2017 NBA All-Star Game: Biggest Snubs Among Reserve Picks
The 2017 NBA All-Star rosters are officially official! Let us tip our caps and brimmed beanies to those who will partake in New Orleans' superstar exhibition on Feb. 19.
And now that we've paid our obligatory reverence...on to the snubs!
Here are the full Eastern and Western Conference All-Star dockets:
|Backcourt Starter||Kyrie Irving||Stephen Curry|
|Backcourt Starter||DeMar DeRozan||James Harden|
|Frontcourt Starter||Jimmy Butler||Kawhi Leonard|
|Frontcourt Starter||LeBron James||Kevin Durant|
|Frontcourt Starter||Giannis Antetokounmpo||Anthony Davis|
|Reserve||Isaiah Thomas||Russell Westbrook|
|Reserve||John Wall||Klay Thompson|
|Reserve||Paul George||Gordon Hayward|
|Reserve||Paul Millsap||Draymond Green|
|Reserve||Kevin Love||DeMarcus Cousins|
|Reserve||Kyle Lowry||Marc Gasol|
|Reserve||Kemba Walker||DeAndre Jordan|
If we're being honest, these rosters are multi-syllable great. We're not dealing with the corpse of Kobe Bryant or anything along those lines.
But in a league teeming with star power, there will always be unfair absences: players who were casualties of the NBA's depth or, most troublingly, left behind for others who are less deserving.
Honorable Mention: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Detroit Pistons
All-Star Selections: 0
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 14.5 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.2 blocks, 42.2 percent shooting, 39.4 percent three-point shooting
There are no true snubs in the Eastern Conference backcourt. Any combination of Kyle Lowry, Isaiah Thomas, Kemba Walker and John Wall should have received the starting nod over DeMar DeRozan and Kyrie Irving, but the correct six—six!—guards made the cut.
If we're moving to the next player in line, though, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope belongs in that consolation bracket, ahead of bigger names such as Bradley Beal and Dwyane Wade.
Caldwell-Pope is checking all the boxes the NBA wants in a modern-day wing.
Defensive adaptability? Check. Near-40 percent three-point clip? Check. Capacity to initiate pick-and-rolls? Check.
Best player on his team? Check again.
You better believe Caldwell-Pope is the Detroit Pistons' best player. Reggie Jackson's value sometimes craters alongside so many other dominant mouths, while Andre Drummond is entering overrated territory.
"Well, he's our best three-point shooter, our best energy defender, our best energy guy," head coach Stan Van Gundy told TNT when Caldwell-Pope went down with a shoulder injury against the Golden State Warriors on Jan. 12 (via the Detroit Free Press' Vince Ellis). "We won't miss a lot."
Luckily for the Pistons, Caldwell-Pope has since returned. According to NBA Math, he is their most valuable player, and it's not close.
East Frontcourt Snub: Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
All-Star Selections: 0
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 19.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 0.8 steals, 2.5 blocks, 46.2 percent shooting
Embiid has missed almost one-third of the Philadelphia 76ers' season. He doesn't play both ends of back-to-backs. He has yet to tally 30 minutes in a game—a precautionary minutes cap that will remain in effect all year, per head coach Brett Brown, via Calkins Media's Tom Moore.
Players in Embiid's situation shouldn't regularly receive All-Star recognition. Volume and availability matter. Selections are still used to buoy player legacies and enact contract incentives.
But damn it all to hell if Embiid hasn't made the most passionate pragmatics rethink their stance.
Tim Duncan was the last newbie who averaged at least 19 points, seven rebounds and two blocks per game. The Sixers own the Eastern Conference's best defensive rating by a light-year since Nov. 16—a stretch spanning 32 games. And they're registering a top-eight net rating (plus-3.2) when Embiid anchors the middle—basketball heroism at its most absurd.
Exceptions exist to every mode of thought, and fast-tracking Embiid's path to superstardom at Kevin Love's expense should've qualified as a loophole.
West Backcourt Snub: Mike Conley, Memphis Grizzlies
All-Star Selections: 0
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 18.6 points, 3.8 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.4 blocks, 43.2 percent shooting
Ah yes, the annual "Mike Conley was robbed!" diatribe. Stephen Curry, James Harden and Russell Westbrook exist. What else is new?
Well, for one, Conley's metamorphosis into a world-beater. We defer to ESPN.com's Zach Lowe for a summary:
"Conley is also playing the best ball of his life. He looks like he finally realized he's a star, and feels comfortable exercising dominion over the game. He's jacking hair-trigger threes whenever someone ducks under a pick, and zipping to the rim with new ferocity.
Conley has always played with a certain caution. Some of that comes from the level of craft in his game—the change-of-pace dribbles and crossover moves he uses to prod defenses before finding something he likes. Some of it reflected a reluctance to be selfish, and take over. That is gone. Conley understands the Grizzlies need him to assert control over games, and he has the confidence to do it. He has amped up his scoring without sacrificing his always-feisty defense."
Things get more interesting when you compare Conley to the three other guards who are not named Chris Paul and probably got the most consideration for reserve duty or, in Klay Thompson's case, earned a spot:
Remove Conley's far superior defense from the table, and he continues to keep pace with offense-first household names. And call me old-fashioned/ignorant/coo-coo for cocoa puffs, but it should matter that Conley missed just nine games while recovering from fractures in his back!
West Backcourt Snub: Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
All-Star Selections: 8
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 17.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 9.7 assists, 2.2 steals, 0.1 blocks, 47.1 percent shooting
Chris Paul's All-Star fate was sealed once he needed surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb Jan. 18. He won't be ready to rock by the Feb. 19 showcase, and an injury reserve would have needed to spell him.
But why not let it get to that point? Paul still had 36 appearances and tacked on a 39.5 percent deep-ball clip to his usual blend of scoring, playmaking and feisty defense.
This, in fact, is the seventh time he's put up at least 17 points, nine assists and two steals per game. No one else in NBA history has done this more than three times (John Stockton and Isiah Thomas).
Support for Paul would have been symbolic. And that's fine.
As long as we use All-Star selections—not appearances, but selections—to prop up player legacies, dudes who play like megahumans for more than 75 percent of the season should get tabbed regardless of whether they're healthy at the time.
We can figure out his replacement—in this case Klay Thompson—later.
West Frontcourt Snub: Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
All-Star Selections: 0
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 12.8 points, 12.6 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.7 steals, 2.5 blocks, 66.4 percent shooting
DeAndre Jordan's getting All-Star clearance before Rudy Gobert is weird.
This isn't a shot at Jordan. He remains a defensive bloodhound and a lob-thrower's dream. But Gobert is the better one-man wrecking crew these days.
No one has contested more shots around the basket, and yet scorers can't solve him. Opponents put down 43.6 percent of their point-blank opportunities against him—the fourth-lowest mark in the league among those to challenge at least 100 attempts near the bucket. And good luck trying to best him in the post or out of pick-and-rolls.
These dominant defensive showings have fueled Gobert's climb through the NBA ranks, but a deeper offensive bag rounds out his game. He is now serviceable in the post, has mastered the art of screen-setting and ranks as a top rim-runner out of pick-and-rolls.
Attach this specific-but-effective offensive role to Gobert's unflappable defense, and you have one of the most important players alive.
No, really: According to NBA Math, DeMarcus Cousins and Nikola Jokic are the only big men who have added more value than Gobert to their respective team's bottom line. He could have, and should have, been pushed through over Jordan.
West Frontcourt Snub: Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves
All-Star Selections: 0
2016-17 Per-Game Stats: 22.4 points, 11.9 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 0.6 steals, 1.5 blocks, 50.3 percent shooting
Karl-Anthony Towns' absence from the Western Conference roster was inevitable. Youth counts against players in these proceedings. Conventional thinking says they have to pay their dues before getting a February invite from the coaches. Whatever that means.
It doesn't help Towns' cause that he gets lost within the Association's glut of talented bigs. Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic and Kristaps Porzingis have earned their popularized rap sheets. But let's not forget Towns was playing like a star before any of them sniffed the up-and-coming conversation.
Much like Embiid, Towns wedged his way into the All-Star discussion as a rookie. His campaign was more understated, with a lot less Rihanna and Sam Hinkie, but it was a thing.
Nothing has changed since, even as the Minnesota Timberwolves struggle to meet the immorally high expectations set before them during the Tom Thibodeau era.
Towns is getting knocked for his defensive displays, but most guys would over-help and lose track of assignments when playing with Zach LaVine and Andrew Wiggins while chasing around the toughest frontcourt defensive assignment. And still, he profiles as an above-average stopper, according to NBA Math.
Sticking Towns on the West's roster would have meant revoking either Marc Gasol's or DeAndre Jordan's creds, which feels extreme. Then again, Towns pretty much plays like a Gasol who borrowed aspects of Jordan's game.
Or maybe he's more three-point threat-meets-Tim Duncan. After all, Duncan was the last, and only, player to pair Towns' scoring (19.8 points) with his assist (12.7) and block (4.0) percentages through his first two NBA seasons.
Dan Favale covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @danfavale.