LeBron James is going to set a record this weekend with his 20th NBA All-Star Game appearance, but this year’s festivities are also going to be quite memorable for the four debutantes who, coincidentally, will be suiting up against him.

These four players are Paolo Banchero and Scottie Barnes, the last two NBA Rookie of the Year winners, along with Jalen Brunson and Tyrese Maxey. All four of them are Eastern Conference reserves and what they also have in common is that they faced an uphill battle to earn this prestigious nod.

Brunson, the New York Knicks’ star point guard, is the most tenured among this group as he is already in his sixth year in the NBA. The 27-year-old guard showed flashes of brilliance over his first four seasons in the league with the Dallas Mavericks and has now taken his game to another level since joining the Knicks back in the 2022 offseason.

The former second round pick is averaging career-highs across the board–27.6 points, 2.7 three-pointers, 6.5 assists, and 0.9 steals–which have earned him not just NBA All-Star Game buzz, but consideration in this year’s Most Valuable Player race.

New York is currently fourth in the East standings with a 33-22 record and if they can keep this up over the home stretch of the regular season, Brunson may very well find him on an All-NBA Team as well.

Joining Brunson as an East first-timer is Maxey who is the lead guard of the team right behind the Knicks in the East race, the Philadelphia 76ers. Maxey has thrived in the absence of James Harden who was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers last November after several months of drama.


Now in his fourth campaign, the 21st overall pick of the 2020 NBA Draft is averaging career-best numbers in almost all categories–25.7 points, three three-pointers, 3.7 rebounds, 6.4 assists, and a steal–just like Brunson.

Unlike Brunson and Maxey, Banchero (1st overall, 2022) and Barnes (4th overall, 2021) were high lottery picks, yet they had to overcome some challenges too to get to this point.

Barnes struggled in his sophomore season following his Rookie of the Year campaign as his efficiency from the field took a major hit. His role under former Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse seemed to be quite undefined, but he has now flourished under their new mentor Darko Rajakovic.

After Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby were traded away to East rivals last month, the Raptors are now clearly Barnes’ team and it would not come as a surprise if this NBA All-Star appearance is only the first of many more to come.

Banchero, the successor of Barnes as the NBA Rookie of the Year, has made it to the NBA All-Star Game as just a sophomore and the 21-year-old will also be the youngest player to suit up this year. The first overall pick of the 2022 NBA Draft has earned this recognition through a combination of his strong counting statistics and, more importantly, his role in revitalizing the Orlando Magic.

The 6’10 forward is averaging 23 points, 6.9 rebounds, 5.3 assists, and 1.1 steals per game which has helped push the Magic into the postseason race. Orlando is currently eighth in the East with a 30-25 record, yet they trail New York by only three games for fourth place. With 27 games left on the schedule for the Magic, anything is still possible for this team at the moment.

What makes Banchero’s performance even more impressive is that he has managed to make this much progress with Orlando despite their front office still not shaping their roster to maximize his and Franz Wagner’s abilities. This means that he is still far from reaching his full potential and the future of this franchise is as exciting as it has been in over a decade.

While the focus will inevitably be on James during this year’s NBA All-Star Game, these four newcomers on the other team will be making history in their own right. Each one has overcome their fair share of challenges to get here, but it is also likely that this will not be their last NBA All-Star call-up. These four players represent the changing of the guard in the NBA, particularly the East, and the future of the game is bright with them helping lead the new era.