My Picks for the 2019 Eastern Conference All-Stars

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Updated: January 17, 2019
east all star pics

As usual, this is insanely difficult to predict, but what a fun task it is. This week I’ll try to predict the weaker eastern conference all-stars. The starters are all very strong, however, the quality definitely tapers off towards the end of the list with several of the latter reserves being severely weaker than the western conference equivalents (which I’ll be breaking down in my article next week). Here I’ll break down who I think should be in each slot and who just about misses out if I had the complete power to be able to choose all the all-stars myself. This is not a prediction of who I think will make it, but rather who I think should make the eastern conference all-star team.

Eastern Conference All-Star Picks

Starting Point Guard: Kemba Walker (Charlotte Hornets)

What a year to have the best season of your career. The all-star game this year takes place in Charlotte and Kemba has primed himself to get his first ever start in an all-star game. He flew out the gates early on in the season and lead the league in scoring through the first few weeks. That insane production has obviously tapered off and now he’s averaging 24.9 points per game while averaging 5.7 assists and 4.3 rebounds. 24.9 points is a career high and it hasn’t exactly been boring to watch Walker play either. His spectacular play has led to him becoming one of the most exciting players to watch play this season. He dropped a career-high 60 points on the Sixers in November and that was with one of the NBA’s best wing defenders, Jimmy Butler, guarding him all night. This guy is truly deserving of an all-star game invite this season and with the added storyline of his first ever start coming in Charlotte, where he’s played all his career, it’s impossible to say no to Kemba.

Starting Shooting Guard: Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors)

This spot has a lot of competition. Let me first say that it is extremely close between Lowry, Oladipo, and Irving (we’ll talk about the other two later). Lowry’s stats don’t jump off the page this season (14.1 ppg, 9.6 apg, 4.3 rpg, 1.5 spg) but he’s been the perfect point guard for this Raptors team. 9.6 assists is good for second in the NBA, behind the anomaly that is Russel Westbrook. 9.6 assists is also a career high average for Lowry, whose second most previous high was just 7.4 assist per game. At the time of writing this, the Raptors have the best record in the entire NBA with a record of 32-12. Sure, the Raptors have added a pretty significant MVP candidate, but the reason Kawhi has fit in so well is because of Lowry, who is a high I.Q/high effort player that possesses a style of play that allows him to be a perfect complement to Kawhi on the court. He is not a score first point guard, but he is a true point guard who has contributed to the high level of play coming from multiple players on this season’s Raptors team. Not only has he been a perfect compliment to Kawhi, but he’s also, more incredibly, maximized the level of play of role players like Serge Ibaka and Pascal Siakam. Kyle Lowry’s overall effect on his team has been so great this season that I had to give him the start over some of the other guys I will mention.

Starting Small Forward: Kawhi Leonard (Toronto Raptors)

The second Raptors player to make the list is Kawhi Leonard. This guy is arguably the number 1 MVP candidate this season, so how could he not start in the All-Star game, especially now that he’s on the best team (record-wise) in the NBA?! I just sung Lowry’s praises above, but Kawhi has had a pretty massive impact on the Raptors himself, as he leads his team this year in points (27.1), rebounds (7.9), and steals (1.9). There’s really not much to be said about this selection as it is so obvious. All I can think about is that Nick Nurse is so lucky to have been promoted to head coach after Casey got fired and then is immediately given the opportunity to coach one of the top 5 players in the NBA.

Starting Power Forward: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks)

Giannis spectacular level of play has led to him being considered to be one of the favorites to win the MVP award this season. He’s averaging ridiculous numbers this season of 26.6 ppg, 6.0 apg, 12.8 rpg, 1.3 spg, and 1.5 bpg. Those are insane numbers and he’s doing it all with a jaw-dropping 29.0 PER which is 3rd in the NBA. To stuff the box score like that while being so efficient is frankly unbelievable. And it’s not like he’s doing this all on a bad team, the Bucks are 2nd in the East right now with a record of 29-12. This guy will probably be one of the captains along with Lebron. He’s definitely starting and no one can argue against that. Enough said.

Starting Center: Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers)

Embiid is a beast. No doubt about it. He’s dropping 26.9 points a night while grabbing 13.5 rebounds and getting 1.9 blocks. That’s a stat line that any coach would love to get from their center. He’s been having some trouble adjusting to life on the 76ers now that Butler is there too, but he’s managing to put up monster box scores night after night. He’s the most important player on his team, which is 4th in the East and has a record of 27-16. He’s dominant on both ends and none of the other centers in the eastern conference get anywhere close to his impact so it’s a no brainer.

Reserve Guard: Victor Oladipo (Indiana Pacers)

I initially made this list with Oladipo starting instead of Lowry but I changed it at the last minute because I thought Lowry just had slightly more importance and greater contributions to his team overall. But Oladipo is balling out. The Pacers are 3rd in the East right now. Yep, that’s right, 3rd! They’ve snuck up the standings so quietly and no one seems to have noticed. Last year he was the most improved player and this year everyone’s just taking him for granted. Similar to Lowry, Oladipo has also missed 11 games so far this season through injury. But nonetheless, he’s been the most important player on the Pacers by far this season. Myles Turner has been good defensively and has taken his game up a level this season, but beyond that, the rest of the Pacers have been very solid to ordinary. Victor is averaging 19.8 ppg, 5.2 apg (career-high), 5.8 rpg (career-high), and 1.7 spg. He’s a great defender and a great offensive player. He most likely won’t receive consideration to be an all-star starter, but he certainly deserves a lot of praise anyway.

Reserve Guard: Kyrie Irving (Boston Celtics)

At times it seems like Kyrie is having an underwhelming season, to the point where some people might consider him to be slightly overrated. But the reality is that the Celtics as a whole are underperforming and are not living up to the high expectations that was placed on the team before the season began. Kyrie has actually performed at an all-star caliber level, but just not at the level that would make me want to start him over some of the smaller name players like Walker, Lowry, and Oladipo, who, in my opinion, have all had better seasons than him. Having said all that, he’s having a great season on a Celtics team that is performing below expectations so far, currently at 25-16, which is good for 5th in the East. He’s averaging 22.6 ppg, 6.4 apg, and 1.6 spg. Those stats don’t look too amazing but you have to take into account that he’s playing for a team which encourages players to share the scoring load and let everyone get points to keep the defense guessing.

Reserve Forward: Blake Griffin (Detroit Pistons)

Blake Griffin Detroit pic

Blake is performing at an elite level that makes him deserving of making the all-star game this season. He is unquestionably an all-star in my opinion, despite his team falling well below expectations this season so far. But that isn’t his fault, the Pistons desperately need a point guard who can actually help their star front court duo of Griffin and Drummond. Blake is doing his part though, putting up a career high 25.6 points each night and averaging 5.3 assists and 8.3 rebounds. With the absence of a competent point guard on the roster, Dwayne Casey has allowed Griffin to take on a larger playmaking role in which he is thriving. He’s bringing the ball up in a point forward role and initiating the offense from the perimeter where he is now a threat as a playmaker and shooter– shooting 36.3% from deep – or he can receive the ball in the post and go to work.

Reserve Forward: Jimmy Butler (Philadelphia 76ers)

Jimmy Butler 76ers pic

Jimmy has been at the center of probably the biggest controversy this season regarding his trade demand from the Minnesota Timberwolves. But that hasn’t stopped him from balling out this season. His numbers this season haven’t been phenomenal (19.5 ppg, 3.6 apg, 4.9 rpg) but he’s just got that all-star quality about him that says to me that he deserves to be an all-star. Already since joining the 76ers, he’s become their go-to guy at end of game situations when they just need a bucket, draining almost identical sidestep 3-pointers against the Nets and Hornets to win the games in crunch time. Against the Hornets was particularly impressive as he managed to still help his team win that game despite Kemba Walker’s scorching play that night where he ended with 60 points. Jimmy is just a fun all-star type player that everyone wants to see at the game, so let’s hope he gets voted in… and that he actually plays this year.

Reserve Center: Nikola Vucevic (Orlando Magic)

Nikola is having the best season of his career and has carried Orlando Magic to become legitimate playoff contenders this season. They’re currently just 3 games off the 8th seed in the East, which to me seems incredible, especially since the Magic still don’t have a starting caliber point guard on their roster. I’ll be honest, with the selection of Mo Bamba in the draft, I really thought Vucevic would regress this season due to reduced playing time and usage in favor of their young core. Maybe that was the initial plan, but now that Nikola has been balling out, they have just got to ride the hot hand, hopefully, all the way into the playoffs. Vucevic is putting up great stats across the board (20.1 ppg, 12.0 rpg, 3.7 apg, 1.0 spg, 1.1 bpg) and he’s leading his team in points, rebounds, and steals, and is second on his team in assists and blocks. That just shows you how important he is to his team. Literally, everything goes through him. He has one other stat however, which stands out to me even more and that’s his PER which is 25.9. That puts him 7th in the league and ahead of some of the perennial all-stars we talk about: Steph Curry, Joel Embiid, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Paul George, Damian Lillard etc. It will be a complete injustice if Vucevic doesn’t make the all-star team and to be honest I think he will, given the weak competition in the East. Also, keep an eye on Vucevic as an outside bet to win the most improved player award this season.

Reserve Forward: Kris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks)

The Milwaukee Bucks have been so good this year that I think it’s only right that they get two all-stars. Kris Middleton has been on the cusp of making his first all-star appearance for a few years now and although last season he probably played better than this season so far, the competition in the East has been weaker this year so I had to give it to him. The system change for the Bucks this year has turned Giannis into the favorite for MVP, but at the expense of Kris Middleton slightly, as he now has less chance to have the offense run through him, as the coaching staff has decided to go through Giannis or Eric Bledsoe instead, but because Middleton is a knock down shooter. He is needed on the wings or in the corners to make a ton of catch-and-shoot 3-pointers. He’s taking almost 2 more threes per game this season compared to last season. Having said all that he’s averaging 17.8 points per game for the second best team in the East where he is the definite second scoring option behind the Greek Freak, so he certainly deserves the all-star nod. I hope in the second half of the season he gets the opportunity to create even more scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates, particularly against top level teams. Increased production from Kris may be exactly what is needed come playoff time to propel the Bucks into the NBA Finals.

Reserve: Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards)

This was a real toss-up between several guys, but in the end, I went with Beal over guys like Josh Richardson, Ben Simmons, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Andre Drummond. All these guys are playing at a level that makes them all deserving of all-star recognition, but in the end, my last all-star invite choice came down to between Beal or Simmons and I just thought that it wasn’t really right that Philly got 3 all-stars and they’re only the 4th seed in the East. That just didn’t sit right with me so I went with Beal instead. Although I also think that Miami and Brooklyn both also deserve an all-star each because of their incredible seasons so far. But with regards to Beal, he’s had a great season despite the Wizards being well below expectations so far. A season ending surgery to John Wall has put the ball into Beal’s hands even more now and he’ll thrive during the second half of the season where he should score lots of points and be relied on to handle a majority of the playmaking duties. He may even notch a couple of triple doubles based on his team needing elite production coming from him. This season so far he’s posting 24.4 ppg, 4.8 apg and 4.8 rpg. Those numbers should increase for the rest of the season and that’s partly why I’ve chosen Beal over some of the other guys deserving all-star recognition, because I’m anticipating that he’ll start to play even better now that Wall is gone and he’s the primary scoring option and playmaker on the team.

Just missed out: Josh Richardson (Miami Heat), Justice Winslow (Miami Heat), Ben Simmons (Philadelphia 76ers), Jarret Allen (Brooklyn Nets), Spencer Dinwiddie (Brooklyn Nets), Andre Drummond (Detroit Pistons), Al Horford (Boston Celtics).

That’s my selections for East all-stars this season. Check back next week to see my picks for the western conference, which should be much harder to choose, because of the elite level performance and production coming from multiple players in the western conference this season.

 

1166230cookie-checkMy Picks for the 2019 Eastern Conference All-Stars
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