By: Jalon Dixon, Columnist
With All-Star Weekend only days away, NBA fans will, of course, be clamoring to Chicago to see the top players in the game like forwards Lebron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo and others go at it. But what really makes this year’s All-Star game so special is the unbelievable amount of young first time all stars that will be displaying why they are the future of the NBA.
In the upcoming all-star game there will be a whopping nine first time All-Stars that will be playing in the game. According to Tim Reynolds of the AP, it’s the most players making their All-Star debut in a decade. From the Western Conference: Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram and the Utah Jazz duo of guard Donovan Mitchell and center Rudy Gobert.
Representing the Eastern Conference are Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young, Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam, Miami Heat forward Bam Adebayo, Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum and Indiana Pacers forward Domantas Sabonis. With such a big group of young talent entering their first All-Star weekend as members of the big game, it is only right to commemorate their selection by highlighting how great each individual has been playing so far this season.
Starting in the West there is last year’s Rookie of the Year in Doncic who has found a way to somehow get even better after taking the NBA world by storm last season. This season Doncic is averaging nearly a triple-double 28.8 points, 9.5 rebounds and 8.7 assists on 46.4 percent shooting from the floor. As a do-everything guy for the Mavericks that plays with such finesse and constantly shows off his basketball IQ, members of the national media like Fox Sports’ Shannon Sharpe proclaim him to be “The Next Larry Bird” as Doncic looks to help the 32 – 21 Dallas make the postseason for the first time since 2016.
Then there is Brandon Ingram who since returning from injury last season and being traded to New Orleans, he has been on a tear as one of the team’s primary scoring options. Ingram is averaging 24.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 4.2 assists on 47.3 percent shooting from the floor and 40 percent from behind the three-point line. With the absence of rookie sensation forward Zion Williamson for the first half of the season, Ingram has stepped up and is showing us why he was drafted number two overall in the 2016 NBA draft.
And finally, there is the duo of Mitchell and Gobert who are holding things down in Utah. On one end there is Mitchell who averages 24.3 points per game as the Jazz’s primary scoring option and typically is asked to be the closer at the end of games. On the other end is a two-time Defensive Player of the Year in Gobert aka “The Stifle Tower” who is averaging a double-double with 15.6 points and 14.4 rebounds while chipping in two blocks per game as well. They vibe off of one another and have been a great one-two punch for Utah all season as they sit in fourth place in the Western Conference at 33-18.
In the Eastern Conference, a handful of these all-stars are nothing less than certified buckets. Young is carrying the Hawks on his back averaging 29.3 points and nine assists per game as he leads one of the top five teams in terms of pace of play. Tatum has stepped up as a primary scoring option averaging 22.1 points and 6.8 rebounds alongside fellow all-star point guard in Walker as they have been putting the East on notice all season and currently sit in third place.
For the big men down low being Siakam, Adebayo, and Sabonis, all three have stepped up their new roles as they each play on teams that are playing above expectations. Adebayo and Sabonis both are averaging double digit points and rebounds for their teams as traditional “buckets and boards” guys doing the dirty work on the block. Siakam has stepped up after the departure of forward Kawhi Leonard and has become the primary scorer averaging 23.4 points and 7.6 rebounds for the second seeded Raptors despite a belief that the team would take a significant dip from last season.
Each of these players is having a great season thus far and deserve to be All-Stars this season. But the fact that they are All-Stars is not even the most special part. The amazing thing about this group is that aside from Gobert, this entire group is only between the ages of 20 and 25-years-old. None of them have truly reached their prime yet and that is truly something to look forward to. As young ascending stars, this weekend will hopefully be only the first of many all-star games as they continue to grow and work towards being the next generation of elite NBA talent.