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Opinion: Atlantic Division has the best teams, but what about All-Stars?

Jason Mills
ANALYST
Feature
Timeless

New Orleans Pelicans v Philadelphia 76ers
New Orleans Pelicans v Philadelphia 76ers

The 2019 NBA all-star weekend will be held on February 17th, 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The 2018 NBA All-Star game and weekend was held in Los Angeles.

It was unique, in that, for the first time, the format was not East v West. Stephen Curry and LeBron James were designated team captains and then selected their all-star teammates. Each player was also paid a $100,000.00 for their participation in the All-Star game.

Team LeBron won the match up 148-145. The game MVP was LeBron James. However, every year there are players voted to the all-star teams who are deserving of the honor and players who are selected based on past glory and not current merit. 

There are also players very deserving of the honor who are not selected. This year’s selections will most likely follow similar patterns. 

In the NBA’s Atlantic Division, of the Eastern Conference, there are five deserving players, one at each position who should be a member of the all-star team regardless, as to what format is used to play the game. 

Point Guard

There are several top point guards all worthy of the all-star game selection in the Eastern Conference. However, at the top of the Atlantic division are Kyle Lowry, Ben Simmons and Kyrie Irving. 

All things considered, Kyle Lowry is averaging a double in points and assists right now. The Raptors lead the Eastern Conference and Lowry is the engine that makes the Raptors offence go. 

He currently leads all guards, in the Association, with 10.4 assists per game However, he is usually added to the roster after the initial voting.

Kyrie Irving is playing well even if the Celtics are not yet. He currently averages 22 points per game and 6.4 assists per game. 

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Generally one of the slickest ball handlers in the game and since the all-star game is about flash the voters will likely opt for Kyrie Irving at point guard. 

He has a tough battle as Kemba Walker is putting up what are considered MVP like numbers in Charlotte with 27.9 points per game and 6.5 assists. Irving also missed time last March and April, as well as, the entire playoffs.

Shooting Guard

The top three teams, in the Atlantic Division, do not really employ what would be considered an all-star type shooting guard.  

Toronto offers Danny Green, Boston has Marcus Smart, and Philadelphia gives to you J.J. Reddick. While they are good players, they are not All-star good.

However, the New York Knicks have a steady improving Tim Hardaway Jr. 

Tim Hardaway Jr. is currently averaging 23.3 points per game up nearly six points from the 17.5 he averaged in 57 games last year, for the New York Knicks. 

Usually a 35% shooter from behind the 3 point arc he is shooting 37% so far this year from long range. 

Hardaway may find his path to the All-star game is blocked by Indiana combo guard Victor Olapido. Olapido is averaging 21.4 points per game on 44% field goal percentage.

However, playing on a bad New York Knicks team the 6’6 Tim Hardaway is producing and improving.

Small Forward:

This will be an intriguing choice, by the fans. Kawhi Leonard since his arrival in Toronto is considered the best player in the Eastern Conference.  

In his seventh season, and first with Toronto, having only played 15 games of the Raptors 21, Leonard has compiled 24.7 points per game 8.5 rebounds and 3 assists per game. Fairly good numbers for a guy who missed 73 games last year due to injury. 

Mainly because the fans voting goes by the name of the player, and his actual skill level and don’t worry about missed games, Leonard will most likely be selected. 

With Jimmy Butler now, in the East, in Philadelphia, he gets honorable mention. Butler is shooting over 43% from behind the 3 point arc and averaging 20.9 points per game. He will want another all-star appearance because he was unusual did not play, in the 2018 All-Star game, due to nagging injuries and having played heavy minutes for Minnesota.  

Power Forward

If Leonard is given the small forward spot, the fans may want to vote Giannis Antetokounmpo in at the other spot. He would be deserving. 

He is averaging 26.8 points per game on 57.2 % field goal shooting. He is extremely efficient.   

However, the Atlantic Division does not present a clear option at the power forward spot. At the moment Serge Ibaka leads the charge with 16.7 points per game and 8 rebounds. Ibaka, naturally a power forward, is having a good season. 

However, the Raptors have shifted him to center and neither he or Valanciunas start every game. Its hard to believe Ibaka getting voted into the all-star game. 

Perhaps Jimmy Butler, at 6’8, could get the second forward spot based on total votes if Leonard is the choice at small forward. 

One has to believe that Antetokounmpo will get this spot meaning Butler would be an add-on, by the coach, after the voting.

Center         

There is really one choice in the Atlantic Division to play center and perhaps, in the Eastern Conference, at the all-star game and its Joel Embiid, of the Philadelphia 76ers. 

Embiid is currently ranked third in the NBA in scoring at 28.3 points per game for a center he shoots nearly 31 % from long distance and he’s pulling down 13.3 rebounds a game. Defensively he’s also averaging 2.1 blocks per game. 

Embiid is the full package at center and would have to be the consensus choice to start the All-Star game.

There are really two positions, that the NBA’s Eastern Conference Atlantic Division, owns, as far as, All-Star selections and it’s the point guard spot and center. The other three positions are somewhat of a toss up, as to, who will get the honor of starting the game. 

The selections here are, of course, hypothetical and everyone has their dream scenario. 

Further, some players cannot maintain a hot start and others raise their game as the season proceeds. Trying to guess who will be on the all-star roster every year is half the fun.  

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