By Jean-Paul Salamanca ( | First Posted: Jan 17, 2013 02:39 PM EST

Jeremy Lin, Lebron James and Kobe Bryant are among some of the leading candidates heading into the announcement of the starting lineups for the 2013 NBA All-Star Game, airing tonight at 7 p.m. on TNT. (Photo : Reuters)

Houston, start the countdown.

The best of the best among this season's NBA roster will be revealed tonight when the NBA 2013 All-Star Game starting lineups are announced at 7 p.m. on TNT.

In the days leading up to the announced lineups, the biggest battle among All-Star nominees has been between two of the league's most popular players, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.

Bryant, who leads the NBA in scoring this season with 29.9 points a game, was leading all players in the last voting tally with 1,177,456 votes, while James, last season's league MVP, was close behind him with 1,151,304 votes.

In the East, James was ahead of New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony among Eastern Conference players by a 97,205 margin.

Meanwhile, in the Western Conference, the battle for the starting point guard has been a deadlock between the L.A. Clippers' Chris Paul and the Houston Rockets' Jeremy Lin.

Paul, having an MVP-type year, is second among backcourt guards in the West with 651,893 votes. Lin, one of the NBA league leaders in steals, has drawn a huge fan following worldwide since he emerged last season from a reserve to a high-scoring starter in New York, is only 46,269 votes behind Paul with 605,624 votes as of the third ballot count.

It is possible that Lin could get a last-minute surge of votes from NBA hoops fans in Asia that could put him over the top and allow him to start in the game. However, some critics have argued that Paul, who is having a better statistical year, deserves the starting nod in this year's gala.

"The howls of protest would likely be loudest if Lin, getting a strong wave of support from Asia, were to beat out Paul, who has the Clippers challenging Oklahoma City for the best record in the NBA," wrote Fran Blinebury, a columnist for the NBA's official website.

In the East, James and Anthony are No.1 and 2, respectively among leading vote-getters, which would put them in the lead for the two forward slots. Miami Heat shooting guard Dwayne Wade, third in the East with 765,077 votes, has a firm lead among NBA backcourt guards, while savvy Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo is fourth with 675,822, and the center's spot could be between Boston's fiery Kevin Garnett (fifth in East All-Star voting with 390, 751 votes) and Miami's explosive Chris Bosh, sixth with 362,973 fan ballots.

For the West, Bryant leads all players and will likely start at shooting guard if the fan balloting trend continues in his favor, while Oklahoma City's high-scoring small forward Kevin Durant is No.2 in voting with 1,088,797 votes. Center Dwight Howard of the Lakers is No. 3 with 716,671 votes while Paul and Lin are fourth and fifth, respectively. The Clippers' high-flying power forward Blake Griffin is sixth and leads the power forward voting with 593,024 votes.

The announcement for All-Star game reserves will be picked by the coaches.

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