The All-Star Case | Trio Looks to Give Team Strong Representation in Charlotte

by Brian Seltzer
Sixers.com Reporter

What does an All-Star look like?

Just turn on a 76ers game these days, and you’ll see a few legit candidates.

From the big man putting the entire league on notice; to the charismatic, competitive veteran with premiere two-way skills; to the dynamic point man with uncanny vision and a dangerous blend of finesse and power, there is plenty of elite talent on the roster.

Three Sixers in the same All-Star Game? Hasn’t happened in over 30 years, since then-future Hall of Famers Julius Erving, Mo Cheeks, and Charles Barkley all represented the franchise in the 1987 edition of the exhibition.

Given the way Joel Embiid, Jimmy Butler, and Ben Simmons have started the season, and the subsequent collective success the Sixers have enjoyed, the odds seem pretty good that this winter, the club could once again send a trio of players to the NBA’s annual superstar showcase (set for Feb. 17 at Charlotte’s Spectrum Center).

With 2-for-1 voting days now in play on select dates, here’s a brief - but hopefully relatively compelling - thumbnail sketch of the All-Star cases Embiid, Butler, and Simmons have made to-date:

BIG MAN, BIG IMPACT

• If you’ve been following along this season, you probably don’t need any metric to tell you how vital Joel Embiid has been to the Sixers, and their fortunes. But, FWIW, he ranks third on the stats.nba.com Player Impact Estimate chart (19.7).

• Last year becoming the first Sixer to start an All-Star Game since Allen Iverson, Embiid (as of Jan. 3) ranked seventh in the NBA in points per game (26.9), and third in rebounds per game (13.6). His 33 double-doubles top the league. He’s also first in free throw attempted (368), second in free throws made (295), and eighth in blocks per game (1.9).

Just this past week, Embiid racked up a pile of heady statistical feats. On New Year’s Day in Los Angeles, his 130th appearance, the 7-footer became the fastest player in Sixers history to surpass the 3,000 career points mark.

The next night, in Phoenix, Embiid posted his eighth 20-point first half of the year (second-most in the NBA). He also became the first player since 2007 (Carlos Boozer) to record minimums of 30 points and 14 rebounds in a half. With 42 points, 18 rebounds, three steals, and two blocks against the Suns, Embiid was only the fourth player to reach these totals in the same game in the past 25 years.

• Embiid’s four 40-point performances this season are tied for fourth-most in the NBA. His four 40-point x 10-rebound outings lead all players.

SEEKING FIFTH STRAIGHT SELECTION

• An All-Star each of the last four seasons, Jimmy Butler certainly boasts scoring chops (18.0 ppg, 46.2 fg%, 38.8 3fg%), but it’s on the defensive end of the floor where he’s so far stood out as one of the NBA’s best this year, ranking sixth overall in steals per game (2.0). Butler is also tied for fifth in deflections per game (3.4).

• Looking deeper at Butler’s numbers, he paces all players at his position with a 3.68 real plus-minus (net impact on court per 100 possessions), according to ESPN.com. His offensive real plus-minus is second-best (2.77) among players at his position, while his defensive real plus-minus is sixth (0.91).

• As much as we want to try and quantify just about every aspect of player performance these days, auditing the “clutch” factor is a pursuit probably best left to a holistic approach. There are typically lots of intangibles at play. Within four days of joining the Sixers, Butler nailed his first game-winning 3-pointer (11.17 @ Charlotte). A week later, he hit another (11.25 @ Brooklyn). So regardless of him ranking eighth in the league in fourth quarter scoring (6.7), Butler has compiled a quality “clutch” track record, both this season, and in previous ones.

A FIRST-TIME HOPEFUL

• Maybe if just one more player had bowed out of last year’s All-Star Game, Ben Simmons would have made the cut, but it wasn’t in the cards, despite the then-rookie’s strong push. This season, he is again proving to be one of the NBA’s most multi-faceted players, ranking second in triple-doubles (5).

• Simmons, of course, is an exceptional passer. His places second overall in total assists (299), seventh in assist average (7.9), and 10th in assist percentage (36.6). Simmons is also third in the league in passing average (64.6).

• On the interior, few players have been as potent as Simmons. He’s 10th in the league in points in the paint (12.6), and the only player at his position to place within the top 13.

On Monday, the NBA released its first batch of voting results. Here’s how Embiid, Butler, and Simmons are stacking up to their peers:

All-Star voting is open from now until Monday, January 21st, at 11:59 PM EST. The remaining 2-for-1 voting dates are:

• Friday, January 4th

• Thursday, January 10th

• Friday, January 11th

• Monday, January 21st