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Forget All-Star: Knicks’ Jalen Brunson could be starter in All-Star Game

First-time NBA All-Star may be a foregone conclusion.

It’s time to start talking about Jalen Brunson’s odds at not just making the 2024 All-Star Game but earning a starting nod in his first go-round.

Brunson’s play has lifted the Knicks to a 27-17 record, good for the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference as of Wednesday afternoon.

Only five Eastern Conference guards garnered more fan votes than Brunson, who is averaging 33.8 points over his last five games: Indiana’s Tyrese Halliburton, Atlanta’s Trae Young, Milwaukee’s Damian Lillard, Cleveland’s Donovan Mitchell and Philadelphia’s Tyrese Maxey.

Brunson is averaging 26.6 points and 6.5 assists on 47.5 percent shooting from the field and 42.3 percent shooting from three-point range.

He ranks fifth in scoring (28.9 points), 10th in assists (7.8), and fifth in plus-minus since the Dec. 30 trade with the Toronto Raptors for OG Anunoby.

Brunson’s play has elevated to the national conversation. A panel of TNT analysts, including Shaquille O’Neale, Jamal Crawford and Candace Parker, shared their All-Star ballots on live television.

Of those three NBA fixtures, both O’Neale and Crawford pegged Haliburton and Brunson as All-Star starters, while Parker went with Mitchell over Brunson, citing Cleveland’s record (26-15) over the Knicks, who are a half-game behind the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference standings.

It’s also worth mention Brunson’s Knicks ousted Mitchell’s Cavaliers in the first round of the playoffs last season.

Mitchell is having an All-NBA season of his own in Cleveland, averaging about 28 points, six assists and five rebounds per game.

What’s important, however, is Brunson’s position in the conversation.

The Knicks haven’t had an All-Star starter since Carmelo Anthony earned the nomination in 2016.

Julius Randle admitted he never gets love in All-Star starter voting and has to rely on the coaches to vote him in.

There’s competition for the Eastern Conference backcourt spots, but there’s a clear pathway for Brunson to earn the nod:

  • Trae Young’s Hawks are not in the playoff picture. Even though he ranks second in fan voting, it’s hard to see him getting in with the player and media vote.

  • Tyrese Maxey is having an incredible season, but Joel Embiid is a lock as the starting center for the Eastern Conference, and it’s difficult to see the Philadelphia 76ers getting two All-Star starters as the third seed.

  • Tyrese Haliburton could be a lock to be an All-Star starter, but his Indiana Pacers are only 12-12 since making it to the In-Season Tournament championship game.

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo is another lock as an East All-Star starter, which means Damian Lillard could find difficulty getting into the event as a starter given the Bucks — despite their 30-13 record — don’t look like world-beaters just yet

  • Mitchell is a wild card. His Cavaliers are playing well, and his aforementioned numbers speak for themselves.

The fan vote is responsible for 50 percent of the All-Star starters vote, with the players themselves and the media responsible for 25 percent of the vote each.

DOC IN MILWAUKEE

The Milwaukee Bucks parted ways with head coach Adrian Griffin, who amassed a 30-13 record before losing the locker room and, ultimately, his job. The Bucks have replaced him with former championship head coach Doc Rivers, who was an ESPN analyst after losing his Philadelphia 76ers job to ex-Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse.

It was a costly decision for the Bucks, who are now on the hook to pay former head coach Mike Budenholzer, Griffin and Rivers all this season.

They were clear, however, this was the decision that needed to be made for a championship-caliber franchise.

It’s a decision, in hindsight, the Brooklyn Nets should have made when it was clear Steve Nash was ill-equipped to lead a championship-level team with Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden on the roster.

The Nets, instead, chose to ride it out with Nash until it was too late, when Harden forced a trade and the team recouped Ben Simmons, who has yet to string together an extended stretch of games in Brooklyn.

HARTENSTEIN QUESTIONABLE

As of the Knicks’ 7:30 p.m. injury report, Isaiah Hartenstein remains questionable with left Achilles tendinopathy.

The Knicks came back from down 10 to beat the Nets, 108-103, without Hartenstein but gave up 12 offensive rebounds.

If Hartenstein can’t go, Jericho Sims is likely to get the start against two-time MVP Nikola Jokic in Thursday’s matchup against the Denver Nuggets.