NBA All-Star Game 2020: Least Deserving Starters, Top Snubs After Lineups Reveal

Martin FennContributor IIJanuary 24, 2020

MIAMI, FLORIDA - JANUARY 22:  Jimmy Butler #22 of the Miami Heat looks on against the Washington Wizards during the second half at American Airlines Arena on January 22, 2020 in Miami, Florida. 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.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo will be an All-Star Game captain for the second consecutive year. The reigning MVP has led the Bucks to the league's best record while averaging 30.0 points, 12.9 rebounds and 5.6 assists and leading the league in player efficiency rating.

The other representatives in the Eastern Conference: Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam, Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid, Boston Celtics guard Kemba Walker and Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young, who overcame the "worst record in the NBA" argument.

In the Western Conference, LeBron James was named a captain for the third straight year—every season since the new format was implemented.

The King is joined by Los Angeles Lakers teammate Anthony Davis and crosstown rival Kawhi Leonard in the frontcourt, while Dallas Mavericks sophomore sensation Luka Doncic and Houston Rockets guard James Harden make up the backcourt.

Of course, a host of great players missed out on a starting opportunity, while others might be luckier in that regard. So, let's debate.

Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam is playing some great basketball, but does he deserve to be a starter?
Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam is playing some great basketball, but does he deserve to be a starter?John Amis/Associated Press


Least Deserving Starters

Pascal Siakam

Siakam has been spectacular as he continues to ascend to the level of the elite.

The 25-year-old is averaging 23.5 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game, giving Toronto much-needed production in the wake of Leonard's departure this past summer. However, Siakam has missed 11 games, and his increase in scoring is based more on added volume than anything.

He is shooting below 50 percent on two-pointers, over 10 percent worse than his mark from last season. Even if some of that is the result of added defensive attention, Siakam has not been quite as efficient.

When factoring in the injuries, it's hard to say Siakam is worthy of a starting nod, especially given the outstanding two-way play of a certain star in South Beach. More on that later.


Trae Young

This is not another argument about whether someone who plays for the worst team in the league deserves to be a starter. Nor is it an indictment on Young, who can hoist threes from anywhere and dazzle fans with his handles and court vision.

He is averaging 29.2 points, 8.6 assists and 4.6 rebounds while shooting 37.3 percent from three on a whopping 9.3 attempts per game. He is one of the most impactful offensive players on the floor at all times.

However, it's impossible to ignore his defensive deficiencies. He ranks toward the bottom among qualified guards in both defensive rating and defensive win shares, per NBA.com. Most of these players have two-way value, but Young is often disengaged on that end of the floor.

Does he belong in the All-Star Game? Absolutely. But is he deserving of a starting spot? Debatable.

Jokic was never going to earn a starting nod over the superstars in L.A., though he has a strong case of his own.
Jokic was never going to earn a starting nod over the superstars in L.A., though he has a strong case of his own.David J. Phillip/Associated Press/Associated Press



Top Snubs

Jimmy Butler

It feels egregious not to include Butler among the starters.

Start with the obvious: He has helped turn the Miami Heat into contenders in the Eastern Conference. He also ranks eighth in win shares.

Then there are the numbers. Yes, Butler is shooting just over 26 percent from beyond the arc. However, he is averaging 20.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 1.8 steals per game. He impacts the game in all areas, and his PER is 23.8, compared to 18.5 for Siakam.

In Butler's case, team success should count for something. The Heat are on pace for nearly 58 wins, and they are already on the verge of passing last year's win total (39).


Kyle Lowry

Like Siakam, Lowry has also missed 11 games. However, he is averaging 37.1 minutes through his first 33 appearances, tying Harden for the highest per-game mark.

The 14-year veteran has been vital to Toronto's success this year, averaging 20.0 points, 7.5 assists and 4.5 rebounds.

Aside from team success, the biggest separator between Lowry and Young comes, as you might expect, at the defensive end. Lowry ranks fourth among qualified guards in defensive win shares, per NBA.com.

The argument can be made that Lowry benefits from playing alongside another stout defender in Fred VanVleet—and Young will surely be more fun to watch in an All-Star Game setting—but there is no denying the numbers or Lowry's impact in Toronto.


Nikola Jokic

It might seem difficult to argue that anyone deserves to start over LeBron, AD or Kawhi in the frontcourt, but not for Jokic. After all, he ranks ahead of Leonard in win shares (5.9 to 4.6) and value over replacement player (3.3 to 2.4).

Joker is an anomaly, a 7-footer routinely capable of posting triple-doubles and handling the ball. He is averaging 19.4 points, 10.0 rebounds and 6.4 assists and has played every game.

The 24-year-old Serb deserved more starting consideration.


All stats obtained via Basketball Reference unless otherwise noted.


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