This weekend is NBA All-Star Weekend. The weekend’s main event, the All-Star Game, is Sunday night at 9:00 PM (EST) in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Here’s the sad thing about the All-Star Game: some players who deserve to be there will instead be watching the game at home, on their (massive) TVs. This snubbery happens every year, and 2017 is no different.
Here are the players who can make a case that they should be there — from least deserving to most.
10. LaMarcus Aldridge (PF) — San Antonio Spurs
Stats: 17.4 PPG — 7.4 RPG — 1.1 BPG
After five straight All-Star appearances, LaMarcus Aldridge will stay home this year. Partly due to how the San Antonio Spurs play, partly due to the role he plays on their team, and partly due to a significant dropoff in play when compared to his previous years (three years ago, in Portland, he was dropping 23.4 PPG, 10.6 RPG, and 2.6 BPG), Aldridge has been passed over in favor of other Western Conference bigs.
His best case is that he’s the second best player on the league’s second best team. Surely the Spurs should be sending at least two players to New Orleans, right?
9. C.J. McCollum (SG) — Portland Trailblazers
Stats: 23.5 PPG — 3.6 APG — 3.7 RPG
Despite leveling up each successive year since his rookie season in 2014, McCollum has become a victim of circumstance. There is an astonishing wealth of excellent guard play in the West, and even though McCollum is having a career year, his numbers don’t quite justify stealing a spot from Steph or Russ or Harden or Klay.
8. Mike Conley (PG) — Memphis Grizzlies
Stats: 19.4 PPG — 6.3 APG — 3.6 RPG
For a player as consistent as Conley, it’s unfathomable that he hasn’t made it to one All-Star Game. Even in his tenth year, Conley has put up career-best statistics, while also leading the league’s oldest team — Memphis — to the fifth-best record in the loaded Western Conference. Based on longevity, this snub is hard to swallow, but like McCollum, he’s in the wrong place at the wrong time. The West is replete with guard talent, and whereas a season like this one would’ve been enough to make it in year’s past, it’s not quite enough to get him in this year.
7. Kristaps Porzingis (PF) — New York Knicks
Stats: 18.5 PPG — 7.1 RPG — 2 BPG
It’s hard to believe that despite having to share possessions with two of the league’s biggest ball hogs — Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose — Porzingis has managed to put up exceptional numbers during his second year in the league. With that said, an All-Star selection was still borderline wishful-thinking, especially during a year in which his positional peers — Kevin Love and Giannis Antetokounmpo — have put up superior numbers.
6. Bradley Beal (SG) — Washington Wizards
Stats: 22.3 PPG — 3.7 APG — 2.9 RPG
By finally putting injuries behind him, Beal has given us a glimpse of the greatness he can deliver on a nightly basis. It’s widely held that John Wall is the Wizards’ best player, but Beal has made a case this year for seeing him as an equally important piece on this suddenly dominant Washington squad. His best case is that he’s either the second best player or tied for best player on the East’s third best team, standings-wise. But like in the West, the East is guard-heavy, which is why he was left off.
5. Rudy Gobert (C) — Utah Jazz
Stats: 12.9 PPG — 12.7 RPG — 2.5 BPG
Going by offensive stats alone, Gobert is not a player who jumps out at you. But he is absolutely dominant on the defensive end. His blocks, rebounds, and presence in the paint force teams to radically adjust their offensive strategies. The problem is this profile isn’t suited for All-Star Game excitement. He would have to snatch a slot from a big who scores twice as much as he does. That wasn’t going to happen.
4. Karl-Anthony Towns (C) — Minnesota Timberwolves
Stats: 23.7 PPG — 11.7 RPG — 1.5 BPG
Now we’re getting into truly head-scratching territory.
With the unexpected rise of Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo, and given the surprisingly poor play of the T-Wolves, K.A.T.’s season has been overlooked, despite putting up otherworldly numbers in his season number two. Although it wouldn’t be right for him to take either Davis’ or Cousins’ spot, he’s much more deserving than DeAndre Jordan and there’s a strong case to be made that he’s more deserving than Marc Gasol. Despite the consistency of the latter two, K.A.T. has superior stats, a higher ceiling, and a far more exciting basketball profile. The problem is the Timberwolves have underwhelmed, whereas the Grizzlies have exceeded expectations and the Clippers, being a playoff-bound team, need at least one representative (too bad they chose the wrong one — see below).
3. Joel Embiid (PF/C) — Philadelphia 76ers
Stats: 20.2 PPG — 7.8 RPG — 2.5 BPG
I hear you, I hear you — Embiid has only played 31 games while averaging 25 minutes a game! Sure, but doesn’t that strengthen his argument for playing this weekend? Is it that we think his production would go down if he were to log more minutes? Actually, the 76ers, with him on the floor, are frightening.
The Ringer’s Jonathan Tjarks posted this table a couple of weeks ago to show Embiid’s dominance:
If we bump Embiid’s numbers to a per-36 average, they become (28 PPG/11 RPG/3.5 BPG) which would be MVP-worthy. Paul Millsap’s only justification is that he’s played a lot more than Embiid — on a purely basketball level, Embiid deserves that spot.
2. Chris Paul (PG) — The Los Angeles Clippers
Stats: 17.5 PPG — 9.7 APG — 5.3 RPG
There is no case for keeping Chris Paul off the All-Star team. The reason he didn’t make it is because he’s injured. But the proper protocol for handling this is selecting Paul, since he easily belongs on the All-Star team, and then giving his place to another player in light of his injury. That way he is recognized for having been one of the best players in the first half of the 2017 season.
Numbers wise, and importance wise, Paul deserves an All-Star slot over Klay Thompson. His injury is the only reason he doesn’t make his tenth straight All-Star appearance.
1. Damian Lillard (PG) — Portland Trailblazers
Stats: 26 PPG — 5.8 APG — 4.9 RPG
This is a recurring theme for Lillard. But this year he’s able to make his best case yet. For the third straight season, Dame’s chip-on-his-shoulder post-All-Star Weekend explosion will grow exponentially. Two years ago was his coming out party, and yet he couldn’t get a spot. Last year, he was left off the roster inexplicably in favor of Kobe Bryant, whose place on the team was purely sentimental.
This season, with career-best and MVP-like numbers (D-Rose won the MVP with 25 PPG, 7.7 APG, and 4.1 RPG), there is no excuse. It doesn’t matter that the West is loaded at his position with Curry, Westbrook, Harden, and Thompson. Like CP3, Lillard is more deserving than Thompson. And if you can’t get him in via one of the guard slots, then the rules need to be changed so that we select the best overall players, regardless of position. Unfortunately, Dame is left off once again, due to the bad luck of playing in the same conference as the three best guards in a generation. That, and because the Blazers are just not good.
Of course, the players who made it are also really, really good.
Berny Belvedere contributed to this report.