The Eastern Conference All-Star reserves includes a mix of familiar faces and fresh new blood. Mainstays such as John Wall, Kyle Lowry, and Paul George are on here, but so are newcomers Isaiah Thomas and Kemba Walker. It’s a fun new mix, although not a fresh as the four new All-Star starters making up the starting five next to LeBron James.
The big question was whether Embiid had done enough to earn an All-Star bid despite the 76ers’ record and his own minutes limit. When he plays, Philadelphia has a positive scoring differential. When he doesn’t, they are awful. In spite of a late surge, the coaches left Embiid off the team.
It was also unclear if any of the East’s sparkling point guards would be left off the roster. In the end, the coaches rewarded all of them, adding Wall, Lowry, Thomas, and Walker to the mix.
Here are the reserves for the Eastern Conference All-Star team. They will join starters Kyrie Irving, DeMar DeRozan, LeBron James, Jimmy Butler, and Giannis Antetkounmpo. The game will take place on Feb. 19 at 8 p.m. ET and will be televised by TNT.
The 5’9 Thomas is leaping to heights the league hasn’t seen since Allen Iverson revolutionized basketball. His 28.7 points per game rank third best in the NBA behind just Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook, and he’s doing it from all areas of the floor. IT4’s nailing 38.5 percent of his 7.9 three-point attempts per game and nailing 91 percent of his free throws. And it’s Thomas’ calculated aggressions that has propelled his Celtics (26-16) into the East’s upper echelon.
DeMar DeRozan may be the younger star on the rise in Toronto, but Lowry has established himself as one of the NBA’s elite floor generals, especially out on the perimeter. Toronto’s point guard shoots 44.2 percent from downtown, third-best in the league behind only Washington’s Otto Porter and Utah’s Joe Ingles. He’s a hard-nosed, tough guard, and his Raptors have absorbed his and his coach’s identity as they look to knock off the Cavaliers come playoff time.
This is Wall’s best season yet in Washington, averaging 23 points and 10 assists as he pushes the Wizards towards home court advantage in the playoffs. It hasn’t all been simple, with Wall scoring 52 points earlier this season in a loss. But overall, the floor general is having his most efficient season yet while wow-ing us with the same highlight dribbles and fancy passes as he always does.
Walker has never been better than he is this season in Charlotte. It mostly comes from a career-high three-point percentage, knocking down 42 percent of his looks this season — despite one incredible gaffe involving a premature celebration. He’s leading the Hornets in scoring like usual, averaging a career high in points and still keeping his turnovers down.
Many of us thought Love’s All-Star days were behind him when he was traded to the Cavaliers in the summer of 2014 to join LeBron James. For two seasons, Love was a crucial cog for the Cavaliers, but clearly fell short of All-Star play. However, Cleveland has been unlocking the old Timberwolves version of Love this season. He’s shooting more threes than at any point in his career and averaging more than 20 points, all reasons why this nod is absolutely deserving.
George may be upset he’s not an All-Star starter, after being voting into the top five on the East team twice. But his play (and the Pacers) have faltered a bit compared to last year, so he only has himself to blame for the snub. Still, George is clearly still an All-Star, with 22 points, six rebounds and three assists per game in Indiana.
Though there are trade rumors circling around the Hawks big man, he’s been as good as ever this season. The soon-to-be 32-year-old is still a good defender while averaging 18 points on about 45 percent shooting. He’s averaging a career high in assists and is still grabbing 8.1 rebounds despite Dwight Howard next to him in the front court. It’s enough for Atlanta to be sitting firmly as the 4th best team in the Eastern Conference standings.
STARTERS: Kyrie Irving, DeMar DeRozan, LeBron James, Jimmy Butler, Giannis Antetokounmpo.