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NBA

Julius Randle, Jamal Murray and CJ McCollum among first-time All-Star candidates in 2021

Three weeks into the 2020-21 NBA season, most - if not all - teams are 10 games in.

The 10-game mark means it's time for some overreactions to early-season standouts. While the 2021 All-Star Weekend in Indianapolis has been moved to 2024, there still could be an All-Star exhibition of some sorts this season, as commissioner Adam Silver maintained that the plan to have an All-Star Game in 2021 has yet to be decided.

Based on the commissioner's words, it's only right to overreact to early returns by projecting a few potential first-time All-Stars in 2021.

Julius Randle

Through 11 games: 22.1 PTS, 11.2 REB, 6.9 AST, 49.4 FG%, 35.0 3FG%

In his seventh season in the league, the 26-year-old Randle has taken his game up a few notches.

As the New York Knicks work to become a playoff team for the first time since 2013, it is Randle that's leading the charge with averages of 22.1 points, 11.2 rebounds and 6.9 assists - all career-best marks - through 11 games.

Evidenced by his assist figures, Randle is thriving in an expanded role as a playmaker, often initiating the Knicks offence. He recorded his first triple-double of the season in New York's fourth game and fell a few assists shy in the sixth and seventh games of the season, which were wins over the Indiana Pacers and Atlanta Hawks.

Early on, the Knicks are 5-2 when Randle records seven or more assists and 0-4 when he doesn't.

The key to Randle's All-Star candidacy is New York remaining in the playoff position as the season continues. Should the Knicks remain around .500 as the season reaches the midway point, Randle will be very worthy of an All-Star nod.

CJ McCollum

Through 10 games: 28.1 PTS, 5.0 AST, 4.1 REB, 47.6 FG%, 44.5 3FG%

Since breaking out in his third NBA season, McCollum has put forth numbers worthy of an All-Star nod year after year. Over time, he has become a visual representation of just how hard it is to become an All-Star in a Western Conference loaded at the guard position.

Could he make that breakthrough in 2021?

McCollum has come out of the gates firing, averaging career-bests of 28.1 points (which is also good for fourth in the league) and 5.0 assists per game. Even more impressive? McCollum leads the league in made 3s per game as he's knocking down 4.9 triples per contest at a 44.5% clip.

To put that in perspective, only two players in league history have attempted over 10 3s per game at 40.0% or above for a full season - Stephen Curry (two times, 2015-16 and 2018-19) and McCollum's backcourt mate, Damian Lillard, who did it in 2019-20.

There's a long way to go for CJ to join this elite company but based on his start, he's on a trajectory to earn an All-Star nod at the very least.

Jaylen Brown

Through 10 games: 26.3 PTS, 6.2 REB, 3.5 AST, 53.9 FG%, 42.1 3FG%

It seems as though every year Brown is in the league, he makes big strides in his game.

This year has been no different.

Through Boston's first 10 games, Brown is averaging a ridiculously-efficient 26.3 points on 53.9% shooting from the field and 42.1% from deep. He's appeared increasingly confident on the offensive end and continues to bring it on the defensive end, averaging 1.7 steals and 6.2 rebounds per contest.

Brown has already had two epic showings this season, recording a career-high 42 points on 15-for-21 (71.4%) shooting in a win over the Memphis Grizzlies and 31 points on 13-for-16 (81.3%) shooting in a win over the Detroit Pistons.

Last season, Brown earned plenty of All-Star consideration before Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker were selected to represent the Celtics at All-Star Weekend. This year, as Brown has stepped up in Walker's absence, things are lining up for him and Tatum to be Boston's All-Star duo.

Jamal Murray

Through 9 games: 19.7 PTS, 3.8 AST, 3.2 REB, 48.1 FG%, 38.6 3FG%

At 23, Murray is much younger than McCollum, but he's yet another example of how hard it is to make the All-Star Game as a guard in the West.

Murray has been in the All-Star conversation for the last few seasons but it wasn't until his amazing showcase at the NBA Restart that Murray entered a season with expectations to perform at an All-Star level. After a rough start to the season for Murray and the Nuggets, things are turning around rather quickly, as expected.

After missing a game with an elbow contusion, Murray has returned to action to average 20.7 points and 4.7 assists on .523/.400/.900 shooting splits over the past six games and the Nuggets are 4-2 in that span, with one loss coming in overtime to the Dallas Mavericks and the other coming in the final moments to the Phoenix Suns.

All signs point to Denver shaking off early-season rust, meaning it should soon rise back towards the top of the West, naturally propelling Murray back into All-Star conversations alongside MVP candidate Nikola Jokic.

Collin Sexton

Through 8 games: 25.1 PTS, 3.5 AST, 2.1 REB, 53.1 FG%, 51.6 3FG%

In the history of the Cleveland Cavaliers franchise, only one player has scored 20 or more points in eight consecutive games to open a season.

As you probably could have deduced, it's Sexton that has surpassed a 16-year record held by LeBron James.

In just his third NBA season, the 22-year-old is showing exactly why Cleveland was excited to nab him with the No. 8 overall pick in 2018, while also serving as a reminder of why rookies shouldn't be written off in the first month of their careers.

Sexton has led the way for a Cavs team that has looked like a legitimate playoff contender at times, averaging 25.1 points on extremely efficient shooting splits through his first eight contests.

An ankle injury has limited Sexton as of late but if he can sustain his scoring upon his return - while some shooting percentages will inevitably dip - Sexton will be more than worthy of All-Star consideration in the Eastern Conference.

Also worthy of consideration

Malcolm Brogdon: Has led Indiana to a 6-4 record through 10 games while averaging a career-best 23.5 points and 7.4 assists while shooting 49.7% from the field, 46.4% from deep and 90.0% from the charity stripe.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: Through nine games, has OKC above-.500 with career-high averages of 21.0 points and 6.8 assists, more than his nightly assists output in each of his first two seasons.

Zach LaVine: Average of 27.7 points through 11 games is good for fifth in the league and has already put forth a 45-point performance by sinking 10 triples against a solid LA Clippers defence.

Fred VanVleet: Toronto might be 2-8 through 10 games but VanVleet is playing great basketball, averaging 20.9 points, 5.8 assists and 4.5 rebounds in under 36 minutes per contest. If the Raptors can turn it around, VanVleet deserves a nod.

Zion Williamson: Had he played in enough games, Williamson very well could have been an All-Star in his rookie campaign. Through nine games, the 20-year-old is putting All-Star calibre numbers with averages of 21.9 points and 8.1 rebounds while shooting 55.7% from the field.

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