When the NBA announced the All-Star reserves for both conferences a little over a week ago, New York Knicks fans were none too pleased with the selections that were made. Or, rather, the one that wasn’t made.
Knicks forward Julius Randle did manage to secure his second All-Star nod — as well he should have after averaging nearly 25 points, 11 rebounds and more than four assists per contest over the first 3/5 of the 2022-23 season. However, Jalen Brunson’s name was conspicuously absent from the list.
It was a gut punch for the New York faithful after Brunson, who has put up 23 points, six assists and nearly four boards nightly in his own right, helped get the team back into the playoff picture after a disappointing 2021-22 season.
And when the league announced multiple injury replacements for the All-Star Game on Friday, the 26-year-old was overlooked once again for the showcase in Salt Lake City.
Jalen Brunson Not Among Replacements, but Sliver of Hope for All-Star Nod Remains
Per a news release from the league office, Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam will be taking one of the East’s vacated spots with the Phoenix Suns’ Kevin Durant and the Dallas Mavericks’ Kyrie Irving having both been dealt out of the conference ahead of the NBA trade deadline.
Meanwhile, with Stephen Curry (left superior tib/fib sprain) and Zion Williamson (strained right hamstring) joining Durant (right knee MCL sprain) as injury scratches, Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards and Sacramento Kings guard De’Aaron Fox were also named as replacements out West.
Although Brunson didn’t get the nod here, he still has a chance (a slim one, anyway) of finding himself in the All-Star Game.
Boston Celtics wing Jaylen Brown — whose name was among the initial grouping of announced All-Star reserves — just suffered a facial fracture during his team’s Wednesday win over the Philadelphia 76ers. Consequently, his All-Star status is now in question.
Even if Brown doesn’t play, though, Brunson could end up losing out to another talented guard.
James Harden Might Be the Frontrunner for Next Replacement Spot
With Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler apparently having opted out in favor of a mid-season break, the next logical choice to replace Brown may just be Sixers guard James Harden (not Brunson).
Statistically speaking, the Beard has an edge over the Knicks’ floor general in a veritable bonanza of areas. Although Brunson has the scoring advantage at 23.2 PPG to 21.1, Harden comes out on top in assists (10.9 APG to 6.2), rebounds (6.3 RPG to 3.5), steals (1.2 SPG to 1.0) effective field-goal percentage (54.8 to 52.8) and more.
There’s also the fact that Philly is one of the winningest teams in the East — and the Association at large — with a 34-19 record. And the teams closer to the top of the standings have traditionally received more All-Star consideration than those fighting for back end playoff spots (or worse).
Finally, Harden has name value that Brunson will never be able to match as a former league scoring champ, 2018 NBA MVP and a member of the league’s 75th Anniversary Team.
Ultimately, Brunson’s chances may hinge on Harden’s vacation plans, assuming some other player isn’t already rolling around Commissioner Adam Silver’s mind as a possible replacement.