The Extra Pass: Which non-All-Stars will make an All-NBA team?

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All-Star selections have become the de facto measure of good seasons, even though they’re really only the measure of good half seasons and rely on a gerrymandered system that splits players by conference.

But All-NBA teams – which evaluate a full year and aren’t split by conference – are a better metric for good seasons.

In the last eight years, 10 players have missed the All-Star Game and made an All-NBA team. Let’s have a quick look back on them and then project who the most likely players are to make the snubbed-to-honored jump this season.

2013

  • Second-team center: Marc Gasol
  • All-Stars he jumped: Dwight Howard (third team), Tyson Chandler, Brook Lopez, Joakim Noah, Chris Bosh

Gasol’s teammate, Zach Randolph, made the All-Star Game, and coaches were probably leery of putting two Grizzles on the team. Gasol also won Defensive Player of the Year, and as voters reflected on that award postseason in a way they didn’t have to midseason, they likely better-saw Gasol’s value.

2012

  • Third-team center: Tyson Chandler
  • All-Stars he jumped: Marc Gasol, Roy Hibbert

Like Gasol in 2013, Chandler likely got a boost when voters, selecting him for Defensive Player of the Year, were forced to look more closely to that side of the ball. Plus, Carmelo Anthony took what might have been seen as the one spot reserved for a Knick.

2011

  • Third-team forwards: LaMarcus Aldridge, Zach Randolph
  • All-Stars they jumped: Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Blake Griffin, Kevin Love, Paul Pierce

Aldridge was a pretty big snub this year – even LeBron said so – so the Portland big man didn’t  have much ground to make up. If anything, Randolph’s productio nfell off after the All-Star game. But they might have been competing against only the Western Conference All-Star forwards, because the East’s group just had to be filled out with someone from that conference. In perception, Duncan got his All-Star nod based on his career accomplishments and Griffin his based on his dunking ability. Those didn’t hold up for All-NBA. The other Western Conference All-Star forward, Love, played for a team that finished 17-65. A full season of futility is much harder to overlook than a half season of struggles.

2010

  • Third-Team center: Andrew Bogut
  • All-Stars they jumped: Al Horford, Chris Kaman

Bogut was about the same player before and All-Star break, but his Bucks were not. They went 24-27 before the All-Star Game and 22-9 after, raising Bogut’s stock during the “Feat the Deer” euphoria that ended with Milwaukee finishing second in the NBA in defensive rating.

2009

  • Third-team forward: Carmelo Anthony
  • All-Stars he jumped: Chris Bosh, Kevin Garnett, Danny Granger, Rashard Lewis, Amar’e Stoudemire, David West

Melo missed 15 games of the season’s first with an injury, and that’s likely what kept him from the All-Star Game. By the end of the year, 16 total missed games weren’t quite as significant.

2008

  • Second-team guard: Deron Williams; Third-team guards: Manu Ginobili, Tracy McGrady
  • All-Stars they jumped: Ray Allen, Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Allen Iverson, Joe Johnson, Jason Kidd, Brandon Roy, Dwyane Wade

Wade got hurt, clearing All-NBA space. Otherwise, what a confusing mess. When there’s a deep group of players – see Western Conference forwards this year – it’s not that hard for a snubbed All-Star to make modest gains and pass several players.

2006

  • Third-team forward: Carmelo Anthony
  • All-Stars he jumped: Chris Bosh, Vince Carter, Kevin Garnett, Pau Gasol, Tracy McGrady, Jermaine O’Neal, Paul Piece, Rasheed Wallace

This was a lengthy and impressive list of players Melo passed. In his first elite season, it likely just took everyone a full year to really realize he was for real.

So, based on that recent history, which non All-Stars are most likely to make an All-NBA team this season?

Honorable mention: Arron Afflalo, Andrew Bogut, Mike Conley, Goran Dragic, Andre Drummond, Tim Duncan, David Lee, Nikola Pekovic, Lance Stephenson

5. Kyle Lowry

When a group other than NBA coaches, who’ve notoriously feuded with Lowry over the years, is making the selections, he should fare much better. The Raptors’ de facto designated All-Star spot went to the less-deserving DeMar DeRozan, but that type of thinking won’t matter as much at the end of the year.

4. Russell Westbrook

If all goes well, Westbrook will play 52 games this season. In 2007, Wade made the All-NBA third team while playing just 51 games. It will require perfect health once he returns and few signs of rust, but Westbrook has a shot.

3. DeAndre Jordan

Jordan is a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, and as you can see above, those usually fare well. Only three centers made the All-Star Game this year: Dwight Howard, Roy Hibbert and Joakim Noah. Jordan would have had a strong case over Noah if they were in the same conference. In April, that will no longer matter.

2. DeMarcus Cousins

As noted with Jordan, third-team center is primed for the taking. Cousins got squeezed out in the forward-deep West, but if he keeps producing like this – proving his value over a full season like Melo did in 2006 – he’ll be hard to overlook.

1. Anthony Davis

Davis should fall off this list when Adam Silver names him Kobe Bryant’s injury replacement. But in case that doesn’t happen, Davis has already begun to build a strong All-NBA case. Plus, he’s just getting better as the year progresses, so he’ll likely look even more impressive by season’s end. He could make an All-NBA team at forward or center, further boosting his chances.

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Suns 102, Pacers 94: Snub Goran Dragic will you? He came out pushing the tempo (the game had 100 possessions) and ran past the Pacers defense to score 28 points (on 21 shots) plus dish out 7 assists. Phoenix went on a 17-5 run in the first half and in the second quarter led by as many as 19. The way the Suns get out and run is a matchup problem for the Pacers, but they started to figure it out. The Pacers cranked up the defensive pressure in the third quarter (they switched Paul George onto Dragic) and won the frame 25-11 and it looked like they would come back, but every time Indiana made a run Phoenix answered. The Morris Brothers combined for 31 points. Roy Hibbert had 26 points to lead the Pacers.

Knicks 117, Cavaliers 86: Cleveland would trade Anthony Bennett straight up for Tim Hardaway Jr. right now. As for the game, the Knicks have won four straight games now, and while only one of those was against a team that is not a tire fire (Charlotte) it doesn’t matter. The Knicks are playing the small-ball lineup everyone called for (with Carmelo Anthony at the four) and it works. Like it did last year. Thursday night the Knicks went on an 18-2 run just a couple minutes into the first quarter and the game was over at that point, basically. Carmelo Anthony had 18 of his 29 in that first quarter and he got to sit down and play cheerleader for the fourth. Kyrie Irving had 24 for the Cavaliers and didn’t get much help (Dion Waiters had 21 but 16 came in the fourth when the game was all but over).

Warriors 111, Clippers 92: This was the third blowout game of the day. Golden State went on a 13-2 run in the first quarter, started to really pull away in the second and ran away with it. Stephen Curry had 12 in the first quarter, David Lee had 10 and both ended the game with 22. The Clippers looked like a team on the second night of a back-to-back, ninth game in 14 days with eight of those games on the road. They looked tired. Blake Griffin had 27 and was 7-of-12 from the perimeter (if you say all he can do is dunk you simply don’t watch him play) but even he looked flat.

Another week, still zero players test positive at NBA restart

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It’s starting to sound routine, but it shouldn’t — that the NBA is pulling off an impressive feat keeping COVID-19 outside the bubble (just watch other sports try to come back).

The league announced that 342 players were tested for COVID-19 on the NBA campus in the past week and there were zero confirmed positive tests. The league has had no positive tests inside the NBA bubble since it started.

It’s a testament to the tone Commissioner Adam Silver set (working with Chris Paul and the players’ union) setting a tone of patience and — to use a coaching cliche — not skipping steps.

The NBA began testing players in their home markets before they arrived in Orlando (that’s where a number of players tested positive, and were quarantined/treated in those markets). Once teams arrived in Orlando, players were quarantined and tested again.

The idea was simple — to keep the virus outside of the bubble — but the execution was not. Nor was making sure there was buy-in from the players (and, for the most part, there has been).

At least so far. There are about two months of games remaining through the end of the finals, and when family members arrive next month there will be new ways the virus could penetrate the bubble.

It isn’t time for an NBA victory lap yet, but so far so good.

Nate McMillan agrees to contract extension as Pacers coach

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The rumor that Nate McMillan was on the hot seat in Indiana? Turns out, about as accurate as the rumor Nicholas Cage is a time traveler.

McMillan and the Pacers have agreed to a contract extension, the team announced Wednesday (it was first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN). McMillan had one year remaining on his current contract. There are no details about the length or compensation. But McMillan isn’t going anywhere.

“What Nate has done in four seasons with our franchise merits this extension,” said President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard. “Between injuries and changes in personnel, he and his coaching staff have adapted and produced positive results. He also represents the franchise, the city and our state in a first-class manner.”

This is the right move by the Pacers, McMillan has been one of the better coaches in the NBA the past couple of seasons (he was fourth in Coach of the Year voting a season ago and will get votes again this season). He has gotten the Pacers to exceed their on-paper talent level a few seasons in a row. Talks to extend McMillan were likely in the works already, but the push to get a longer contract announced now — while the Pacers are still playing at the NBA restart in Orlando — likely was tied to that rumor going public.

The Pacers are the fifth seed in the East and will face the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs. That Indiana got there without a healthy Victor Oladipo — thanks to strong play from Malcolm Brogdon and Domantas Sabonis for most of the season, then from T.J. Warren at the NBA restart — is a testament to McMillan’s coaching.

McMillan’s style isn’t flashy or modern — the Pacers are bottom eight in both three-pointers attempted and pace this season — but it works. The Pacers offense has been pretty average this season overall (18th in the league), which is not bad considering the team was without Oladipo for most of the season (and he was playing his way into shape when he returned and was not at an All-NBA level). The Pacers also have found and developed good young players.

All of that ties back to coaching, which is why McMillan earned this extension.

NBA lays out ground rules for family, friends to enter restart bubble

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — NBA players could have some family members or close friends inside the season-restart bubble with them by the end of the month.

And that raises the possibility of having a real, albeit small, cheering section for some playoff games.

The league detailed the policies for guest arrivals to teams on Wednesday in a memo, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press. The opportunity to bring guests into the bubble at Walt Disney World will be only for teams advancing to the second round of the playoffs, and the earliest any guest could satisfy quarantine rules and be reunited with a player is Aug. 31.

In most cases, players would be limited to four guests. The league told teams that any guests would have to be either family members, “longtime close personal friends with whom a player has an established, pre-existing, and known personal relationship,” private security staff and established family childcare providers.

Those who wouldn’t be allowed into the bubble: “trainers, physical or massage therapists, personal chefs, hair/apparel stylists, tattoo artists, and current/prospective business partners, and certified agents (other than family members), among others,” the memo said.

Also not allowed, according to the league: casual acquaintances, friends by association, anyone the player has not previously met in person or is “known by the player only through social media or an intermediary.”

ESPN first reported on the contents of the memo.

Players have made no secret about how difficult it is to be away from their families and close friends inside the bubble. Some players have needed to leave the bubble for family emergencies; others, such as Boston’s Gordon Hayward, have said they will leave for the pending birth of children. Hayward and his wife are expecting their fourth child next month.

“I miss the hell out of my family,” Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James said last week. “My wife, my kids, my mother, and so on, and so on. So, it’s a huge challenge.”

The Phoenix Suns have had friends and family at games — in the form of a pregame video that introduces starters before the games that are classified as Suns’ home contests. The video was trending Tuesday when the Suns released a copy on their social media channels, and many NBA players such as James and Toronto’s Kyle Lowry raved about the gesture.

“We say family a lot,” Suns coach Monty Williams. “It was a surprise to all of us the first time we saw it, to see your families organize that kind of intro. It’s unique.”

Exceptions to the four-person limit could apply in cases where the player has up to four of his minor children coming to the bubble. But in all cases, the same policies for others in the bubble — such as adhering to strict standards before traveling to the Orlando area, then quarantining before being allowed to enter the campus, plus submitting to daily testing and mandatory wearing of face coverings — would apply to guests as well.

Guests would also have to remain in the bubble, meaning the adjacent Disney World theme parks would be off-limits. The league said programming and entertainment for kids would be available, such as games, swimming pools and bicycles.

Players would also get one ticket authorizing entry for one adult to each of that team’s playoff games after guest arrivals, so basically for the second round and beyond. That ticket would also allow an adult to bring a child — provided the child is 2-foot-8 or shorter — to those games as well, if “the child remains seated with … the adult to whom the ticket was issued, maintains at least six feet of distance from any other individual, and wears a face covering.”

That would be the first opportunity for players to hear actual cheers from people inside a game arena since the season shut down on March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic. Games during the restart have had a fan presence, but only on 17-foot-high video boards that surround the game courts.

The league said it would seek ways to add seating and potentially give players more than just the one ticket per game.

Teams will also be allowed to add staff to the bubble, with a requirement being an on-campus person to serve as a liaison between the guests, teams and NBA league office.

Damian Lillard motivated at restart by death of cousin, playoffs

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Damian Lillard has no shortage of motivation.

There’s the painful kind, the kind that comes from dealing with the death three months ago of a cousin who was very close to him. There’s the made-up variety, stemming from the belief he shared Tuesday night that people who cover the league don’t respect his work. There’s the silly stuff, like a back-and-forth on social media with other NBA players.

And then there’s probably the biggest sort — his want to get the Portland Trail Blazers back to the playoffs.

He topped a 51-point performance on Sunday by offering a 61-point performance on Tuesday, doing all that with the Blazers’ postseason fate still not secure and knowing that any loss would put a sizable dent in those playoff hopes. He’s the 12th player in NBA history to have consecutive 50-point games, and just the second — joining only Wilt Chamberlain — to have three 60-point games in a season.

“Couldn’t have been a better time for that type of game,” Lillard said Tuesday, after he helped the Blazers beat Dallas and move pass Memphis into the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference. “So, like I said, it’s a pleasure and honor to be company with Wilt. And hopefully, you know, it can continue.”

This is where the Blazers are: Win Thursday’s seeding-game finale against nothing-to-play-for Brooklyn, and they’re in the West play-in series that starts on Saturday as the No. 8 seed. Lose Thursday, and nothing is guaranteed.

And Lillard, even with those stakes, is putting on the best show in the bubble.

“If we lose this game, we might not make it to the playoffs,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said Tuesday night. “So, the magnitude of this game, even though it’s in an empty gym and in a bubble … this was the season was on the line.”

The three-point win Tuesday had some help from above, Lillard said.

He took a 3-pointer in the fourth quarter from somewhere between 35 and 40 feet away, felt it was good when it left his hand, then saw it hit the back of the rim and bounce straight up — way, way, way up — in the air.

Lillard’s cousin and chef, Brandon Johnson, died suddenly and unexpectedly in May. Chef B, they called him. Lillard knelt over his body and prayed moments after Johnson died. Blazers teammate CJ McCollum, who was also close with Johnson, came over soon afterward. Lillard and McCollum sat and cried together. And in the bubble, Chef B is in their mind.

“I just tried to continue what I feel like he would want me to do,” Lillard said.

Back to that 3-pointer. A shot from that far away, moving with that much energy, typically doesn’t hit the rim and bounce straight up. They tend to bounce outward. Not this one. It went up, up, up and fell for three points.

A reminder: The Blazers beat the Mavericks by three points.

“Rest in peace, Chef B,” Lillard said. “I think that was him dropping that in.”

Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony said he knew that 3-pointer, as he watched the ball go up and then in, was special.

“I probably said about 20 please, like please-please-please-please-please like repeatedly,” Anthony said. “It wasn’t meant for us to lose when that shot went in. It just wasn’t meant for us to lose.”

When the night was done, when the last of the 61 points had hit the books, Lillard said he shouted “put some respect on my name” to the media area, because as he put it “those were the people who usually have something to say or put out whatever they put out.”

In the bubble, there’s pretty much only been marveling, for good reason.

Lillard got into a bit of a social-media beef a few days ago, after the Los Angeles Clippers’ Patrick Beverley and Paul George reveled in how he missed two late free throws in what became a Portland loss. That fired him up, too — in the two games since, he’s 33 for 34 from the line, those shots all critical given how close the games were.

The NBA said Tuesday that there will be an All-Seeding Games team and MVP selected by reporters and broadcasters who are covering the restart. Lillard is pretty much a lock to be a strong candidate.

Those awards will be handed out Saturday before Game 1 of the West play-in series. He didn’t come here to be on that award list. He came here for the playoffs, and thanks to him, the Blazers are now in the driver’s seat for a chance to play the Los Angeles Lakers in Round 1.

And that will deliver even more motivation.