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2024 NBA Eastern Conference All-Star picks: who deserves to make the 12-man team?

The All-Star game is less than a month away, so it’s time to select players for the Eastern Conference.

NBA: Miami Heat at New York Knicks Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to part two of my 2024 All-Star picks! After covering the Western Conference, it’s time to shift East. Again, even though the starters have been announced already, the following selections are who I think deserve to be an All-Star, and not who has or who I think will actually make it.

Without further ado, let’s dive into the Eastern Conference.

Starters

Backcourt

Tyrese Haliburton: This season’s biggest breakout star, Haliburton is having one of the most efficient scoring and playmaking years in recent memory. The 23-year-old is putting up 23.6 points and 12.6 assists a night while flirting with 50/40/90 splits, and that’s not even the craziest part: Haliburton is somehow only averaging 2.5 turnovers a game, and the following graphic sums up how great of an offensive player he’s been to start his career.

Jalen Brunson: The last spot came down to Mitchell or Brunson. Even though Mitchell has an argument for being better on a per-game basis, the discrepancy between their minutes played (1526 for Brunson, 1209 for Mitchell) and efficiency (59.8% true shooting for Brunson, 58.4% for Mitchell) was too big for the Cav to overcome.

The impact that Brunson’s had on New York this year cannot be overstated. With him on the court, the Knicks have an offensive rating of 122.3, which would be the highest mark league-wide. Without him, that figure plummets to just 111.1, which would rank 25th today.

Frontcourt

Jayson Tatum: Tatum’s having an under-the-radar season due to Boston’s team dominance, but he’s still played at a borderline MVP level. He puts up 27 a night on very good efficiency (60% true shooting) while being the best player on the league’s best team. At this point, the Celtics should be heavy favorites to come out of the East.

Giannis Antetokounmpo: The Bucks have been a mess this year, but Giannis is having one of the best seasons of his career. The Greek Freak is averaging highs in assists (6.3), and true shooting (64.6%) while still being an All-Defense level player.

Joel Embiid: Jokic is the best player in the world, but Embiid has been the best player this season. He’s become a much better passer while also having arguably the greatest scoring campaign in league history: Embiid’s 1.05 points averaged per minute is the highest ever. Not even Wilt accomplished that.

Reserves

Backcourt

Donovan Mitchell: Mitchell’s been lights out so far and would probably make the All-NBA second team if the season ended today. With Garland and Mobley sidelined for an extended period, he’s been the driving force behind Cleveland going 14-4 since mid-December. Similar to Booker, Mitchell’s taken on a heavier playmaking role and is averaging a career-high 6.1 assists while keeping his turnovers (2.9) almost identical to his career average (2.8). Although Jarrett Allen’s been the Cavs’ defensive anchor, Mitchell’s also put more effort in his own end, which has helped Cleveland have the second-best defensive rating (111.3) league-wide.

Tyrese Maxey: Everyone knew that Maxey’s good, but not to this extent. The 23-year-old guard is averaging 25.7 points and 6.6 assists on 44.8/37.3/86.4 splits while somehow keeping the Sixers not just afloat, but elite when Embiid sits: Philly has a net rating of +8.0 in the Maxey on/Embiid off minutes, and that’s over a large sample of 1369 possessions.

Frontcourt

Jaylen Brown: While Porzingis has been more impactful on a per-game basis, the massive difference in minutes played between him (980) and Brown (1402) was too big to overcome. Jaylen has remained one of the best secondary options in the league even with a smaller role as his 17.8 FGAs per game is the lowest since 2020. He’s still averaging a cool 23 points on a decent 58.2% true shooting while looking re-engaged on defense.

Julius Randle: Randle started this season on tour, but he’s been playing at a borderline All-NBA level after the first 10 games of the year: since November 15th, the forward has averaged 25.8 points on 50.8% shooting. The Knicks also have a +4.3 net rating with Randle on Brunson off, so the big man has proven that he’s able to drive positive team play on his own, too.

Bam Adebayo: Bam’s case is a peculiar one. The Heat are much better on offense without him (119.6 vs 109.3 ORTG), but also a lot worse on defense (112.1 vs 119.5 DRTG). A lot of their offensive struggles with Bam, though, have been due to unsustainably poor shooting at the rim: Miami’s making just 61.4% of their attempts within four feet of the basket, which would be the 5th lowest conversion rate in the league. Bam’s a part of that issue (he’s shooting 68% there) but his main role is a defensive one, and he’d likely finish top three in DPOY votes if the season ended today. Simply put, Bam still deserves an All-Star nod given that Miami’s defense falls apart when he sits.

Wildcards

Trae Young: Raise your hand if you know that Trae’s averaging 27 points a night on 58% true shooting while averaging the second most assists per game with 10.8. Now lower them, you liars, since no one wants to talk about the floundering Hawks. Offensively, he’s been as dynamic as ever, but what separates this season from previous ones is the effort he’s giving in his own end. Trae’s still well below average defensively, but he’s at least trying, although it hasn’t worked well every time...

Not being the worst defensive player in the league is literally the lowest bar to clear, but given his offensive brilliance, Trae deserves a spot in the All-Star game.

Damian Lillard: Dame being named an All-Star starter was one of the more confusing things to happen this year. I mean, did Blazers fans still think that he played for them? Regardless, he deserves to make the cut, even if Milwaukee has been a mess this year. The Bucks’ offense dips from 122.1 to 117.5 when Dame sits, and their net rating plummets from +5.9 to -3.4 as well. Even though his raw shooting numbers (42.2 overall, 34.3 from three) are below his career norms, Dame’s 59.7% true shooting is still above league average. He’s also scored the second most points in the clutch this season (98), proving that Dame has done exactly what the Bucks have needed him to do: make tough buckets in the final minutes of close games.

Honourable mentions

Scottie Barnes, Derrick White, Kristaps Porzingis, Paolo Banchero