BOSTON — The NBA will release the first round of All-Star voting on January 2, providing us all with a sense of which players fans really want to see suit up during All-Star weekend.
But this year seems to field a number of players who are consistently among the top vote-getters who won't play or have played sparingly because of injuries.
Because of that, it doesn't make sense to consider them for one of the All-Star roster spots, right?
So don’t @ me when you see no mention of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Victor Oladipo or DeMarcus Cousins — all out with injuries — who in any year that they’re healthy would garner a sizeable swath of the fan voting.
As talented as those players are, we’re going to stick with the stars who are actually playing now, which brings us to our Eastern Conference All-Star team, Volume II.
Kemba Walker, Boston — 22.5 points, 5.2 assists, 3.9 rebounds
The transition to Boston has been smoother than expected, with Walker leading the charge offensively. And on those nights when his shot isn’t falling, he has found plenty of talent around him to pick up the slack.
Malcolm Brogdon, Indiana — 18.3 points, 7.6 assists, 4.5 rebounds
Has shown the ability to impact the game at a high level at both ends of the floor. He may seem like a bit of a reach to start, but his talent, leadership and impact on winning makes him worthy of being an All-Star starter.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee — 30.3 points, 12.8 rebounds, 5.7 assists
The NBA’s reigning MVP has added improved court vision and a 3-point shot that you can’t sleep on nearly as much as you could in the past. He will once again be on everyone’s short list to repeat as the NBA’s best player.
Joel Embiid, Philadelphia — 23.7 points, 12.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists
He has played with a renewed vigor since NBA greats Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal called him out for not playing hard enough. But as we’ve seen, even at less than full tilt, Embiid is a load for bigs in the East to deal with.
Jimmy Butler, Miami — 20.8 points, 6.6 rebounds, 6.6 assists
Regardless of the team, Butler finds a way to significantly impact the game on all levels, including — but not limited to — winning. His size, strength and versatility make him the prototype for two-way wing players in the NBA.
Pascal Siakam, Toronto — 25.1 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.6 assists
The NBA’s Most Improved Player from a year ago, Siakam has elevated his play in all phases of the game to keep the defending NBA champion Raptors among the top teams in the East following Kawhi Leonard's offseason departure to the Los Angeles Clippers.
Jayson Tatum, Boston — 21.2 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.9 assists
The numbers for Jayson Tatum speak to how big a leap he has made from Year 2 to Year 3, but the under-the-radar calling card for Tatum is his defense, which doesn’t get nearly as much buzz as it should.
Domantas Sabonis, Indiana — 17.4 points, 13.4 rebounds, 3.9 assists
Showing that he’s more than just a rebounder, Sabonis will surely be given strong consideration for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award this season.
Trae Young, Atlanta — 28.5 points, 5.4 rebounds, 7.2 assists
Winning has been tough to come by for Trae Young and the Hawks this year, but it certainly hasn’t been due to his production. Young is the only player in the Eastern Conference ranked among the league's top five in both scoring and assists this season.
Andre Drummond, Detroit — 17.9 points, 15.9 rebounds, 2.8 assists
While his brand of basketball may in some NBA circles seem a bit antiquated, the bottom line night-in and night-out doesn’t change: he gets rebounds. Lots and lots of rebounds.
Spencer Dinwiddie, Brooklyn — 23.0 points, 3.1 rebounds, 6.3 assists
We figured the Brooklyn Nets would have an All-Star guard this year, but this wasn’t the guy we had in mind. Dinwiddie has made the most of Kyrie Irving’s extended absence to put together his finest season as a pro.
Ben Simmons, Philadelphia — 14.4 points, 7.0 rebounds, 8.7 assists
No one questions the talent when it comes to Ben Simmons, who has made notable strides defensively this year. But his impact on games hasn’t been as great as expected this season.
Others in the conversation: Jaylen Brown, Boston; Bradley Beal, Washington; Kyle Lowry, Toronto; Zach LaVine, Chicago; Bam Adebayo, Miami; Tobias Harris, Philadelphia
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