The Boston Celtics did not make a big-splash addition this offseason, and the most common complaint echoed by NBA pundits when addressing Boston's ability to contend is that the team "does not have any superstars."
That might be true. But do the Celtics have any All-Stars? The Celtics have been shut out of February's exhibition the past two seasons. But if the team can build off last year's second-half surge, it would seem some Celtics players might earn greater consideration for this year's game.
For Day 7 of our Celtics Summer Forecast series, we asked our 15-member blogger panel: Which Boston player is most likely to earn an All-Star nod during the 2015-16 season?
Isaiah Thomas topped the polling by earning 53.3 percent of the vote. Three other players -- Jared Sullinger, Marcus Smart, and David Lee -- tied behind Thomas at 13.3 percent of the vote, while Avery Bradley grabbed the remaining 6.7 percent.
It's noteworthy that five different players landed in the balloting. It only confirms the notion that Boston's greatest strength might be its depth -- especially considering that the player with the most votes in our poll is expected to maintain his reserve role.
This writer's vote went to Thomas. Regardless of his role, his impact is impossible to ignore. Twice in his short regular-season stint in Boston, he earned the league's Player of the Week award last season, an honor typically gobbled up by All-Star-caliber players.
Thomas is about as close to a star as Boston has, both with his production on the court and his big personality off it. What's working against him? That bench role. In the three-decade history of the Sixth Man award, only one player has won the award and been named an All-Star in the same season (Kevin McHale, 1983-84). That said, many of the Sixth Man winners went on to earn All-Star nods in the seasons after they won the award (Thomas was the runner-up last season).
There's a case to be made that big men like Lee or Sullinger have a better chance at an All-Star nod if they put up double-double-caliber stat lines. Smart's two-way impact, particularly if he develops as a playmaker, could help him earn consideration, but he remains in the infancy of his NBA career.
Boston's best chance at landing an All-Star might simply come from winning games. Teams that perform well in the first half are often rewarded with a notion that one of the league's top teams should have a representative at the game.
A look at how our panel voted:
Tom Westerholm, MassLive (Avery Bradley)
Why Bradley? Because I had to choose someone, and he led all scorers last year. It's hard to imagine anyone on this roster cracking the East's elite, but voters might want to reward the Celtics for their playoff push last season. Can we just agree to let Brad Stevens coach?
Kevin O'Connor, CelticsBlog (David Lee)
People act like Lee is washed up, but last year he only suffered a hamstring injury and a lower back strain that opened the door for Draymond Green to steal his minutes (Green did, and the rest is history). But, in the prior six seasons, Lee averaged 18.2 points and 10.7 rebounds per game, with great efficiency. Assuming Lee’s fully recovered from his nagging injuries, there’s no reason he can’t lead the Celtics in both rebounds, and perhaps trail in points only behind Isaiah Thomas. Also, consider this: at 32-years-old, with the rising salary cap, Lee could earn himself a long-term deal if he bounces back.
Alex Kungu, CLNS Radio (Isaiah Thomas)
Thomas took Celtics Nation by storm last season and is still the most electrifying player on the roster. With a full season, getting to play to his strengths, and some national-TV exposure, I believe the rest of the league will catch on quick, especially if the Celtics have a respectable record.
Jeff Clark, CelticsBlog (Thomas)
If the All-Star squads were picked off the second half of the year instead of the first I think Thomas might have been a candidate for the team. Either as a starter or sixth man, I think Thomas has the best shot at putting up the numbers to get into the game. I'm looking forward to seeing how Stevens uses him this year with a full offseason and training camp to game plan with it in mind.
Jon Duke, Celtics Stuff Live (Jared Sullinger)
I'm a sucker for players Tweeting summertime pics of getting in shape and overreacting to their hard work. But, in this case, with a weak Eastern Conference frontcourt and a BIG contract as bait, Sullinger will have every opportunity to become an All Star. A marginal improvement, offensively, coupled with improved stamina and renewed focus defensively could put Sullinger in the mix for an All-Star bid. It's entirely up to him.
Nick García, CelticsLife (Thomas)
Thomas’s 19 points per game after coming to Boston in February ranked 21st in the league post-All-Star break, and he did it with less playing time (26 minutes per game) than any other player in the top 50. Despite his defensive shortcomings, Thomas is a strong preseason candidate for the Sixth Man of the Year Award and, as we saw last season, he has the ability to produce the kind of highlight plays that catch All-Star voters’ attention.
Ben Mark, Red's Army (Sullinger)
My real answer is that none of the Celtics are going to be All-Stars, which is not a knock on the team as a whole -- I just don't see a player who sneaks in, barring a slew of Eastern Conference injuries. Sullinger, if healthy and given center eligibility, could wiggle on. He's a possibility to average a double-double -- the type of glossy numbers needed to garner votes, and all of the clippings say he's motivated and in shape.
Mike Dynon, Red's Army (Thomas)
The real answer is probably “no one” -- unless the Celtics replicate some degree of Atlanta’s team-ball success from last season. In that case, Thomas should stand out as Boston’s top candidate. Also, the East has fewer backcourt stars than the West, so Thomas should have an easier path to getting votes from the coaches. I wouldn’t be surprised if Smart also gets some consideration.
Bill Sy, CelticsBlog (Thomas)
If the Celtics are in the playoff hunt by February, it'll be because Thomas is killing it as a sixth man and he'll be the most likely to represent the Celtics in Toronto (Sorry, Canada native Kelly Olynyk). What makes Thomas so good is that he's not just a scorer. In 25 minutes per game with Boston, he was averaging 16 points and 4 assists per game. His assist numbers nearly doubled in the playoffs. The roster is deeper now and Thomas is going to have a field day surrounded by shooters and having legit pick-and-roll bigs to dish to.
Mark Vandeusen, CelticsLife (Marcus Smart)
The chances are extremely low that any Celtics player will be an All-Star but, if forced to pick one, I'll go out on a limb and say Smart. He already plays All-Star defense, and he was working hard on his jumper this summer before dislocating his fingers. If Smart is the starting point guard and becomes the leader of a spunky overachieving team, I could see him making the All-Star squad. Kyle Lowry (Raptors) and Jeff Teague (Hawks) both represented the East at point guard under similar circumstances last year.
Jared Weiss, CLNS Radio (Thomas)
If there were an All-Star team for the second half of last season, Thomas would have been in conversation as a starter for the East. He comes into his first full season in Boston with more competition at his position and more motivation to showcase his offensive prowess. Thomas’s highlight drives and scoring outbursts are the kind of qualities that garner enough national attention to develop an All-Star campaign.
Cory Prescott, CLNS Radio (Lee)
On top of the instant credibility and veteran leadership, Lee brings two All-Star appearances with him after appearing once with the New York Knicks in 2010, and with the Golden State Warriors in 2013. Lee is not far removed from being recognized as one of the NBA’s best. Considering Pau Gasol, Kyle Korver, and Paul Millsap were all Eastern Conference All-Stars last season, it would not be farfetched to imagine Lee representing the Celtics in Toronto next season.
Eddie Santiago, CLNS Radio (Smart)
Smart has the best chance to make the All-Star team. The backcourt just isn’t as deep in the Eastern Conference. The closest players to locks right now would be John Wall and Kyrie Irving. After that, it’s a huge toss up as to who the other backcourt players will be. They are all in the process of trying to establish themselves as perennial stars. Guys like Bradley Beal, Teague, and others just haven’t reached a level Smart can’t catch.
KWAPT, Red's Army (Thomas)
It will again be a contender for Sixth Man of the year. There's no doubt his scoring skills and ability to take over a game make him the Cetlics' most talented player. Sullinger has done a lot of work to slim down, but let's see if he can stay in shape over the course of 82 games.