The starters for the 68thAll-Start Game in Charlotte were yesterday revealed on TNT. Among the ten players are two international superstars, who we will profile below.
Giannis puts Luka on a poster and then stares him down. ??? pic.twitter.com/omASgqF2UG
— House of Highlights (@HoHighlights) January 21, 2019
With LeBron James now plying his trade in Los Angeles, there’s a new king in the East. Team Giannis is a testament to how dominant the Greek Freak has become.
The 24-year old new captain of the Eastern Conference All-Star team is having a season few dare to dream of. His Bucks hold the best record in the league at the time of writing. His production on the floor has made him an MVP candidate. Giannis’ statline is impressive – 26.5 points, 12.6 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game. Those numbers rank him 8th, 6thand 18thin the league in the respective categories. He finishes his field goal attempts at a rate of 57.8% and ranks second in efficiency in the NBA.
The rise of Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo: From ~55,000 NBA All-Star fan votes in 2015 to more than 4.3 million in 2019… pic.twitter.com/etli0h0Ws1
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) January 25, 2019
Giannis’ go-to move this season has been the almost undefendable eurostep to the rim that usually finishes with a vicious dunk. The combination of his height (6-foot-11), wingspan (7-foot-3) and skill are deadly when he gets anywhere near the rim. The only thing missing from his arsenal is a consistent jumpshot.
Giannis with the dunk off the euro-step! ?pic.twitter.com/H4zWjh3t8k
— Sports ReUp (@SportsReUp) January 17, 2019
The Bucks have been built around the strengths of Antetokounmpo this year and coach Bud’s system has worked extremely well in Milwaukee. They move the ball well and look for optimal shots. The spacing provided by quality three-point shooters has been deadly to their Eastern Conference rivals. With Giannis on the floor, most of the other starters basically act as spot-up shooters. The most glaring example of this is Brook Lopez shooting 6.6 threes per game and hitting them at a 38% rate. The center was putting up 0.2 shots from beyond the arc as recently as the 2015-16 season.
— NBA (@NBA) December 10, 2018
This will be Antetokounmpo’s third All-Star appearance. He put up 16 points and 7 rebounds in the 2018 gameand had 30 and 6 in 2017. He started in both games. This year he has the honor of being team captain and we think he might hold on to his throne for quite a few years.
In a league where centers are getting less and less appreciated, Joel Embiid proves that the number five can still be in a pivotal role. The Cameroonian provides a combination of a throwback to years when the position dominated the league while adding a modern twist of an extremely skilled big-man.
With 27.2 points, 13.3 rebounds, 2 blocks and 3.5 assists per game, Embiid is the driving force of the Sixers. He can bully opponents in the post and agility and footwork enable him to get to the rim at ease. His fiery personality and tendency to talk smack to opponents make him an intimidating opponent and a social media darling.
— Joel Embiid (@JoelEmbiid) January 16, 2019
Embiid’s road to the league is an unbelievable story, which he recalls in his Players’ Tribune piece from last summer. He only started playing the game at the age of 15 and was discovered by fellow Cameroonian Luc Mbah a Moute at a basketball camp. This led to an opportunity to play high-school basketball in the US, and eventually paved his way to the NBA via Kansas.
Embiid’s early career was hampered with injuries. His back and foot kept him out for all of his first year, and he played only 31 games in his second. Even last season he was still limited to 63 games as the Sixers kept him out of back to back games.
This year Embiid has been healthy and he has shown why Philadelphia were patient with him. With his team fourth in the East, the expectations are now big, and they should make a run at the playoffs. However, Philly lacks shooting and depth in the roster, especially after the Butler trade. They will surely try to add talent in the buyout market.
Embiid made his first All-Star appearance in Los Angeles last year, posting 19 points and 18 rebounds.