Seven biggest All-Star Game snubs, and most are from the East

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Every player that made the 2021 All-Star Game reserves has a legitimate case. They were selected by a vote of the coaches, and it’s not like those guys were picking just based on reputation.

But some players should legitimately feel snubbed.

There are always more deserving players than spots — especially with the NBA’s insistence on keeping the rosters at 12 — and there are always All-Star Game snubs. Guys who have a legitimate “why not me” beef. This season in the East there were a lot of players who were very close, on the same tier, and making choices became splitting hairs.

Here are the seven biggest snubs this All-Star Game.

1) Devin Booker

Don’t be surprised if he gets Anthony Davis‘ spot in the West (Davis is out through past the All-Star Game with a strained calf). Booker, an All-Star last season, is averaging 24.7 points and 4.3 assists a game and is shooting 38.1% from three — all for the surprising four-seed, 20-10 Suns. Booker essentially got bumped for Chris Paul (who did make the roster), but a lot of people were not happy Booker didn’t make the list.

2) Trae Young

Young is carrying the Hawks offense so far this season, averaging 26.9 points and 9.5 assists a game, shooting 37.9% from three. Atlanta’s offense falls off by 11.7 points per 100 possessions when Young sits. An All-Star a year ago, he seems to have paid the price for Atlanta getting off to a 13-17 start that has them the 11 seed in the East. It shouldn’t. Young’s defense may not be ideal, but his offense is too good to leave him off the team — especially for an exhibition where we want to be entertained.

3) Bam Adebayo
4) Jimmy Butler

I took a beating from some corners of Twitter for taking this position, but I stand by it: An All-Star selection has to be about more than just the first half of this current season. It is bigger than that. While the current season should be the biggest factor in picking a team, the previous second half of the season and especially the playoffs have to be considered. So does the simple question “who is the best player?” This is not an award for playing 30 good games.

Which is why I had Adebayo and Butler on my All-Star reserve team. Adebayo also has had a monster first half of the season anyway (19.6 points and 9.5 rebounds a game, plus playing elite defense in the paint), but the play of these two Miami stars in the bubble has to be considered as well. For me, that puts them over the top. What holds Butler back is he has played in just 19 games this season due to COVID and a foot issue, but when he has played he’s averaged 19.1 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 7.6 assists a game. Looking at the total package and thinking about the best players, Adebayo especially, but both he and Butler should be playing in Atlanta.

5) Khris Middleton

Middleton was an All-Star the past two seasons, and his numbers this season — 20.5 points, 6 rebounds, and 5.7 assists a game — are right in line with those All-Star campaigns. More than that, he’s the guy on the Bucks who has the ball in his hands at the end of games to create in the halfcourt, not Giannis Antetokounmpo (who is an All-Star starter, deservedly).  Middleton seems to be paying the price for Milwaukee flaming out in the playoffs last season, then not dominating this regular season as it did the last couple. That’s not fair to Middleton; the issues are not on him; he has continued to play well.

6) Domantas Sabonis

The Pacers are 15-14 and if the playoffs started today, they would host a first-round playoff game — yet no Indiana players made the All-Star team. One could make a good case for Malcolm Brogdon to be an All-Star, but Sabonis was an All-Star last year and is averaging 21.6 points and 11.7 rebounds a game — numbers that are better than his All-Star season. The Pacers should have had a player on the team. Just ask their center Myles Turner.

7) Mike Conley

Conley is the reigning titleholder of “best veteran never to make an All-Star team.” He didn’t deserve the honor a season ago, when injuries and the transition to a new team and system held him back. Not anymore. The key difference between the No. 1 seed Jazz and the team of a year ago is Conley. He is averaging 16.4 points and 5.6 assists a game, is shooting 41.2% from three, and has been a brilliant floor general. He deserves to be an All-Star. It just didn’t happen this year. Again.

Honorable mention All-Star snubs: Tobias Harris (Philadelphia), Ja Morant (Memphis), De'Aaron Fox (Sacramento), Malcolm Brogdon (Indiana), Brandon Ingram (New Orleans), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Oklahoma City), DeMar DeRozan (San Antonio), Jerami Grant (Detroit).

Anthony Davis ‘excited’ to be Lakers’ No.1 offensive option, LeBron pushing him to do it

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Is Anthony Davis a No.1 offensive option on a championship team?

The Lakers made a massive bet in trading for Davis — both in good young players and picks — that he could help them win a title now and be the bridge to the future post-LeBron James. Davis was everything the Lakers hoped in the bubble and did win them banner No. 17. However, he has not stayed healthy or consistently played up to that standard.

New Lakers coach Darvin Ham is betting on Davis again and is going to run more of the offense through him this season. LeBron James reportedly backs Ham up. Can Davis stay healthy, find that form again and look like that bridge to the future? If he can’t, the Lakers have to reconsider their post-LeBron plans. That’s why there is pressure on Davis this season.

Davis is excited to prove he is ready for the role, he told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. He added LeBron is pushing him to do it.

“I’m so excited that I’ve got goosebumps just thinking about this year,” Davis told Yahoo Sports this week. “I’m looking forward to a healthy year and doing what I know we can do.”…

Davis said James, 37, has been in his ear about taking over the reins of the team, while the rest of the roster would follow his lead.

The first step in Davis being that No.1 option: Staying healthy. He played 40 games last season and 36 the season before that. While some of that was due to fluke injuries, the history of Davis missing time is long.

When healthy, Davis is an unquestionably elite player — to use the bubble example, Davis was a defensive force in Orlando who knocked down midrange jumpers after facing up, averaging 27.7 points on a 66.5 true shooting percentage, plus grabbed 9.7 rebounds a game. That is the AD the Lakers need this season.

Which can be a lot of pressure, but Davis said he doesn’t feel that.

“But for me, I’m not putting any pressure on myself at all,” Davis said at media day. “I’m gonna go out there and play basketball, work hard, defend and do what the team needs to win basketball games. I’m not going to overthink and, you know, listen to what everybody else is saying and try to be this ‘whatever’ player they want me to be.”

“Whatever” the Lakers want Davis to be is the Top 10 player in the world he has shown for stretches in Los Angeles. If he can be consistent, that Davis helps the Lakers be more of a threat in the West. If Davis can’t be that guy, it could be another long season for Lakers nation.

 

Proud to be an American: 76ers’ Embiid officially becomes U.S. citizen

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Joel Embiid is an American citizen.

A native of Cameroon, Embiid said he was sworn in as a citizen two weeks ago in Philadelphia. The NBA scoring champion and Philadelphia 76ers All-Star center said his family – Embiid and his Brazilian girlfriend Anne de Paula have a young son – played a pivotal role in his decision.

“I’ve been here for a long time,” Embiid told The Associated Press Thursday at training camp at The Citadel. “My son is American. I felt like, I’m living here and it’s a blessing to be an American. So I said, why not?”

Embiid, who played college basketball for one season at Kansas, also has citizenship in France. He said it is way too early to think about which country he could potentially represent in international basketball.

The 28-year-old Embiid averaged a career-best 30.6 points in 68 games last season. The 7-footer also averaged 11.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists in helping Philadelphia reach the Eastern Conference semifinals for the second straight year. Embiid averaged 23.6 points and 10.7 rebounds in the postseason despite playing with hand and facial injuries.

Embiid had been announced as playing out of Kansas during pregame introductions at 76ers’ home games but switched around midseason last year as being introduced from Cameroon. He might try for a mouthful this season.

“We’re going to say Cameroon, American and French,” he said, laughing.

Tyler Herro says he’s better than players ‘that have gotten paid’

Boston Celtics v Miami Heat - Game Seven
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RJ Barrett signed a rookie contract extension for four years, $107 million fully guaranteed that could climb to $120 million with incentives. Several others out of the 2019 draft class — Ja Morant, Zion Williamson, Darius Garland — earned max contract extensions with their team.

Tyler Herro is still waiting on his extension with the Miami Heat.

And with that baked in Herro confidence, he said he is better than some players he has seen getting paid, he told Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

“I was active early in the summer,” he told the South Florida Sun Sentinel of the extension window that opened in July. “Then I realized it wasn’t going to get done, if it does get done, until later. So I just told my agent to call me when it’s ready. “So we haven’t really spoken much about the contract. Obviously, I tell him to call me when it’s ready. If it’s not ready, I continue to play my game and figure it out next summer…

“There’s players across the league that have gotten paid who I know I’m better than. So it’s got to be the right number,” he said, with the Heat continuing camp on makeshift courts at the [ Baha Mar resort in the Bahamas].

One reason an extension for Herro has not gotten done — and may not get done before the Oct. 18 deadline — is Herro is the Heat’s best trade asset to go after a big name. Once he signs an extension that is off the table, something Winderman and I have discussed in our weekly video/podcast on the Heat and NBA.

The other question on a Herro extension is what is the “right number?” Did the Knicks’ Barrett set the market with his extension?

Maybe Barrett is one of the players Herro “knows” he is better than, but that would not be the consensus of scouts and free agents around the league. Herro has hardware as the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, he puts up numbers averaging 20.7 points a game while shooting 39.9% from 3 last season, he can do some secondary play creation and has had big playoff games. He has real value.

However, as Winderman has pointed out, Herro has started just 33 games across three years, compared to Barrett’s 197 starts. More importantly, Herro’s defensive limitations limited how Eric Spoelstra could use him in the playoffs. Then there is the matter of load carried. Barrett was the No. 1 option for the Knicks last season (with Julius Randle falling off) and even with the signing of Jalen Brunson, Barrett is option No.1 or 1B for Tom Thibodeau. Herro is down the Heat pecking order behind Bam AdebayoJimmy Butler, and maybe Kyle Lowry depending on how he bounces back from a down year. The Heat don’t need Herro the way the Knicks need Barrett right now, which is one key reason Herro is available via trade.

Would Herro take a four-year, $105 extension? Would the Heat even offer it? If Miami is hoping for a trade at the deadline, it may wait on an offer and let the market set Herro’s price as a restricted free agent next summer. For Herro, that would give him a chance to prove he is a starter and that his defense has improved — that he is worth more than the Heat had been offering.

If the Heat and Herro agree on an extension, look for it to be in a couple of weeks, pushing up against that October deadline.

 

Lonzo Ball undergoes successful knee surgery, out ‘at least a few months’

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Lonzo Ball underwent another arthroscopic surgery on his left knee on Wednesday, and the doctors finally had some positive news.

They believe that they’ve “addressed the issue”, and there is “confidence” that he’ll be able to play this season. He’s still expected to miss “at least a few months”, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Charania added that both sides will monitor his progress over

After his first surgery in January, Ball’s knee didn’t respond well at all, and he was eventually ruled out for the season. During media day this week, Ball said that he couldn’t run or jump, so he couldn’t play basketball. Billy Donovan said that they had to think of Ball’s injury as potentially season-ending. So an update that says that he should play this season is considered good news at this point.

Chicago had a 22-13 record with Lonzo last season, but were just 24-23 without him. He averaged 13.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.8 steals, 0.9 blocks, and 3.1 triples per game in his first year with the team.

They have other defenders like Ayo Dosunmu and Alex Caruso, but they don’t have anyone else that can both defend and facilitate the way Lonzo can. They’ll use training camp and the preseason to decide on a starting point guard between Dosunmu, Caruso, and Goran Dragic.

They’re one of the more talented teams in the East, but they may end up playing in the play-in tournament if they’re without Ball for the majority of the season.