There were no undeserving selections among the 14 players named on Tuesday as the 2021 NBA All-Star reserves, but that didn’t mean that certain players who were left off the team don’t have legitimate grievances about missing out.
In both the Western Conference and the Eastern Conference, there were far more than 12 players who made strong cases for an All-Star spot and could’ve easily made the team in another year in which the competition wasn’t quite so strong.
The abridged nature of this season’s first half made selecting the team even trickier — a top-five seed in a conference may only be a game or two removed from the lottery, making it difficult to know how heavily to weigh a team’s record when considering a player’s case. Additionally, any multi-game absence related to an injury or COVID-19 had to be considered, since some teams have yet to even play 30 games this season.
With that in mind, there were a few players who stood out as the most notable omissions…
Kings guard De’Aaron Fox (22.5 PPG, 7.1 APG), Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (22.8 PPG, 6.5 APG), and Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan (19.8 PPG, 6.9 APG) have led their respective teams in both scoring and assists, with DeRozan doing it for a top-five seed in the West.
Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram (23.9 PPG, .469/.394/.882) is virtually replicating his numbers from last season, when he was named an All-Star.
And Mike Conley (16.4 PPG, 5.6 APG, .412 3PT%), who has never been named an All-Star, has been one of the most valuable players for the NBA’s best team, the 25-6 Jazz. While Conley’s counting stats are more modest than those of his competitors, most advanced metrics rate him among the NBA’s top players so far this season. Utah has an incredible +17.1 net rating when he plays, compared to +1.7 when he sits, a far more impressive on/off-court split than that of teammate Donovan Mitchell (who was named a reserve).
Bucks forward Khris Middleton and Pacers big man Domantas Sabonis were All-Stars a year ago, but didn’t make the cut this time around, despite posting similar numbers. Despite a recent slump, Middleton is still nearly a member of the 50/40/90 club, having averaged 20.3 PPG, 6.1 RPG, and 5.7 APG on .498/.434/.895 shooting. Meanwhile, Sabonis (21.5 PPG, 11.6 RPG, 5.7 APG) became the first player in history to be left off the team despite being part of the 20/10/5 club (Twitter link via StatMuse).
Adebayo has anchored the defense while improving his offensive output (19.6 PPG, 5.5 APG). As for Butler, he has made his usual two-way impact, leading the team to an 11-8 record in the games he has played, compared to 3-9 when he’s out. Only playing 19 games essentially killed his case, but as John Hollinger of The Athletic observes, Butler has missed fewer games than Kevin Durant, who was rightly considered a slam-dunk starter.
Hawks guard Trae Young is yet another player who had a strong All-Star case this season after making it in 2020. He’s averaging 27.0 PPG and 9.6 APG so far this season, making him the first player in 30 years to average 25+ points and 9+ assists and not be named an All-Star, according to StatMuse (Twitter link).
Hornets forward Gordon Hayward (21.9 PPG on .489/.424/.867 shooting), Sixers forward Tobias Harris (20.7 PPG, 7.7 RPG, .517/.415/.889 shooting), and Raptors guard Fred VanVleet (19.8 PPG, 6.7 APG) were also worthy candidates, with VanVleet rated especially highly by advanced metrics.
It may not be worth spending a ton of time bemoaning certain All-Star omissions, since certain players listed above could become injury replacements in the next week or two — Anthony Davis, for one, likely won’t be able to participate in the game, so the West will have to send at least one more player.
Still, now that the 24 initial All-Stars have been named, we want to know what you think: Who is this season’s biggest All-Star snub? And if you had to remove one of the current All-Stars to make room for that snubbed player, who are you taking off the team?
Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section below to share your thoughts!
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