The Non-All Star Team
After hearing Thursday’s All Star roster announcements, I was tempted to write about my own picks for the mid-season exhibition. But after looking at the list, I realized that I don’t have any problems with the reserves. The only issues I had were with Wade and Kobe starting, but at this point the starters are set. I’m not going to make a team and pretend that the vote for the starting lineup just didn’t happen. So me being the All-Star snub of everyday life, it occurred to me that I should craft a team that is the best of the rest. An “All-Snubs Team”. The other guys.
Before I get into this I want to clarify 2 things. First off, this Non-All Star team is built with the same structure as the official All Star rosters. Five starters with two guards and three forwards, and seven bench spots consisting of two guards, three forwards and two wild card positions. Secondly, I’m leaving off Blake Griffin because he is hurt and Kyrie Irving because he hasn’t played enough games–if you disagree then please explain to me why NBA coaches left him off the Eastern bench.
Dame D.O.L.L.A has been an All-Star snub for a couple years now. He is easily the player most affected by this year’s fan vote. If Kobe doesn’t get voted in, I would put my money on Lillard to receive the coaches’ vote for the final wild card spot on the West All Star team. A lot of people wrote off Portland after they lost 4 of their 5 starters from last year. Which is why everyone is shocked to see the Trail Blazers currently in the 8th spot in the West. A lot of the team’s success can be attributed to the leadership of Lillard and his career high 24.3 points per game and 7 assists per game. He’s also top 10 in the NBA with an Offensive Box Plus/ Minus of 5.6 and top 15 in Offensive Win Shares with 3.9, sandwiched between All-Stars Demar DeRozan and Draymond Green. As the young Portland team develops into a contender and makes some noise, I’m sure Lillard will get more recognition than he has gotten. He is one hell of a player and is still just 25 so I’m sure someday he’ll be an all star. Just not this year.
Another surprise playoff contender, the Hornets, have spent most of the first half of the season in a playoff spot. They currently find themselves 2.5 games out of 8th in the East. This is a drastic turnaround from a team that was 16 games below .500 last season. And like Lillard in Portland, Kemba is leading the way in Charlotte. He leads the Hornets in points per game with 20.3 and steals per game with 1.8. He is currently 18th in the NBA in win shares with 5.2–currently tied with All-Star Paul George– and 13th in the NBA in Value Over Replacement (VORP) with 2.4 wins above replacement. He is one of the premier heat-check scorers in the league and his All-Star standing is hurt by the depth of the point guard position. He is one of the more exciting players to watch in the league, and like Lillard, is only 25. If this breakout season is another step in his development and not an outlier, don’t be surprised to see Kemba make a push for future All-Star games.
Isaiah Thomas may be the Celtics’ primary scorer, crunch-time ball-handler and lone All-Star representative. But Crowder is the straw that stirs the drink. His elite defense, paired with his above average shooting and rebounding skills make him the Celtics best all-around player and one of the leagues most complete small forwards. While his traditional box score numbers won’t wow you, his advanced stats clearly show he is an All-Star calibre player. His 5.3 win shares rank him 16th in the league, 15th in VORP with 2.1 wins above replacement and 12th in defensive win shares with 2.6. A three point shooting percentage of .365 makes him a two-way threat with a skill-set similar to a Kawhi Leonard and DeMarre Carroll. The guy can flat out play. If he can develop into more of a primary scorer, his ceiling is as a stat-stuffing small forward the ilk of a Kawhi. Unless he can improve his superficial box score numbers I’m afraid that he will continue to be under appreciated.
At 35 years old, Pau is still kicking. This year he is averaging a double-double with 16.7 points per game and 10.9 rebounds per game. He has been the Bulls second-best player to Jimmy Butler–would have seemed like a crazy notion when they signed him in 2014. Despite being a step or two slower than he was when he was in is 20’s, he is still a plus defender. This season he is eighth in the NBA with 2.7 defensive win shares. He was an All-Star last season but has seen his traditional box score numbers and shooting percentages take a slight hit across the board. He still brings a lot to the table, but it looks like he has passed the torch to the next generation of NBA big men. At this point I think his only shot at the All Star game lies with the fan vote. But unless Spain can rally around him–or fans if fans decide they want to see a flurry of euro-steps, shimmying low post hooks, slip screens and unathletic dunks–we likely won’t see him at another All-Star Game.
Horford is the human metronome. Night in, night out, he shows up to compete. While not the flashiest player, he can consistently give you a 14 point, 6 rebound night with some decent shot blocking and a jumpshot that will keep you honest. He’s just outside of the top 20 in defensive and offensive win shares, but based on VORP he is the 16th best player being 2.1 wins above replacement. His style of play often let’s him fly under the radar. Injuries and his quiet demeanor have limited Horford to one all star appearance since 2010-11, even though he is one of the East’s most effective big men. While the Hawks have taken a step back from their magical 60 win 2015, Horford and Millsap’s strong play have kept them in 4th place and in the thick of the East despite Carroll’s depature and the regression of Teague and Korver.
The Utah Jazz are in the thick of the playoff hunt, neck and neck with Portland and one win out of the eighth seed. They are a young team on the rise and Hayward is leading the pack. He’s averaging 19.8 points per game on while shooting .365 from downtown. His defense has been very much improved over the past two years and is averaging 5 rebounds per game. His hair and skills have left the 13 year old Bieber stage and he is now pumping out age-appropriate hits.
Dirk is gonna Dirk. Unlike his jump shot, he isn’t “fading away” anytime soon. The Mavs were considered a write-off after they lost Rondo and Chandler to free agency and having DeAndre spurn them for the Clippers. Yet here they are, sixth place in the West and five games above .500. None of that is possible without 37 year-old Nowitzki with his 17.5 points per game on .394 three point shooting. Dirk possesses the vision, passing, smarts and shooting stroke to have an effective 2016-offense centered around him. Same can’t be said for Kobe.
The third fiddle for a couple years now, DeAndre has been a key, yet undervalued member of “Lob City”. Youtube is littered with victims of his vicious dunks. He also stuffs the stat sheet with the best of them. He has led the league in field goal percentage for the past three seasons and is back on top this year with .711%. DeAndre is also putting up an impressive 11.8 points per game, 13.7 rebounds per game and 2.2 blocks per game. While these stats are gaudy, DeAndre’s game is too limited to be an all star. His terrible free throw shooting becomes a liability late in close games, and when he’s on the floor with Blake the Clippers lose a lot of spacing on offense and are too slow to guard opposing small ball lineups on defense. Despite his flaws, Jordan’s numbers are just too eye-popping to ignore.
The Pistons are alright! Van Gundy has rebuilt 2016 Pistons in the image of his 2010 Magic teams and it has led them to seventh place in the East so far. Drummond has taken the role of Dwight in the paint and the Piston have surrounded him with many three-point threats. Jameer Nelson’s role of floor general and pick-and-role maestro is being played by Reggie Jackson and the results have been promising. He’s scoring at a 19.2 points per game clip and is worth 3.5 offensive win shares (good for 19th in the league). It was a very close call between him and Kemba for the starting spot. For me it came down to the fact that Kemba is the primary player on his team. But the Pistons are better and their bench is a lot thinner… Damn it I’m not second guessing this now.
If the Clippers were on pace for 60 wins and were in the East, Redick would would be this year’s Kyle Korver. He is currently second in the league in three point percentage with an eye popping .477. Along with 16.1 points per game and an offensive win share of 3.5, he has given the Clippers a legitimate fourth scoring threat. Now if only Blake wasn’t screwing around and Doc could build a bench…
Look, Kevin Love takes a lot of flack. The common complaints are that his numbers are down across the board, he’s too slow to guard the pick-and-roll and he doesn’t fit in with Lebron. But I believe he is still a very good player. He averages a double-double with 16 points and 10.6 rebounds per game. He’s worth 2.6 defensive win shares (11th in NBA) and 5.3 win shares. His problem is that he doesn’t fit in Cleveland. In Minnesota his favourite spot to get the ball was the left elbow, which happens to be Lebron’s spot. In order to make room for Kyrie and Lebron in the paint, the Cavs have turned Love in to a stretch four. He’s actually been pretty good at it, as evident by his .368 three point percentage, but I feel he won’t be an All-Star again unless he can play his game.
The Nuggets are bad. Gallinari is not. Simple as that. He is having a career year with 19.4 points per game on .367 three point shooting percent. Il Gallo is 20th in the NBA in win shares with 5.1 and 9th in offensive win shares with 4.6, which is a big deal considering Denver’s low win total. I’ve always liked Gallinari’s game and am thrilled that he is finally having a healthy year. We’ll see where things go but he will certainly be a long shot for future All-Star Games.
Honourable Mentions (The Snubs of the Snubs)
Zaza Pachulia (!!!)
G Damian Lillard
G Kemba Walker
F Jae Crowder
F Pau Gasol
F Al Horford
F Gordon Hayward
F DeAndre Jordan
F Dirk Nowitzki
G Reggie Jackson
G J.J. Redick
WC Kevin Love
WC Danillo Gallinari