The Boston Celtics sit at 35-11, three games clear at the top of the Eastern Conference. This is a star-studded Boston roster, with Jrue Holiday and Kristaps Porzingis arriving this offseason to complement the superstar duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. When you factor in stud utility man Derrick White and the ageless Al Horford, the Celtics make a strong case for the league’s most talented roster. With that being said, Boston has at least four guys with legitimate all-star cases. Which of them deserve it, and why?
I should begin this piece by laying out the guidelines for an All-Star selection. Each conference sends twelve all-stars, of which four spots are reserved for “backcourt” players, six “frontcourt” players, and two wild cards.
Do The Boston Celtics Deserve Three All-Stars?
The Case for Jayson Tatum
The case for Jayson Tatum is self-explanatory. He’s one of the seven or eight best basketball players on the planet. Correspondingly, his impact on both sides of the ball is undeniable, to the tune of a +10.3 net rating. Although his raw numbers are slightly down from 2022, they’ve remained excellent. As a result, the only real debate surrounding Tatum is whether or not he deserved to be named a starter. Even that debate never had much merit – his competition for a starting frontcourt spot in the East is minimal. Tatum was always a lock and is the Celtics’ first all-star.
The Case for Jaylen Brown
The case for Jaylen Brown is slightly more complicated. Brown qualifies as a frontcourt player, pitting him against the likes of Jimmy Butler, Paolo Banchero, Scottie Barnes, and teammate Kristaps Porzingis. He’s taking a reduced responsibility, and his numbers have dropped accordingly. While his scoring may be down (23 PPG), his efficiency is as good as it’s ever been. Brown has matched a career-best, shooting 49% from the floor to go with nearly four assists per game. In addition, his defense has been nothing short of excellent – opponents are shooting below-average percentages from every area on the floor with Brown as the primary defender. Additionally, he’s played all but three of the Celtics’ games thus far, well ahead of Butler, Porzingis, and Bam Adebayo. Since six spots are allocated to frontcourt players, Brown can reasonably expect to make his third all-star appearance.
The Case for Kristaps Porzingis
This is where the conversation starts to get tricky. Porzingis is having a monster season – no way around it, but his lack of consistent availability and his willingness to sacrifice personal numbers works against him. Let’s start with the good – he averages nearly 20 ppg, and his efficiency, like Brown’s, is through the roof. Despite a recent shooting slump, he’s 19th in the league in eFG%. Defensively, he ranks 11th in blocked shots, and at 7’3″ offers the versatility to guard multiple positions. Nitpicking Porzingis’s case is fairly easy, though. He’s missed thirteen games, and the Celtics win games at the same rate with or without him. He’s (at best) the third most important player on his team, and the two ahead of him are direct competitors for a frontcourt spot. It’s a tough road to the all-star game for KP.
The Case for Derrick White
Derrick White does not have a traditional case. His numbers are good, but don’t scream “All-Star” – most other players averaging 16/4/5 wouldn’t be considered. The value to Derrick White lies under the surface; he does all the little things, leading the league in net rating while playing spectacular defense. He’s also shooting a career-best 40% from three, and leads all guards in blocks per game. However, White’s role is that of a super-utility player. The Celtics have rarely used White as an offensive initiator, and he never leads lineups. As valuable as White is as a defender and a secondary and tertiary scorer, his team can survive without him, and he doesn’t necessarily fit the all-star profile. In a year with a weaker field (see 2015 Jeff Teague) he might have a chance, but probably not this year.
Who makes the team?
The Eastern Conference team looks like this:
Starters: Tyrese Halibruton, Damian Lillard, Joel Embiid, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum
Of the seven bench spots, we can project three as locks: guards Jalen Brunson, Donovan Mitchell, and Tyrese Maxey. Simply put, there’s no case against any of the three; at least two of them (Brunson and Mitchell) had a real argument to crack the starting lineup.
This leaves us with two frontcourt spots and two “wild-card” spots. Of the two frontcourt spots, one should go to Bam Adebayo. While seventh-seeded Miami hasn’t looked as threatening as in years past, Adebayo is shouldering the majority of the offensive load while Jimmy Butler rests intermittently and Tyler Herro‘s performances fluctuate wildly. His uptick in usage hasn’t taken anything away on the defensive side – Adebayo is still one of the game’s premier two-way players and should make his third all-star appearance.
The other frontcourt spot is a toss-up. Jaylen Brown, Paolo Banchero, Julius Randle, and Porzingis (to some extent) all have real cases for it. I’ll go ahead and give it to Brown, for all the reasons outlined above. The big gap between the three lies in efficiency and defense, where Brown laps the other two. This is not to take away from either player – Banchero has been very impressive for an ascendant Magic team, and Randle’s offensive game has really come to life after a dormant opening month. However, they haven’t been better than Brown, and he gets the nod here.
With all due respect to Porzingis, White, and Banchero, the two wild-card spots belong to Trae Young and Julius Randle. Randle has been nothing short of incredible for multiple months now, and the Knicks score the ball at a much better rate with him on the floor. He’s third in the league in minutes played, hasn’t missed a game*, and his much-maligned play style is contributing to winning basketball, with the Knicks sitting fourth in the East. It’s been an impressive campaign for Randle, and while the three above are having great years, Randle’s has been better.
Despite how terrible Young’s Hawks are, his offensive output has remained incredible. His flaws are apparent – he’s one of the worst defenders in the league, and his efficiency is poor. It shouldn’t matter. It’s hard to picture the Hawks even putting up a fight most nights without Young on the roster. Despite being the focal point of every opposing defense, he’s averaging 27/10. Even when taking the scoring boom into consideration, it’s hard to justify leaving out a guy with those numbers. Had Porzingis played more games, Banchero been more efficient, or White taken a larger role, this might be a different conversation, but Young is the guy.
*Julius Randle suffered a dislocated shoulder during writing and will likely miss close to a month.