• Alec Liebsch

Atlantic Division All-Stars

To get into the All-Star festivities, we have adopted a different format for the main event. We have an All-Star lineup for each NBA division.

PG: Ben Simmons

Ben Simmons has gotten way too much flak this season. In his third season in the NBA, the former No. 1 pick is averaging 16.7 points, 7.8 rebounds and 8.3 assists on 61.0% true shooting (excellent) for a team that isn’t even built around him properly.

But where Simmons really takes the cake is with his defense. He has the league’s fifth-best steal rate (2.9%), leads the league in steals overall, and can lock up almost anyone 1-4 on the positional spectrum. He’s making a case to be the Defensive Player of the Year.

SG: Jaylen Brown

We’ve been waiting for a leap from Jaylen Brown, and it’s happened this season. The fourth-year guard has upped his scoring to 20.3 points per game on 59.6% true shooting (very good) while being a solid defender.

The 6’7” wing from Cal went from barely fitting in to being an integral piece of a very good Celtics team, earning the contract extension that many criticized when Boston offered it to him in October.

Brown was not selected to the actual All-Star team, but his case to make it was pretty solid.

SF: Jayson Tatum

A Celtic who did make the real team, Jayson Tatum has been even more valuable to Boston than Brown. The third-year wing has become a reliable night-to-night scoring option while locking in on the defensive end.

His blend of size and skill is rare, and it’s helped him pour in 22.1 points a night on fine efficiency. A tighter handle, more commitment on defense and the help of a more selfless point guard has turned Tatum into a legitimate star. He will be counted on by Boston when the lights shine brightest in the postseason.

PF: Pascal Siakam

After winning Most Improved Player last season, many thought Pascal Siakam’s ascent would taper off a bit. Well no one told Siakam that, and as a result he’s taken arguably an even bigger leap in 2019-20.

His rebounding and assists are similar to last year, but he’s grown into Toronto’s lead option following Kawhi Leonard’s departure, up to 23.5 points per game (from 16.9 last season) on acceptable efficiency. In addition, his swiss-army knife defense has stayed excellent despite greater usage.

C: Joel Embiid

Though Joel Embiid hasn’t taken a leap, he’s still damn good and worthy of this nomination. Dropping 22.7 points a night on 58.3% true shooting (very good) is not easy on a team that doesn’t cater to his strengths.

When seeing those numbers, it’s crazy to think scoring isn’t his best asset. But for an all-world defender like Embiid it’s the truth. He’s so impactful that Philly’s entire scheme is built around him, funneling players to challenge the Cameroonian tower. Those challenges are rarely successful.

This quintet of Atlantic Division studs isn’t letting many points happen. Simmons and Siakam can take any assignments 1-4, and Brown and Tatum can hold their own against the lesser options. The switchability of the first four is excellent, and Embiid’s no slouch outside the paint either.

Offensively it’s not perfect, but it’s functional. Simmons will have plenty of options in transition, as Siakam, Brown and Tatum all love to run. Someone will almost always have a matchup advantage too, which can lead to a lot of easy buckets.