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Charles Barkley says Jalen Brunson deserved All-Star Game start over Damian Lillard for making Knicks relevant

Bucks guard Damian Lillard has been named an NBA All-Star starter for the first time in his 12-year career. The selection did not come without controversy.

Lillard is joined in the starting backcourt by Pacers breakout star Tyrese Haliburton, who was the unanimous first choice among the fans, media and players.

This is Lillard’s eighth All-Star nomination, but his first as a member of the Eastern Conference. He has consistently been one of the best guards in the NBA his entire career and has played a major role in Milwaukee owning the second-best record in the league. That said, many believed his starting spot should have gone to Knicks guard Jalen Brunson. Charles Barkley firmly took that stance after the starters were revealed on “Inside the NBA.”

“I’m never gonna throw shade at Dame Lillard. I love him as a person and as a player. But I would have loved to see Jalen Brunson be a starter. … He made the New York Knicks relevant for the first time since Patrick Ewing. Plain and simple,” Barkley stated emphatically.

After Barkley pledged his support for Brunson, Ernie Johnson revealed that the Knicks guard and Lillard finished with the same average voting score. But because Lillard finished higher than Brunson in the fan vote, the Bucks guard claimed the final starting spot.

MORE: Full list of starters for the 2024 NBA All-Star Game

Should Brunson have been the Eastern Conference’s second starting guard over Lillard? Take a look at their stats to this point in the 2023-24 season below.

Damian Lillard vs. Jalen Brunson stats

Damian Lillard   Jalen Brunson
41 GP 42
25.3 PPG 26.6
4.3 RPG 3.9
6.8 APG 6.5
1.1 SPG 1.0
42.6 FG% 47.5
34.7 3P% 42.3
92.2 FT% 83.2

The debate between Lillard and Brunson is a tough one — and there is almost no wrong answer.

Brunson is averaging more points on better efficiency than Lillard, but Lillard has the edge in rebounds, assists and steals per game.

Lillard has elevated the Bucks to a tie for the second-best record in the NBA (31-13) but he is undoubtedly the team’s second-best option alongside All-Star frontcourt starter Giannis Antetokounmpo.

MORE: Who will be honored as NBA All-Star reserves?

That’s where the argument favors Brunson, the best player on a Knicks team that still has a respectable 27-17 record, good for a tie for fourth-best in the East.

Should Brunson have gotten the nod for being the Knicks’ No. 1 option? I believe so. But Lillard receiving the third-most fan votes among Eastern Conference guards gave him the tiebreaker over Brunson.

Look for Brunson to be nominated among the Eastern Conference All-Star reserves, while other guards like Donovan Mitchell, Trae Young and Tyrese Maxey will also hope to hear their names called.

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