West All-Star starters will crush East starters, and it’s not close

Yet again, Stephen Curry has a better five-man lineup than LeBron James.

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The 2016 NBA All-Star starters were announced on Thursday, with a couple of late surprises. 

In the West, Kawhi Leonard leapfrogged Draymond Green to secure the fifth starter spot, joining Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Kobe Bryant:

Out East, on the other hand, Carmelo Anthony overtook Andre Drummond for the third frontcourt spot and Kyle Lowry snagged Kyrie Irving’s backcourt position — and possibly Irving’s sole chance at making the All-Star team — to join LeBron James, Paul George and Dwyane Wade as starters:

At first glance, the West has the better five-man lineup, and it’s not even close.

If you were ranking the starters one through 10, the West would have four of the top five players (Curry, Westbrook, Leonard and Durant) with James being the fifth selection. Bryant is the worst of the 10 players by a decent margin (he’s the only starter with a negative Win Shares), but his inefficiency this season isn’t enough to drag down a much better West lineup.

The West lineup dominates the East lineup in Win Shares, 33.3 to 24.6, and has the top four performers, according to Basketball-Reference.com. That’s not the be-all and end-all, of course, but pull up any set of statistics and it’ll likely show the top of the West is far superior.

Breaking down the individual matchups in a 5-on-5 context, it’s apparent that Bryant and perhaps Wade, to a lesser extent, are the only weak spots in the center-less matchup.

No one on the East can check Curry, though Lowry will give a valiant effort. It won’t matter, though, as Curry has torched Lowry and the Toronto Raptors this season to the tune of 40.5 points (on 57.4 percent shooting), eight assists and seven 3-pointers in two contests this season.

Lowry has actually held his own against Curry somewhat this season, but again, it’s a futile exercise to match anyone up with Curry.

Westbrook vs. Wade is a major mismatch in favor of the West. Wade doesn’t have a chance at stopping Westbrook from getting to the rim or creating space for jumpers, and when he’s engaged defensively, Westbrook can stick with Wade for the most part.

Whoever Bryant defends will have an advantage, but the most likely outcome is he and Anthony defending each other as the weak links in their respective starting frontcourts. Neither one should be able to stop the other, but Anthony is the better and more efficient scorer nowadays, so he holds the edge.

The other two frontcourt matchups are interesting. 

Leonard and Durant could start off defending James and George, respectively, and vice versa. Or either side could crossmatch and switch on the other end. Leonard is as close to a "LeBron stopper" as we’ve ever seen, and Durant and LeBron have a history dating back a half-decade or so. George and Leonard are similarly skilled and have similar production as the next wave of two-way small forwards. 

The matchup possibilities are endless, yet tantalizing whatever the coutcome. These are the four best wings in basketball, and the four leading non-Curry candidates to win All-Star Game MVP.

Despite the increased parity around the league and the East boasting two more teams with above-.500 records, the West is still better. They’ve won four of the past five All-Star games, and that trend should continue this season.

Jovan Buha covers the NBA for FOX Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jovanbuha.