Antetokounmpo leads East, Durant tops West in first returns of NBA All-Star voting
Giannis Antetokounmpo leads all players with the most fan votes after the first returns of the NBA All-Star voting. AP

GIANNIS Antetokounmpo's stellar start in this NBA season has not gone unnoticed as the Milwaukee Bucks star emerged as the top vote-getter in the first fan returns of the 2018 All-Star voting released Thursday (Friday, Manila time).

After making his All-Star debut last year, Antetokounmpo continued his surge this season in becoming the league's second-leading scorer (29.1 points per game) while ranking in the top 20 in rebounds, steals and blocks. For his efforts, the 23-year-old Bucks forward has been rewarded with the most number of fan votes (863,416) in the first vote tabulation, 12 days after voting opened.

Playing in just his fifth season, Antetokounmpo leads Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James by almost 7,400 votes among all Eastern Conference players. At third place in the East is Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving (802,834).

In the Western Conference, Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant (767,402) leads teammate Stephen Curry (735,115) with the most number of fan votes. Coming in third is Houston Rockets guard James Harden (602,040).

This season's new All-Star Game format sees the top vote-getters in the East and West will be named captains and form their respective squads from the pool voted in as starters and reserves. 

Fan vote will account for 50 percent while votes from current players and a medial panel will each carry 25 percent in determining the All-Star starters this season.

Here's the breakdown of the first fan vote returns for the East and West players: 

The next round of fan votes will be unveiled on January 11. Voting ends January 15. The starters and captains will be known on January 18, while the reserves will be revealed five days later. On January 25, the full rosters will be announced.

The All-Star Game is set on February 18 in Los Angeles.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @spinph