The All-Star Game apparently no one wants to play has their official rosters on Tuesday night. The NBA announced the seven reserves in each conference who will join the 10 starters in Atlanta on March 7. In the West, Chris Paul, Paul George, Damian Lillard, Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, Zion Williamson and Anthony Davis were named All-Stars. (Davis is likely to be replaced due to injury.) Joining them in the East will be James Harden, Julius Randle, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Zach LaVine, Ben Simmons and Nikola Vucevic. Here are some thoughts on the final selections …
Who was snubbed?
The first thing people want to talk about when listing lists is who was left off the list. LeBron James fired the first salvo, tweeting his support for Devin Booker. I don’t know if there are heinous slights. Someone will always be left off the list. In the West, De’Aaron Fox and Mike Conley (in addition to Booker) had good cases … but who would they replace? The conference remains loaded despite the recent brain drain. Davis’ Achilles injury will make room for at least one more person. A pick of Conley would give the Jazz three All-Stars, a welcome reward for their surprising rise in first place during the first half of the season.
In the East, people will probably be up in arms over the inclusion of Nikola Vucevic. It is important to note that coaches vote on reserves. Vooch may not get national attention, but he has been an incredibly productive player for several seasons on a Magic team that is always a bit more playful than he is credited with. His teammate Aaron Gordon may have stolen more All-Star weekend headlines in his career, but Vucevic is the better player. Having said all that, it is a bit surprising that Bam Adebayo is not on the team. Maybe Adebayo is paying the price for the Heat’s high and mostly low season, but he would have been a good choice here. (His teammate, Jimmy Butler, has missed too many games.) Another player with a strong argument to be included is Bucks swingman Khris Middleton, who basically averages 20/6/6 per night and is only a few free throws away. a 50/40/90 season. But particularly with the East being so tightly packed this season, which is why they mostly carry the qualifier of “team success”, these teams stand the test of time.
Julius Randle! And Zach LaVine!
Two players who upset the apple cart this season are Randle and LaVine, who have brought in huge numbers for two franchises (the Knicks and the Bulls) that have been devoid of highs in recent seasons. Both are more than deserved selections after entering this season without hype. The Knicks and Bulls would both be in the playoffs if they started today, and Randle and LaVine are the main reasons. If anything, it’s a bummer that their first All-Star games will come in a compromised product. The two players are having seasons that deserve all the normal bells and whistles that come with All-Star Weekend. Hopefully they have more selections in their future.
Jaylen Brown of the Celtics will also travel to Atlanta for his first All-Star appearance. While Boston is in the midst of a slump that nearly all of the East is going to have this season, it’s also having a spectacular season. This looks like it should be the first of many times that both Brown and Tatum will head to All-Star Weekend as a couple.
In addition to the three above, the Pelicans’ Williamson will likely be the first of many appearances in this game. In his second season alone, Zion is averaging 7/25/3 with 61.6% shooting from the field. If there’s a basketball god, we’ll see LeBron and Zion throwing alley-oops in Atlanta.
So is it necessary to change the rules?
For people annoyed by the players who stayed, there is a decent argument for expanding the number of selections. The NBA’s active rosters themselves are 14 players (compared to just 12 for All-Star teams). And with the two two-way contracts allotted per club, there are more players than ever playing night after night, especially compared to when the rules were set. Personally, I like limited lists! I’m generally in favor of including players, after all this game doesn’t make sense. But the smaller number of selections makes the honor that much greater. If I were offering tweaks I’d start with a) removing the conference honors, especially considering the team captain format and b) maybe adding a specialist role for each team as player number 13. I have no idea how this thing from the practice specialist rather than just picking the next best guy, but it would be fun if a shooter like Duncan Robinson or Joe Harris or a tipper like Gordon were seen in the mix just to introduce a few. chaos. No matter what the NBA decides, this is going to matter much less to you on March 8.