Most Improved Player this season, are enjoying career years. Maxey is averaging 25.8 points and 6.7 assists per game while Barnes is at 20.2 points, 8.4 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 1.6 blocks and 1.3 steals. Barnes certainly has a tougher task to make it in though, over the likes of Jaylen Brown, Paolo Banchero, Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Kristaps Porzingis, Julius Randle and Mikal Bridges.

Snellings: Will the Timberwolves get three All-Stars? They’ve had the best record in the West all season, but didn’t get a single starter. Instead, they are led by a true big three where each is a star. While Anthony Edwards is rapidly growing into the face of the team, and one of the faces of the league, Rudy Gobert has quietly turned in top-10 impact in the NBA for years and Karl-Anthony Towns has found his level as perhaps the greatest shooting big man in the league. The Wolves deserve three All-Stars, but in the stacked West it’ll be interesting to see if all three make it.

Marks: The question in the East is whether Boston can land three reserves ( Brown, Porzingis, Derrick White) to join starter Jayson Tatum. In the West, keep an eye on the Thunder’s Jalen Williams, who is having an All-Star-caliber season. If Williams is named, we could see either Fox, Domantas Sabonis, Lauri Markkanen, Towns and Gobert not selected.

Pelton: The loaded West frontcourt. I see Anthony Davis and Leonard as locks. That leaves George, Gobert, Markkanen, Sabonis and Towns competing for one last guaranteed spot. Whoever misses out will be battling for two spots with the players not selected for the second backcourt spot next to Curry — including Booker, Edwards and Fox. Good luck to the West coaches sorting that out.