Every player that made the 2021 All-Star Game reserves has a legitimate case. They were selected by a vote of the coaches, and it’s not like those guys were picking just based on reputation.
But some players should legitimately feel snubbed.
There are always more deserving players than spots — especially with the NBA’s insistence on keeping the rosters at 12 — and there are always All-Star Game snubs. Guys who have a legitimate “why not me” beef. This season in the East there were a lot of players who were very close, on the same tier, and making choices became splitting hairs.
Here are the seven biggest snubs this All-Star Game.
1) Devin Booker
Don’t be surprised if he gets Anthony Davis‘ spot in the West (Davis is out through past the All-Star Game with a strained calf). Booker, an All-Star last season, is averaging 24.7 points and 4.3 assists a game and is shooting 38.1% from three — all for the surprising four-seed, 20-10 Suns. Booker essentially got bumped for Chris Paul (who did make the roster), but a lot of people were not happy Booker didn’t make the list.
Damn @DevinBook really didn’t make it ? That’s craxy . Bruh really cold too smh. Sick world
— CJ McCollum (@CJMcCollum) February 24, 2021
2) Trae Young
Young is carrying the Hawks offense so far this season, averaging 26.9 points and 9.5 assists a game, shooting 37.9% from three. Atlanta’s offense falls off by 11.7 points per 100 possessions when Young sits. An All-Star a year ago, he seems to have paid the price for Atlanta getting off to a 13-17 start that has them the 11 seed in the East. It shouldn’t. Young’s defense may not be ideal, but his offense is too good to leave him off the team — especially for an exhibition where we want to be entertained.
3) Bam Adebayo
4) Jimmy Butler
I took a beating from some corners of Twitter for taking this position, but I stand by it: An All-Star selection has to be about more than just the first half of this current season. It is bigger than that. While the current season should be the biggest factor in picking a team, the previous second half of the season and especially the playoffs have to be considered. So does the simple question “who is the best player?” This is not an award for playing 30 good games.
Which is why I had Adebayo and Butler on my All-Star reserve team. Adebayo also has had a monster first half of the season anyway (19.6 points and 9.5 rebounds a game, plus playing elite defense in the paint), but the play of these two Miami stars in the bubble has to be considered as well. For me, that puts them over the top. What holds Butler back is he has played in just 19 games this season due to COVID and a foot issue, but when he has played he’s averaged 19.1 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 7.6 assists a game. Looking at the total package and thinking about the best players, Adebayo especially, but both he and Butler should be playing in Atlanta.
5) Khris Middleton
Middleton was an All-Star the past two seasons, and his numbers this season — 20.5 points, 6 rebounds, and 5.7 assists a game — are right in line with those All-Star campaigns. More than that, he’s the guy on the Bucks who has the ball in his hands at the end of games to create in the halfcourt, not Giannis Antetokounmpo (who is an All-Star starter, deservedly). Middleton seems to be paying the price for Milwaukee flaming out in the playoffs last season, then not dominating this regular season as it did the last couple. That’s not fair to Middleton; the issues are not on him; he has continued to play well.
6) Domantas Sabonis
The Pacers are 15-14 and if the playoffs started today, they would host a first-round playoff game — yet no Indiana players made the All-Star team. One could make a good case for Malcolm Brogdon to be an All-Star, but Sabonis was an All-Star last year and is averaging 21.6 points and 11.7 rebounds a game — numbers that are better than his All-Star season. The Pacers should have had a player on the team. Just ask their center Myles Turner.
7) Mike Conley
Conley is the reigning titleholder of “best veteran never to make an All-Star team.” He didn’t deserve the honor a season ago, when injuries and the transition to a new team and system held him back. Not anymore. The key difference between the No. 1 seed Jazz and the team of a year ago is Conley. He is averaging 16.4 points and 5.6 assists a game, is shooting 41.2% from three, and has been a brilliant floor general. He deserves to be an All-Star. It just didn’t happen this year. Again.
Honorable mention All-Star snubs: Tobias Harris (Philadelphia), Ja Morant (Memphis), De’Aaron Fox (Sacramento), Malcolm Brogdon (Indiana), Brandon Ingram (New Orleans), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Oklahoma City), DeMar DeRozan (San Antonio), Jerami Grant (Detroit).