NBA All-Star Rosters 2016: Biggest Snubs and Surprises

Dan FavaleFeatured ColumnistJanuary 28, 2016

PORTLAND, OR - JANUARY 20:  Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers looks on during the game against the Atlanta Hawks on January 20, 2016 at the Moda Center Arena in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Now that the 2016 NBA All-Star rosters are officially official, we have the option to bask in the celebration of those chosen to represent the Feb. 14 superstud exhibition in Toronto.

We also have the option to sip some nitpicking juice, comb through the All-Star dockets and suss out the most notable snubs and surprises.

Option B it is.

Here's what the final Eastern and Western Conference All-Star squads look like for reference:

2016 NBA All-Star Rosters
EastWest
StarterKyle LowryStephen Curry
StarterDwyane WadeRussell Westbrook
StarterCarmelo AnthonyKobe Bryant
StarterPaul GeorgeKawhi Leonard
StarterLeBron JamesKevin Durant
ReserveJimmy ButlerJames Harden
ReserveDeMar DeRozanChris Paul
ReserveIsaiah ThomasKlay Thompson
ReserveJohn WallLaMarcus Aldridge
ReserveChris BoshDeMarcus Cousins
ReserveAndre DrummondAnthony Davis
ReservePaul MillsapDraymond Green
Source: NBA.com

Miss you, Zaza Pachulia.

Selecting All-Star reserves is an inexact science, and it's difficult to argue against any of the coaches' second-string picks. Deserving exclusions exist in abundance, but it's not always possible to figure out whoif anyonethey should replace.

Still, there are snubs. There are surprises. So let the quibbling begin.

 

East Backcourt 

Surprise: None

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 28: Jimmy Butler #21 of the Chicago Bulls blocks a shot by DeMar DeRozan #10 of the Toronto Raptors at the United Center on December 28, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Raptors 104-97. NOTE TO USER: User expressly
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Anyone who has an issue with how the East's backcourt reserves shook out really has a problem with the fan vote.

Dwyane Wade's rise into starter territory forced Jimmy Butler into the reserve platoon, and things snowballed from there.

Everyone else belongs. It's as simple as that.

DeMar DeRozan plays for the hometown Toronto Raptors and is the version of Wade who should actually be an All-Star. The Boston Celtics post a top-five net rating when Isaiah Thomas is on the floor (plus-5.2). John Wall is the first player since Chris Paul to average 19 points, nine assists and two steals per 36 minutes before his 26th birthday.

 

Snub: Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks

MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 19:  Khris Middleton #22 of the Milwaukee Bucks drives to the basket against the Miami Heat on January 19, 2016 at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and
Issac Baldizon/Getty Images

My sincerest apologies, Reggie Jackson.

Four point guards would make for an unnecessary crowd, and Khris Middleton allows for more lineup possibilities. Most of his minutes come at shooting guard these days, but he played power forward for a majority of last season, and the Milwaukee Bucks have experimented with him at center in the past.

Oh, also: Middleton is freaking awesome. He is doing everything for the disappointing Bucks—and as Ian Levy wrote for Sporting News, he's doing it incredibly well:

Taking on a larger offensive load usually involves sacrificing efficiency. However, Middleton has increased his true shooting percentage and usage rate for the third consecutive season. He has also worked to become more of a facilitator and his assist percentage is a career-high as well.

According to the usage and possession statistics at Nylon Calculus, Middleton's teammates have an effective field goal percentage of 61.9 percent on his potential assists, implying that he's creating high quality looks for them, not just a high volume.

Middleton is one of two players averaging 17 points, four assists and one steal per 36 minutes and shooting 40 percent or better from long distance.

His statistical sibling? Stephen Curry.

 

East Frontcourt

Surprise: Chris Bosh, Miami Heat

Kathy Willens/Associated Press

Even after Andre Drummond lost the popularity contest to Carmelo Anthony, he was an All-Star lock. His per-36-minute scoring and rebounding splits haven't existed since Wilt Chamberlain.

Paul Millsap was similarly a safe bet. He didn't receive much love from the fans, but he is the Draymond Green of the Eastern Conference.

Chris Bosh has been solid—even great. He leads the Miami Heat in win shares and has become the quintessential floor-spacing big man. But he's not the playmaking forward or center that has become all the rage—the Green- and Millsap-type bigs who play defense, stroke threes and, most importantly, create works of art off the dribble.

Counterpoint: Maybe Bosh is that kind of player.

Either way, the league's infusion of combo forwards leaves limited room for the more traditional bigs.

In any other season, it would have been Drummondnot Boshwho drew shock-and-awe duty. Drummond's dalliance with starting, though, made his appearance inevitable.

 

Snub: Jae Crowder, Boston Celtics

BOSTON, MA - DECEMBER 30:  Jae Crowder #99 of the Boston Celtics looks on during the third quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers at TD Garden on December 30, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by do
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

So long as we're being honest, Bosh was also listed as a surprise because Jae Crowder's should-have-most-definitely-been-an-All-Star case is beyond strong.

Crowder has become one of the NBA's premier two-way talents. He can play either forward position and some shooting guard, and Boston's impenetrable perimeter defense doesn't work without him zipping around screens, forcing ball-handlers to change direction and providing timely, suffocating traps.

“Jae’s improved,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens noted, per NESN.com's Darren Hartwell. “You know, he’s only been here a year, and I told you last year: I’m not sure I knew quite all that he could do, and he just keeps adding to it.”

Five qualified players are currently clearing 15 points, two assists and two steals per 36 minutes while shooting 35-plus percent from deep. Four of them are All-Stars (Curry, Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry and Paul).

The other is Crowder.

Five forwards have collected at least 2.5 offensive and defensive win shares. Four of them are All-Stars (Green, LeBron James, Leonard and Millsap).

The other is—you guessed it—Crowder.

We're done here.

 

West Backcourt

Surprise: Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors

HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 31:  James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets shoots over Klay Thompson #11 of the Golden State Warriors at Toyota Center on December 31, 2015 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloadi
Bob Levey/Getty Images

James Harden and Paul are anything but surprises. They both rank in the top seven among all guards in player efficiency rating and win shares.

Klay Thompson's case is more fragile. He doesn't fall inside the top 10 of backcourt PER or win shares, and Green's rise has rendered him a No. 3 option. But that doesn't make his selection indefensible.

Fans already voted in two point guards as starters, and Hardenfrom a coach's perspectiveis a pseudo-floor general. Thompson complements the rest of the backcourt nicely as someone who gets more than 80 percent of his buckets off assists.

Though nearly 40 percent of his looks come as catch-and-shoot triples, Thompson has developed into a legitimate post-up threat, deft driver and adequate playmaker. And he has All-Star numbers. Curry and Leonard are the only other players averaging 20.0 points and 2.5 assists per 36 minutes while putting in 40 percent of their treys.

Last season's Atlanta Hawks set a precedent: Third fiddles are worthy of All-Star exposure. And Thompson is essentially an alpha dog masquerading as a sidekick.

 

Snub: Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers

PORTLAND, OR - JANUARY 8:  Damian Lillard #0 and C.J. McCollum #3 of the Portland Trail Blazers walk off the court against the Golden State Warriors on January 8, 2016 at the Moda Center Arena in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges
Sam Forencich/Getty Images

Damian Lillard took last year's snub personally.

I wonder how he's going to take this one.

At least last season, with so many injuries, he was guaranteed a replacement slot. This go-around poses no such promises. Lillard is once again the victim of circumstance. The point guard position remains immeasurably deep, and he takes a backseat to Curry, Paul and Russell Westbrook, among other big names.

That's not exactly fair at this stage, as Frank Isola of the New York Daily News boldly pointed out:

This is an actual debate. Lillard is piloting a top-eight offense that lost four key contributors over the summer. He is the lone player on a sub-.500 team who ranks in the top 10 of offensive box plus/minus. His output is also historically ridiculous. Two other players have ever cleared 24 points and seven assists per 36 minutes with a three-point success rate north of 35 percent.

Their names? 

Curry and James.

 

West Frontcourt

Surprise: LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs

Darren Abate/Associated Press

Boban Marjanovic would have been an epic, glorious shock. Instead, we get LaMarcus Aldridge, who has the reputation but no longer has the numbers.

His production was always going to dip once he joined the San Antonio Spurs. They never rely too much on one player, and Leonard warrants all the touches ever. Aldridge's playing time is down by nearly six minutes per game, and his usage ratewhile higher than any other everyday Spurhasn't been this low since 2009-10.

That rotation-leading rate hasn't allowed Aldridge to distinguish himself, either. He is a net negative on the offensive end and has the Spurs' third-worst box plus/minus, putting him ahead of only Ray McCallum and Jonathon Simmons.

Does that sound like an All-Star performance to you?

 

Snub: Gordon Hayward, Utah Jazz

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 18:  Gordon Hayward #20 of the Utah Jazz shoots the ball against the Charlotte Hornets on January 18, 2016 at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downl
Kent Smith/Getty Images

Four players are averaging at least 20 points, five rebounds and three assists per 36 minutes in addition to shooting 37 percent or better from three-point range.

Gordon Hayward is one of them.

Curry, Kevin Durant and Paul George are the other three—and each is an All-Star starter.

Playing for an injury-riddled, potentially lottery-bound Utah Jazz team may have hurt Hayward's chances. The (rightful) inclusion of Green also didn't do him any favors. After all, how many point forwards can you have on one All-Star roster?

In this versatility-obsessed NBA? As many as possible. Hayward fits the All-Star bill, and the prospect of a Curry-Harden-Durant-Hayward-Green lineup should have been enough to get him a reserve nod.

 

Snub: Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 19:  Karl-Anthony Towns #32 of the Minnesota Timberwolves works against Anthony Davis #23 of the New Orleans Pelicans during the second half of a game at the Smoothie King Center on January 19, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana. New
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Multiple-snub alert!

Rookies typically don't earn All-Star spots. It has happened just three times over the past two decades, and the last first-year player to make an appearance was Blake Griffin in 2011.

Karl-Anthony Towns deserves to be the latest exception—especially with the coaches ostensibly moving on from legends like Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki. While New York Knicks newbie Kristaps Porzingis receives most of the viral-highlight loving, it's Towns who has, in many ways, outclassed his most direct rookie competition, per ESPN Stats & Info:

More than that, Towns is already producing like an All-Star.

Anthony Davis is the only other player averaging at least 19 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks per 36 minutes, and Towns has a higher box plus/minus than him. His PER also ranks fifth among Western Conference frontcourt players who have logged at least 1,000 total minutes.

Towns, of course, never really stood a chance. The West has too many established superhumans, and it's become clear over the years that seniority matters. But those factors only succeed in keeping Towns out of the picture. They do not make him any less deserving.

Shoutout to Derrick Favors, who probably would've jumped Towns if the latter hadn't missed so many games.

 

Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com unless otherwise cited, and they are accurate leading into games on Jan. 28.

Dan Favale covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @danfavale.