Who will be the All-Star replacements?

Plus: Volume 14 of Nekias's series: Screen Time

Welcome back to A Farewell to Takes, our quick trip around the NBA and WNBA. Magic forward Paolo Banchero joined me and Tommy for last week’s episode of The Old Man and the Three. Before we get into the interview with the All-Star, Richard Jefferson and I discuss the Suns and Knicks.

One programming note: we won’t have an episode of The Old Man and the Three Things today. I’ll be back next with Tim Legler next week. (And see you later this week for Episode 208 of The Old Man and the Three.)

On this week’s A Farewell to Takes:

  • Steve Jones Jr. of The Dunker Spot on the Almost All-Stars

  • Nekias Duncan of The Dunker Spot shares Volume 14 of his series, Screen Time

  • Steve recommends a read

  • Tommy on the BTTALW (Best Thing Tommy Ate Last Week)

Thanks, as always, for reading! —JJ

The Almost All-Stars

We are under two weeks away from the 2024 edition of the NBA All-Star Game, the fans, media and players have named the starters, the coaches have named the All-Star reserves. Which means, you guessed it, #SnubSZN. In light of that (and a particular point that has been made by a particular person about expanding the rosters from 12 to 15 … I’m not sure who could have said that … ), my mind went to how difficult the All-Star selection process is. In an attempt to highlight and recognize the effort of certain players, you end up pushing back against others even without intent. For the second year in a row we see a player averaging 20 points and 10+ assists just casually thrown over the top rope (apologies to James Harden and Trae Young). With the unfortunate injuries to both Joel Embiid and Julius Randle (please no more) there will likely be All-Star Replacements. Which led me to building my Almost All-Stars, five players from both conferences who had a strong case. (I went two back court, three front court.)

East: Trae Young, Jarrett Allen, Derrick White, Kristaps Porzingis, Scottie Barnes
  • In a different era Trae Young is likely a no brainer (and in another era he’s likely voted in by the fans). At the end of the day he is one of two players in the NBA averaging 20+ points and 10+ assists. The Hawks overall record (22-27) may have worked against him to a degree, but as I write this the Hawks have won 4 straight games and during that stretch Young has averaged 30.8 pts, 11.5 assists while shooting 51.2% from the field and 60% from 3. I presume he likely makes it as a replacement.

  • Jarrett Allen may feel like a surprise name but the Cavaliers have won 13 of 15 games in the calendar year of 2024 and Allen has played a big role in it. His double-double streak ended recently but he has recorded a double double in 17 of his last 18 games and since December 23rd is averaging 18.7 points, 13.9 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.3 blocks. His aggression offensively and consistency defensively have been huge, especially for a Cavs team that was without Darius Garland and Evan Mobley for a large chunk of that stretch.

  • A pair of Celtics make the list, the odds of Boston getting three feel slim but it is a tip of the cap to the impact these two players have had in making them the number one seed in the Eastern Conference. Derrick White’s case cooled down a bit as the Eastern Conference guards performed louder and louder but I am not sure this Celtic team would be what it is without his steady play on both ends of the floor. According to the Boston Celtics game notes, he is the only player in NBA history with 175 assists, 100 threes, 40 steals and 50 blocks in his first 43 games of a season. To add perspective, he and Kevin Durant are the only players to currently have 100+ made threes, 200+ assists, 35+ steals, 50+ blocks.

  • Celtics are 9-1 when Kristaps Porzingis hits 3 or more threes, 13-4 when Porzingis scores 20 or more points. His ability to space the floor, knock down shots, pick and roll, pick and pop, score in the post and hold up defensively has had a big impact on the Celtics success.

  • Scottie Barnes is one of seven players in the NBA to average 20 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists (Barnes, Luka Doncic, Julius Randle, Alperen Şengün, Joel Embiid, Giannis, and Jokić). All of the other three players in the East were named All-Stars.

West: De’Aaron Fox, Domantas Sabonis, Jamal Murray, Rudy Gobert, Brandon Ingram
  • A pair of Kings at the top for me, I had them both in with my non vote, was pretty certain one would get in, was shocked both were left off. De’Aaron Fox is 9th in he NBA in points per game, tied for the fourth most 40+ point games in the league, is third in the NBA in steals per game and is the only player this season with multiple 20+ point fourth quarters. Domanatas Sabonis currently has a streak of 31 straight double doubles, averaged 20.8 PPG, 14.5 rebounds, 9 assists on 66.5% shooting in the month of January. Has had a triple double in 8 of his last 17 games and is only player in the league currently averaging 19+ points, 10+ rebounds, 8+ assists while shooting 60% or better from the field.

  • There will be a day where Jamal Murray (and CJ McCollum for that matter) get their just due when it comes to the All-Star game. The Western Conference can be a tough one to crack for guards (see Conley, Mike or the streak of guards getting voted in as All-Star Starters when they go from the Western Conference to the Eastern Conference). The impact of Murray should not understated, the Nuggets are 19-3 this season when Jamal Murray scores 20+ points. When Murray scores 20+ points with 5+ assists the Nuggets are 15-2.

  • I wondered if the Minnesota Timberwolves would be able to get two All-Stars, the answer was yes, but Rudy Gobert was not one of them. KAT had an incredibly strong January so I understand, but one of the big reasons the Wolves are tied for first in the Western Conference has been the defense of Gobert. It has not just been the rim protection this year, he has felt more comfortable in space and his multiple efforts have allowed the Wolves to dictate terms on that end.

  • There were a lot of options for the final slot (apologies to Alperen Şengün, Lauri Markkanen, James Harden, I could keep going) but I gave the nod to Brandon Ingram. I am not sure whether it is the uneven play of the Pelicans or the sacrifices their top 3 players have made to push their offensive flow in the right direction that cost them consideration, but Brandon Ingram has been a key piece. The shot making generally gets highlighted, but the playmaking has continued to be there and the Pelicans ability to use him both on ball and off ball with screens has helped them build a stronger base offensively.


Screen Time, Vol. 14: Bobby Portis

Offenses have never been more lethal than they are in this era. With primary ball-handlers becoming larger, the collective shooting range expanding and teams leaning further into the importance of spacing, it’s becoming even more difficult to keep the ball out of the basket.

With the game expanding, screening has become even more important. A well-placed off-ball pick can free a movement shooter for a triple or a catch-and-drive. On-ball screens can make shifty ball-handlers even harder to deal with in pick-and-roll and open the door for dump-offs, lobs and fruitful catch-and-shoot opportunities.

Screeners come in all sizes these days, ranging from the burly centers to mismatch-causing smalls. I can’t overstate how important guard-screening has become, especially late in games.

This season, I want to keep tabs on who is — and isn’t — getting the job done as screeners. Every week, I’ll be highlighting a handful of the most powerful or shameful screen-setters in the league.

Let’s get into volume 14. All stats are from January 29th onward, unless otherwise noted.

Screener of the Week: Bucks big Bobby Portis

If Bobby Portis isn't going to do anything else, he's going to make sure you feel him throughout the game.

[Jim Halpert screen stare]

But seriously: in a Bucks year that's felt pretty uneven -- highlighted by a mid-season coach firing despite having the second best record in the conference at the time -- it's been refreshing watching Portis try his darndest to leave his imprint on a game. You especially feel it, figuratively and literally, with his screening.

He has the know-how to slip when necessary, but his unrelenting physicality has a cumulative effect throughout a night. You just get tired of dealing with it; it hurts, it wears on you. More importantly, it makes life easier on Milwaukee's ball-handlers. Whether it's a super high step-up screen, or a lead block for Giannis Antetokounmpo to go at a mismatch, Portis has no issue moving you out of the way.

On the week, Portis connected on 68% of his on-ball picks, a top-10 mark in the league among high volume screeners per Second Spectrum. Opponents were completely wiped out by six percent of his screens, the best mark in league. Only Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon (5.77) joined Portis on the five-percent-or-higher list. Overall, the Bucks generated over 1.2 points per possession (PPP) on trips featuring an on-ball screen set by Portis.

It hasn't been a perfect year for Portis either among the chaos, but the screening portion of his game has remained pretty consistent. Keep trucking along, BP.

Stray Thoughts:

  • Your most productive on-ball screener this week, minimum of 50 picks set? Nikola Jokić (63 picks, 1.37 PPP), again. Just turn on a Nuggets game for his two-man goodness.

  • In the Inverted Division, quick shout outs to Jrue Holiday (19 picks, 1.41 PPP; he fed the Jays plenty of mismatches), Ausar Thompson (32 picks, 1.17 PPP; I'm so glad Detroit continues to lean into him as a screener), Cason Wallace (17 picks, 1.13 PPP; love his work in the dunker spot), and Markelle Fultz (17 picks, 1.00 PPP; he ranked seventh in die-on-screen rate among 140 players to set at least 15 ball screens.)


Paolo Banchero joined The Old Man and the Three for his second appearance on the show. The All-Star talked about manifesting his goals, applying advice from Russell Westbrook and Coach K, working out with Kevin Durant, and more.

YouTube | Wondery+ | Apple Podcasts | Spotify | wherever you listen to your podcasts

What Steve has been reading

If you love basketball, you will love this piece by Joe Hulbert that dives deep into the concepts behind how the Utah Jazz are not only turning the corner offensively, but the different ways they use their versatile personnel to keep pressure on defenses. —Steve

Best Thing Tommy Ate Last Week: Birria de Chivo Tacos at El Ranchero Taquiera

via @elrancherotaqueriarestaurant/IG

On Friday night I trekked out to Jersey City to go see my friend Ramy's comedy special taping. Knowing full well I was going to be starving if I didn't eat, but not bracketing my time out correctly, I showed up to the venue and hopped on Yelp looking for the closest, best thing in the area. Boy was I not steered wrong. An unassuming place from the outside, El Ranchero Taquiera was exceptional in every way. The lamb shoulder was extremely tender and perfectly cooked; combined with the right amount of juice and sauce, it was incredible. And that mixed with the birria consomé was basically perfect. I think I will go back to Jersey City just for these. —Tommy

El Ranchero Taqueria | Instagram | 382 2nd Street, Jersey City, NJ 07302

Thanks for reading! Are you subscribed to our YouTube yet?