With so many talented players across the league, it is virtually impossible to narrow each conference down to the 12 best players without reaching some conflict along the way.
However, injuries are an unfortunate part of the physically demanding game of basketball that happens frequently, which creates opportunities for other players.
Since being named All-Stars, reigning NBA MVP and Philadelphia 76ers superstar center Joel Embiid and New York Knicks star forward Julius Randle both suffered injuries that will keep them sidelined through the All-Star break.
Joel Embiid and Julius Randle NBA All-Star Game replacements revealed
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver determines who the injury replacements are, selecting Atlanta Hawks point guard Trae Young and Toronto Raptors two-way wing Scottie Barnes to represent the Eastern Conference at the 2024 NBA All-Star Game.
Trae Young's All-Star case
While the Hawks have struggled this season, currently six games below .500 and in 10th place in the East, Young has not been the problem and is in the midst of what has arguably been a career year.
The NBA’s leader in total assists this season (490), Young is one of four players to rank in the top 10 in total points (1,227) and dimes.
Averaging 27.3 points while shooting a career-high 38.4 percent from beyond the arc, Young is also contributing 10.9 assists, 2.8 rebounds, and 1.5 steals per game, joining Indiana Pacers point guard Tyrese Haliburton as the only player in the NBA tallying double-digit assists per contest.
Young’s career-high steals totals this season are a testament to his improved effort on the defensive side, which JJ Reddick and fellow All-Star Paolo Banchero acknowledged in a recent podcast episode of The Old Man and the Three.
It was shocking to see Young not selected as a reserve the first time around, but it is better late than never, and good to see him get the recognition he deserves.
Scottie Barnes All-Star case
Like Young, Scottie Barnes being the best player on a losing team was likely a detriment to him not being named a reserve before the injuries to Embiid and Randle. However, there’s no denying that Barnes is having a monster campaign in 2023-24.
Barnes is averaging career-highs virtually across the board – in points (20.2), rebounds (8.1), assists (5.8), steals (1.2), blocks (1.5), and three-point percentage (36.5).
One of the most versatile players in the NBA, Barnes’ ability to handle and facilitate the ball as a 6-foot-7 wing, combined with his defensive prowess, athleticism, and newfound shooting stroke, have catapulted him to what could potentially be the first of many All-Star appearances.
The 2021-2022 NBA Rookie of the Year Barnes has been playing exceptionally well this season, earning himself a spot in the 2024 All-Star Game at the Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, the home of the Indiana Pacers.