Luka Doncic Didn't Expect to Start All-Star Game: Damian Lillard 'Deserved It'

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorFebruary 20, 2021

Dallas Mavericks' Luka Doncic advances the ball against the New Orleans Pelicans during an NBA basketball game in Dallas, Friday, Feb. 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

Dallas Mavericks point guard Luka Doncic will start the 2021 NBA All-Star Game after he earned the Western Conference's final backcourt spot in a tiebreaker over Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard.

On Saturday, Doncic offered his comments on the selection.

"I didn't expect that I was going to start this game," Doncic told reporters, per ESPN's Tim MacMahon. "I know that maybe Lillard deserved it more than me."

All-Star voting consisted of a combination of fan (50 percent), player (25 percent) and media (25 percent) ballots. Doncic and Lillard tied for the second spot, but the Mavs guard received the starting honor because of the fan vote tiebreaker.

Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry will be the other backcourt starter representing the Western Conference.

Lillard will not start, but he's a virtual lock to play as a reserve. The Oakland, California, native has been sensational this season, averaging 29.8 points, 7.7 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game for the 18-10 Blazers, who have won six straight.

Portland is fourth in the Western Conference despite missing shooting guard CJ McCollum (15 games) and center Jusuf Nurkic (16 games) for more than half of the year.

Doncic has been exceptional as well, averaging 29.1 points, 9.4 assists and 8.6 rebounds per game.

Lillard is notably third in the NBA with 4.6 win shares and fifth with a 27.1 player efficiency rating, per Basketball Reference. Doncic is 15th with 3.4 win shares and seventh with a 26.8 PER.

Lillard is arguably having the better individual year, even if Doncic is a nightly triple-double threat. Plus, his team is doing better, as the Mavs (who have also been shorthanded because of injuries and the league's health and safety protocols) are 10th in the West at 13-15.

One could even argue that Lillard deserved a spot over Curry, who is fifth in win shares (4.4) and eighth in PER (25.4). Curry has led a resurgent team to a 16-14 record after the shorthanded squad finished 15-50 last season. He is averaging 29.9 points, 6.2 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game.

Either way, it won't make much of a difference unless NBA coaches, who pick the reserves, somehow snub Lillard.

That won't happen, so expect to see plenty of Doncic and Lillard on Sunday, March 7, in Atlanta. Three days earlier, Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant and Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James will pick their All-Star teams in a televised draft.