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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

With the NBA season roughly a quarter of the way through, I've put together my Western Conference and Eastern Conference All-Star teams.

The intrigue: With 2019 All-Stars Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Victor Oladipo sidelined and Kyrie Irving, Kyle Lowry, Blake Griffin and Nikola Vucevic missing significant time, the door is open wider than usual for first-time selections.

West
  • James Harden (HOU): He's averaging 38.7 points per game, which is absurd. But this might be even crazier: Harden has missed more three-pointers (228) than all but three players have attempted.
  • Luka Dončić (DAL): It's difficult to describe what this kid has done so far (more on his performance last night below). At just 20 years old, he's averaging a near triple-double and leading the NBA in touches (96 per game), a testament to his rare playmaking ability.
  • LeBron James (LAL): 17 years ago yesterday, the world was officially introduced to LeBron James when he made his national TV debut as a member of St. Vincent-St. Mary High School. Now, at age 34, he's averaging a career-best 10.8 assists and has the Lakers looking like title favorites.
  • Kawhi Leonard (LAC): The reigning Finals MVP has morphed into an elite passer (his 5.3 assists per game are more than double his career average), which is not fair. Catch him tonight against the Timberwolves (9:30pm ET, ESPN).
  • Anthony Davis (LAL): "The Brow" looks like a virtual lock to win Defensive Player of the Year, and his instant chemistry with LeBron in year one can't be overstated. So impressive what they're already able to do to defenses together.

Reserves: Karl-Anthony Towns (MIN), Devin Booker (PHX), Damian Lillard (POR), Donovan Mitchell (UTAH), Paul George (LAC), Nikola Jokić (DEN), Brandon Ingram (NOP)

On the bubble: Andrew Wiggins (MIN), Rudy Gobert (UTAH), C.J. McCollum (POR), Montrezl Harrell (LAC), Russell Westbrook (HOU)

East
  • Kemba Walker (BOS): I almost gave this spot to second-year Hawks sensation Trae Young (they have almost the same exact Player Efficiency Rating), but Walker gets the nod for leading a better team and playing better defense. "I just told the team ... 'If you want to be special, then model after Kemba,'" Celtics coach Brad Stevens said recently.
  • Bradley Beal (WSH): With John Wall sidelined, Beal ranks fifth in the league in scoring (27.4 ppg) and 12th in dime-dropping (7.0 apg), all while directing a top-five offense whose second-best player is ... Rui Hachimura.
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL): The coolest thing about Giannis is that he's humble, and the craziest thing about Giannis is that he just keeps getting better. "Sky's the limit" is the ultimate cliche, but it might not apply to any other athlete more than it applies to him.
  • Pascal Siakam (TOR): No player has ever won the Most Improved Player Award twice, let alone in back-to-back seasons. Yet Siakam, last year's winner, is making a strong case. I'd put him in third, right behind Dončić and Hornets breakout star Devonte' Graham.
  • Joel Embiid (PHI): Two days after Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal criticized him for not playing hard enough, Joel Embiid responded with a spectacular performance in Boston (38-13-6). Some nights, he's unguardable.

Reserves: Jimmy Butler (MIA), Trae Young (ATL), Andre Drummond (DET), Malcolm Brogdon (IND), Ben Simmons (PHI), Jayson Tatum (BOS), Domantas Sabonis (IND)

On the bubble: Bam Adebayo (MIA), Spencer Dinwiddie (BKN), Zach LaVine (CHI), Khris Middleton, Graham (CHA)

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Biden extends mask mandates for travelers into 2022

President Biden delivers remarks at the White House on Dec. 1. Photo: Anna Moneymaker via Getty Images

President Biden will announce new testing protocols for international travelers on Thursday and extend masking requirements through March as the U.S. prepares to fight the Omicron variant this winter, according to senior administration officials.

Driving the news: The U.S. will tighten pre-departure testing protocols starting early next week by requiring all inbound international travelers to take COVID-19 tests within one day of their departure rather than three.

35 mins ago - Health

America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The race to figure out just how dangerous the Omicron variant is will likely be a global effort, but some experts are skeptical that the U.S. will play a dominant role.

Why it matters: The CDC has repeatedly come under fire for inadequate data collection throughout the pandemic — and figuring out how to respond to Omicron requires a lot of data that doesn't currently exist.

U.S. faces urgent anti-hacker crisis

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

The Biden administration is accelerating efforts to fill nearly 600,000 vacant cybersecurity positions in the public and private sectors bogging down efforts to protect digital infrastructure.

Why it matters: Following a deluge of ransomware attacks targeting critical government and corporate infrastructure this year, clogs in the talent pipeline are leaving federal, cash-strapped local governments and Big Business even more susceptible to hacking.

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