1) Why are All-Star selections always about the snubs? These are good teams.
Every year it’s the same pattern, and I am as guilty of it as anyone: The list of All-Star Game reserves comes out, and we instantly focus on who didn’t make it. Who got snubbed. We love to argue about sports, and we love to feel our guy was slighted and play the victim. It’s why we argue about who is the 67th best team in the NCAA come March Madness.
There will always be snubs in the NBA because if you try to put together a team like this, there is never a bright and clear line at the end. It’s splitting hairs between good players.
The coaches selected good teams (the starters are a combo fan/media/player vote, but the reserves the coaches select). Personally, I would have gone with a few changes, particularly in the East, but there are no “how did this guy make it?” names on the list. Here are the 2021 All-Star Game reserves, as selected by a vote of the coaches:
• Damian Lillard (Trail Blazers)
• Chris Paul (Suns)
• Paul George (Clippers)
• Donovan Mitchell (Jazz)
• Rudy Gobert (Jazz)
• Zion Williamson (Pelicans)
• Anthony Davis (Lakers)
• James Harden (Nets)
• Jaylen Brown (Celtics)
• Jayson Tatum (Celtics)
• Julius Randle (Knicks)
• Zach LaVine (Bulls)
• Ben Simmons (76ers)
• Nikola Vucevic (Magic)
That will make for quality rosters for the March 7 game in Atlanta (that probably should not be played, but that’s another debate entirely).
There are “snubs” in the sense there are deserving players left off. Always are.
In the West, the obvious one is Devin Booker of the Suns (24.7 points and 4.3 assists a game, shooting 38.1% from three), who got edged out by his teammate CP3. Booker had high-profile support.
Damn @DevinBook really didn’t make it ? That’s craxy . Bruh really cold too smh. Sick world
— CJ McCollum (@CJMcCollum) February 24, 2021
I expect Booker will get Anthony Davis’ spot (the Lakers have already announced he would be out past the All-Star Game with a calf strain). Mike Conley of Utah has a legitimate case for making it. Ja Morant of Memphis and De’Aaron Fox in Sacramento just miss the cut.
In the East, Trae Young would have made it in my vote and can rightfully feel snubbed. Young is averaging 26.9 points and 9.5 assists a game, shooting 37.9% from three, and Atlanta’s offense falls apart when he is on the bench. Khris Middleton also should feel slighted.
I’d also make a case for Miami’s Bam Adebayo (and probably Jimmy Butler, but let’s focus on Bam). Adebayo has had a monster first half of the season (19.6 points and 9.5 rebounds a game, plus playing elite defense in the paint), but for me, the argument for him gets to a bigger point (which a lot of people on Twitter hated):
While the current season should be the biggest factor in picking an All-Star, both last season’s playoffs and the simple question “who is the best player?” have to be considered. Making the All-Star team is not an award for playing 30 good games, it’s bigger than that. Adebayo (and Butler) deserve a spot based on that criteria.
Still, I don’t have a problem with the guys the coaches picked. It’s going to be an entertaining All-Star Game.
2) Luka Doncic is not fair
Luka Doncic has fast become one of the most clutch, most dangerous end-of-game players in the NBA.
He hit back-to-back off-the-dribble threes in the final minute to lift Dallas past Boston. Luka drained the game-winner with 0.01 on the clock.
That’s just not fair. The challenge with defending him is you could go Harden/Curry hard trap out high to get the ball out of his hands, but the 6’8” Doncic is a great passer who will see over the top of that trap and find the open guy.
Doncic finished with 31 points, 10 rebounds, and 8 assists for the Mavs. Jaylen Brown had 29 points and what would have been the game-winning lay-up for the Celtics until Doncic did his thing. Jayson Tatum added 28.
3) Cleveland gets game-winning dunk… and where was the defense?
Let’s focus on the positive first: Congrats to Cleveland for dramatically snapping their losing streak.
After Trae Young missed a floater, Cleveland pushed the ball down the court, attacked the rim, and Lamar Stevens made the play of the game.
What an ending to Hawks-Cavs ? pic.twitter.com/r1lNkCzM73
— NBA TV (@NBATV) February 24, 2021
But if you’re like me, you watched that play and yelled out loud at the television and nobody in particular, “Where was the defensive rotation? Where was the rim protection?”
Atlanta’s Solomon Hill was one of the bigs on the court for the Hawks, but he’s out high chasing Collin Sexton and forcing him to pass. Atlanta’s defense is crossmatched in transition, so Kevin Huerter is on Jarrett Allen and Allen seals him off out of the play. That leaves Danilo Gallinari, who tracked a shooter to the weakside corner, doesn’t recognize the rotation until way too late, and just ends up watching the dunk.
I feel for Lloyd Pierce.