Biggest Snubs from 2020 NBA All-Star Reserve Voting

Sean Highkin@highkinFeatured ColumnistJanuary 31, 2020

Biggest Snubs from 2020 NBA All-Star Reserve Voting

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    The NBA announced Thursday the players selected as reserves for the upcoming All-Star Game, which will take place in Chicago on Feb. 16. This announcement comes one week after the starters were announced.

    The top two vote-getters in their respective conferences, the Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James and Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo, will pick the teams from the pool of starters and reserves.

    The starter pool includes Dallas' Luka Doncic, Houston's James Harden, the Lakers' Anthony Davis and Clippers' Kawhi Leonard in the Western Conference; representing the Eastern Conference in the starter pool are Boston's Kemba Walker, Atlanta's Trae Young, Toronto's Pascal Siakam and Philadelphia's Joel Embiid.

    The Eastern Conference reserves include three first-timers: Boston's Jayson Tatum, Indiana's Domantas Sabonis and Miami's Bam Adebayo. They're joined by Adebayo's Heat teammate, Jimmy Butler, as well as Philadelphia's Ben Simmons, Toronto's Kyle Lowry and Milwaukee's Khris Middleton.

    The Western Conference reserves also feature three first-time All-Stars: Utah Jazz teammates Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert as well as the New Orleans Pelicans' Brandon Ingram. They're joined by Portland's Damian Lillard, Denver's Nikola Jokic, Houston's Russell Westbrook and Oklahoma City's Chris Paul.

    It's hard to argue that any of the players selected didn't deserve it, but there are several players with strong cases—some first-timers, some perennial All-Stars who missed the cut this year for whatever reason. Here are a few players who deserved consideration in each conference. 

Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards

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    Beal was a victim of the Wizards' 15-31 record, since coaches tend to reward players from winning teams when voting on All-Star reserves. Still, Beal has the pedigree to get a look even with Washington's record.

    Beal is averaging career highs of 28.6 points and 6.3 assists per game, although his shooting has dipped to a 31.8 percent from three-point range and he's missed a few games with leg problems.

    Beal fell way short of being voted in as a starter last week, but he received a big boost in the player vote, which speaks well to his reputation among his peers. And earlier in the season, the Wizards were legitimately a nightmare for defenses to play against (on the flip side, they didn't play much defense of their own). Their hot start didn't hold up, which is the chief reason Beal was left off. It certainly wasn't his individual play. 

    There's a strong likelihood Beal will be the first call if NBA Commissioner Adam Silver needs an injury replacement for one of the East players. His dependable production can be easy to take for granted and overlook, especially when considering his team's record.

Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls

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    As hosts, the Bulls were hoping they'd have an All-Star. And they were also hoping they'd be back in the playoff hunt by now. LaVine was supposed to be the centerpiece of the rebuild the Bulls took on when they traded Jimmy Butler to Minnesota in June 2017, and it would have been a great story if he'd been able to be on that stage in his home arena.

    LaVine's individual production (25.1 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game, 38.0 percent shooting from three-point range) has been very good in his sixth year, but it hasn't translated to wins, which likely led to the coaches leaving him off their ballots.

    Ultimately, LaVine has been asked to be the first option on a team hoping to make the playoffs, and he'd be better suited as a second or third option on a good team. With his own team, he's developed a "good stats/bad team" reputation that will take his first career postseason appearance to shake.

    With Aaron Gordon set to compete in the dunk contest Saturday night, we're left to hope LaVine also signs on for a rematch of their epic 2016 battle in Toronto.

Malcolm Brogdon, Indiana Pacers

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    The Pacers are tied for the fifth-best record in the Eastern Conference, an impressive feat with Victor Oladipo missing the entire season up until his return earlier this week. They were rewarded with one first-time All-Star in Domantas Sabonis. There's a good case to be made they should have had two.

    Brogdon has stepped up admirably in Oladipo's absence, providing steady playmaking (7.4 APG) and scoring (17.0 PPG) in the backcourt. He's been just as reliable in his first year in Indiana as he was in three seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks, and with the Pacers contending, he would have been worth a look.

Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics

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    Brown signed a four-year, $107 million extension with the Celtics in October, and he's backed it up by breaking out into a star. He's putting up career-best numbers across the board while showing his versatility at both ends of the floor.

    The Celtics have two other All-Stars, with Kemba Walker getting starting honors in the backcourt and Jayson Tatum being named a reserve, so it's not surprising that the Celtics didn't get a third representative. Typically, only the most dominant teams in the league do.

    It can be argued that Tatum's highs are higher and he jumps off the screen more as a star, but Brown is more consistent. He will probably make an All-Star team one day, judging by the leap he's made this season.

Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns

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    Shortly after the reserves were announced Thursday evening, Suns general manager James Jones released a statement lamenting the coaches' decision to pass Booker over once again in his fifth season.

    The Western Conference guard spots are always the toughest to get, but during a year in which Golden State Warriors superstars Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are out of the picture due to injuries, one of them could have been reserved for Booker.

    The Suns have tailed off considerably since their hot start to the season. If they'd kept pace at the bottom of the Western Conference playoff race, Booker would have a much stronger case. His numbers are good—27.1 points per game on 36.8 percent shooting from deep—but his numbers are always good, and that's led to precisely zero playoff appearances throughout his career in Phoenix.

    Similar knocks—poor defense and a bad team record—didn't stop Trae Young from being named a starter, and there's a good chance Booker would have gotten a nod if he played in the Eastern Conference.

    But in the West, he's competing for reserve spots with Damian Lillard, Russell Westbrook and Donovan Mitchell, who are putting up similar or better stats on superior teams. That means he's going to be the odd man out in the coaches' vote.

Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Craig Lassig/Associated Press

    The knocks against Towns are the same as the ones against his close friend and former University of Kentucky teammate, Devin Booker: He's a defensive liability, and his team isn't very good.

    It doesn't help Towns' case, either, that he's missed 17 games due to injuries. If he'd played in more of those contests, he'd have a stronger argument.

    Still, the numbers Towns has put up when healthy—26.9 points, 10.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game while shooting 41.2 percent from three-point range—are All-Star numbers. But like Booker in Phoenix, Minnesota will have to win more games before Towns can shake the "empty stats on a bad team" reputation when coaches are making their choices.

Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies

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    It's exceptionally rare for a rookie to make the All-Star game. It hasn't happened since Blake Griffin in 2010-11, and before that Yao Ming in 2002-03. Even LeBron James didn't make it as a rookie, so Morant probably never had much of a shot.

    But if anyone in recent years has deserved it, it's him.

    The Grizzlies are arguably the biggest surprise of the year. Following two seasons in the lottery, they're sitting at .500 with a two-and-a-half-game lead for the eighth seed in the Western Conference.

    Morant has all but wrapped up Rookie of the Year, barring some unprecedented production from Zion Williamson to make up for lost time (which is entirely possible). He's quickly become one of the most electrifying players in the league to watch on a night-to-night basis, and his highlight passes and dunks have translated into winning basketball.

    This year's All-Star rosters feature two second-year players making their first All-Star Games in Luka Doncic and Trae Young. Don't be surprised if Morant pulls that off next season after his head-turning rookie campaign.

Paul George, Los Angeles Clippers

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    George was always going to be a long-shot this year, simply due to time missed. He sat out the first month of the season recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, and he and Kawhi Leonard haven't played together much as the Clippers have prioritized their long-term health for the playoffs.

    Still, the Clippers have the second-best record in the Western Conference behind the Los Angeles Lakers. And when George has played, he's had a typical Paul George season.

    His numbers (23.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 39.5 percent shooting from three) are right in line with his career averages, and his defense has been as good as ever. If he'd played in more games, he would have almost certainly made it. But it's hard to overlook the time missed in such a crowded field of candidates.