For a third straight season, the Sixers’ duo of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid are All-Stars. They’re the first Sixers to make the All-Star Game together in three consecutive years since Julius Erving and Moses Malone from the 1982-83 through 1985-86 seasons.
Simmons was among the All-Star reserves announced Tuesday night, while Embiid had already been named a no-brainer starter. Reserves were chosen by the league’s head coaches.
Tobias Harris, who averaged 20.6 points on 51.3/40.3/89.4 percent shooting over his first 28 games, was not selected.
Simmons was deserving of a spot this year despite a relatively slow start offensively. The 24-year-old’s scoring and efficiency numbers took a hit and his turnover rate rose in his early days under new head coach Doc Rivers. Notably, those were Simmons’ first games since having surgery on his left knee in August.
He’s been more aggressive than ever recently, though, and played outstanding two-way basketball.
Since Jan. 31, he’s averaged 22.1 points, 8.3 rebounds, 7.9 assists and 1.8 steals. Simmons has shot 65.7 percent from the floor during that stretch and made 70.9 percent of his 6.9 free throw attempts per game. Outside of his scoring, Simmons has been vital for the Sixers’ offense by setting up three-point shooters. He’s assisted on 115 of the team’s 320 made threes (35.9 percent), and his teammates have converted 40.6 percent of their long-range attempts off of his passes.
Simmons’ defense has remained at an All-Defensive First Team level, with Russell Westbrook, Pascal Siakam and Damian Lillard among the versatile collection of stars he’s guarded effectively.
As for Harris, this was the best case he’s built yet to be an All-Star. The Sixers hoped reuniting Harris with Rivers could restore comfort and confidence, and the pairing’s results thus far in Philadelphia have exceeded expectations. In a season with plenty of players in the mix for the All-Star Game, however, not enough coaches thought he merited selection.
Because the Sixers had the Eastern Conference’s best record through Sunday, Rivers will coach in the All-Star Game on March 7 in Atlanta, Georgia — even though he admitted he’d prefer to be golfing. Team captains Kevin Durant and LeBron James will draft their teams from the pool of available All-Stars on March 4.
Asked Sunday whether it would be disheartening if Simmons and Harris weren’t picked, Rivers said it would be. Whenever he’s had the opportunity, he’s touted the ways his stars have impacted winning.
“I think there’s a lot of guys that are deserving to make the All-Star team, but I think record has to be a factor,” Rivers said. “It does. I think anybody can get numbers on a bad team — somebody’s got to score. But I think it’s hard to play well on a good team, and it’s much harder. I don’t think people give that enough love. We ask players on championship teams to sacrifice shots, pass the ball, play defense — just do so many other things to contribute to winning, and that always affects your numbers. Your numbers aren’t going to be as good, but your team wins.
“And yet fans, media, every time I hear, they’re talking about these guys on sub-.500 teams, and it just blows me away. Tobias can get the same numbers anywhere — and bigger numbers — if he was on a bad team. But what he’s doing is winning basketball. I think him and Ben should get more credit for it.”