Believe or not, one of the hardest things to do in the National Basketball Association is to make it into the All-Star Game during a player’s first year in the league.
While looking at Damian Lillard's chances—who turned out to be the NBA Rookie of the Year this past season—to make the All-Star Game, Yahoo! Sports’ Marc Spears gave us a bit of a history lesson about how tough it is for rookies.
Here’s an excerpt from Spears’ piece:
Since 1985, the only rookies, regardless of position, to make the All-Star Game are New York Knicks center Patrick Ewing (1986), San Antonio Spurs center David Robinson (1990), Denver Nuggets center Dikembe Mutombo (1992), Orlando Magic center Shaquille O’Neal (1993), Detroit Pistons forward Grant Hill (1995), San Antonio forward Tim Duncan (1998), Houston Rockets center Yao Ming (2003) and the Clippers’ Blake Griffin (2011).
That’s eight players in the last 28 years for those keeping track at home.
As Spears goes on to mention, not even LeBron James made it to the All-Star Game in his rookie season. Clearly, it’s going to be tough for any of the first-year players to play in the game where there are more highlight-reel dunks and crazy shots than at any other point in the season.
So, which prospects, who will make their NBA debuts this fall, are going to play well enough through the first half of the season to either get voted in by the fans or by the coaches? Let’s take a look at a pair of prospects that have what it takes.
Ben McLemore, SG, Kansas Jayhawks
Ben McLemore may have only had one year of college experience, but he’s more than ready to take his career to the next level in the NBA. He was a stud for the Jayhawks a year ago, as you can see above from his statistics.
McLemore was one of many Kansas players that aided the program to the Sweet 16, only to lose by a pair of points to Michigan. Although the Jayhawks fell earlier than anticipated, McLemore was the ringleader of the team and was a big reason why they were one of the No. 1 seeds in the tournament in the first place.
That’s what teams are going to be looking for in the draft: A player that can take their organization to the next level, hoping to win an NBA Championship.
Most mock drafts have McLemore being selected from anywhere as high as No. 2, to the Orlando Magic, or as low as No. 5, to the Phoenix Suns. He could go to the Wizards at No. 3, the Bobcats at No. 4 or drop from the top 5 altogether. But he’s still going to make a difference, no matter where he goes.
Let’s say that that McLemore goes No. 2 for the sake of conversation. That means he’ll likely be competing with Rajon Rondo, Dwayne Wade, Derrick Rose and Kyrie Irving, among others, for the guard spots. In that case, in order to make it to the All-Star Game, he’ll likely have to average at least 20 points per game through the first half of the year.
The chances of McLemore dropping 20 per game may seem bleak right now, considering he didn’t even average that many in college. However, he should have more opportunities to score with the Magic. He’ll be taking more shots with Orlando, where he’s probably the go-to guy, whereas Kansas featured a more balanced attack.
If McLemore can manage to score 20 points per game in the first half of the 2013-14 season, there’s a chance he makes it to New Orleans for the showcase.
Trey Burke, PG, Michigan Wolverines
While Trey Burke might not be the top defender in this year’s draft class, he definitely knows how to get the ball in the net. He arguably does that better than anyone else, and he’s shown that over the last two years with Michigan.
It was actually Burke’s Wolverines that eliminated McLemore and the Jayhawks from the NCAA Tournament this past season. It was Burke himself that led a comeback, as Kansas led by 14 points with less then seven minutes remaining. Burke had 23 points in that game, all coming in the second half and overtime.
Oh, and Burke hit this shot.
Yeah, that was nasty.
But that’s what Burke is capable of doing each time he steps on the court. Teams will love the way he plays offensively, and that’s why he’ll likely go somewhere within the first seven picks of the upcoming draft. A likely landing spot for the Wolverine guard is in New Orleans with the Pelicans.
If that’s how things play out, Burke will have quite the test to get into the All-Star Game. He’ll likely have to take out Kobe Bryant, Russell Westbrook, Tony Parker, Chris Paul and Lillard, among others, to make it onto the Western Conference’s lineup.
While I set a point goal for McLemore to make it in, things are a little different here. Now, we’re going to look at how Lillard did—keeping in mind that he didn’t make it to the All-Star Game this year. Before the break, Lillard averaged 18.3 points and 6.5 assists in 38.5 minutes per game in 53 games. Simply put, Burke will at least have to hit those numbers.
If Burke can do that, he’ll be in the running. If he doesn’t, well, maybe he’ll be a sophomore when he makes his first All-Star Game appearance.