By Joshua M Hicks (@jhicks042)
With heavy hearts and clouded minds in the wake of this week’s tragedy, the NBA is steadily getting back into the business of putting on its latest All-Star weekend.
The game itself is undergoing much change, seemingly on the fly and a lot of it to do with the continued saluting of the dear, departed Kobe Bryant.
One thing that isn’t changing is the selecting of reserve players from the Eastern and Western Conferences. A week after announcing the starters from each conference (East – Kemba Walker, Trae Young, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Pascal Siakim and Joel Embiid; West – Luka Doncic, James Harden, LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis). the reveal of the reserves follow, completing the stockpile of players that will be available to be selected by team captains James and Antetokounmpo next week.
As it is every year, there are at least a couple well-deserved All-Stars that get snubbed off their ticket to join the greats on its biggest stage. This year, those sort of selections may seem more obvious than in others given that in many ways this is a transitional year with all-star talent: nine first-time All-Stars are scattered throughout the selections, that meant that some prior selections had to take a seat, also it meant that some borderline guys had to feel the sting of not being selected yet again.
Two players dear to the host city, Zach LaVine and Derrick Rose, fit in those respective categories, and they lead off my list of players who I previously believed would make the team and didn’t.
- Zach LaVine – Although he is playing on a Chicago Bulls team that is sitting two spots out of the East playoffs, LaVine is having a career year and playing at a high rate, often times winning games in clutch moments and is displaying his improved offensive arsenal, making himself a more diverse scorer in the league. Averaging a career-high 25 points and shooting 39 percent from the three, LaVine is having one of the most over-looked productive seasons in recent memory. If you ask me, the All-Star game should feature a hosting team’s best player if he is worthy. LaVine has proven that he is.
- Derrick Rose – D-Rose is well-deserving of a return to the All-Star platform this year, as he is averaging 18 points and 6 assists on 49% shooting, but to return to one of the league’s biggest stages in his hometown is a reunion worth writing in the history books.
- Devin Booker – Booker has been the star of the Suns since he was drafted, but this year he has played at an elite level, and found ways to keep the Suns relevant against good competition. Booker’s 27 points a game are among the highest ever averages for a all-star non-selection.
- Bradley Beal – Beal may not be on a thriving team in the John Wall-less Washington Wizards, but he has stepped up and been the definitive reason to pay any attention to that team. Averaging over 28 points and 6 assists, both career highs, a disrespected Beal may eventually go down as having the most productive first-half of a season to not lead to an all-star appearance.
Here are the players that I believe shouldn’t have been selected to the All-Star teams:
- Ben Simmons – The 76ers are overall a successful team and still a threat in the East, but in spite of all that Simmons has not improved in a way individually where he is worthy of an all-star selection compared to others that are putting up better statistics than him. Yes, he is still an player who can carry his team and the Sixers will not go far without him, but compared to the others candidates, he easily could’ve been looked over as an all-star this year.
- Kyle Lowry – The Raptors are sitting as a top-3 team in the East but Lowry isn’t putting up nearly the numbers that other guards in his conference has. Not to mention, he also is playing with an all-star in Pascal Siakim that is taking up the ultimate leadership role offensively like Kawhi Leonard did last year. Players like Beal and LaVine may not be playing on winning teams, but they are performing at better rates than Lowry has so far.
Here are the players that made the All-Star team and are deserving of it, but would not have been among my selections:
- Rudy Gobert – One of the more obvious snubs last year, the two-time league Defensive Player of the Year deserved to be an all-star in 2019 and deserves it in 2020. Thankfully, this year, the league made sure he got the call. With the way the game is heading and the lack of big men being relevant without a jump shot, Gobert is a throwback and not an obvious selection on the basis of entertainment, but his impact on both ends of the floor and his primary role on a No. 2 seed Utah Jazz team got him the bid.
- Domantas Sabonis – Sabonis has improved every year since he’s been in the league and is playing a huge role in keeping Indiana afloat for a potential playoff berth, he is well deserving of his first all-star appearance. With past selection Victor Oladipo having not played before this week, the Pacers deserved representation too.
- Chris Paul – CP3 played a heck of a first half of the season so far, reviving his value and impact on the game in ways that reminded you of the “Point God” we are accustom to seeing. In keeping the Oklahoma City Thunder contenders when they were meant to be sellers since the beginning of the season, the narrative was easily built to return this one-time all-star mainstay to the game for the first time since 2016. Its not hard to find other Western guards playing at a more elite level than Paul, but he is still all-star worthy.
This may be another year that brings about discussion on whether or not the all-star game voting system is flawed, but don’t expect sudden and wide-spread changes to that format like with the game — the NBA wants to keep fans involved and players and coaches aren’t ever going to release their respective stakes, even if they sometimes treat the process as a chore.
The real question now is who will Giannis and LeBron select on their teams? The NBA All-Star Game’s Draft Night, will be aired live on TNT on February 6 at 6 PM CT.
Joshua M. Hicks is a Senior Writer for WARR Media