There are only 24 slots up for grabs in the annual NBA All-Star game which naturally means that there will be a handful of notable names that get glossed over.
While each selection to this year’s team–even first-timer Andrew Wiggins–deserves their spot, a few notable omissions have an equally legitimate case to be on the All-Star roster as well.
These players barely made the cut, but may still have a chance to appear in the highly coveted affair as an injury replacement. The Brooklyn Nets’ Kevin Durant and Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors seem unlikely to suit up on February 20 and that paves the way for at least one additional player from each conference to join in.
Western Conference Snubs
Dejounte Murray, San Antonio Spurs
19.6 points, 8.5 rebounds, 9.1 assists, and two steals per game
It is difficult to make a case for Murray to have been selected over the other Western Conference guards (Devin Booker, Chris Paul, Luka Doncic, and Donovan Mitchell) who were selected as reserves. However, there is a case to be made that the 29th overall pick of the 2016 NBA Draft should have been selected over frontcourt players Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert.
Murray is the latest victim of the league’s antiquated requirement of three frontcourt reserves from each conference. He is averaging career-highs across the board and is far from the culprit for the Spurs’ 20-34 record this season. As a matter of fact, he is actually the reason why they remain competitive and just two games out of the West’s last play-in berth despite losing DeMar DeRozan in the offseason.
The 25-year-old guard is tipped as the favorite to replace Green which means that it is only a matter of time before he gets the recognition that he has earned.
Anthony Edwards, Minnesota Timberwolves
22.3 points, five rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 1.5 steals per game
Like Murray, the 2020 first overall pick Edwards is averaging career-highs across the board. Him being a part of this conversation already in his second year in the league is a huge feat in itself for the 20-year-old guard.
His Minnesota teammate Towns was named an All-Star with a bit of help from his eligibility as a frontcourt player and it would be slightly unreasonable to expect another member of their middle-of-the-pack team to make it. To Edwards’ credit though, he and the veteran Towns have been equally influential in the Timberwolves’ surprising 27-25 record and could still make it if another injury replacement is needed.
At this point in time, Edwards warrants a spot more than the struggling Los Angeles’ Lakers Anthony Davis who has missed several games due to injury and whose team they have a better record than.
Jrue Holiday, Milwaukee Bucks
18 points, 4.7 rebounds, 6.5 assists, and 1.5 steals per game
It is difficult to reconcile that Holiday is only a one-time NBA All-Star, from his stellar 2013 season with the Philadelphia 76ers, given that he has been among the league’s best two-way guards over the past decade.
His tireless consistency through the years might actually be hurting his case, given that the 2021 NBA champion hardly deviates from his per-game numbers. This seems to be the problem yet again this year as he was snubbed once more.
Like in the West, the bevvy of talented guards in the East has made it difficult to give all of the deserving players an All-Star nod. A valid case can be made that Holiday should have been selected over the three Eastern Conference frontcourt reserves–his teammate Khris Middleton, Jimmy Butler, and Jayson Tatum–though he will have tough competition from the next names on this list for Durant’s replacement spot.
LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets
19.9 points, 7.2 rebounds, 7.7 assists, and 1.5 steals per game
The 2021 NBA Rookie of the Year has taken his number up by a notch this season. He is the maestro behind the Hornets’ offense and has them right in the thick of things in the battle for playoff positioning. The exact same reasons behind the selection of the Toronto Raptors’ Fred VanVleet could be applied to Ball as well. His electric style of play is perfectly suited for the All-Star game and it would be a treat to watch his flashy passes feed the game’s best players today.
The 20-year-old may have the edge over Holiday for a potential replacement nod given that the Hornets do not have a representative to this year’s All-Star game versus the Bucks who will already send Middleton and starter Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Regardless of whether he makes it, Ball should remain entrenched in the conversation for a spot over the next few years. For this young superstar, an All-Star game appearance is more a question of “when” rather than “if”.
Jarrett Allen, Cleveland Cavaliers
16 points, 67.8% field goal shooting, 10.7 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per game
The phenomenal Allen has the strongest case in this group as a frontcourt snub. It is easy to make a case that he should have been selected over the other three frontcourt reserves given that they either missed significant time (Butler), had a slow start to the season (Middleton), or are playing on teams that have failed to meet expectations (Tatum).
Allen’s efficiency pops off the page and the leap that he, along with the rest of the Cavaliers, has taken this year is worth recognizing. Cleveland is now fourth in the East and running well-above even the most optimistic preseason forecasts. Allen, together with Darius Garland who was fittingly named an All-Star reserve, have been the catalysts for this resurgence.
Given their record, coupled with the Cavaliers hosting this year’s festivities, giving two All-Star spots to this team is well within reason and is worth correcting through Durant’s injury replacement slot.