It’s mid-January and we are officially in the throes of NBA All-Star voting. This article needs little preamble. Below are High Off The Glass’ selections to represent the Eastern Conference.
We’ve stuck to the positional requirements imposed by the league and individual positional definitions as outlined by the official All-Star ballot. These picks are intended to be a reflection of who deserves to be an All-Star, not a prediction of who will be selected.
Let’s dive in.
Giannis Antetokounmpo - Frontcourt Starter
Per Game Stats: 28.5 points, 11.5 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.5 blocks
Advanced Stats: 34.9% USG, .618 TS%, 3.8 VORP, .288 WS/48
This one is a no brainer. Antetokounmpo is a leading candidate to win MVP and is arguably the best player in the world. His insane individual production is paired with an ability to lift his teammates through is stellar rim protection, general defensive disruption, and the monumental amount of attention he draws on offense.
Kevin Durant - Frontcourt Starter
Per Game Stats: 29.7 points, 7.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.9 blocks
Advanced Stats: 31.1% USG, .626 TS%, 3.0 VORP, .216 WS/48
Another absolute lock. Durant is one of the few players on earth who might be better than Antetokounmpo. He's absolutely impossible to defend. Durant’s handle is tight enough to get him anywhere he wants to go on the court, and he’s too damn tall for anyone to contest his jumper once he gets there.
He turns his defensive motor on and off a bit more frequently than some of the league’s best two-way talents, but Durant can be a major positive on that end of the court. Even if he’s approaching things a bit lacsidasically, he’s so good offensively that he’s always a valuable contributor.
Joel Embiid - Frontcourt Starter
Per Game Stats: 27.1 points, 10.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.1 steals, 1.4 blocks
Advanced Stats: 35.0% USG, .600 TS%, 2.3 VORP, .235 WS/48
Embiid rounds out what was one of the easier trios of starting frontcourt players to select in recent memory. Philadelphia’s superstar big man is crushing opponents offensively and remains a massive deterrent at the rim. He started the year a little slowly (for his standards), but has been playing at an MVP-level since returning from a bout with COVID.
DeMar DeRozan - Guard Starter
Per Game Stats: 26.0 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.3 blocks
Advanced Stats: 31.0 USG, .578 TS%, 1.3 VORP, .173 WS/48
The Chicago Bulls were snidely trashed for signing DeRozan to a 3-year, $85 million contract this summer. Detractors are eating some serious crow now. DeRozan has been phenomenal for the Bulls, and Chicago sits atop the Eastern Conference standings with a 27-12 record.
DeRozan has been particularly good when things get tight. He’s averaging 4.0 points per game in the clutch, which is fourth most in the league, and has a ridiculous .568 clutch field goal percentage despite relying primarily on jump shots to generate points. If that’s not convincing enough DeRozan recently provided back-to-back game-winning buzzer beaters for us all to delight in.
Trae Young - Guard Starter
Per Game Stats: 27.7 points, 4.0 rebounds, 9.4 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.1 blocks
Advanced Stats: 35.4% USG, .578 TS%, 1.9 VORP, .153 WS/48
Young has officially manifested as an elite engine for NBA offense. He’s a terror in the pick-and-roll who leverages an elite floater game and expert passing to toy with defenders. He’ll leave the ground equal parts threat to drop in a delicate push shot, toss a perfectly placed lob to the roll man, or find a last second kickout to an open shooter. None of those are good outcomes for the defense.
Young is the kind of player you can guard perfectly and still get completely eviscerated by. He’s an efficient scorer and a brilliant facilitator. Atlanta has struggled to defend this year, and Young has contributed to that issue in a significant way, but his offensive impact more than negates his limitations on the other end.
Zach LaVine - Guard Reserve
Per Game Stats: 25.6 points, 4.9 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.4 blocks
Advanced Stats: 30.0% USG, .613 TS%, 1.8 VORP, .140 WS/48
LaVine isn’t having quite the season he put together last year, but he’s still a lock for the All-Star team, and good enough to be in the conversation as a potential starter. The threat of his shooting puts tons of pressure on opposing defenses, and sharing some of the duties as Chicago’s offensive fulcrum with DeRozan has given him just a little more juice on the defensive end. The Bulls have been a buzz saw to start the year and LaVine is every bit a reason why as anyone else on the team.
Darius Garland - Guard Reserve
Per Game Stats: 19.1 points, 3.2 rebounds, 7.5 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.1 blocks
Advanced Stats: 25.7% USG, .580 TS%, 1,3 VORP, .124 WS/48
Garland is the engine that makes the Cavaliers’ offense go. The drink he’s stirring is filled with centers, and he’s still managed to help lift Cleveland to a 112.8 non-garbage-time offensive rating in his minutes, ranking in the 72nd percentile league-wide, per Cleaning the Glass.
The Cavaliers let Garland operate in the pick-and-roll and in dribble handoffs frequently, but they also effectively leverage his shooting ability as an off-ball threat. He’s an efficient scorer in all contexts, and is blossoming into a high-level facilitator. A lot of national media seem to have Garland on the fringes of the All-Star conversation, but he deserves to be firmly in.
Jimmy Butler - Frontcourt Reserve
Per Game Stats: 23.2 points, 5.9 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 2.0 steals, 0.4 blocks
Advanced Stats: 27.7% USG, .603 TS%, 2.1 VORP, .274 WS/48
Butler has missed a lot of time due to injury, but he’s been phenomenal in the games he’s played. He’s up to all his old tricks - drawing fouls, facilitating offense, scoring efficiently without shooting well or often from three, playing good defense - and its working better than ever.
Butler’s .272 win shares/48 minutes would be the highest mark of his career if it holds, per Basketball Reference. Leaving him off the All-Star team last year looks like a mistake in retrospect. We shouldn’t make it again.
Jarrett Allen - Frontcourt Reserve
Per Game Stats: 16.7 points, 10.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.9 steals, 1.5 blocks
Advanced Stats: 18.2% USG, .718 TS%, 2.0 VORP, .253 WS/48
I’d have bet my house that the Cavaliers wouldn’t have two representatives in the All-Star game coming into the year. Thankfully no one was looking to take on such a wager. Allen isn’t much of an offensive initiator, but he’s an incredible play finisher. His 1.43 points per shot attempt ranks in the 96th percentile as compared to his positional peers, per Cleaning the Glass.
Defensively, Allen has been blocking shots left and right. He’s paired with Evan Mobley to make one of the stingiest defensive duos in the NBA. Lineups that feature both have surrendered just 102.0 points per 100 non-garbage-time possessions, per Cleaning the Glass. Mobley gets a lot of credit for that fact, but Allen plays the role of defensive anchor effectively as well.
Jayson Tatum - Frontcourt Reserve
Per Game Stats: 25.7 points, 8.4 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.8 blocks
Advanced Stats: 32.0% USG, .539 TS%, 1.7 VORP, .113 WS/48
This spot probably should belong to James Harden or Jaylen Brown, but Tatum gets the benefit of being defined as a frontcourt player, while Harden and Brown are listed among a deep field of guards. Tatum has struggled with his shooting, which has tanked his efficiency, but he’s still scoring oodles of points, and the Celtics have been much better when he plays.
Fred VanVleet - Wildcard Reserve
Per Game Stats: 22.0 points, 4.9 rebounds, 6.6 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.5 blocks
Advanced Stats: 24.3% USG, .586 TS%, 2.4 VORP, .168 WS/48
The Raptors’ broadcast crew has been calling VanVleet an All-Star for the majority of the year, and while their shtick can be a bit much, they’re not wrong. Freddie All-Star is a two-way force, with a seemingly tireless motor and a deep bag of offensive tricks. He’s struggled to score at the rim, but VanVleet has been absolutely scorching from everywhere else on the floor.
He ranks in the 98th percentile on long mid rangers and the 93rd percentile from beyond the arc, per Cleaning the Glass. That may be a sign of an unsustainable start to the year, but for now it is the mark of an All-Star with an outsized impact on his team. Toronto has been 15.7 points per 100 non-garbage-time possessions better when VanVleet is on the court.
Jrue Holiday - Wildcard Reserve
Per Game Stats: 18.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, 6.7 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.6 blocks
Advanced Stats: 24.1% USG, .576 TS%, 1.5 VORP, .155 WS/48
Holiday beats out some All-Star game mainstays for our final spot. He’s an absolute menace defensively, and a reliable offensive presence both on and off the ball. The Bucks are outscoring opponents by a whopping 11.1 points per 100 non-garbage-time possessions with Holiday on the court, ranking in the 96th percentile league-wide.
A portion of that edge comes thanks to playing next to Antetokounmpo, but Milwaukee has still outscored opponents by 9.9 points per 100 non-garbage-time possessions when Holiday plays and the Greek Freak sits.