NBA

NBA All-Star Game 2021: The success behind first-time All-Stars Zion Williamson, Jaylen Brown, Zach LaVine, Julius Randle and Mike Conley

The 2021 NBA All-Star Game will take place on Sunday, March 7 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta.

Of the 27 players who make up this season's rosters, five are first-time All-Stars. From the Western Conference is Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley and New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson, who is set to become the fourth-youngest player to ever play in an All-Star Game. From the Eastern Conference is Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine, New York Knicks forward Julius Randle and Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown.

Each one of them is at a different stage in their career and has risen to All-Star status in their own way.

Zion Williamson, F, New Orleans Pelicans

Stats: 25.5 PTS (61.4% FG), 7.2 REB, 3.4 AST, 0.9 STL

While Williamson impressed in the little we saw of him in his rookie season, he's taken his game to another level this season. Despite being slightly undersized for his position at 6-foot-7, he leads the league with 19.3 points per game in the paint. The last time someone dominated the paint in that fashion was Hall of Fame centre Shaquille O'Neal in the 2002-03 season. Williamson's blend of speed, power and athleticism makes him one of the toughest covers in the NBA.

MORE: Zion's biggest improvement in one play

Zach LaVine, G, Chicago Bulls

Stats: 28.5 PTS (52.2% FG, 43.3% 3PT), 5.3 REB, 5.0 AST, 1.1 STL

Speaking of athleticism, LaVine has long been known for his ability to play above the rim, but he's become one of the league's most explosive and most efficient scorers. Prior to this season, the only active players who have ever averaged 25.0 points on at least 50.0 percent shooting from the field and 40.0 percent from 3-point range are Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and LeBron James. LaVine's play has the Bulls hovering around .500, giving them a shot at ending their playoff drought.

MORE: LaVine's rise from Dunk Contest darling to All-Star

Julius Randle, F, New York Knicks

Stats: 23.1 PTS (48.0% FG, 41.2% 3PT), 10.9 REB, 5.5 AST, 0.8 STL

There are only four players averaging at least 20.0 points, 10.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game this season. Their names? Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Domantas Sabonis and Randle. His 23 double-doubles are tied with Brooklyn Nets guard James Harden for third-most in the NBA. Led by the 26-year-old, the Knicks, who last made the playoffs in 2012-13, currently have the sixth-best record in the Eastern Conference.

MORE: Randle is built for the pressures of the big stage

Jaylen Brown, G, Boston Celtics

Stats: 24.8 PTS (49.8% FG, 38.9% 3PT), 5.5 REB, 3.9 AST, 1.1 STL

Already one of the league's better defenders at the guard position, Brown has taken the leap as a scorer this season. His 24.8 points per game ranks a hair behind Jayson Tatum (24.9) for most on the Celtics and ranks him 19th in the entire league. He's also averaging a career-best 3.9 assists per game, almost doubling his total from last season (2.1). Brown was in the mix for a starting spot, ranking second in the Eastern Conference backcourt by the media and fifth by both fans and players.

MORE: Brown embracing role as leading voice for the next generation

Mike Conley, G, Utah Jazz

Stats: 16.1 PTS (44.4% FG, 42.2% 3PT), 5.7 AST, 3.5 REB, 1.4 STL

Now in his 14th season, Conley has been named as an injury replacement for Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker. Conley has played a big role in the Jazz's success this season, averaging the third-most points and the most assists on the team while shooting a career-best 42.2 percent from 3-point range. Conley's teammates Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert are also All-Stars this season, and Jazz head coach Quin Synder will coach Team LeBron.

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