Tuesday, May 30 2023

With the 10 starters confirmed to start in Salt Lake City, the debate over the NBA All-Star Game is now about who’s going to fill the bench spots. Who should complete the 14 spaces for the widely expected game in Utah? The answer will probably depend on who you’re asking, but here at Basketball Insiders we believe to know who’s best to fill the bench.

At this moment in time, it seems really hard to choose only 14 players, and even harder considering they are divided by positions and then, distributed in two conferences. So, this special report will be based on the Eastern Conference, as last week we dug up stats to make our best predictions for the West’s bench.

Before we start a little reminder we need three guards, two frontcourt players and two wild cards. With Giannis Antetokounmpo as captain, and Kyrie Irving, Donovan Mitchell, Jayson Tatum and Kevin Durant as starters for the East, who should replace them on court during the All-Star Game?

Here are our nominees:

Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers

76ers Joel Embiid (foot) questionable, Furkan Korkmaz (shoulder) out vs Nets

76ers Joel Embiid (foot) questionable, Furkan Korkmaz (shoulder) out vs Nets

Well, this was defintely the easiest choice! The Philadelphia big man has been on the news lately for two big reasons. The first is that no one can wrap their heads around the fact that Embiid wasn’t chosen as a starter for the East’s All-Star Game, and the second reason, is he has been crushing every team he’s faced ever since.

Just two weeks ago, he entered the Top 5 Kia MVP Ladder for the first time this season. Some days later, they announced he was snubbed out of the All-Star first choices. It seems this might of fueled the French’s need to prove himself as he’s led Philadelphia to win seven out of their last eight games.

This past weekend, he faced off against Nikola Jokić’s Nuggets and the Sixers center showed total domination over the match as he scored an outstanding 47 points, 18 rebounds and 5 assists! Today, he is No.2 in the MVP Ladder, stepping on the Serbian’s ankles.

Julius Randle, New York Knicks

He’s probably not as consistent as other contenders, but Julius Randle has been on fire lately. Right after he dunked over Jayson Tatum in last week’s overtime win against the Celtics, I believe fans started to trust that the power foward might inspire the Knicks to qualify to playoffs and beyond.

Watch his highlights as he scored 37 points in New York’s victory over the league’s leaders:

This year, his 24.7 points and 10.9 rebounds per game lead the team, as he has the ability to score at all three levels and can match up with any position on defense. Also, Randle recently joined the infamous Patrick Ewing as the only other player in Knicks history to have 40+ points and 15+ rebounds in a game.

Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics

There are two main reasons for Boston’s success this campaign, one of them is Jayson Tatum and the other one is Jaylen Brown. The thing is, Celtic’s defense is so elite, it brings off pressure for offensive players to guard and concentrate in what they do best, as Jaylen surely has.

One of coach Joe Mazzulla’s best estrategies to optimize his team’s perfomance was to position Tatum more as a power foward and Brown towards the wing as a shooting guard, a move which has inspired both Celtics’ stars  to perform their all-time career highs in every stat department this season.

Just this past weekend, Brown dropped a total of 37 points in an intense clash with the Los Angeles Lakers, only to score the final points in Boston’s overtime victory.

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Brown is averaging 27.0 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 3.2 assists in 36 minutes of play this season.

Bam Adebayo, Miami Heat

One of the two centers we chose besides Embiid was Bam Adebayo, because what the big man brings to the table is much more than just scoring points, he is also one of the best defender of the season. The truth is, the 25-year-old has kept the Heat in the playoff picture with his positional versatility and communication on defense. He has also expanded his scoring role both when Jimmy Butler has played or nursed an injury.

Adebayo deserves to be there, anchoring a top-five defense and doing more offensively than he ever has. This campaign, the big man is averaging 21.4 points, 10 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.2 steals per game for a Miami team that ranks fifth in defense and is No. 6 in the East.

Tyrese Haliburton, Indiana Pacers

Baptized by his General Manager as “the next Reggie Miller” and hailed by his own coach Rick Carlisle as “a future All-Star”, double-digit assist maker Tyrese Haliburton was an easy choice. The only thing that kept us from  adding him to out East bench prediction was his injury, but good news is coming to Indiana as it has just been reported he will return to action tomorrow against the Lakers.

Before his 10-game absence, Haliburton was playing as a true point guard, getting all his teammates involved but also proving he’s strong enough to attack the rim and beat rival defenders to it. In his 40 games so far this campaign, he leads his team with the most points (20.2) and assists per game (10.1), but also recording an average of 4.0 rebounds and 1.8 steals.

James Harden, Philadelphia 76ers

Philly is the only team with two players on the list. Despite missing 16 games with injuries, Harden deserves to make his 11th consecutive All-Star appearance. Even though he isn’t the same player he was in his Houston days, he has remained one of the league’s best scorers and has averaged 11 assists per game, establishing the 76ers Eastern as title contenders.

Watch the highlights of his season so far so you don’t forget why he holds over 23,000 points and 6,500 assists in his career:

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The 33-year-old is shooting 38.6% on three-pointers (his best since 2011/12 season) and is finally embracing his role as the primary set-up man for Embiid. If the Sixers are pleased with the chemistry between Harden and Embiid, who is praised as the best center of the league, then why wouldn’t the East team enjoy them too?

Jalen Brunson, New York Knicks

Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (hip) available to play against Suns

Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (hip) available to play against Suns
Jalen Brunson’s new found guard position seems to finally be leading the Knicks to their never ending redemption. Although he is his team’s second best scorer behind Julius Randle, he is the general playmaker in New York’s court. As Randle has dedicated his skills mostly to scoring responsabilities, Brunson has taken charge as the main provider, accomplishing 6.2 assists per game, his all-time best.

Brunson has proven worthy of the lengthy contract he got with the Knicks, considering he’s also accomplished his career bests in scoring (22.5 points per game). The 26-year-old is our favorite choice as a wild card, as we took into consideration how versatile he can be around the court.

Source: Basketball Insider


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