The NBA announced the starters for February’s All-Star Game on Thursday night and the Eastern Conference doesn’t really feature any surprises.
Kyrie Irving is joined in the backcourt with DeMar DeRozan, while LeBron James headlines the frontcourt along with Giannis Antetoukounmpo and first-timer Joel Embiid.
With three of last seasons All-Star’s in Jimmy Butler, Paul Millsap, and Paul George headed West, and with Isaiah Thomas, an All-Star the past two seasons, missing most of the first half with injuries, it’ll be interesting to see who the coaches deem worthy of a reserve spot out of this interesting talent pool.
Here are my predictions for who makes the cut for the Eastern Conference All-Stars:
Backcourt 1: John Wall
After his first All-Star appearance in 2014, Wall has become a regular in the midseason festivities.
Arguably the best point guard in the East, Wall has mastered the balance between scoring and facilitating as well as an understanding of when to use his speed and when to slow down. He’s also one of the few star point guards who plays well on both ends of the floor.
His numbers are a bit down from last season which can be attributed to the rise of both Bradley Beal and Otto Porter, but he’s still averaging close to 20 points and 10 assists.
Couple that with the fact that the Wizards currently occupy the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference, and Wall should be a lock to go to his fifth straight All-Star Game.
Backcourt 2: Victor Oladipo
Oladipo making the All-Star Game is one of the biggest surprises of the season. Not because he doesn’t deserve it, after all, he’s averaging career highs across the board with 24.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 2.0 steals, and 0.9 blocks per game.
It’s surprising because nobody thought Oladipo had this in him. After playing with Russell Westbrook last season, Oladipo’s value diminished significantly. Nobody thought he’d be any more than a struggling role player, much less an NBA All-Star.
What solidifies Oladipo’s All-Star campaign is the fact that the Pacers are winning. They have a 24-20 record, good for 6th in the East, which shows that Oladipo’s numbers aren’t just empty calories. He’s making big contributions to a team that’s headed towards the playoffs.
If that doesn’t call for one’s first All-Star appearance, then not much else will.
Frontcourt 1: Al Horford
When looking at Al Horford’s numbers, they don’t really jump off the page.
13.4 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 5.3 assists are definitely good numbers to have, especially out of a big man, but they don’t scream All-Star.
Rather, Al gets the nod here because of what he does for the Boston Celtics on a nightly basis.
Horford gives the Celtics a secondary playmaker next to Kyrie Irving, as well as the ability to guard 1-5, which has helped give the C’s the number one defensive rating, in route to the best record in the East at 34-11.
A prerequisite for making the All-Star game is putting up great numbers, but another part of it is contributing to a winning cause.
Seeing as how Horford is the second best player on the team with the best record in the East, it’s hard to deny him a spot.
Frontcourt 2: Kristaps Porzingis
After starting off the season averaging over 30 points per game, Porzingis’s scoring has gone back down to earth. Even then, he’s still averaging a career-high 23.6 points per game as the main option for the Knicks, which is something a lot of people were wondering if he could do after the team traded Carmelo Anthony.
The Unicorn is also getting things done on the defensive side as well, leading the league in blocks per game with 2.36.
The Knicks aren’t doing so well in the standings at 20-25, but Porzingis’s ability to affect the game on both ends of the floor at a high level is enough to secure him a spot.
Frontcourt 3: Andre Drummond
Drummond has been the driving force on a Pistons team that currently ranks eighth in the East but is only two games out of the fifth spot.
He’s currently averaging 14.5 points, a league-leading 15.0 rebounds, a surprising 3.8 assists, 1.6 steals, and 1.2 blocks per game.
Stan Van Gundy has begun using Drummond in more of an Andrew Bogut role out of the high post, which has led to the spike in assists. Drummond has also done a great job of improving his free throw percentage, going from 39% last season to 62% this year.
In 2016 Drummond made the All-Star game when his team was the 8th seed. There is no player in the East to keep that from happening again.
Wildcard 1: Bradley Beal
Some would argue that Beal should’ve been selected as Kevin Love’s injury replacement over Carmelo Anthony last year.
So far this season he’s done plenty to build a new All-Star campaign, with averages of 23.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 3.8 assists on the aforementioned Wizards squad that’s currently fifth in the standings.
Beal has emerged as a star for the Wizards and has remained relatively healthy over the past couple of seasons despite being labeled as injury prone early on.
While most squads who occupy the fifth seed don’t usually deserve two All-Stars, Beals numbers make it hard to deny him over other second fiddles in the East, despite their squads being higher in the standings.
Wildcard 2: Hassan Whiteside
This selection is more out of guilt due to the Heat currently occupying the fourth spot in the East with a 26-18 record, and it would be criminal to not reward them with at least one All-Star.
Whiteside’s numbers are fairly good if judged by All-Star standards. 14.3 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per game is nothing to scoff at.
While one could make the argument for guys with better numbers, part of being an All-Star is winning games, and while nobody has even considered Whiteside for an All-Star nod this season, the Heat deserve to be represented in Los Angeles.
Seeing as how Whiteside’s numbers are arguably the best on the team, he gets the nod here.
1. Kevin Love
With all of Cleveland’s inconsistencies, they don’t deserve two All-Stars this season despite Love’s excellent play. There were just too many teams that should be represented with one All-Star before the third-seeded Cavaliers get two.
2. Kyle Lowry
One could make the argument that Lowry has played an intricate role in helping the Raptors claim the second seed in the East which should be rewarded with a trip to Los Angeles.
There is no doubt truth to that argument, but with numbers of just 16.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 6.8 assists from someone we’ve seen average over 20 points the last two seasons, and with DeMar DeRozan already reppin the north, it’s hard to give him the nod when he’s struggled to maintain that level of production.