DETROIT — Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle proceed to strongly construct their respective instances for inclusion within the NBA All-Star Game subsequent month, even when the Knicks nearly definitely will not get multiple consultant due to the sheer quantity of deserving candidates within the Eastern Conference.
With simply 12 spots obtainable for every squad, there are a minimum of seven and maybe eight locks already within the East, and the Knicks’ duo will seemingly be competing with almost a dozen others for the ultimate 4 or 5 obtainable spots.
The present leaders in fan voting — Kyrie Irving of the Nets and Donovan Mitchell of the Cavaliers within the backcourt; and Kevin Durant of the Nets, Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Bucks, and Jayson Tatum of the Celtics up entrance — all are automatics whether or not or not they earn spots through the voting course of, though Durant’s present knee damage means he may want to get replaced if he is not again on the court docket with the Nets earlier than the All-Star Game on Feb. 19 in Utah.
Sixers heart Joel Embiid and Celtics guard Jaylen Brown additionally clearly are going to be on the staff — making seven locks. And it is laborious to think about Pacers breakout level guard Tyrese Haliburton — a 20-point scorer and the league chief in assists with 10.2 per recreation for a successful staff — being not noted, regardless of MSG analyst Wally Szczerbiak’s odd latest categorization of him as “a wannabe , pretend All-Star.”
So who will Randle and Brunson legitimately be competing with when the ultimate spots are revealed on Feb. 2? Here is a breakdown of the remaining candidates.
The 2021 All-Star has regained the shape that earned him the league’s Most Improved Player award and second-team All-NBA honors that season. He has posted 27.9 factors, 12.9 rebounds and 38.2 minutes per recreation over his final 19 appearances since Dec. 7. Just two different gamers within the league had been averaging a minimum of 24 factors and 10 boards general this season by means of Friday, two-time league MVP winners Antetokounmpo and Nuggets huge man Nikola Jokic.
The $104 million signing has been so impactful in his first season in New York, each for Randle and for the Knicks’ present rise to the No. 6 playoff positions within the East. Since getting back from a three-game absence due to a hip damage, Brunson has shouldered extra of the scoring load with 33.3 factors per recreation, together with 4 performances with a minimum of 30 in six appearances to elevate his general numbers to 22.2 factors and 6.5 dimes over 40 video games.
Four-time All-Defensive staff honoree Jrue Holiday solely has been tabbed for one All-Star look in a superb profession (2013 with the Sixers), however the 32-year-old level guard is averaging 18.5 factors and seven.2 assists for a Bucks staff with out three-time All-Star Khris Middleton for all however seven video games this season. James Harden had solely appeared in 26 video games for the Sixers by means of Friday, however the 10-time All-Star’s 11.2 assists per recreation can be main the league if he’d performed sufficient video games to qualify. And that does not even rely previous All-Stars with robust numbers similar to Trae Young (Hawks), Zach LaVine (Bulls) and Darius Garland (Cavaliers).
Durant’s potential absence may create an additional opening for Randle or one other ahead similar to Pascal Siakam (Raptors), DeMar DeRozan (Bulls), Bam Adebayo (Heat), Jimmy Butler (Heat) and even former Knicks All-Star Kristaps Porzingis (Wizards) . The Knicks are forward of all of these groups within the standings, nevertheless, which may work in Randle’s favor. They are 24-19 and winners of 14 of their previous 20 getting into Sunday’s recreation in opposition to the Pistons.