YEAR in and year out, the NBA All-Star snub list is a staple subject matter for basketball pundits and fanatics heading into every All-Star weekend. Let’s face it: No All-Star lineup has been without its share of criticisms about who should be in or out.
Now, with more than 450 players comprising the NBA, we can agree that there are not only 24 All-Stars in the most prestigious basketball league in the world. And we’re not saying that the current 2021 NBA All-Stars are unworthy of their spot.
With that said, it’s inevitable to have players worthy of a nod to (unfortunately) be excluded from the final 24.
These 14 players make a pretty good case for themselves. Just check out their numbers. These players still deserve the recognition of “All-Star” — even if they don’t play in the ASG this year.
East All-Star Reserve Snubs:
1. Domantas Sabonis (IND)
Coming into this season, nobody pegged the Indiana Pacers to be in the upper echelon of the conference. But they currently sit at the 4th spot with a .500 record (15-15).
It's been an up and down season for many teams, but especially so for the Pacers. TJ Warren has yet to make an appearance, Victor Oladipo is now in Houston, and Caris LaVert was diagnosed with a cancerous mass before he ever had a chance to suit up.
It’s been up to Domantas Sabonis to lead the charge in Indianapolis. He’s posting similar averages he had last season (when he got his first All-Star nod); he’s currently at 21.5 ppg, 11.7 rpb, 5.7 apg, 1.0 spg on 52.9 fg% this year.
Malcolm Brogdon has been a tremendous floor general and Myles Turner has been locking down the paint, but right now Domantas is the undisputed star of the Pacers.
Without him, they would be writing a different story this season.
2. Jimmy Butler (MIA)
The injury bug and COVID bug have been the biggest factors of the Miami Heat’s woes to start this season. But with Jimmy Butler back in the fold after contracting the coronavirus, the 2020 Eastern Conference Champions are back in the thick of the playoff race.
“Dem Goons from Dade County” are now on their first 4-game win streak of the season and have climbed their way back into the playoff picture sitting on the 8th seed with a 15-17 record.
Jimmy Butler has been the catalyst to the Heat’s recent success as they have gone 8-3 in their last 11 games. In that stretch, Jimmy Buckets averaged a near triple double with 20.1 points per game, along with 8.7 boards and 9.2 dimes. At the same time, he became the first player in the franchise to record three straight triple doubles.
Jimmy has only played 20 games this season, but his imprint on the games he played in thus far screams ‘All-Star’ to us.
3. Bam Adebayo (MIA)
There’s a reason Bam Adebayo is called ‘No Ceiling’ within the Miami Heat organization. While Jimmy Butler has been on the driver’s seat, Bam is the engine that keeps the team running.
When all cylinders are firing, Bam can carry an entire offense while still playing great defense. His most impressive performance came against a down-to-the-wire loss to the Brooklyn Nets (128-124) when he put together 41 points on 70% shooting, 5 rebounds and 9 assists.
Through 30 games, he’s averaged 19.7 ppg, 9.6 rpg, and 5.5 apg on an efficient 57.1% from the field.
Bam may have failed to get the nod this year, but at 23 years old, we can be sure we’ll see him more during future All-Star Weekends.
4. Khris Middleton (MIL)
Khris Middleton is one of the most underappreciated all-stars of the league. With the limelight on the Bucks shining brightest on the Greek Freak, it's hard to take notice of the two-way forward’s performances.
As the second fiddle to Giannis, Khris Middleton has been utterly efficient with shooting splits of 49.8/43.4/89.5 while averaging 20.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 5.7 apg and 1.2 spg.
The two-time All-Star is a legitimate sniper, who can pull up from mid range and drive to the basket to attack whatever the defense is giving him.
The Bucks currently have the second best Offensive Rating (117.8) and Net Rating (7.9) while boasting a top 10 defense (109.8). Needless to say, as currently constructed, the team won’t enjoy the same success without the All-Star serving as an effective #2 to the Bucks’ one-two punch.
5. Trae Young (ATL)
The additions of Danilo Gallinari and Bogdan Bogdanovic during the offseason was supposed to spread out the scoring load away from Trae Young. Unfortunately, the new acquisitions caught the injury bug early on. So there goes that plan. But the hot shooting guard was more than up to the task.
Trae Young is currently a top 10 scorer in the league, and top 4 in the East (27.9 ppg) across 30 games. He’s top 3 in assists (with 9.5 dimes per game) above the likes of All-Stars Luka Doncic, Chris Paul and Nikola Jokic. While his defense still needs some work, his talent on the offensive end is top notch.
While the Hawks continue to be more of a playoff hopeful than a playoff contender this season, individually, Trae Young continues to shine and play like the All-Star that he is.
6. Gordon Hayward (CHA)
The Charlotte Hornets drew a lot of flak when they traded for Gordon Hayward and extended him to a four-year $120M contract. The forward never looked like the All-Star we knew him to be during his tenure with the Boston Celtics... but who can blame him for underperforming with all the injuries he suffered?
With a young team, a fresh environment, and a more prominent role, Hayward and the Charlotte Hornets are the bee’s knees. The one-time All-Star is averaging 21.8 points per game (off a 48.6% field goal percentage), with 5.5 dimes and 3.7 boards. These averages are identical to the numbers he posted during his All-Star season with the Utah Jazz.
From being a surefire lottery-bound team these past few years, the Charlotte Hornets are back in the playoff radar, thanks to the nostalgic All-Star play of Gordon Hayward.
7. Fred VanVleet (TOR)
From going undrafted, to getting stuck at the end of the bench, to becoming a key role player in Toronto’s championship run and cashing in to a four-year $85M deal — Fred VanVleet bet on himself and Toronto doubled it. It’s been a win-in for both.
He is currently averaging 20.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 6.7 apg, and 1.7 spg. Moreover, he’s been vital to the Raptors’ playoff hopes this season.
The start of the Raptors’ season was forgettable, to say the least. It looked like the team was heading to the lottery for the first time in a long while. But the Raps have seemingly turned a corner as they stacked up the Ws and clawed their way to the 5th seed.
While Pascal Siakam is rounding into form and Kyle Lowry is getting back to 100%, VanVleet has been the team’s most reliable and consistent performer so far. And this season he has looked more than just a player worthy of an $85M contract, but also the recognition of All-Star.
Honorable Mentions in the East: Russell Westbrook, Malcolm Brogdon, Jerami Grant
West All-Star Reserves Snubs:
1. Devin Booker (PHX)
Technically, Booker is an All-Star already, but let’s face it: Book was snubbed in the first merry go round. Albeit being worthy of the nod in the first place, he wouldn’t get the spot if first ballot All-Star Anthony Davis was healthy.
But all’s well that ends well right? Devin Booker is deserving of FINALLY being named an All-Star because it's been a long time coming for the Suns’ guard.
Phoenix is currently the 4th seed in the West, one game behind the reigning champions Los Angeles Lakers for the third, and is comfortably 9 games above .500 (20-11).
While Chris Paul’s leadership has been critical to what the Suns have achieved thus far, Devin Booker’s scoring proficiency: 25 points per game with 50.3/38.2/84.5 shooting splits is just as impactful to the team's success this year.
Hopefully, this is the first of many more appearances in the ASG for Devin.
2. Brandon Ingram (NOP)
After being named All-Star and Most Improved Player just last season, B.I. has continued to perform spectacularly for the New Orleans Pelicans this year. Rounding out all his games, he’s been averaging 24 points, 5.3 boards, and 4.8 dimes.
While Zion has been an absolute beast this season, Ingram has been as well. Statistically, they’re looking pretty close. Take a look.
Zion Williamson: 25.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg, and 3.2 apg
Brandon Ingram: 24.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg, and 4.8 apg
But we could argue that Brandon Ingram is a bigger threat given his ability to score on all three levels while Zion is only a monster within the paint.
Regardless, the Pelicans’ future is bright with these two budding All-Stars in their young and talented team. Who’s to say we won’t see them together in the All-Star Game down the line?
3. DeMar Derozan (SAS)
The Spurs missed the playoffs for the first time in 23 years last season. With the team composed of mostly promising young players, some thought the Spurs would use this season to develop their young core and focus on the future.
With Gregg Popovich still at the helm, the team has surprised observers and may even have a shot at those playoffs. They’re currently 16-12, good for 6th in the conference. The key? The all-around game of DeMar Derozan.
Demar Derozan has stepped up to be the undisputed leader of this team. With the Spurs, the guard-forward has become less and less of the volume scorer he used to be in Toronto, growing accustomed to the Spurs offensive philosophy of always moving the ball.
He’s been taking less shots (13.4 fga) and is averaging the most assists (6.9 apg) throughout his 11-year career.
The All-Star Veteran may not be scoring like he once was, but he is still an offensive threat when the Spurs need him to be. In fact, he has just blossomed into a more well-rounded player and leader that the organization needs him to be.
4. Shai Gilgeous Alexander (OKC)
It’s no secret that the Oklahoma City Thunder are focused on the future, and that SGA is the cornerstone of the team. With Al Horford being the only star on the team this season, this is a development year for Shai to learn the ropes, then take up the mantle of the go-to guy.
So far, he’s been doing just that.
Shai is averaging more points (23.5 ppg), assists (6.4 apg) and free throw attempts (6.8 fta) than last year while shooting more efficiently from the field (51.4 fg%) and from beyond the arc (41.9 3 fg%).
SGA has embraced the opportunity and has shown he is the star of this team, and we can only watch him continue to flourish in his new leading role for the years to come.
5. De'Aaron Fox (SAC)
De’Aaron Fox is the future of the Kings. They cemented that with a max contract extension over the offseason worth $163M for five years.
He continues to be the aggressive and explosive guard we’ve pegged him to be. With a clearly defined role in the team, he continues to shine with averages of 22.5 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 7.1 apg, and 1.2 spg.
Sacramento continues to be a cellar dweller in the loaded Western Conference — but make no mistake. Fox is a star and it's only just a matter of time before he is officially recognized for it.
6. Jamal Murray (DEN)
After a scorching performance in last year’s playoffs, Jamal Murray has come back to Earth. That’s not to say he’s been terrible this year, but he just hasn’t produced up to the high standard he set for himself and everyone expected him to be after a terrific run in the bubble.
He’s been more aggressive and is taking more shots (16.4 field goals and 6.6 three-point attempts) compared to last season, while still averaging 21.0 points, 4.4 dimes, and 4.6 boards per game this year.
Hopefully, we see him catch fire this season as Denver tries to climb back up to the upper half of the standings, where they currently sit at 7th (17-14). Even without this year’s recognition, we know Jamal Murray is star material.
7. Ja Morant (MEM)
It was supposed to be an exciting season for Ja and the young studs of the Memphis Grizzlies after almost sneaking into the playoffs last year. But with the injury bug hitting the reigning Rookie of the Year at the start of the season, some of that excitement has been derailed.
After five weeks of being sidelined, Ja is averaging 19.1 ppg, 3.2 rpg and 7.1 apg through the 20 games he’s played while leading the Grizzlies right in the thick of the play-in tournament cut-off (10th seed).
Despite being in his sophomore year, everybody knows Ja is already a star in this league, capable of leading and carrying a team. With the keys to the franchise in his hands, there is nowhere to go but up for this fearlessly explosive guard.
Honorable Mentions in the West: Karl-Anthony Towns, Victor Oladipo, Draymond Green