With the Eastern Conference All-Star starters set, let’s look at the players who deserve a reserve slot for the East All-Star team this season. Check out our Western Conference All-Star reserve picks here.
Guard: Jalen Brunson, New York Knicks
This pick is a no-brainer. Brunson is the head of the snake for a New York Knicks team that’s been the best in the NBA since the turn of the calendar, going an NBA-best 14-2 in January. If not for falling short in fan voting (ranking just fifth), he would have been an All-Star starter. The 6-foot-2 guard ranked third and second in player and media voting, respectively, earning the respect of his peers and the media alike due to his ongoing stellar season. He’s currently averaging 27 points, 6.5 assists and 4 rebounds per game for the third-place Knicks. Brunson is surefire and deserving All-Star.
Guard: Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland Cavaliers
Equally as deserving as Brunson, Mitchell is the second player (and guard) I'd select as an East reserve. He’s averaging 27.7 points, 6.3 assists and 5.5 rebounds per outing and is leading one of the hottest teams in the NBA, as the Cavs recently went on an eight-game winning streak. What makes this recent stretch even more impressive is that Mitchell did this without All-Star backcourt mate Darius Garland and forward Evan Mobley, who have been out with injuries. Despite surfacing in some trade rumors early in the season, Mitchell put his head down and went to work, earning himself an All-Star spot this season.
Forward: Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics
Celtics forward Jaylen Brown has certainly picked up right where he left off last season after recently signing his lucrative $300 million extension. Brown has been the second-best player on the best team in the NBA, averaging 22.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists a game. He provides ample support for Celtics teammate and All-Star starter Jayson Tatum and at times carries the offensive load when Tatum is not on the floor. Boston would not be the juggernaut they are without the 6-foot-6 Brown’s perimeter defense, dynamic three-level scoring and improved pick-and-roll decision-making.
Forward: Paolo Banchero, Orlando Magic
Blossoming into a true alpha for the Magic this season, Banchero has turned heads with his play. The 2022 No. 1 overall pick is averaging 23 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists and he has yet to miss a game (47 games played). Banchero is one of only three players with the same numbers this season while shooting 38% from three, with the other two being All-Star starters LeBron James and Luka Doncic. The Magic are in the thick of a tight Eastern Conference playoff race, and Banchero has been a big reason why. The 6-foot-10, 250-pound forward has produced in clutch moments and had a number of dominant performances despite being just a sophomore in this league. Without him, Orlando would be a totally different team.
Center: Bam Adebayo, Miami Heat
Although the Miami Heat have been in a slump as of late, Bam Adebayo has shown up night in and night out while producing the same type of efficiency and numbers he's known for. Adebayo is averaging 20.7 points, 10.5 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.1 blocks and a steal while serving as a two-way anchor for the Heat. A lot of Miami's offensive possessions have been initiated by Adebayo, whether it be dribble handoffs, screening actions or him going to work from the free-throw line. He is having a career-year in terms of scoring while still playing at a high level on defense. For a Heat team that's been missing key players all season long, Adebayo has been rock-solid and that will likely earn him another All-Star nod.
Wildcard: Tyrese Maxey, Philadelphia 76ers
A Most Improved Player candidate, Maxey has taken his game to new heights this season. He’s bumped up his scoring average from 20.3 to 25.7 points a game, and transitioned into a full-time point guard after James Harden’s departure. Maxey has learned to balance his scoring and facilitating, emerging as a perfect No. 2 option alongside reigning MVP Joel Embiid. Their partnership has been lethal, averaging the most combined points by a duo this season. Maxey’s ascension to a legit second option this season didn't go unnoticed, as he earned the respect of his fellow players and media, ranking second and fourth, respectively, in their voting ballots. This all adds up to the first All-Star berth for the 6-foot-3 guard.
Wildcard: Trae Young, Philadelphia 76ers
Even though the Atlanta Hawks have been underperforming, it's hard not to notice Young’s exploits this season. He is the only player in the league averaging 26 points and 10 assists, and he has the most 30-point, 10-assist games (13). Although Young finished second in fan voting among East guards, he'll likely need to earn a wildcard spot in order to make the East team. Sure, one can argue Young’s stats do not impact winning and somone like Boston’s Derrick White deserves the nod over him because his team is atop of the standings. But I believe Young's sheer excellence this season has earned him a spot.
Snubs: Julius Randle (Forward, New York Knicks); Derrick White (Guard, Boston Celtics); Kristaps Porzingis (Center, Boston Celtics); Jimmy Butler (Forward, Miami Heat)
Probably the toughest cut was Julius Randle, who was having a good season with the now third-place Knicks before dislocating his shoulder. He might still be named an All-Star and then a replacement would be named in his place, which would allow Randle and his replacement to be recognized. White’s impact on winning for the top-ranked Celtics stands out and should warrant an All-Star spot if the East didn't have several star guards who are putting up ridiculous stats. Porzingis and Butler, on the other hand, have missed a considerable amount of games, which weakens their case.