Blogtable: Which East player will get first All-Star nod?
Each week, we ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day.
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Name a player in the Eastern Conference who is most likely to make his first All-Star team this season.
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David Aldridge: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee. The Greek Freak is putting up massive numbers this season (22.4 ppg; top five in steals and in blocks) and the Bucks are winning enough games for his nascent All-Star candidacy to gain traction with East coaches. Who wouldn’t want to see TGF throwing oops to LeBron — and, vice versa?
Steve Aschburner: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee. This has been a breakout season for the Bucks’ “Greek Freak,” from his nightly YouTube highlights and his insightful Q&A here at NBA.com to the triple-double threat he poses as Milwaukee’s primary offense initiator. His coach, Jason Kidd, has referred to him as a “once-in-a-generation” player and, based on potential and the fact he turned 22 on Monday, he definitely can be that. The biggest deficiency in his game is his jump shot, something he easily can work on in the gym by himself next summer. Once he returns with reliable range, he’ll be unstoppable for single defenders. Antetokounmpo needs to be in New Orleans in February just to showcase one or two of his breathtaking, end-to-end cavorts.
Fran Blinebury: While the two guards — Kemba Walker and Isaiah Thomas — play to a virtual draw in the backcourt, I’ll go with the future of the Knicks in Kristaps Porzingis.
Scott Howard-Cooper: Kemba Walker. If the vote was held today, or if he maintains anything close to his current pace, Walker wouldn’t just make it. He would make it easy. I’m sure Giannis Antetokounmpo will get a lot of votes in our super-scientific poll as well, and he is likewise deserving. Same with Hassan Whiteside. The question asks for one name, though. Kemba has been the best player on one of the best teams in the East.
Shaun Powell: What’s not to love and admire about the blossoming of Giannis Antetokounmpo? His passion for the game is apparent every night. He’s learning how to play four positions on the floor and might be the Bucks’ best player at any of those spots, and he’s helping the Bucks rally after a slow start to the season. The Freak seems better suited, for now, at point guard perhaps because that’s the weakest spot for the Bucks. But his natural fit will eventually be at the swing positions where Milwaukee can take advantage of his length and speed and one day his outside jumper.
John Schuhmann: Giannis Antetokounmpo still has a long way to go in regard to both shooting and decision-making. But he’s already come a long way in his three-plus seasons. His boxscore numbers (22.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 2.2 steals and 2.2 blocks) are great, he’s scoring efficiently (11th in true shooting percentage among players with at least 200 FGA), and he’s been, by far, the best player on a surprisingly decent team. The Bucks have been 13.5 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor than they’ve been with him on the bench. As long as they hang around .500, he should earn a trip to New Orleans.
Sekou Smith: Kemba Walker should have been on the Eastern Conference All-Star team last season for the work he did leading one of the most surprising teams in the league. He’s coming back this season on the same roll, guiding the Hornets into the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference without nearly the fanfare of some his point guard counterparts around the league.
Ian Thomsen: Giannis Antetokounmpo appears to be a certain All-Star, and his ascension is unlikely to change so long as the Bucks are contending solidly for the playoffs. But if something goes wrong for the Greek Freak, then we can probably count on Kemba Walker to earn an All-Star place for the first time after barely missing out last year.
Lang Whitaker: I was watching the Hornets play the Timberwolves the other night, and it underscored to me what some have argued for a few years now: Kemba Walker deserves to be an All-Star. He’s playing fewer minutes per game than usual thus far in this his sixth season, but he’s putting up career numbers, averaging 23.6 ppg and shooting 41 percent from the 3-point line. And what the numbers don’t fully explain is just how hard he is to guard — Walker can get to the rim against pretty much any defender, collapsing defenses and opening things up for his teammates. The Hornets are a top four team in the East right now, and that all begins with Kemba Walker.
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