When looking at the second return of NBA All-Star voting, there were two notable omissions: Nikola Vucevic and DeMar DeRozan. No one expected them to be voted in as starters, but to not even get enough votes to be listed in the top ten of their respective positions is borderline criminal.
The NBA is undoubtedly as deep as it ever was. There are 34 players this season currently averaging at least 20 points; and that number was only 20 five seasons ago (2015-2016).
Even with that being said, Vucevic and DeRozan still have great cases to earn themselves an All-Star nod. They are both having career seasons in different respects.
So let’s make the case for each player earning a trip to Atlanta.
DeRozan’s scoring output of 20.2 points is his lowest average since the 2014-2015 season, but he’s getting it done in other areas of the game.
The San Antonio Spurs are one of the deepest teams in the NBA at the backcourt position, but that hasn’t slowed down DeRozan from leading his team in assists per game (6.7, career-high). His playmaking has been crucial in setting his team up for easy opportunities - 30.5% of the Spurs' field goals this season have been assisted by DeRozan (career-high).
With the increase in playmaking duties, you would also assume his turnovers went up as well, but that is not the case. His 1.7 turnovers per game is actually his lowest mark since his rookie season. But back then his usage rate was only 18.1%, now it’s 23.5%.
When comparing DeRozan to his competitors, there are only five players who average at least 20 points, five assists, and six rebounds: Luka Doncic, Nikola Jokic, LeBron James, James Harden, and Russell Westbrook.
All five of those guys can claim they are putting up better numbers than DeRozan, but not all of them can claim they are making more of an impact on winning than DeRozan. The Spurs are currently sixth in the Western Conference with DeRozan leading the charge.
Winning isn’t always an important stat when quantifying who should be an All-Star, just look at Bradley Beal or Luka Doncic, who are both locks to earn a nod, even though their teams have losing records. The Spurs didn’t have high expectations coming into the season, but DeRozan’s strong play has boosted the Spurs in the standings.
If DeRozan does want to earn one of the final nods from the coaches and the league, he will have to continue his strong play and keep the Spurs firmly in the playoff picture.
The case for Vucevic to make the All-Star team is easier to make than DeRozan’s.
Vucevic was an All-Star only two seasons ago (2018-2019), but one could make the case he's having a better season this year. He’s increased scoring average from 20.8 points to 23.3 points and is shooting an insane 42.0% from three on 6.2 attempts (both career-highs).
If you thought the list was short for players who matched or exceeded DeRozan’s stat list, guess how many players in the NBA average at least 20-plus points, 10-plus rebounds and two-three-pointers per game? Just Nikola Vucevic.
He’s been a man possessed all season and doing it with out a great supporting cast. Evan Fournier and Aaron Gordon have both been out for extended periods of time, while Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz are out for the entire season with their injuries.
The lack of help hasn’t slowed down Vucevic’s efficiency, however. His Player Efficiency Rating (23.4) is currently higher than 6 of the top 10 Eastern Conference frontcourt vote-getters – Joel Embiid (31.2), Giannis Antetokounmpo (28), Kevin Durant (25.8), and Jimmy Butler (24.7) are the only players with better marks. And Vucevic has double the games played compared to Butler (26 to 13).
The Orlando Magic haven’t been that competitive this season, but no fault of Vucevic. If bigs like Bam Adebayo are considered virtual locks - even though he plays on a team with one more win than the Magic - then Vucevic should firmly be in the mix for another All-Star appearance.
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