For Day 6 of our Celtics Summer Forecast series, we asked our panel: "Who on the Celtics will be voted an All-Star for the 2016-17 season?' A group of 16 Celtics bloggers were allowed to pick up to two representatives for the Celtics.
Al Horford, Boston's offseason splurge, landed on 87.5 percent of ballots, while Thomas was close behind at 81.3 percent. Jae Crowder was the only other Celtics player to earn a vote, landing on a single ballot.
When voting, 75 percent of respondents pegged the Celtics to have two All-Stars and the other 25 percent picked just one. Not surprisingly, no one on the panel picked the option that Boston would have no representatives.
After all, team success is often a key component in just how many All-Stars a team emerges with. In Week 1 of our forecast, our panel projected the Celtics to win 50-plus games, and a fast start to the 2016-17 campaign will put the team in position to earn multiple stars for the first time since Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo represented the team at the 2012 All-Star Game.
This writer's prediction? It only seems appropriate that Thomas and Horford get to spend another All-Star Game together. It was well-chronicled last season how Thomas was in full recruitment mode at the game in Toronto, and Horford later acknowledged he was one of the players asking Thomas about the culture in Boston.
Horford, with his new four-year max contract, and Thomas, who hasn't stopped recruiting since last year's All-Star Game, can target other stars and put the hard sell on them before both February's trade deadline (when speculation about Boston adding another player will undoubtedly be rampant) and next summer (when the Celtics will again have the cap space to pursue another max-salary player).
Injuries could open spots for Celtics players or -- should Thomas or Horford miss time early in the year -- some of Boston's younger players might get a chance to sneak into the game. With an uptick in offensive production, Crowder could put himself on the All-Star fringe again (though the forward position is typically deep). Even with a breakout year, Marcus Smart might struggle to find a spot, given the guard depth in the East, but he'd be our wild card on Boston's roster.
A sample of our panel's responses:
Tom Westerholm, MassLive (Horford, Thomas): All-Star selections are often based on team success -- for better or worse -- and if the Celtics follow projections and are hovering around the No. 2 or 3 seed by the All-Star break, it's not a big leap at all to imagine that Horford and Thomas -- who will probably be the team's two highest scorers -- will get the nod.
Ryan Bernardoni, CelticsHub (Horford, Thomas): Narrative goes a long way in All-Star decisions, so if the Celtics hit their win projections right from the start and are a top-2 team they may actually put more than two players in the game. The most likely picks are Horford and Thomas, but if a third player does make it I would guess it's a Smart breakout over the understated excellence of Crowder, even if Crowder should continue to be the better player.
Bill Sy, CelticsBlog (Thomas, Crowder): Traditionally, the top two or three teams in each conference get two representatives at All-Star weekend. I had the Celtics finishing second in the East, so that should guarantee a second trip for Thomas and Horford’s fifth invite to the midseason festivities. My dream scenario is that Horford "gets hurt," commissioner Adam Silver selects Crowder as his replacement, and Crowder and Thomas start recruiting at All-Star shootaround with Tom Brady on speed dial, just in case.
Sam Sheehan, Celtics Reddit and CLNS Radio (Horford): This question is tough for me because All-Star selection is notoriously fickle. The fan vote will probably be responsible for some undeserving nods and the depth chart is always a little funky. My knee-jerk reaction was to say Thomas and Horford, but I think it's a tall order -- no pun intended -- to ask Thomas to replicate his great season last year. A relatively healthy Horford in coach Brad Stevens' system should be on the bubble.
Mark Van Deusen, CelticsLife (Horford, Thomas): In each of the past two seasons, the No. 2 team in the East had a pair of All-Stars. DeMar DeRozan and Lowry for Toronto last season, and LeBron James and Kyrie Irving for the Cavaliers in 2014-15. Horford and Thomas should continue that trend for the Celtics in 2016-17. Along with three Heat squads featuring LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, and the 2012-13 Knicks with Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler, every second-place finisher in the East has had at least two All-Stars dating to 2009-10 (when Dwight Howard was the Magic's only representative).
Alex Kungu, Red’s Army (Horford, Thomas): I was really tempted to put Crowder here because I think he'll make another leap with Horford opening up the offense even more, but I'll settle with the most likely selections in Thomas and Horford. The two will form a tantalizing pick-and-roll tandem while simultaneously making the game easier for one another. As the Celtics climb up the NBA hierarchy, the spotlight and praise will go to them -- and Stevens.
Sam Packard, WEEI (Thomas): I don't expect Horford to put up YUGE stats next year for the Celtics, but I do think his presence will help Thomas' scoring and assist numbers. Once you make one All-Star team, it's much easier to make another.
Mike Dynon, Red's Army (Horford, Thomas): Have to go with the chalk here. As past All-Stars, Thomas and Horford have a head start on their teammates. Also, I'm afraid to think about how the Celtics will struggle if the top two guys don't play up to their standards.
Jake Keaney, CelticsBlog (Horford, Thomas): Horford will dominate the Celtics’ frontcourt, Thomas will command the backcourt, and both players will earn All-Star nods in 2016-17. Thomas shouldn’t have a problem putting up numbers deserving of an All-Star selection, especially if Boston does not acquire another primary ball handler or if no such player ascends from the bench.
Justin Poulin, Celtics Stuff Live on CLNS Radio (Horford, Thomas): Thomas and Horford are the only players on the Celtics' roster that have been All-Stars and it will remain so. The Celtics' best offensive and defensive player get the nod this season. The pairing is a perfect complement on offense as Horford's shooting opens the lane for Thomas to drive while the pick-and-roll brings more action on offense.
Dan Greenberg, Barstool Sports (Horford, Thomas): I think with Thomas, it's an absolute no-brainer. Not only is he already an All-Star-caliber player, he's arguably a top-six point guard in the entire league. His numbers should be even better this year, and maybe people will stop talking about his height. With Horford, I think it's more positional than anything else. In the East, there isn't really another big man I see taking his spot. If Horford seamlessly integrates into Stevens' system like we all expect, he should get a nod as well.
Sean Penney, CelticsBlog (Horford, Thomas): Horford is a four-time All-Star on his way to making it for a fifth time. If the Celtics make the leap into the top tier of the East as we expect, the prized free-agent acquisition will get his fair share of the credit. Thomas has always played with a bit of a chip on his shoulder. He silenced his critics last year who claimed a player his size couldn't be a star. Now he'll aim to prove that last season was no flash in the pan and that the signing of Horford wasn't an indication that the Celtics were missing a star -- it was because they wanted two of them.
Lachlan Marr, Celtics Blog (Horford, Thomas): If Thomas plays with the same form he showed last season, he should be a lock for the All-Star Game; with his burgeoning popularity he may even get in on votes alone. Horford went to the All-Star Game this past season as a last-minute sub. But if he's able to add some much-needed depth to the Celtics' frontcourt, then I wouldn't be surprised to see him there again this season.
Rich Jensen, Red's Army (Horford): I really wanted to go full homer and pick Thomas, too, but this game's a popularity contest -- even, to a certain extent, when it comes to reserves. I just don't think Thomas has the reputation to appear in a second All-Star Game when he basically got in the last one because Kyle Lowry missed a lot of the season. This isn't a reflection on Thomas as a player, it's a reflection on the silliness of the All-Star Game as a measure of player ability.