This past week, the NBA revealed the two captains from the Eastern and Western Conference that are starting in this year’s All-Star Game, as well as the other eight starters.
Giannis Antetokounmp is the captain from the East for the third time in his career and for the sixth consecutive year, LeBron James is the captain from the West.
Next to Antetokounmpo as the starters from the Eastern Conference are Donovan Mitchell, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and Jayson Tatum. Maybe Joel Embiid deserved to be a starter in the All-Star Game this season, but there really are no surprises here.
In the Western Conference next to LeBron James, Luka Doncic, Stephen Curry, Zion Williamson and Nikola Jokic were named All-Star starters. Doncic, Curry and Jokic were all expected to be starters, but it is surprising to see Zion be named a starter, especially since he has played in just 29 games this season.
At the end of the day, just being an All-Star is the main goal of every player in the league and nobody really remembers who starts in the All-Star Game down the line.
A total of 24 players in the NBA will be participating in this year’s All-Star Game in Salt Lake City, Utah and we will find out the remaining 14 players who will be named All-Star reserves on Thursday, February 2 during TNT’s coverage of the NBA.
So who will make the final list and be an All-Star from both the Eastern and Western Conferences?
Maybe you will agree or disagree with some of the following picks, but here are my final reserve picks for the 2023 NBA All-Star Game:
Guards: Jaylen Brown (Boston Celtics), James Harden (Philadelphia 76ers), Jalen Brunson (New York Knicks), Tyrese Haliburton (Indiana Pacers)
Frontcourt: Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers), Julius Randle (New York Knicks), Jimmy Butler (Miami Heat)
Kicking things off in the Eastern Conference, Joel Embiid, James Harden and Jaylen Brown will all undoubtedly be All-Stars.
Many have made the argument for Embiid to have been a starter and with the Philadelphia 76ers on the cusp of taking over first-place in the East, it is hard not to put James Harden in the All-Star Game as well.
He has not played in enough games to qualify for the “league lead,” but Harden currently leads the league with 11.0 assists per game and he ranks tied for 16th in the NBA in double-doubles this season.
As for Jaylen Brown, he is the second-best player on the best team in the NBA and there really is not much to debate here. Brown has continued to improve his game on both ends of the floor and just like if the Boston Celtics did not have Jayson Tatum, if they did not have Jaylen Brown, they would not be as successful as they are.
Rounding out the backcourt in the East, I have both Jalen Brunson from the New York Knicks and Tyrese Haliburton from the Indiana Pacers, both of which would be first time All-Stars this season.
Outside of Brown and Harden, it is going to be very interesting to see who the coaches pick as the other reserves at the guard spot here.
DeMar DeRozan and Trae Young are also two names we could see in the All-Star Game representing the Eastern Conference, but two things factored into my picks of Brunson and Haliburton.
The first relating to Brunson is the fact that the Knicks own a better record than both DeRozan’s Bulls and Young’s Hawks. Not to mention, Jalen Brunson’s impact in New York has been incredible and he rightfully deserves to be called an All-Star this season.
The second relating to Haliburton is that he currently “leads the league” in assists per game at 10.2 assists. Obviously, as mentioned earlier, Harden actually leads the league in assists, but he has not played in enough games to qualify for this lead.
I know the Indiana Pacers are behind the Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference standings right now, but that was not the case when Haliburton was healthy. Indiana has gone just 2-10 without Tyrese Haliburton on the floor and when he is healthy, he is arguably a Top-5 point guard in this league in terms of impact on the offensive-end of the floor.
Looking at the remaining two names in the frontcourt, I chose Julius Randle and Jimmy Butler.
Randle was a no-brainer pick in my mind, as he has recorded a double-double in 31 of the 51 games he has played this season, including 12 of the 14 games he has played in 2023.
Putting Butler in the All-Star Game is a question mark at this point and this spot could very well go to the likes of Pascal Siakam or even Bam Adebayo, Butler’s teammate.
People around the NBA love Jimmy Butler and his competitiveness, which is why I think the coaches may give him the nod even though he has missed a chunk of time this year due to injuries.
Guards: Ja Morant (Memphis Grizzlies), Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Oklahoma City Thunder), De’Aaron Fox (Sacramento Kings)
Frontcourt: Domantas Sabonis (Sacramento Kings), Lauri Markkanen (Utah Jazz), Paul George (Los Angeles Clippers)
The Western Conference reserves are a lot easier to pick in my mind than the Eastern Conference reserves.
Damian Lillard, Ja Morant, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Domantas Sabonis and Lauri Markkanen are all “locks” in my mind, as they have all done enough to earn this honor.
Lillard has been having a sensational January and is in convention for Western Conference Player of the Month, Morant is Morant, Gilgeous-Alexander ranks second in 25-point games this season, Sabonis leads the league in double-doubles and Markkanen is going to be this season’s Most Improved Player as long as he stays healthy.
I really do not see any scenario in which any of these five players are left off the All-Star roster and if they are, then we have a serious problem that needs to be addressed.
For the remaining two spots, I had a little bit of trouble picking who was actually deserving of the spot, but I ultimately settled on Paul George and De’Aaron Fox.
The Los Angeles Clippers have struggled at times this season, but they have recently kicked things into a higher gear as of late with both Paul George and Kawhi Leonard being healthy. Since they are the 4-seed in the West, they will most likely have someone representing them at All-Star weekend and while he has not had that flashy of a season, George has been consistent for this team when he plays.
Owning the third-best record in the West and having the best story out of any team in the league, we must give two All-Star spots to the Sacramento Kings this year. Domantas Sabonis is definitely an All-Star and for some reason, De’Aaron Fox does not get a lot of love for what he does.
Fox is one of the best athletes in this league and while he has consistently improved over the course of his early career, nobody wants to give him any attention since he is on the Kings. Well, De’Aaron Fox continues to be the young leader for this team, Sacramento is successful for once this season and Fox is inside the Top-20 in scoring this year.
That spells All-Star in my mind.
Just missing the cut for me in the West is Draymond Green, Devin Booker, Anthony Davis and Anthony Edwards.
Edwards has had a terrific year with the Minnesota Timberwolves, but it is hard to say his impact has been greater than that of De’Aaron Fox’s and for Devin Booker, he has just missed way too many games for me to put him in.
The argument of Green vs. George is definitely there, but George’s advanced statistics are slightly greater than that of Draymond’s, hence why he got the nod from me and much like Booker, Anthony Davis has missed too many games to get my vote.
Damian Lillard, Ja Morant, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, De’Aaron Fox, Domantas Sabonis, Lauri Markkanen and Paul George are my seven Western Conference All-Star reserves and it would actually be surprising to see any of these players left off the All-Star roster come Thursday.
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