The 2024 NBA All-Star Game in Indianapolis rapidly approaches. Though the on-court product has gradually devolved into a state of superfluity, the process of sifting through the league’s stars and extracting the 24 best players is still as fun as it’s ever been. The only problem these days (if you can even call it that) is the depth of talent in the NBA; the league is so talented that All-Star “snubs” are firmly a thing of the past.
Putting together this list was insanely hard, and the notebook pages I used to plan this article look like the crazed scribblings of a serial killer. Predictably, no Washington Wizards made the cut, but hopefully that star-power void is filled in the next couple of drafts.
The single toughest omission was Damian Lillard, and there were so many deserving names, in fact, that I cheated into oblivion and included (and even fretted over) six injury replacements per conference. Read to the end for a full list of players I considered.
For my selections, I placed the majority of the emphasis on on-court production, but team success played a role as well, especially in the extremes. Thus, for example, Chet Holmgren came significantly closer to being included than Desmond Bane did, despite a near-double digit difference in points per game.
With that all out of the way, here are my picks!
G — Tyrese Haliburton
G — Jalen Brunson
F — Giannis Antetokounmpo
F — Joel Embiid
F — Jayson Tatum
Tyrese Haliburton broke out as a first-time All-Star last season and was a late scratch for All-NBA due to playing too few games. This season, he’s upped his scoring and rebounding output while increasing his efficiency to near 50/40/90 splits — all while leading the league with a staggering 12.5 assists per game. Haliburton’s greatest asset is his ability to create offense without turning the ball over. His 2.6 turnovers per game are fewer than both Victor Wembanyama and Karl-Anthony Towns, both of whom average south of three assists per game.
As the Wizards have seen repeatedly this season, Jalen Brunson is the engine that makes the New York Knicks run. One of the craftiest and shiftiest players in the league, Brunson is scorching opponents on a nightly basis for 26 efficient points per game. Couple Brunson’s scoring capability with all-world playmaking chops, and the Knicks are set to send a guard to the All-Star game for the first time since Allan Houston and Latrell Sprewell 23 seasons ago.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is posting an astounding 31.2 points, 11.4 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game on 61% shooting for a 28-13 Milwaukee Bucks squad that is inexplicably spoken of as if they are grappling with a .500 record. Sure, Milwaukee’s defense has plummeted from perennially dominant to pitiful, but that’s not Giannis’ fault — that fall from grace can be largely attributed to replacing Jrue Holiday, one of the generation’s finest perimeter defenders, with Damian Lillard, a 6-2, 33-year-old score-first point guard. Giannis is as dominant as he’s ever been and will most likely be captain of the Eastern Conference All-Star team.
Joel Embiid’s 35.1 point per game mark is so far the third-highest single-season scoring average of the 21st century. Sure, Embiid is only one of two players averaging over nine free throw attempts per game (he’s averaging 11.9), but he’s draining a full 88.1% of his opportunities, and he knows exactly how to earn the whistle.
Jayson Tatum’s Boston Celtics are the best team in the NBA. With a 32-9 record, including a perfect 20-0 at home, the Celtics are posting a league-best net rating of +10.0. Tatum’s scoring output has dipped slightly to a still-impressive 27.1 points per game, but this can largely be explained by the addition of Kristaps Porzingis to the Celtics’ starting lineup. Tatum is still liable to go for 40 on any given night, and his Celtics are betting favorites to win the NBA Championship.
G — Donovan Mitchell
G — Tyrese Maxey
F — Paolo Banchero
F — Bam Adebayo
F — Scottie Barnes
WC — Trae Young
WC — Jaylen Brown
Toughest omission: Damian Lillard
Next five: Derrick White, Julius Randle, Franz Wagner, Jarrett Allen, Kristaps Porzingis
Donovan Mitchell’s stat line of 28 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds has been the lifejacket of the Cleveland Cavaliers this season, who are 24-15 while missing two borderline All-Stars in Darius Garland and Evan Mobley. Tyrese Maxey was starting in my first draft of this article, but I bumped him for Brunson very late. Regardless, Maxey has been brilliant as Embiid’s lightning-quick sidekick, averaging 26 points and nearly 7 assists per game for a Sixers team that was supposed to be in disarray in the wake of the James Harden saga.
Paolo Banchero does a little bit of everything for an Orlando Magic squad that is sure to give some contending team in the East a heart attack in the first round of the playoffs. Bam Adebayo is putting up career-highs in scoring (21.7 PPG) and rebounding (10.7 RPG) while maintaining his status as the most switchable defender in the NBA. Scottie Barnes, like Banchero, does a little bit of everything as the sole untouchable of the Toronto Raptors’ active fire-sale ahead of this year’s trade deadline.
The pool of guards in the East is so deep that Trae Young is relegated to a wild card spot with a stat line just shy of 28 points and 11 assists per game. The last wild card spot was reserved for a second Celtic, so take your pick here between Jaylen Brown and Derrick White. I went with Brown due to the much greater responsibility he bears on a night-to-night basis for a contending team.
G — Luka Dončić
G — Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
F — Nikola Jokić
F — LeBron James
F — Kevin Durant
Luka Dončić — 34 points, 8 rebounds and 9 assists per game. What can’t this guy do? At just 24 years old, Dončić is already a four time All-Star and four time member of the All-NBA First Team, and he is still years from entering his athletic prime. 2023-24 Dončić is not just the best version of Luka we’ve ever seen; he’s having one of the best seasons by any player in NBA history. With a playmaking ability surpassed only by Nikola Jokić (what are they feeding these guys in the Balkans?) as his secondary skillset on the basketball court, Dončić is one of the most complete offensive players the sport has ever seen, and he’s having the best season of his career.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander slices and dices opposing defenses to the tune of nearly 32 points per game while still being one of the best defensive guards in the NBA. The average Thunder player is is barely old enough to crack open a beer (the team’s average age is a spry 23.8 years old), yet SGA has Oklahoma City pondering, if not entirely in pursuit of, an NBA Championship. My current pick for MVP, SGA has pulled the Thunder from a comically unserious rebuilding team to one on pace for nearly 60 wins, and nobody deserves as much credit as Shai does.
Nikola Jokić is the best player in the NBA. The way Jokić dominates is revolutionary in ways unseen since Stephen Curry and unseen specifically in big men since...ever. Jokić doesn’t say much, and I don’t need to say much about him — you know he’s one of the greatest players to ever touch a basketball.
Speaking of the greatest players to ever touch a basketball, LeBron James, arguably THE greatest player ever to do so, is still a bona fide All-Star starter in year 21 of his career. LeBron is old enough to be my dad, yet he’s played in almost all of the Lakers’ games and is averaging a stat line creeping up on 25 points and 8 assists. LeBron with a head of steam is still one of the most dangerous forces in the league, and his playmaking ability has aged like a fine wine to compliment a minor shooting renaissance in his old age.
Alongside LeBon, Kevin Durant is showing the world that the old guys aren’t done quite yet. The 35-year-old Durant is shooting FORTY-SEVEN PERCENT on threes on 4.5 attempts per game en route to a 29 point per game average. The most impressive part of Durant’s season is his role with the Suns; Durant is not only by far the team’s best offensive player but also their defensive anchor, a steep ask for a team whose defensive personnel would make the 2004 Pistons vomit. Surely many readers of this site would love for me to relitigate the construction of this Phoenix team. All I’ll say is that Durant is playing out of his mind for a guy whose best sidekick much of the time is Grayson Allen.
G — Stephen Curry
G — De’Aaron Fox
F — Kawhi Leonard
F — Rudy Gobert
F — Anthony Davis
WC — Anthony Edwards
WC — Jamal Murray
Toughest omission: Domantas Sabonis
Next 5five Chet Holmgren, Devin Booker, Brandon Ingram, Paul George and Alperen Sengun.
Stephen Curry has been the lone bright spot of a catastrophic Golden State Warriors season that is speeding towards a head-on collision with the trade deadline. De’Aaron Fox has ice in his veins unlike any other player in the league, and his speed and athleticism is not only invaluable but also absolutely pivotal to the Sacramento Kings’ success.
Kawhi Leonard, after a couple shaky years following his 2021 ACL tear, has proven he’s still got it. Kawhi is an emotionless assassin on offense and is starting to look more and more like the defensive Klaw of old on defense. Rudy Gobert has been subject to a cascade of scrutiny since being traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves, but he is once again headed for a Defensive Player of the Year win as the anchor of the Wolves’ suffocating league-best defense. Anthony Davis has played almost every game this season, so he is an All-Star. That’s how it goes with this guy.
Anthony Edwards is the best player on the best team out West, and his 26 points and 5 assists per game are carrying Minnesota offensively. Jamal Murray narrowly beat out Chet Holmgren and Domantas Sabonis for the last spot on the basis that I think he will be an All-Star this year. Perhaps Holmgren or Sabonis is more deserving of a spot, but it would be surprising not to see the defending champions’ second best player score his first career All-Star nod.
Narrowing my entire list of names to just 24 players (well, 36, really) was a tall task given the incredible depth of talent in the NBA today. As usual, here is a full list of every name that I initially wrote down when drafting this article, with my selections bolded:
Jayson Tatum, Derrick White, Jaylen Brown, Kristaps Porzingis (Celtics); Giannis Antetokounmpo, Damian Lillard (Bucks); Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey (76ers); Bam Adebayo, Jimmy Butler (Heat); Tyrese Haliburton, Pascal Siakam* (Pacers); Paolo Banchero, Franz Wagner (Magic); Donovan Mitchell, Jarrett Allen (Cavaliers); Jalen Brunson, Julius Randle (Knicks); Mikal Bridges (Nets); Trae Young (Hawks); DeMar DeRozan (Bulls); Scottie Barnes (Raptors); Kyle Kuzma (Wizards); Anthony Edwards, Rudy Gobert, Karl-Anthony Towns (Timberwolves); Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Chet Holmgren, Jalen Williams (Thunder); Nikola Jokić, Jamal Murray, Aaron Gordon (Nuggets); Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, James Harden (Clippers); De’Aaron Fox, Domantas Sabonis (Kings); Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson (Pelicans); Luka Dončić, Kyrie Irving (Mavericks); Alperen Sengun, Dillon Brooks, Fred VanVleet (Rockets); Kevin Durant, Devin Booker (Suns); LeBron James, Anthony Davis (Lakers); Stephen Curry (Warriors); Lauri Markkanen (Jazz); Desmond Bane, Jaren Jackson Jr. (Grizzlies); Victor Wembanyama (Spurs).
*Pascal Siakam was traded from the Toronto Raptors to the Indiana Pacers while I was finishing up this article.
The full list of considerations amounts to 53 players — how’s that for a talented league? This list was tons of fun and a lot of hard work to put together, so let me know in the comments or on Twitter (@MarcoGacina) what you think!