With voting for the NBA All-Star Game starters opening on Christmas Day, the discussion begins on who should start for their respective conferences. Fans are eligible to vote through January 21st.
MORE: How to vote for the 2019 NBA All-Star Game
One of the heavier debates for either conference is who will start at guard in the East - Kyrie Irving, Kyle Lowry, Victor Oladipo and Kemba Walker among others, make a strong bid.
NBA.com's Carlan Gay and Kyle Irving are here to state their cases for whether they believe Irving or Lowry should start at guard for the Eastern Conference.
Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_): This is an easy choice for me, it has to be Kyrie Irving.
I believe the high expectations the Boston Celtics carried into the 2018-19 NBA season parlayed with their mediocre start builds the reasoning for why Irving's play has been overlooked thus far. I'd also assume that after a 40-point outburst on Christmas Day to beat one of the Eastern Conference's top teams on a National Television stage, everyone should be on notice of the season that Kyrie is putting together.
His 23.3 points per game puts him in the top-20 in the league in scoring while his 48.7 percent shooting from the field and 41.1 percent shooting from long range are both second-best in his career. Irving's averaging career-highs in assists (6.4 apg), rebounds (5.1 rpg) and steals (1.6 spg) is the main reason the Celtics have turned things around as of late.
Boston has won 10 of their last 14 games and Irving has been the driving catalyst of that streak - he's posting 25.5 points, 6.7 assists, 5.3 rebounds and 1.5 steals while shooting 50.4 from the field, 46.7 from deep and 88.0 percent from the free throw line in those games.
Irving is getting hot at the right time and doesn't show any signs of slowing down from now until the All-Star break.
This comes as no disrespect to Lowry, who has played a major role in the Toronto Raptors' first-place standing in the East, but he has not been the player he was at the beginning of the season. He's still second in the NBA in assists per game but since the Raptors' 12-1 start to the season, he's posting 12.4 points per game shooting 38.0 percent from the field and 28.1 percent from beyond the arc over the last 17 games he's played.
Irving outplayed Lowry in the only two meetings between the Celtics and Raptors this season, too. Lowry and Toronto got the best of Irving and Boston in the first meeting but Irving almost single-handedly defeated the Raptors in the second meeting.
The Celtics guard dropped a season-high 43 points to go with 11 assists in their overtime win over the Raptors. He's stepped up for Boston on a big stage time and time again and should be rewarded accordingly by representing the East as a starting guard.
Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay): For me, it's no question, Kyle Lowry.
Look, in a perfect world maybe they both end up as starters, but for the sake of this debate, Lowry certainly deserves it over Kyrie. I'm not suggesting that Kyrie isn't an All-Star, nor does he not deserve to start alongside Lowry, but if I have to pick between the two I'm going with Lowry.
Solely looking at Lowry's statistics would be a lazy analysis of the season he's been having - yes his numbers are down on averages, especially his scoring, but that's in large part to the pieces that have been added around him.
With Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Pascal Siakam and Serge Ibaka all shouldering more of the scoring load - three of which are enjoying career-highs in points per points - it's allowed Lowry to take a step back and be more of a true point guard than he's had to be in years past. He hasn't disappointed, averaging a career-high in assists with 9.8. He only trails Russell Westbrook for the league lead.
While his assists numbers have gone up, don't think he still can't get buckets - Lowry has hit the 20-point mark ten times this season, six of them coming with Kawhi out of the lineup, leading the Raptors to a 7-2 record without Leonard.
I know defence isn't the sexiest topic to bring up - especially when we're talking about the NBA All-Star Game - but Lowry is near the top of the league in charges drawn with 13, and it's not just that he takes them, it's when he takes them.
In the first meeting between the Raptors and Celtics, Lowry drew a charge late in the game on Jayson Tatum that all but sealed the win for Toronto.
There are two ends of the floor, and there's no debate as to who plays the best on both of them between these two guards.
Couple that with the fact that the Raptors have the best record in the Eastern Conference and Boston, who may figure it out at some point, has been largely disappointing.
I'll take Lowry - even though I'll admit I'd have more fun watching Kyrie in the All-Star Game.
The Celtics and Raptors have one more meeting before All-Star voting concludes as they face off on January 16th at the TD Garden in Boston. This final head-to-head between the two guards could certainly have a late swing in the popular vote to start in the All-Star Game.