NBA has 77 players who look like they deserve to be All-Stars

Bulls guard Zach LaVine and Knicks forward Julius Randle
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Nets forward Kevin Durant should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (29.0 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Nets guard James Harden should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (24.5 points and 11.3 assists) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Nets guard Kyrie Irving should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (28.3 points, 5.7 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Wizards guard Bradley Beal should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (32.8 points per game) over a full season has been an All-Star.

76ers center Joel Embiid should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (29.7 points and 1.2 blocks per game) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (28.2 points, 11.4 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Bulls guard Zach LaVine should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (28.5 points per game, 61.2 effective field-goal percentage) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Knicks big Julius Randle should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (23.2 points, 10.9 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Hawks guard Trae Young should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (26.5 points and 9.3 assists per game, 42.9 field-goal percentage) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Pacers guard Malcolm Brogdon should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (21.6 points, 6.6 assists and 4.8 rebounds per game, 39.5% on 3-pointers) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Pacers big Domantas Sabonis should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (21.5 points, 11.6 rebounds and 5.7 assists) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Pacers center Myles Turner should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (13.2 points and 3.5 blocks per game, 65.4% on 2-pointers) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Pistons forward Jerami Grant should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (23.8 points and 1.2 blocks per game, 88.3% on free throws) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Heat big Bam Adebayo should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (19.9 points, 9.2 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Heat wing Jimmy Butler should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (19.4 points, 7.7 rebounds and 7.4 assists per game, 85.8% on free throws) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Magic center Nikola Vucevic should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (23.4 points and 11.6 rebounds per game, 41.4% on 3-pointers) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Celtics forward Jayson Tatum should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (25.8, 7.0 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Celtics wing Jaylen Brown should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (25.9 points and 1.2 steals per game, 56.8 effective field-goal percentage) over a full season has been an All-Star.

76ers guard Ben Simmons should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (15.2 points, 8.3 rebounds, 8.0 assists and 0.8 blocks per game) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Wizards guard Russell Westbrook should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (18.9 points, 9.5 assists, 9.4 rebounds per game) over a full season has been an All-Star.

76ers forward Tobias Harris should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (20.8 points and 7.7 rebounds per game, 61.5 true shooting percentage) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Cavaliers guard Collin Sexton should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (22.8 points and 4.3 assists per game, 50.5% on 2-pointers, 40.7% on 3-pointers, 80.5% on free throws) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Hornets forward Gordon Hayward should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (22.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.1 steals per game, 59.8 true shooting percentage) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Raptors guard Fred VanVleet should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (20.4 points and 6.6 assists per game, 46.2% on 2-pointers, 37.7% on 3-pointers) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Raptors guard Kyle Lowry should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (17.7 points and 6.4 assists per game, 55.6 effective field-goal percentage) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Bucks wing Khris Middleton should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (20.3 points and 5.8 assists per game, 59.3 effective field-goal percentage) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Bucks guard Jrue Holiday should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (16.4 points and 5.4 assists per game, 57.4 effective field-goal percentage) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Cavaliers center Jarrett Allen should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (12.3 points and 9.0 rebounds per game, 65.1% on 2-pointers, 75.8% on free throws) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Hawks big John Collins should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (18.2 points, 60.0 effective field-goal percentage, 86.7 on free throws) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Hawks center Clint Capela should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (14.3 points, 14.0 rebounds and 1.0 assist per game, 57.9 field-goal percentage) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Hawks forward De'Andre Hunter should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (17.2 points per game, 60.9% on 2-pointers, 36.6% on 3-pointers, 87.7% on free throws) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Cavaliers center Andre Drummond should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (17.4 points and 13.5 rebounds per game, 15.8 assist percentage) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (19.1 points per game, 65.5% on 2-pointers) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Hornets guard Terry Rozier should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (20.6 points and 1.3 steals per game, 60.2 effective field-goal percentage) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Raptors forward Pascal Siakam should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (20.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.5 and 0.6 blocks per game, 79.7% on free throws) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Raptors big Chris Boucher should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (13.6 points, 2.1 blocks and 1.6 3-pointers per game) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Raptors wing OG Anunoby should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (14.6 points, 2.0 steals and 60.8 effective field-goal percentage) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Hornets guard LaMelo Ball should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (14.6 points, 6.2 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game, 49.5% on 2-pointers, 35.4% on 3-pointers) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Nets wing Joe Harris should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (14.9 points per game, 68.8 true shooting percentage) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Wizards center Thomas Bryant should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (14.3 points per game, 70.4 true shooting percentage) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Nets center DeAndre Jordan should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (7.2 points and 7.0 rebounds per game, 78.8 field-goal percentage) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Bucks big Bobby Portis should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (11.8 points and 0.9 steals per game, 57.9% on 2-pointers, 48.4% on 3-pointers) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Lakers forward LeBron James should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (25.7 points, 8.2 rebounds and 7.9 assists per game) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Warriors guard Stephen Curry should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (30.0 points per game, 61.4 effective field-goal percentage) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (29.8 points and 7.7 assists per game) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Mavericks guard Luka Doncic should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (29.1 points and 9.4 assists per game) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Nuggets center Nikola Jokic should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (27.4 points, 11.1 rebounds and 8.6 assists per game) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (26.7 points, 5.0 assists and 1.8 steals per game) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (22.5 points, 6.5 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Jazz center Rudy Gobert should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (14.2 points and 13.4 rebounds per game, 64.0 field-goal percentage) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Jazz guard Mike Conley should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (16.5 points, 5.8 assists, 3.7 rebounds, 56.0 effective field-goal percentage) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Clippers wing Paul George should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (24.4 points per game, 66.2 true shooting percentage) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Grizzlies guard Ja Morant should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (18.8 points, 8.3 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game, 51.6% on 2-pointers, 25.0% on 3-pointers) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Pelicans big Zion Williamson should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (25.0 points per game, 62.5 effective field-goal percentage) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (23.6 points, 4.8 assists and 0.9 blocks per game, 40.0% on 3-pointers) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Kings guard De'Aaron Fox should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (23.2 points per game and 6.8 assists per game, 52.8 effective field-goal percentage) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Lakers big Anthony Davis should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (22.5 points, 8.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.8 blocks per game, 57.5% on 2-pointers) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Spurs wing DeMar DeRozan should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (19.8 points, 6.9 assists and 5.0 rebounds per game, 60.3 true shooting percentage) over a full season has been an All-Star.)

Suns guard Chris Paul should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (17.2 points and 8.2 assists per game, 53.9% on 2-pointers, 36.9% on 3-pointers) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Suns guard Devin Booker should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (24.4 points and 4.4 assists per game, 55.6% on 2-pointers, 35.3% on 3-pointers) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Rockets big Christian Wood should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (22.0 points and 10.2 rebounds per game, 61.8 effective field-goal percentage) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Thunder big Al Horford should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (14.7 points, 6.9 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 0.9 steals and 0.8 blocks per game, 50.0% on 2-pointers, 39.0% on 3-pointers) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (16.5 points, 10.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game, 60.4 effective field-goal percentage) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (18.2 points per game, 38.2% on 3-pointers, 95.8% on free throws) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Lakers big Montrezl Harrell should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (13.3 points per game, 64.6 field-goal percentage, 73.8 free-throw percentage) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Timberwolves guard D'Angelo Russell should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (19.3 points, 5.1 assists and 0.5 blocks per game, 44.9% on 2-pointers, 39.9% on 3-pointers) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (26.7 points per game, 59.4 effective field-goal percentage) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Suns forward Mikal Bridges should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (14.1 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.1 per game, 60.4% on 2-pointers 39.8% on 3-pointers) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Suns center Deandre Ayton should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (13.9 points, 12.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game, 59.7 effective field-goal percentage, 72.1% on free throws) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Mavericks big Kristaps Porzingis should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (20.5 points and 8.2 rebounds per game, 54.1 effective field-goal percentage, 85.5% on free throws) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Rockets guard John Wall should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (20.4 points, 6.3 assists and 0.7 blocks per game, 35.1% on 3-pointers) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Rockets guard Eric Gordon should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (18.7 points, 61.6% on 2-pointers, 35.1% on 3-pointers, 84.8% on free throws) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (13.7, 1.2 blocks and 1.1 steals per game, 58.7% on 2-pointers, 37.3% on 3-pointers) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Jazz forward Joe Ingles should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (11.8 points per game, 69.4 true shooting percentage) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (21.8 points and 10.6 rebounds per game, 42.9% on 3-pointers) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Timberwolves guard Malik Beasley should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (20.9 and 4.9 rebounds per game, 51.5% on 2-pointers, 39.8% on 3-pointers, 84.3% on free throws) over a full season has been an All-Star.

Kings forward Harrison Barnes should obviously be an All-Star this year. Everyone with his stats (15.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game, 53.9% on 2-pointers, 38.8% on 3-pointers, 84.3% on free throws) over a full season has been an All-Star.

That’s 77 players – 42 in the East, 35 in the West.

Except the NBA has just 24 All-Star slots, 12 per conference.

Scratch some players from the above list for whatever reason. Add a few injury replacements. But those minor adjustments won’t change the picture:

The NBA has a massive surplus of players who look like All-Stars this season.

Why?

For one, the NBA has kept All-Star rosters at just 12 players even as the league expands.

That means there are just 0.8 All-Star slots per NBA team. That was once as high as 2.75.

It’s especially silly to keep All-Star rosters at 12 considering active rosters have been 13 players for several years (and are up to 15 this year).

But – with the exception of 2019 – that same problem has existed since the Raptors and Grizzlies entered the NBA two-and-a-half decades ago

What makes this year so exceptional?

The NBA is having an offensive explosion and a pace uptick.

Teams are averaging 112.2 points per game – the highest mark since the early 70s. The number of possessions per 48 minutes is the third-highest in the last 30 years (trailing only the last two seasons). At a faster pace, players have more opportunities to accumulate counting statistics. Quicker play also tends to benefit offenses, as defenses set less often. League-wide points per possession – 1.119, per Basketball-Reference – is the highest ever.

Four reasons stand out for the stylistic shift:

  • Players are more skilled, especially as shooters.
  • Offensive strategy is more optimal, particularly realizing the value of 3-pointers.
  • Players are better-conditioned, allowing them to play at a faster pace.
  • Rules changes have limited physicality of defenders.

The coronavirus pandemic might have exacerbated the situation. Perhaps, players are less committed to defending hard with everything else happening. Who hasn’t let something slip in These Times?

But the game has been trending this direction for years. Coronavirus is a minor factor, if at all.

For the moment, it’s less important understanding why the NBA has changed than understanding that the NBA has changed.

Players like Julius Randle and Zach LaVine – to pick on a couple borderline All-Star candidates – are posting historic numbers. But they aren’t competing against less-efficient players from years past for 2021 All-Star selection. Randle and LaVine are competing against other players who are also playing in this season’s unprecedented offensive environment.

All-Star is an annual, relative honor. That’s the only reasonable way to view it.

Otherwise, you’ll end up with 77 players who look deserving of All-Star status, and that’s obviously absurd.

Suns, Crowder agree he will sit out training camp while they seek a trade

Jae Crowder does salsa dance in Suns-Lakers Game 6
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Jae Crowder wants out of Phoenix and the Suns have been looking for a trade to accommodate that.

It hasn’t come together, so the Suns and Crowder agreed he should sit out training camp while they find one (this team does not need another distraction in camp).

We knew this was coming because Crowder himself announced it a couple of days ago. While he deleted the Tweet, nothing ever completely disappears online.

Two quick thoughts on this news.

First, it means Cameron Johnson will start at the four, something that was likely anyway as the Suns look to add shooting to help space the floor.

Second, this news does not help the Suns’ leverage in getting a trade. It’s understandable that Crowder didn’t want to be in camp and that the Suns didn’t want the distraction, but now everyone knows the pressure on the Suns to get a deal done and they will lowball their offer.

There are a few potential landing spots out there. Crowder hinted online he would welcome a return to Miami, and the Heat need help at the four after P.J. Tucker left for Philly. The Heat would base a trade around Duncan Robinson, but to make the salaries match the Suns would have to throw in another player — Dario Saric, Landry Shamet, Cameron Payne, Torey Craig or after Jan. 15  — and that seems unlikely.

Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago, Boston (but it’s tough to make the salaries match up), and even a team like Minnesota could work. The challenge is the Suns are a win-now team and will want a player who can help them this season and all those teams are in the same space. Right now there may not be an offer available. As camps open and teams start to understand what they do and don’t have, a deal could come together.

Crowder will be home waiting for that to happen, not with the Suns team.

Giannis Antetokounmpo says Stephen Curry is the best player in the world

WhatsApp's "Naija Odyssey" New York Premiere
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Giannis Antetokounmpo is at the top of pretty much every “best player in the world” list right now.

Except his own.

For Antetokounmpo, the best player in the world is the one that leads his team to the title, so today, it is Stephen Curry (hat tip to Lance Allen of NBC Milwaukee).

It’s easy to see where Antetokounmpo is coming from, but basketball is a team game. The best player may not be on the best team, despite his skill set, and that team may not win. Curry was spectacular in leading the Warriors to their fourth banner since he arrived, he’s near the top of the best in the world list, but it’s not all about winning.

The takeaway from what Antetokounmpo said is how much he wants to win — he wants a second ring.

The Bucks enter the season as one of the favorites to win that ring, but it’s going to take a lot of things going right for that to happen.

Including Antetokounmpo showing he is the best player in the world.

 

Is Matisse Thybulle ready for a big step forward with 76ers?

Pregame of Philadelphia 76ers vs Miami Heat
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Matisse Thybulle brings a valuable NBA skill to the table — he is an elite perimeter defender. Two-time All-Defensive Team in three years in the league.

But when the 76ers got up against Miami in the playoffs, Thybulle’s role shrank dramatically. While Doc Rivers needed his defense, Thybulle’s lack of an offensive game became a problem — the Heat largely ignored him and helped off him, allowing Miami to muck up the Philly offense (he was limited in the Toronto series because he was not vaccinated and could not play in road games). The 76ers tried to solve that problem this offseason by bringing in DeAnthony Melton, Danuel House and P.J. Tucker — solid role-playing defenders who can contribute on offense, too.

Thybulle wants to be part of the solution, too, and told Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer he spent the summer focused on his offensive game.

“I’m really proud of what I did,” Thybulle said of his offseason. “I’ve worked harder than I’ve worked. And I had a meeting with [Sixers coach Doc Rivers] early this week and was telling him I feel more bought in than I’ve been before.”

No doubt Thybulle put in the work, we will find out soon if it paid off — and if that will get Thybulle paid.

Thybulle is entering a contract year — the 76ers can extend him up until Oct. 18, after which he would become a restricted free agent next summer. Thybulle said his goal is to remain in Philadelphia (and he’d like an extension).

“At this point, I would always want to stay in Philly,” he said. “And if it’s up to me, that’s always going to be my choice.

“But considering that I’ve realized the reality of how far out of my control it is, if I do get traded or something does end up happening, I can look at myself in the mirror at the end of the day.”

With a win-now Sixers team, Daryl Morey may be in a wait-and-see place with Thybulle, letting the market set his price next offseason. If he signs now, it will likely be on a team-friendly deal (but maybe one that still works for the 25-year-old).

If Thybulle gets on the court this season and shows an improved offensive game, one where he can make teams pay for helping off him, his price goes up and there may be multiple teams bidding for his services next summer. And Doc Rivers would be happy in the short term.

It’s up to Thybulle to prove it now.

 

Markelle Fultz will miss start of training camp, at least, with broken toe

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The basketball gods continue to turn their backs on Markelle Fultz.

A torn ACL had limited him to 26 games over the past two seasons, but he was healthy and ramping up to a larger role this season with a young and interesting Magic team. Then came the news he fractured his left big toe during a training session. As a result, he will be out for at least the start of training camp, the team announced. From the official announcement:

“He has been placed in a walking boot and his return to play will depend on how he responds to rehabilitation and treatment. Fultz suffered the injury during a preseason workout prior to returning to Orlando and imaging confirmed the fracture.

He will not need surgery, according to the team.

Fultz was set to split point guard duties with Cole Anthony, this injury means RJ Hampton could see more run at the point for now. Fultz should be able to return either during the end of the preseason or early in the season.

Fultz was the No.1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft but never found his footing with the 76ers (in part due to injury). However, since getting out of that spotlight and allowed to develop in Orlando he’s been a solid rotation point guard when healthy. Last season in 18 games he averaged 10.8 points and 5.5 assists a game, and while he’s still not an efficient shooter he can run a team.

How Anthony and, eventually, Fultz will work off the ball as rookie Paolo Banchero gets the opportunity to create more offense will be just one of the interesting things to watch with this Magic team this year. We’ll have to wait a little while to see Fultz.