Last week the starters for the NBA All-Star Game in Charlotte were announced. As expected, Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid was named a starter. But Ben Simmons deserves a reserve spot. More on that later.
With 2.8 million votes, Embiid was the fourth highest vote getter in the Eastern Conference behind Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard Toronto Raptors forward, and Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks. (I honestly still don’t know what position to label Antetokounmpo as, anymore.)
Embiid is on the roster, so now comes the question?
Who’s next from the Sixers?
Ben Simmons should be the next name. That’s not to throw shade on Jimmy Butler – because I don’t want to have to look over my shoulder near the Wells Fargo Center for his minivan. Simmons is just a little more deserving than Butler THIS SEASON.
Now that I’ve thrown his name in the open air, what’s the possibility of that happening? It’s better than you’d think. It’s obvious, in fact, when you break it down.
I know the format is “Team LeBron vs. Team Giannis,” but before the teams are chosen, the players were split into traditional East vs. West.
Kyrie Irving and Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker were named starters at the guard position. I have no argument with that. Irving was the top vote getter among fans and players. Walker was third in fan voting behind Irving and Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade (more on him, later). Walker was second in player votes which is probably why he got the starter’s nod over Wade.
That brings us to the reserves.
Last year, the “Eastern Conference All-Stars” saw a total of six bench guards:
- Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
- Goran Dragić, Miami Heat
- Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors
- Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers
- John Wall, Washington Wizards
- Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets
The first question is “Do any of these guards make the team this year?” Beal should. Lowry should. The other four won’t. Oladipo and Wall are injured. Kemba is starting, and Goran should sit in the stands or at his home in Miami. (He should have been doing that last year, but I digress. Seriously. How in the hell did Goran Dragić make the All-Star team last year?)
If the captain of the Eastern Conference (Antetokounmpo) wants a similar roster construction, that leaves four spots. The next question that has to be asked is what guards playing for top-8 teams in the East deserve to be on the team.
The Bucks are sending Antetokounmpo to captain the East. Eric Bledsoe could make the team, but I think Khris Middleton will make it over Bledsoe. Middleton got more votes than Bledsoe, and he’s meant more to the Bucks this season because of his shooting.
Toronto will get Kyle Lowry. Lowry’s PPG has dipped this year (14.2 this year, 16.2 last year), and he’s only the third leading scorer on his team. His assists are up to close to ten per game (9.4 apg), though, and he has the name of “Kyle Lowry”. Reputation gets him in.
Victor Oladipo is out for the season with a ruptured quad tendon, and that’s the only All-Star the Indiana Pacers would have gotten.
(I’ll be making the case for Simmons, so I’ll skip the Sixers for now. Just know I don’t feel Butler will make the All-Star team and neither will JJ Redick.)
Boston gets Kyrie Irving, and no other guards. Terry Rozier? No. Marcus Smart? No, unless you want to see a lot of bricks being thrown at the rim.
The Brooklyn Nets have two guards that are deserving to make it: D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie. Dinwiddie is out recovering from a thumb injury, so that leaves Russell. His history of being an alleged Instagram snitch aside, Russell is having his best season as a pro. (Think about this. Is it possible that Brooklyn got a better player in Russell from a trade with LA than anyone the Celtics got via draft picks from the Nets-Celtics trade? It’s worth contemplating now.) Russel leads the Nets in points (19.2), and his ORtg is a career best 107. Russell makes it.
Dragić is hurt, so he won’t get a spot. I don’t mind if Wade gets a spot but not at the risk of leaving someone out that’s a little more deserving. Let’s table Wade for now.
Charlotte gets Kemba. That’s it. I don’t think Jeremy Lamb is a name that even gets mentioned. In fact, I bet you didn’t know that Lamb was Charlotte’s second leading scorer until I pointed that out just now.
From that top-8 list, two reserve spots probably get taken: D’Angelo Russell and Kyle Lowry. If the East sends six guards this year like they did last year, that leaves four spots. Who’s the best of the rest of the Eastern Conference?
Beal gets in. He’s averaging a career high 24.6 ppg, is a top-ten vote getter among the fans, and he’s the third highest vote getter among the players. He’s in, and I have no objections. That’s three reserve guards.
Zach LaVine is in (7th in fan voting; 8th in player voting; career high 22.9 ppg). LaVine has grown past just being a dunker. He’s still VERY GOOD at that, but he’s more than that now. I know the Bulls as an organization have been a dumpster fire powered by booster rocket fuel, but LaVine has been (Larry David voice) “Pretty, pretty … pretty good.”
Now, because I’m simply confused as to what other guards get in after Beal and LaVine, I’ll say it very plainly:
“Ben Simmons should be in the All-Star Game!”
(Don’t “at” me Detroit Pistons fans. Reggie Jackson is a hard “no”. Same to you, Atlanta Hawks fans. I love Jeremy Lin as much as the next guy, but no. Do the Magic have any guards at all? Cleveland should just be happy Collin Sexton likely plays the rookie/sophomore game.)
Simmons is the fourth leading scorer on the Sixers, but he leads the team in assists (8.2 apg) and no guard in the Eastern Conference has more rebounds per game (9.5 rpg). Simmons is a gazelle in the open court off the rebound and in transition.
Imagine this in an NBA All-Star Game: Simmons gets the rebound, begins transition and has any number of highlight producing guys around him. Fasten your seatbelt and prepare to have to pick your eyes up off the floor.
Dear Giannis, Ben Simmons does things like this in a regular game:
Can you imagine what kind of craziness he’ll do in an NBA All-Star game? I wouldn’t be surprised if Simmons was in the corner, threw a pass off the top scoreboard, and hits a teammate with a perfect alley-oop. Of course, the biggest highlight would come if Simmons cashes a three ball just to prove he can do it.
If the NBA wants highlights and ratings, Simmons will get in. Count on it.
That being settled, there’s one theoretical spot left.
Ok, Dwyane (Wade). You get the last spot out of respect.