The NBA All Star starters were announced last week, and the reserves are set to be announced on Thursday. Back in October, I previewed, among other things, my picks for the All Star participants. Needless to say, I was pretty far off with some of them. With a little over half the season down, I’ll try again.
Back Court: Bradley Beal, Jimmy Butler
Jimmy Butler is not only having a career year when it comes to individual stats, but he is also leading the Heat to a drastic turnaround. Butler is averaging 20.2ppg, and career highs in rebounds and assists per game. (6.9 and 6.4 respectively). But its his leadership that has been most impressive. Last year Miami finished 10th in the East with only 39 wins. They were on the outside looking in with a very slim shot at making the playoffs late in the year. But at the half way point of this season, the Heat are third in the conference at 32-15, set to breeze past their previous record. The argument could certainly be made that he got snubbed from the starters, but he’s a lock to be coming off the bench.
Speaking of career highs, Bradley Beal has them at points and assists per game, and free throw percentage. His nearly 30ppg are bittersweet, though, because unlike the Heat, the Wizards are awful. They’re currently 12th in the East, and he’s the only member of the roster averaging more than 16 points. But, considering it is the Eastern Conference, this will be a reoccurring theme. Beal has put up great numbers and has been one of the most consistent offensive players in the NBA this season. He feels like the safest pick since Lowry and Simmons have had down years and Kyrie and Middleton have missed big chunks of time.
Front Court: Bam Adebayo, Andre Drummond, Jayson Tatum
Bam Adebayo, just like Jimmy Butler, is having a career season while leading Miami to a surprisingly great season. He’s currently averaging 16ppg (nearly double from last season), 10.4rpg, 4.7apg and over a block per game. He is the front runner for most improved player and the Heat’s success can be largely credited to his growth.
Andre Drummond is stuck in no man’s land in Detroit. Despite him and Derrick Rose playing at a high level, Blake Griffin is out indefinitely, and the rest of the roster isn’t up to par. But despite the losses, he’s averaging a career best 17.3ppg to go along with 15.6rpg, and nearly two blocks a game. There is no longer any shock when he has a 20/20 game. He is leading the league in rebounds once again. Detroit’s struggles can’t be placed on him. He deserves the nod this year.
Jayson Tatum made the leap this year. From last year, his points per game went from 15.7 to 21.5, and he’s also averaging career bests in assists (2.9) and rebounds (6.9). He’s been a dangerous offensive threat all year for Boston, and has been great in late game situations. I believe he gets rewarded for his career year.
Wildcards: Domantas Sabonis, Jaylen Brown
The clear theme with the East this year is young players having career seasons. This won’t change with these last two picks. With Oladipo out, Sabonis and Brogdon have led the way for Indiana. His 18.8ppg, 12.8rpg and 4.6apg stat line is the best he’s ever posted, and he’s been the anchor for them on both ends.
Jaylen Brown, much like Tatum, has made the leap this season. He’s averaging 20 points a game for the first time, and he’s been Boston’s most reliable two way player. His freakish athleticism, natural talent, and undeniable hustle has helped keep Boston towards the top of the East all season.
Honorable Mentions: Malcolm Brogdon, Spencer Dinwiddie, Khris Middleton, Derrick Rose
Back Court: Damian Lillard, Donovan Mitchell
Damian Lillard doesn’t need much explanation. He just won player of the week after averaging 52.7ppg over three games. Season averages of 28.8ppg (career high), 7.7apg, 4.2rpg and 1spg. Moving on.
Donovan Mitchell is averaging a career high 24.9 points, career high 4.2 assists, and career highs in rebounds, field goal percentage, three point percentage, free throw percentage and turnovers. Oh, and the Jazz are third in the West.
Front Court: Paul George, Karl Anthony Towns, Nikola Jokic
Paul George is another no brainer. He’s leading the Clippers to second in the West behind 23.5ppg, 3.7apg, 6rpg, and 1.5spg. Despite missing some time, he’s been explosive on offense and consistent on defense all year.
Karl Anthony Towns is posting a career best 26.9ppg, 4.2apg, and 41.2% from deep. Despite the Wolves being terrible, he’s been consistently great all season long. He’s drastically improved on defense, and continues to be a scoring threat from everywhere on the floor.
Nikola Jokic is having a slightly down year compared to last year. He’s taken small dips across the board, but he’s still averaging a hearty 19.8ppg, 10.1rpg and 6.5apg. Despite a rough patch earlier in the year, Denver is still sitting at fourth in the West, and he’s been phenomenal late in games.
Wildcards: Devin Booker, Brandon Ingram
Devin Booker has been an All Star caliber player since his second year in the league. But this is the first year of his career that the team he’s playing for isn’t a complete laughing stock. The Suns aren’t great, but they’re a respectable 20-27. Booker has had the hot hand all year, putting up 27.1 points on 51% from the floor and 36.8% from deep, all career highs. This is the year that he finally gets rewarded for being one of the most electric offensive players in the game.
It’s impossible to not notice what Brandon Ingram has been doing since he got traded to New Orleans. His stats have taken a massive jump, and he’s clearly been the Pel’s best offensive player while Zion was sidelined. He’s finally starting to look like the star we thought he’d be when he got picked second overall in 2016. He’s long, athletic, and been consistently dominant on both ends all year.
Honorable Mentions: Russell Westbrook, Kristaps Porzingis, Chris Paul, Demar DeRozan
Stats provided by Basketball Reference