Who Should Be the Odd Man Out in the East Frontcourt?

by

January 21

Voting for the NBA All-Star game closes Saturday, and it is an absolute farce what is occurring in the Eastern Conference frontcourt. Four more than deserving starting candidates in Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum, Kevin Durant, and Joel Embiid will be whittled down to just three, making one of arguably the league’s top five players come off the bench. Who should, and likely will, be the odd man out?  

To summarize the selection process, the players with the most accumulated points are deemed starters. Fan votes receive half the consideration, with media and fellow players’ selections worth a quarter weight each. Giannis leads the pack in voting, with Durant, Tatum, and Embiid following in that order. Embiid will need to make up some points with the media and players and is trending toward the bench, but is this right? Let’s dive into each individual case. 

Giannis Antetokounmpo

2022 Stats: 35 GP, 31.0 PPG, 5.3 APG, 11.9 RPG

We’ve become accustomed to the greatness of Giannis by this point, and he’s well deserved the soon-to-be captain nod from the East. The Greek Freak has done it all with his number two option in Khris Middleton, only appearing in seven games this year. Tied for the second seed in the East currently, voter fatigue has limited Giannis’s MVP campaign, but there is no universe where he comes off the bench in the all-star game.

Kevin Durant

2022 Stats: 39 GP, 29.7 PPG, 5.3 APG, 6.7 RPG

KD is still freaking Kevin Durant, but he’s who I’d drop from this list. Obviously, as no knock to the former MVP and 12-time all-star who will eventually go down as one of the greatest players of all time, availability matters. He will remain sidelined for the next three weeks and might not even be able to play in the all-star game, but still, he’s on the ballot. The continued growing resumes of Giannis, Embiid, and Tatum all elevate them over KD in my eyes this year. Still, if he remained healthy, we’d certainly be having a different conversation.

Jayson Tatum

2022 Stats: 44 GP, 31.2 PPG, 4.3 APG, 8.5 RPG

Tatum deserves a spot as the best player on the league’s best team. Taking another leap off his finals loss last year, Tatum has positioned himself near the top of the MVP board, and it would be sickening to see him off this list. Still, someone’s got to be. If the NBA allowed Tatum to be considered a shooting guard, our problem would be solved, but KD’s injury should assure him a spot in this lineup. 

Joel Embiid 

2022 Stats: 34 GP, 33.6 PPG, 4.2 APG, 9.8 RPG

In the public’s eyes, Joel feels to be the odd man out of this group. His Sixers have won 17 of their last 21 games, and Embiid has averaged north of 35 PPG since the start of December. The back-to-back MVP runner-up continually draws the short straw from the NBA as outside of Philadelphia, Embiid is widely hated. The “brands” of Giannis, KD, and Tatum are much stronger. On the floor, though, presenting himself as maybe the most well-rounded scoring big man of all time, Embiid’s greatness doesn’t match his appreciation. Arguably having the best season of his career, him not being on this list would be gut-wrenching. He’ll need to rely on votes from the media and players to secure a spot, but he should have one.

***

The NBA needs to make this right. In what world is Andrew Wiggins a 2022 all-star starter but not any of these four in 2023? None. In future years, making all-star selections positionless is the only way to ensure the best players represent each conference. These four superstars aren’t going anywhere, so without league intervention, we’ll be writing this same article this time next year. See you then. 

Thumbnail photo via Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

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