Predicting the Biggest 2014 NBA All-Star Reserve Snubs
Maybe it's time the NBA stopped calling it the All-Star Game.
All the stars are never present because there are too many, and nobody—to the best of my knowledge—has suggested they construct a game-specific, travel-friendly court with six hoops in an effort to battle this exhibition out by division, Royal Rumble-style.
Perhaps soon-to-be commissioner Adam Silver can trailblaze a movement that integrates more hoops, basketballs and teams. Or maybe he'll change the event's name to "Some-Stars Game" or something like that.
Until then, we must come to terms with there always being snubs—players deserving of All-Star recognition who simply won't get it.
This year, like most, we're gearing up for more disappointment. In this list, we're left to lament the absence of stars who (potentially) won't make the super-exclusive, obviously flawed cut.
*Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference unless otherwise noted.
Predicting the Final Rosters
At some point, you were invariably going to ask: If not Player X, then who?
Before we move forward, it's imperative you understand the foundation for any arguments I'm going to make. So I come bearing a complete prediction for each conference's All-Star roster.
Muster up all the anger, happiness and provisions you can. Because we're officially moving onward, and there's no turning pack. Not even if you forgot to come bearing a sense of humor.
DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors
2013-14 Stats: 21.8 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.2 steals, 42.8 percent shooting, 17.9 player efficiency rating
Dwyane Wade is not going to be happy.
"No doubt in my mind," the Miami Heat superstar responded when asked on Twitter if DeMar DeRozan deserved to be an All-Star.
There's little reason to doubt Wade's response. DeRozan is having a career year for the Atlantic Division-leading Raptors.
Although his shooting percentages remain regrettable, he's topping 20 points per game and has developed into a willing and dangerous passer. Since the Rudy Gay trade, he's been sensational, carrying a bulk of the offensive responsibility and covering up for Toronto's lack of depth.
Guards are always slighted more than most, though, specifically shooting guards. The NBA is a point man's league, and with John Wall and Kyle Lowry, his teammate, lurking in the background, more than one deserving guard is going to be passed over.
And it's not going to be Lance Stephenson, who has transformed into the league's most dangerous combo guard on both ends of the floor. While DeRozan has shown improvement in almost every area of the game, he continues to be criticized despite his evolution.
He told Sportsnet's Eric Smith earlier this month:
Of course every NBA player wants to be an All Star and I’m just happy to [have] my name even brought up in the conversation. I’m just trying to go out there and do my job every night and if that leads me to being an All Star that would definitely be great to go out there and represent for the country of Canada.
Representing Canada in this year's All-Star Game is not out of the question, but it's unlikely. Lowry is the more likely (and deserving) candidate.
Maybe next year, DeRozan.
Goran Dragic, Phoenix Suns
2013-14 Stats: 19.4 points, 3.4 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 1.4 steals, 49.5 percent shooting, 21.4 PER
Goran Dragic isn't generating a lot of All-Star buzz, which is both typical and unfair.
On one hand, he plays for the Phoenix Suns. Players not named Eric Bledsoe aren't given adequate attention.
On the other hand, he plays for the Suns. They were supposed to be tanking, yet they're eight games over .500, clinging to the Western Conference's sixth-best record. That's with Bledsoe having missed 14 consecutive games (and counting), mind you.
Keeping Phoenix relevant was never going to be easy. Sans Bledsoe, in a brutal Western Conference, it should have been impossible. But Dragic, Phoenix's leading scorer and assist man, has made it possible.
The Suns are tracking toward a playoff berth, and Dragic is playing like an All-Star as one of only 10 qualified players who are posting an offensive rating above 117 in 34-plus minutes of action. That's a list that includes James, Durant, Love and Paul.
How will he not be an All-Star? Beats me. Well, actually, it doesn't. Lillard and Parker are bound to receive more consideration, even though Dragic deserves the nod more than both of them.
Ty Lawson, Denver Nuggets
2013-14 Stats: 17.9 points, 3.4 rebounds, 8.9 assists, 1.5 steals, 43 percent shooting, 20.1 PER
Consider this your second of many reminders that the NBA is loaded with talented point guards.
Ty Lawson admittedly has the weakest case of any floor general who will be listed, but that's not an indictment on the season he's having. He's averaging a near double-double in points and assists and posting a career-best PER while logging a career high in minutes (35.7).
Injuries to JaVale McGee and Danilo Gallinari could have torpedoed the Denver Nuggets' playoff hopes. Fortunately, Lawson is balling the way that ball-wielding ballers should.
Denver is 2.5 games back of a playoff spot, but there's still hope because of Lawson. Think of where the Nuggets would be without him, and you'll regret it immediately.
Efficiency is the potential killer here, since his 43 percent clip is a career worst. But he's getting to the free-throw line with Harden-type frequency and putting up a true shooting percentage above 55.
The case against him is far weaker than the case for him. Sadly, he plays at a stacked position among a sea of superstars with more established reputations. That's going to cost him.
Arron Afflalo, Orlando Magic
2013-14 Stats: 20.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 0.6 steals, 47.1 percent shooting, 17.8 PER
This one stings.
All season I've maintained that Arron Afflalo would be an All-Star if there's any justice in the world. Then Stephenson happened. And then Lowry happened. And then fans predictably and mistakenly voted Wade in.
So here lies Afflalo, one of the biggest snubs you'll see.
Ridiculous stat lines haven't prevented the Orlando Magic from tanking away the season, but that doesn't make his numbers any less impressive. If you watch the Magic without crying, closing your eyes or becoming distracted by light switches, it's because of him.
He has never been more in touch with the flow of an offense or made such smart decisions with the ball. And his shooting...oh, his shooting. He's converting more than 42.2 percent of his three-pointers while attempting 4.6 a game. That's big time.
It's just not enough to earn him his first All-Star selection, although I'm wondering if he would accept a trade to the Oklahoma City Thunder as a consolation prize instead.
Mike Conley, Memphis Grizzlies
2013-14 Stats: 18.0 points, 2.6 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 1.5 steals, 45.9 percent shooting, 20.8 PER
Here is another victim of the unbelievably deep point guard pool.
Those who don't believe Mike Conley is an All-Star should go to the nearest sporting goods store, purchase the most expensive canoe, travel to the nearest beach, paddle out to where the sun barely shines and the fog is frosting thick, and wait for me there. Hours later, you'll realize I'm not coming, because I'm that turned off by your logic.
Although the Memphis Grizzlies started slowly, Conley has helped them weather the storm, keeping them within striking distance before allowing Courtney Lee's acquisition and Marc Gasol's return to handle the rest.
Know how many qualified players have finished a season averaging at least 18 points, six assists and 1.5 steals with a defensive rating of 115 or better since 1997? Five. That's it. Know who those five players are? Gilbert Arenas, Allen Iverson, Paul (four times), Wade (twice) and James (seven times).
Conley is on pace to join them. Seriously.
Grab a tissue. You're probably drooling.
Then grab another, because you should be tearing up at the thought of him missing the All-Star Game, too.
Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons
2013-14 Stats: 12.6 points, 12.7 rebounds, 1.4 steals, 1.8 blocks, 60 percent shooting, 21.4 PER
Here was my first response after realizing Andre Drummond most likely won't be an All-Star: No. Second response: Please, no. Third response...(faints).
Drummond deserves to be an All-Star. He won't be of course, because the nod will be given to more established talents as usual.
Just so we all know that's not all right, look at these per-36 minute and efficiency averages:
Impressive, right? Now it's time for the big reveal.
Player X is Hibbert; Player Y is Drummond; Player Z is Noah.
One of the previous two should be given the boot in favor of Drummond, preferably Hibbert. Noah is having a spectacular season and deserves inclusion. Hibbert does too, just not as much as Drummond.
Somewhat quietly, he has been spectacular. Case in point: He's on pace to finish with the fifth-highest win shares per-48 minute total of any player in NBA history, aged 20 or younger.
This from a kid playing for the woeful, long-two addicted Detroit Pistons. That's talent.
Frown only temporarily, though: Drummond's best days have yet to come. There's no way he'll be held out of All-Star festivities much longer. The world isn't that cruel or the powers that be that daft.
DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings
2013-14: 22.6 points, 11.6 rebounds, three assists, 1.8 steals, 1.2 blocks, 48.8 percent shooting, 26.4 PER
As if you needed another reminder that life isn't fair.
But Howard is Howard, and he will therefore continue to garner praise that he doesn't deserve. Not as much as Cousins, at least.
The Western Conference could have two centers on the roster, but with so many talented forwards in addition to the three who were already selected—Durant, Love, Griffin—there's a better chance only one center will get selected.
Aldridge and Davis should be locks. Nowitzki is right there with them and is probably the reason that Cousins won't make it. The Dallas Maverick star is shooting 47.9 percent from the floor overall, 39.4 percent from deep and 90.3 percent from the charity stripe, giving him a real chance to join Steve Nash as the second player ever to shoot 50/40/90 after his 35th birthday.
Public perception kills "Boogie," too. As Bleacher Report's Grant Hughes put it:
The center's supreme physical talents are exceeded only by his ability to create a rift between supporters and detractors. With Cousins, there's no middle ground. He's either a criminally underrated superstar or a hopeless cancer.
Everyone's beliefs are passionate, supported by evidence and deeply, deeply entrenched. Nobody lacks an opinion.
Still shackled to a reputation he's rapidly becoming undeserving of and with the depth at power forward in mind, Cousins is poised to miss an All-Star Game he should be playing in.
Hopefully he'll find peace knowing that he, not Howard, is the NBA's best center instead.