On Thursday night, the reserves for the 2019-20 NBA All-Star Game were announced for both conferences. The reserves included veterans to the game (Chris Paul’s 10th selection, Russell Westbrook’s 9th selection, Kyle Lowry’s 6th selection) as well as first-timers (including Brandon Ingram, Rudy Gobert, Jayson Tatum, and Donovan Mitchell.)
Just seven reserve spots existed in each conference, bringing the total number of All-Stars on each team to twelve. As always, there’s inevitable debate on if the right All-Stars were chosen.
With teams like the Toronto Raptors and Miami Heat earning multiple All-Star spots, with individual efforts on losing teams seeming to go unnoticed, some Twitter users have suggested the politics of selecting All-Stars has been changed to favor players on winning teams. Reserves are selected by the 30 coaches around the league, regardless of the results of the fan, media, and player votes.
Every All-Star game, in every league, every year, is bound to leave fans and players feeling there were more deserving players. But some of the selections in this year’s NBA All-Star game are particularly head-scratchers.
- G Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks (1st selection)
- G Kemba Walker, Boston Celtics (4th selection)
- F Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks (4th selection) (Captain)
- F Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors (1st selection)
- C Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers (3rd selection)
- F Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat (5th selection)
- F Bam Adebayo, Miami Heat (1st selection)
- G Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers (2nd selection)
- F Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks (2nd selection)
- G Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors (6th selection)
- C Domantas Sabonis, Indiana Pacers (1st selection)
- F Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics (1st selection)
- G Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks (1st selection)
- G James Harden, Houston Rockets (8th selection)
- F LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers (16th selection)
- F Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Clippers (4th selection)
- C Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers (7th selection)
- C Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets (2nd selection)
- G Damian Lillard, Portland Trailblazers (5th selection)
- C Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz (1st selection)
- F Brandon Ingram, New Orleans Pelicans (1st selection)
- G Chris Paul, Oklahoma City Thunder (10th selection)
- G Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz (1st selection)
- G Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder (9th selection)
Should Any Reserves Be Starters?
In the Western Conference, the starting lineup is as it should be. Most years, Damian Lillard (29.0 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 7.8 APG) would be a shoo-in for a starting spot. But the historic seasons of Luka Doncic (28.8 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 8.7 APG) and James Harden (35.7 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 7.2 APG) block Lillard from the two guard spots offered in the starting lineup.
LeBron James and Anthony Davis were locks for the starting lineup with monster performances on the court in the first half of the season, leading the Los Angeles Lakers to the best record in the West. Kawhi Leonard is easily the next best non-guard in the conference, and although he’s only played 36 games, it’s enough of a sample size to give him the starting nod.
If you were to argue for someone over Leonard, it would have to be Nikola Jokic or Rudy Gobert, but with Leonard playing in roughly 75% of the Los Angeles Clippers game, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be there.
I would tweak the Eastern Conference starting lineup. Kemba Walker (22.0 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 5.0 APG) is having a solid season for the Boston Celtics. Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers does score a little less, but I find him to be a better all-around player (16.6 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 8.3 AST.) The starters are selected by fans, players, and media: none of which seem to be super high on Simmons value.
But an even better selection for starter would be a player who’s not even on the roster at all: Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal. Beal’s line (28.7 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 6.4 APG) is better than any guard in the East with the exception of Trae Young. His PER of 22.7 is higher than both Walker and Simmons. Beal’s statistics are easily superior, with the glaring difference between his resume and the other guards in consideration being number of games won.
Is leading your team to wins a testament to your ability as a basketball player? Absolutely. But is it a major factor we usually consider when selecting All-Stars? Not usually.
I probably wouldn’t change the selection of Pascal Siakam (23.7 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 3.4 APG) in the starting lineup. Jimmy Butler (20.2 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 6.4 APG) has a case with a more well-rounded game, but with advantages in points and rebounds, Siakam earned both his first All-Star appearance and starting role.
Potential All-Star Snubs
- G Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards: There’s nothing potential about this snub, as Beal has a case for All-Star starter in the Eastern Conference. His 28.7 PPG are the most by a non-All Star player in over 30 seasons. His exclusion is laughable.
- G Zach Lavine, Chicago Bulls: Lavine has been putting up numbers for the Chicago Bulls: arguably, again, better numbers than both Walker and Simmons. Lavine’s specialty is his scoring (25.1 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 4.0 APG) and the guard can be unstoppable at times.
- C Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons: The Pistons center remains one of the most under-appreciated players in the league. Where else can you find 17.2 PPG and 15.6 RPG on 52.2% shooting? After Joel Embiid, Drummond is the second-best center in the conference and easily Top 5 in the league. I would put him over Bam Adebayo. Domantas Sabonis (18.0 PPG. 12.8 RPG, 4.6 APG, 53.5% FG) has the same numbers or better when compared to Drummond, and in a breakout season, I respect that selection.
- G Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns: Like Beal, there’s nothing “potential” about Booker’s All-Star snub. 27.1 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 6.4 APG, and 51.0% shooting should be enough to be an All-Star any year. Though their record isn’t great, Booker makes the Suns a dangerous team whenever he touches the ball. Booker is the definition of the type of player you’d be excited to see in an All-Star game. In terms of guards, he deserves selection over Chris Paul, Donovan Mitchell, and Russell Westbrook. Coaches aren’t limited by position either, so Booker also could have a spot over Rudy Gobert or Brandon Ingram.
- C Karl Anthony-Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves: Towns has only appeared in 30 games this season, and the Minnesota Timberwolves haven’t exactly done better with the big man on the court. In a seemingly results-based coach vote, it makes sense Town didn’t get much love. But from a production standpoint, the 26.9 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 4.2 APG, 51.1% shooting, and 41.2% three-point shooting would seem to be enough to earn his 3rd All-Star appearance.
- G Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies: It’s tough for a rookie to make the All-Star game, but Ja Morant’s 17.5 PPG, 3.5 RPG, and 7.2 APG (along with 48.9% shooting and 39.1% three-point) in his first 42 games deserves a serious look. Though the numbers end up pretty similar, I would probably take him over Chris Paul (17.1 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 6.5 APG on 47.8%/35.7%.)
- F Paul George, Los Angeles Clippers: The biggest knock on Paul George is that he’s only played half a season, appearing in 22 games so far. He’s been great on the court (22.9 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 3.7 APG) with no major gaps in availability since making his season debut a little late. It probably wouldn’t be fair to put George in with the amount of games he’s played, but I will at least consider him.
Re-Selecting The All-Stars
- G Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks
- G Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
- F Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
- F Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors
- C Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
- F Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat
- G Kemba Walker, Boston Celtics
- C Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons
- G Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers
- F Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks
- G Zach Lavine, Chicago Bulls
- C Domantas Sabonis, Indiana Pacers
- F Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
- G Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors
- F Bam Adebayo, Miami Heat
Celtics forward Jayson Tatum and Raptors guard Kyle Lowry were relatively easy cuts to make. Lowry is outclassed by every guard on the roster, including the newly-added Bradley Beal. The number of guards and forwards/centers doesn’t have to be kept consistent, but it made the most sense to drop the weakest guard in the class. The same pretty much goes for Tatum. His line (21.5 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 2.8 APG) is super solid, but pales in comparison to Lavine’s offensive production.
I also cut Bam Adebayo after close deliberation between him and Andre Drummond. Drummond’s numbers, which he’s been putting up with ease for some time, deserve the All-Star nod even though Adebayo has also been great. Domantas Sabonis retains his spot on the roster as a big man.
- G Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks
- G James Harden, Houston Rockets
- F LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
- F Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Clippers
- C Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers
- C Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
- G Damian Lillard, Portland Trailblazers
- G Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns
- C Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
- C Karl Anthony-Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves
- F Brandon Ingram, New Orleans Pelicans
- G Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
- G Chris Paul, Oklahoma City Thunder
- G Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz
Cutting Chris Paul was easy, but Donovan Mitchell was hard to let go. Paul’s production has been decent, but easily the weakest link of the guards selected in the West. I think respect towards his leadership and service in the NBA may have played a role in his selection. But room had to be made for Booker, whose exclusion from the game was criminal.
The last cut had to be made to make room for Towns. Even just appearing in 30 games (well over 50%, unlike Paul George,) the Timberwolves center continues to dominate with the ball when given the chance. I considered both Brandon Ingram and Donovan Mitchell for the final cut.
I love Ingram’s All-Star selection, a nod to his stellar production in his first year with the Pelicans. Still, his leap to one of the league’s best scorers shouldn’t automatically earn him a spot: that wasn’t the case for Booker or Beal in the real-life voting.
At the end of the day, Ingram’s stats (25.0 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 4.3 APG on 47.1% FG in 43 games) slightly edges out Mitchell’s (24.6 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 4.3 APG on 45.7% FG in 47 games.) Mitchell’s play definitely deserves an All-Star selection, and this year would’ve been his first. But in this scenario, he doesn’t make the cut, barring injuries that allow other players to be added.
Huge shout-out to BasketballReference.com for allowing me to compare the statistics of so many players at once and provide so much insightful information.
Ultimately, I added Bradley Beal, Zach Lavine, and Andre Drummond to the Eastern Conference lineup, replacing Jayson Tatum, Kyle Lowry, and Bam Adebayo. I also inserted Beal among the starters, knocking Kemba Walker down to a reserve. I didn’t touch the Western Conference’s starters, but replaced Chris Paul and Donovan Mitchell with Devin Booker and Karl Anthony-Towns.
To argue, agree, debate, or otherwise discuss my selections, please hit me up on Twitter! Sak Sports Blog is my avenue to talk with fans about sports and debate mostly NFL and NBA issues.
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