Choosing the East All-Star starters is a hot topic

The East frontcourt has four stars who deserve to be there, but only three can play.

Choosing the East All-Star starters is a hot topic
 Choosing the East All-Star starters is a hot topic

Every week, the writers at NBA.com will give their thoughts on some of the most important issues in the league. 


Who are your Eastern Conference All-Star starters? 


Editor's Note: On Thursday night, TNT will officially announce the All-Star starters and captains (7 ET). 


STEVE ASCHBURNER: 


Backcourt 


  • Jaylen Brown 
  • Donovan Mitchell 


Frontcourt 


  • Giannis Antetokounmpo
  • Kevin Durant
  • Jayson Tatum 


I voted for these players on the league's media panel at the end of last week, and I'm sticking with them. By the way, helping choose the starters is the easy part, because the hardest decisions about who stays and who goes are made about the reserves. Here, my biggest problem was not being able to start Joel Embiid in the frontcourt. Four good guys, but only three chairs. When the music stops, someone won't be sitting. 


My vote went to Antetokounmpo, Durant, and Tatum. Embiid might end up ahead of all three of them in Kia MVP or All-NBA voting, but he had played in the fewest games of the four by the time voting ended. And being there is important. 


Mitchell's showy first-half performance in the backcourt, where he made the most of his arrival in Cleveland and his chance to play, earned him this reward. Brown has taken another step forward, and he has done it in a way that doesn't compete with the Celtics' frontcourt star, Tatum. When it came to musical chairs, Kyrie Irving was my Joel Embiid of the back court. In this case, he had played in fewer games than the other two, and when Durant got hurt last week, he couldn't stop the Nets from falling behind. 


Jalen Brunson was the one person I might have added to make a point more than anything else. His work with the Knicks has been special, and his fit in a free-agent signing that raised eyebrows has been perfect. It's a crowded field, but I hope that the East coaches will give him a chance to be there in Salt Lake City.



BRIAN MARTIN: 


Backcourt 


  • Jaylen Brown
  • Donovan Mitchell 



Frontcourt 


  • Jayson Tatum
  • Kevin Durant
  • Joel Embiid
  • Joel Embiid 


The hardest part was choosing between Jayson Tatum, Kevin Durant, Joel Embiid, and Giannis Antetokounmpo for the three spots in the front court. 


Tatum was a sure thing for me because he is the best player on the best team in the league (35-13) and is putting up career highs in points (31.0, third in NBA), rebounds (8.4), assists (4.4), and true shooting percentage (61.0%). Last year's scoring champion (30.6 points per game), Joel Embiid, has raised his average to a league-leading and career-high 33.6 points per game, putting Philadelphia (30-16) in second place in the East. 



It came down to Durant and Antetokounmpo, who both deserve to start because of how well they play on both ends of the court. Given that Durant is out with an MCL sprain that could keep him out until after the All-Star break, it's tempting to give the spot to Giannis. 


The choice for the frontcourt was hard, but the choices for the backcourt were much easier. Mitchell has done well in his first season with the Cavs, averaging career highs in points (28.4 ppg, ninth in the NBA), field goal percentage (48.4%), and 3-point percentage (39.5%) while fitting in well and helping the Cavs become a top-five team in the East. 


If there's one team that should have two All-Star starters, it's the league-leading Celtics. Brown and Tatum score 57.9 points per game together, making them the highest-scoring duo in the league. In his seventh NBA season, Brown is averaging the most points (26.7 ppg, 12th in NBA) and making the most field goals (49.2%), both of which are career highs.



MARK MEDINA: 


Backcourt 


  • Jaylen Brown
  • Donovan Mitchell 


Frontcourt 


  • Jayson Tatum
  • Joel Embiid
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo 


One thing made this difficult process a little bit easier. Kevin Durant, a forward for the Brooklyn Nets, is still out with a sprained MCL in his right knee. This injury could keep him from going to All-Star 2023. If not, it would be hard not to vote for Durant, who has been very consistent both when the Nets started off slowly and when they have been doing well lately. Durant has scored an average of 29.7 points at a career-high 55.9% rate. This is his best scoring output since Oklahoma City won the Kia NBA MVP award in 2014. (career-high 32 points per game). 



Then again, I would feel bad if Tatum, Antetokounmpo, or Embiid didn't get a starting spot on the All-Star team. Tatum led the Celtics to the top of the Eastern Conference with a career-high in points per game (31.2), shooting percentage (46.8%), and minutes played (37). How could he not make the cut? How could Antetokounmpo be overlooked when he has kept the Bucks near the top of the East while Khris Middleton has been hurt? How could Embiid be happy with being an All-Star reserve when he has shown that he can score and defend well as expected and has gotten better at making plays and staying healthy? 


Mitchell and Brown seemed like obvious choices for the starting backcourt of the Eastern Conference All-Stars. Mitchell improved the Cavaliers' chances of making the playoffs as soon as he joined the team. He has even gotten better at scoring and making plays, which he did well during his five years in Utah. Brown has figured out how to help Tatum and make his life easier. At the beginning of last season, he was having trouble getting along with Tatum. 



SHAUN POWELL: 


Backcourt 


  • Kyrie Irving
  • Donovan Mitchell 


Frontcourt 


  • Joel Embiid
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo
  • Jayson Tatum 


Let's get right to the East frontcourt, which has four very good candidates and is the toughest choice for all voters. Someone had to be pushed out of the way, and I think it should be Kevin Durant. Definitely a tough call, especially since KD was MVP-caliber when he was healthy. 


But the other three are the same. Embiid and Giannis have been great on both ends of the court, and Tatum has come back strong after a bad Finals performance in 2022. There's no right or wrong answer here, and there's no reason to argue for one person while putting down another. 


It's just one of those years when tossing a coin seems appropriate. In the backcourt, Mitchell was a sure thing, but Irving was less of a sure thing. Tyrese Haliburton has the most assists in the league, so he would be the only other guard who could keep Kyrie from starting.




JOHN SCHUHMANN: 


Backcourt 


  • Brown Jaylen 
  • Donovan Mitchell 


Frontcourt 


  • Kevin Durant
  • Jayson Tatum
  • Joel Embiid 


There were obviously four players for three spots in the frontcourt, and leaving Giannis Antetokounmpo out was very strange. But when I sent in my ballot, he was last among the four in both total minutes played and true shooting percentage (scoring efficiency). His true shooting percentage has dropped a lot over the last four seasons. Durant, Embiid, and Tatum have been the best players on three of the four best teams in the East. In fact, all five of these picks are from the top five in the East. 



The backcourt wasn't even close to as hard. Donovan Mitchell has used the ball a lot and been effective, but Jaylen Brown has the edge over the other candidates because of his defense and the Celtics' team success. I thought Tyrese Haliburton would be my second guard before I did my research, but I think he'll be picked as a reserve. This is why it's easier to vote for All-Star starters than for awards. There's no reason to think that Antetokounmpo won't be an All-Star.




WRIGHT, MICHAEL C.: 


Backcourt 


  • Brown Jaylen 
  • Donovan Mitchell 


Frontcourt 


  • Giannis Antetokounmpo
  • Jayson Tatum
  • Joel Embiid 


Yes, the first thing that stands out is that Kevin Durant isn't on this list. He pretty much carried the Brooklyn Nets until he got a freak knee injury on January 8, which put the 2014 Kia MVP out of action. 


Due to his knee injury, there is a good chance that Durant will choose not to play in the All-Star Game. So there's no need to worry about whether Durant, Embiid, or Tatum should be the third player in the frontcourt. All four of these players are good enough to start for the East. Going into Tuesday night's game, they were the top scorers for the top four teams in the conference. Tatum seems to have gotten rid of the demons that plagued him in the 2022 NBA Finals. 


On January 19, the 24-year-old grabbed a career-high 19 rebounds as Boston beat the Golden State Warriors in overtime. Antetokounmpo, on the other hand, is having what could be his best season. The two-time Kia MVP is the first player in his career to average more than 30 points (30.9). So it wasn't a surprise that Antetokounmpo was at the top of the latest list of fan votes. Embiid's injuries have kept him out of 12 games, which is admirable since he's the reason why the Sixers have won 10 of their last 12 games. 


Kyrie Irving has earned his place as the guard with the most fan votes in the backcourt. A player should only be named an All-Star based on what he or she does on the court. But Jaylen Brown and Donovan Mitchell have been better in that area. Brown averages the most points and rebounds of his career (26.9 ppg, 7.1 rpg, and 3.3 apg), but Tatum deserves all the attention in Boston. 


So, from this point of view, it was important to make sure to honor the 26-year-old who has only played in one All-Star Game. Mitchell, a former star for the Utah Jazz who averages 28.4 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 4.8 assists per game, has missed Cleveland's last three games. 


But out of Irving, Trae Young, James Harden, and rising star Tyrese Haliburton, he has been the most consistent performer at guard. Mitchell scored 71 points in his first game of 2023, which was against the Chicago Bulls. He was only the seventh player in NBA history to score at least 70 points in a game.

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