Now that the All-Star teams have been unveiled, it’s time for everybody’s favorite exercise: identifying which players got snubbed. The good news for these players is that at least one of them will be late adds. Kobe Bryant was voted in as a starter, and he’s out for the season with a torn rotator cuff, so that creates one spot in the Western Conference. Dwyane Wade is out indefinitely in the East, and he was named a reserve on Thursday, so that opens the door for another replacement. There is potential for other replacements to come up, if the likes of LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Durant, or Carmelo Anthony decide to sit with their current injuries.
In the meantime, here are three players in each conference that deserved to make it.
Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers): Lillard is the most surprising name to be left off. The Blazers have the third-best record in the Western Conference, and he’s rightly developed a rep as a cold-blooded clutch shooter. The problem is, there are way too many good point guards in the Western Conference. Should Chris Paul get left off? What about Russell Westbrook? The West has about 20 guys who are worthy of the 12 available spots.
DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings): If LaMarcus Aldridge hadn’t put off his thumb surgery, Cousins would have been a lock. The biggest knocks against him are that he plays on a losing team (which isn’t exactly his fault, considering the Kings fallen off a cliff since the firing of head coach Mike Malone) and the 10 games he missed with a viral infection in November and December. But Kevin Durant has missed more games than he’s played, and he made the team. From a basketball standpoint, it’s hard to argue with Boogie’s credentials. He’s been among the best bigs in the entire league, putting up career numbers (23.8 points, 12.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.6 blocks) and creating a matchup nightmare for every team he faces.
Mike Conley (Memphis Grizzlies): Conley should have made the team last year, and he’s having an equally great season this year. He’s just unfortunate enough to play the most loaded position in the loaded Western Conference. Lillard is already probably in line to be named a replacement ahead of him, and which of the guards that made it should be left off? It’s unfair that Conley got passed over again, but someone has to.
Kyle Korver (Atlanta Hawks): No team has sent four players to the All-Star game since the 2011 Boston Celtics with Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo. But it’s hard to argue Korver doesn’t deserve a nod along with his teammates. He’s having a historic shooting season — his True Shooting percentage is 74.1 percent, almost four points higher than the single greatest TS% in history, Tyson Chandler’s 70.8 percent mark in 2011-12. And where Chandler and the other leaders in the category were big men who scored mostly around the basket, Korver is taking 5.8 three-pointers per game and shooting 53.4 percent from beyond the arc. He’s the most dangerous shooter in the world and he should be in the All-Star game.
Brandon Knight (Milwaukee Bucks): Not talked about much as one of the elite point guards in the league, Knight has quietly been the rock of a Bucks team performing well above expectations. He’s tied his career high averaging 17.9 points per game, become a reliable three-point shooter (40.8 percent from deep) and keeping Milwaukee in the playoff hunt despite the loss of Jabari Parker for the season. He’s going to get paid this summer.
Nikola Vucevic (Orlando Magic): There’s no chance Vucci Mane makes it, since the Magic aren’t a playoff team. But he’s putting up monster numbers, averaging 19.5 points and 11.2 rebounds. He’s made leaps as an offensive player and become an all-around threat in the post. The four-year, $54 million extension he signed in October is already looking like a steal.