Damian Lillard, Dirk Nowitzki headline 10 biggest NBA All-Star snubs
The 2016 NBA All-Star Game rosters were set Thursday when the Eastern Conference and Western Conference reserves were announced.
The 24 players who made the cut are listed below. The starters, who were voted in by fans and announced last week, are in italics. The coaches picked the reserves.
Eastern Conference: Kyle Lowry (Raptors), Dwyane Wade (Heat), LeBron James (Cavaliers), Paul George (Pacers), Carmelo Anthony (Knicks), Chris Bosh (Heat), Jimmy Butler (Bulls), DeMar DeRozan (Raptors), Andre Drummond (Pistons), Paul Millsap (Hawks), Isaiah Thomas (Celtics), John Wall (Wizards)
Western Conference: Stephen Curry (Warriors), Russell Westbrook (Thunder), Kobe Bryant (Lakers), Kevin Durant (Thunder), Kawhi Leonard (Spurs), LaMarcus Aldridge (Spurs), DeMarcus Cousins (Kings), Anthony Davis (Pelicans), Draymond Green (Warriors), James Harden (Rockets), Chris Paul (Clippers), Klay Thompson (Warriors)
Here’s a list of 10 players (five from each conference) who failed to make the cut.
Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks
The only member of SI.com’s All-Star reserve selections who didn’t make the cut, Nowitzki can thank his fellow aging legend, Kobe Bryant, for the time off. If Bryant hadn’t dominated the fan voting process, perhaps Draymond Green slips in as a starter and an extra spot opens up for the Mavericks’ 13-time All-Star power forward.
This snubbing leaves Dallas, the West’s No. 6 seed and one of the league’s biggest surprise teams, without an All-Star representative. Ultimately, the coaches chose to reward LaMarcus Aldridge, the Spurs’ second selection, over Nowitzki, the Mavericks’ leading scorer and franchise centerpiece. It’s fair to argue that San Antonio deserves two starters given its stellar early play, but Nowitzki has posted similar numbers to Aldridge, who has slipped into a smaller role this year after being a lead option in Portland. Nowitzki has also been a more indispensable part of his team’s success. In a vacuum, Aldridge is the superior all-around player, but their respective team circumstances and roles this season warranted giving the nod to Nowitzki.
Damian Lillard, Blazers
Lillard has been through this snubbing process before, and he’s stuck in the unenviable position of being the fourth-best point guard in the West behind three sterling superstars (Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul). Portland’s point man had a few things working against him: the Blazers are below .500, he missed a meaningful stretch of games due to plantar fasciitis and his defensive numbers are poor. While his per-game stats (a career-high 24.3 PPG and 7.1 APG) are impressive, he’s not quite in the “Blow your mind” territory like DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis, players who overcame their worse teams to make the West team.
DeAndre Jordan, Clippers
Jordan ranks ninth in Real Plus-Minus (RPM); the eight players above him all were selected as All-Stars this season. With Blake Griffin missing an extended stretch due to injury, Jordan has helped hold the Clippers’ defense together and his glasswork remains among the best in the league. Although his offensive role hasn’t expanded after he signed a max deal last summer, he leads the league in field goal percentage thanks to his above-the-rim finishing ability, and his constant threat as a lob target makes life easier for L.A.’s supporting pieces. Numbers-wise, though, Jordan’s limitations as a true scoring option hold him back in comparisons to Cousins and Davis, the two biggest bigs who made the list.
Tim Duncan, Spurs
Even at 39, Duncan deserves recognition for the quality of his work. The quantity, however, was the issue: San Antonio’s center is logging just 25.9 MPG, he’s posting modest 8.9 PPG and 7.5 RPG averages and he’s missed nine games for various reasons. Still, Duncan ranks in the top 10 in RPM, he boasts an eye-popping 17.3 net rating (meaningfully better than Aldridge’s) and he’s the backbone of San Antonio’s No. 1 ranked defense. If you had to pick Duncan, Cousins or Davis to win a playoff series, the answer would still be Duncan—but that’s not exactly the point of the All-Star selection process.
Gordon Hayward, Jazz
The West’s roster is top-heavy: seven of the 12 All-Stars come from the top three teams (Golden State, San Antonio and Oklahoma City). That didn’t leave any room for a player like Hayward, whose injury-ravaged Jazz have done their best to remain in the playoff conversation. A skilled all-around player averaging 19.9 PPG, 5 RPG and 3.6 APG, Hayward has been the most reliable of Utah’s roster centerpieces this season, with Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors missing time with injuries. While he is one of the best players at his position league-wise, he’s a noticeable cut below Durant and Leonard, the only two small forwards who made the cut.
Al Horford, Hawks
All seven of the coaches’ reserve selections matched SI.com’s picks, so there’s no real outrage to be found here. That said, the most deserving player left off is probably Horford, whose 15.2 PPG and 7.1 RPG averages are nearly identical to his numbers from his 2015 All-Star season. Atlanta’s regression in the standings and Paul Millsap’s strong season likely worked against him. The Hawks weren’t quite good enough to demand two All-Stars this time around, and Millsap’s case was far stronger across the board.
Kevin Love, Cavaliers
It will be a bit disorienting when the Cavaliers, easily the East’s top team, only has one All-Star representative in Toronto when the Raptors and Heat both have two. Disorienting, yes, but not necessarily unfair. Millsap, Bosh and Drummond have all enjoyed better individual statistical seasons, even though Love’s numbers (15.7 PPG, 10.8 RPG and 19.1 PER) are more than respectable for a second option and he also grades out very well by RPM. One wonders if the coaches’ vote was influenced by his limitations as a defender, his steep statistical sacrifices since he joined Cleveland in 2014, or his still-developing relationship with LeBron James. Love’s contributions probably are underrated for all of those reasons, whether or not there was room to fit him on this year’s All-Star team.
Kemba Walker, Hornets
A 1–9 skid through January knocked Charlotte out of the East’s playoff picture and left the Hornets without an All-Star selection, when Kemba Walker and Nicolas Batum both looked like possible first-timers. Injuries knocked Batum out of the conversation, but Walker held steady with a team-leading 20.5 PPG, 5 APG, 4.2 RPG and vastly improved efficiency from outside. While Kyle Lowry and John Wall were clearly superior candidates, Walker’s supporters can make a somewhat compelling argument that he should have been in over Isaiah Thomas given their statistical similarities. At the same time, Thomas’s supporters can push back by pointing out Boston’s team success and Thomas’s slight edges in the major advanced stats (PER, Win Shares, RPM).
Reggie Jackson, Pistons
Jackson has flourished in his first full season as a starting point guard, emerging as a ball-dominant, pick-and-roll threat with impressive career-high averages of 19.3 PPG and 6.5 APG. Although Jackson has been durable, productive and surprisingly efficient in his new role, he finds himself in a similar position as Walker: Kyle Lowry and John Wall are clearly more deserving options at his position, and Isaiah Thomas’s team success stands out given that ANdre Drummond was correctly chosen as Detroit’s representative. Jackson’s poor defensive numbers and occasional head-scratching decisions work against him, and while the Pistons are clearly beating expectations, they haven’t been so good that they demand two All-Stars this season.
Pau Gasol, Bulls
An All-Star starter last year, Gasol has seen his playing time, efficiency and per-game stats slip under first-year coach Fred Hoiberg. Still one of the top frontcourt offensive talents in the East, Gasol is exploitable defensively and he trails far behind Jimmy Butler on Chicago’s pecking order of most important pieces. The Bulls therefore find themselves in the same spot as the Hawks, rewarded for their “good but not great” start to the season with their most deserving selections. Paul Millsap (better scoring numbers, better efficiency), Andre Drummond (better scoring and rebounding numbers, better efficiency) and Chris Bosh (better scoring numbers, better impact numbers) were all more deserving than Gasol.