With the 2022 NBA All-Star Game exactly a month away, it's time to make some predictions as to who will be representing the league's best. Over the last two weeks, I have given my input as to who will represent the Western Conference as starters and reserves. In this article, I will be providing my selections for this season's Eastern Conference starters. A disclaimer—the All-Star Game follows a draft format, so the players you see below won't all be playing together on February 20. With that being said, let's discuss some of the NBA's best approaching the 2021-22 season's halfway point.
The 17-24 Hawks may be looking to shake things up at the trade deadline, but Young certainly isn’t the problem. At just 23 years old, he has cemented himself as one of the league’s elite point guards. He’s averaging 27.7 points (fourth in the NBA) and 9.4 assists (third) per game. Much of his production results from his pick-and-roll mastery, as he scores a league-high 14.3 points per game off of pick plays.
Young has never been a particularly efficient player, as he tends to take a smattering of difficult shots each night. But he sports a field goal percentage of 45.3 and a 3-point percentage of 36.5, both of which are career-high marks. “Ice Trae” has a successful career ahead of him and he should only continue to improve his shot selection with experience.
DeRozan has spearheaded the Bulls’ unexpected turnaround from 11th in the East last year to first in 2022. He’s embracing his highest usage rate since 2017 and making the most of it, averaging 25.6 points per game (seventh in the NBA). It’s been nothing short of a career renaissance for the 32-year-old, as he scored just 21.6 points per game during his three years in San Antonio.
DeRozan has been vital in crunch time, scoring the second-most clutch points throughout the season (78). He’s the lifeblood of a Bulls roster that was hammered earlier in the season with COVID-related absences—he leads the team in games played (39) and minutes per game (34.6). DeRozan will have to continue his stellar play to keep Chicago at the top of the East.
It’s a frustrating time for Durant to miss 4-6 weeks with an MCL injury, as he will likely be unable to vie for his second MVP award. The injury also comes shortly after Kyrie Irving’s part-time return, forcing the Nets to function yet again without a fully healthy Big Three. But I’m certain that Durant will still be selected as an All-Star starter for his phenomenal pre-injury performance.
Durant has proven that he is the best scorer in the NBA, leading the league with 29.3 points per game. That’s his highest average since 2014 in Oklahoma City, which remains his lone MVP season. He never fails to make the game of basketball look effortless, and it’s so much better when he’s healthy and dominating defenses day in, day out. Durant will look to return as soon as possible and help Brooklyn push towards a Finals appearance.
It’s unbelievable to think that averages of 28.5 points, 11.2 rebounds, and 6.1 assists per game comprise what’s thought of as a typical season for Antetokounmpo. But that’s the reality for the Greek Freak—this is his fifth season of true statistical dominance. He’s won Most Valuable Player twice already and perennially has the gaudy stats to take home his third.
The Bucks haven’t been as dominant as last year, but they sit at fifth in the East with just two games separating them from first place. Antetokounmpo, who has scored at least 30 points in seven of his last 10 games, remains the pinnacle of consistency as he tries to lead Milwaukee to consecutive championships.
Embiid and the Sixers have been surging recently, winning nine of their last 11 games. He’s averaging 31.8 points and 10.0 rebounds during that run, bringing his season-long averages to 27.3 points (fifth in the NBA) and 10.5 rebounds (tenth) per game. He’s been effective inside and outside—his Player Efficiency Rating of 29.5 is only bested by Nikola Jokic (32.2) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (31.1).
Throughout the season, it’s been unclear as to whether the Sixers are capable of making an extended playoff run. Their starting offense surrounding Embiid has been serviceable, but the bench is sorely missing a go-to scorer. Embiid is a uniquely talented player who can take over a game in minutes, but he needs some help if Philadelphia finally wants to make it past the Eastern Conference Finals.