Now that the All-Star starters have been revealed, only seven reserve spots are available in each conference.
That means teams with multiple All-Star candidates may have trouble putting more than one player on a roster. The Knicks fall into that category, as Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle have both played at a high level for a team hoping to secure a postseason berth.
Ahead of the reserve announcement, The Sporting News’ Jordan Greer and Gilbert McGregor have made the All-Star cases for Brunson and Randle, respectively. Let’s run through the arguments and determine which player deserves to make the trip to Salt Lake City this year.
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The All-Star cases
Why Jalen Brunson should be an All-Star
There was a bit of sticker shock when Brunson signed a four-year, $104 million contract with the Knicks during the 2022 offseason. So far, the 26-year-old has been worth every penny.
In his first season in New York, Brunson is averaging 22.4 points, 6.3 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game while shooting 46.8 percent from the field and 40.2 percent from 3-point range. He has been one of the best isolation players — even more efficient than his former teammate Luka Doncic, in fact — and clutch performers in the NBA.
Just check out what Brunson did during an early January game against an elite Bucks defense. He dropped a season-high 44 points despite constantly being harassed by Jrue Holiday and Jevon Carter.
While he isn’t a stellar defender, Brunson puts in the effort on that end of the floor that you would expect from a Tom Thibodeau player. He is tied for first on the team in deflections and second in the league in charges drawn.
Beyond his numbers, Brunson has finally given the Knicks some leadership and stability at point guard. Knicks legend and TV analyst Walt Frazier said it best to NBA.com’s Shaun Powell: “Gotta have a good point guard in the game today.”
“He’s exceeded my expectations,” Frazier said. “He’s been phenomenal, dealing with pressure, breaking down the defense, tremendous leader, savvy and smart player.”
And let’s not look past what Brunson has done for Randle’s game. Brunson has taken a heavy creation burden off Randle’s shoulders and assisted him on 89 field goals this season. In 2021-22, Evan Fournier was Randle’s top teammate in that category, assisting him on just 47 field goals.
That’s why New Yorkers have seen local headlines like “The Knicks are Jalen Brunson’s team now — and it’s not even close.” His impact is simply undeniable.
Julius Randle should be an All-Star
Brunson has been outstanding this season. The fact that he’s New York’s best point guard in decades is equally awesome, but I’m not going to let that cause me to overreact. Impressive as Brunson has been from a Knicks lens, there are too many Eastern Conference guards with comparable — or better — All-Star resumes this season.
On the other hand, Randle is right back to what he was doing to earn an All-Star selection in 2021.
This season, Randle is one of just three players in the entire league to average 20 or more points, 10 or more rebounds and four or more assists per game. If the exclusivity of the list isn’t enough for you, how about a list detailing the company he finds himself in:
- Giannis Antetokounpo: 31.0 points per game, 12.0 rebounds per game, 5.3 assists per game
- Nikola Jokic: 25.1 points per game, 11.0 rebounds per game, 9.9 assists per game
- Julius Randle: 24.8 points per game, 10.9 rebounds per game, 4.0 assists per game
And if you feel that the figure of four assists puts my criteria in Thaddeus Young territory, please recognize that I kept the scoring at the plateau of 20 points per game. Even if I had lowered the assists figure to 3.5, it would still be the trio of Antetokounmpo, Jokic and Randle.
To have some fun with it and widen the lens, there are only five players that have averaged 24 or more points, 10 or more rebounds and four or more assists in the last three years. Antetokounmpo has done it in each of the three seasons, as has Jokic. The other three players? Randle, Karl-Anthony Towns in 2020-21 and Joel Embiid last season.
Of the above 10 instances, only Towns, who missed 20 games in the first half of the season, failed to earn an All-Star selection. To take it a step further, every other player was in MVP conversations, including Randle, who finished eighth in 2021.
The precedent has been set. Randle’s All-Star candidacy shouldn’t even be in question. He’s the guy in NYC.
Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): Good as Randle has been, I’m leaning toward Brunson if one Knick is going to be an All-Star. As Jordan mentioned, the Knicks feel like his team now, and it’s impossible to overlook how good he’s been with the game on the line this season. It might not look like it based on the advanced numbers, but Brunson has been the driving force in the Knicks being competitive again.
Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay): I’m going to roll with Randle here. While Brunson has taken some of the offensive load off him, Randle has bounced back from a down year and been more efficient while doing it. And to Gil’s point, there are a lot of guards in the East deserving of All-Star nods. I think it will be tough to have Brunson be one of them.
Final score: We’ve got a tie, so… congratulations, guys! You’re both going to the 2023 All-Star Game!