Biggest Snubs and Surprises from 2022 NBA All-Star Starters

Sean Highkin@highkinFeatured ColumnistJanuary 28, 2022

Biggest Snubs and Surprises from 2022 NBA All-Star Starters

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    Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    This year's NBA All-Star starters were announced on Thursday evening, and most of them came as no surprise. The two captains (the leading vote-getters in each conference) were LeBron James in the West and Kevin Durant in the East. Joining James were Nikola Jokic, Andrew Wiggins, Stephen Curry and Ja Morant. Joining Durant were Joel Embiid, Giannis Antetokounmpo, DeMar DeRozan and Trae Young.

    Seven of those 10 selections are completely non-controversial, but there was room for debate on a few of them. In particular, the Wiggins selection caught a lot of people off-guard. There were valid debates to be had, too, between Morant and Luka Doncic and between Young and Zach LaVine.

    Now that the selections are out, here are the primary takeaways: some snubs, some surprises and an honorable mention.

Surprise: Andrew Wiggins

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    Wiggins won the third West frontcourt spot in the fan vote by a 600,000-vote margin over Paul George (more on him later), but it was a major surprise that he still got enough to put him over the top. 

    Nobody would argue that Wiggins has been one of the three best frontcourt players in the conference this season. In fact, he's not even the most important forward on his own team. That would be Draymond Green, who is currently out injured.

    With that said, Wiggins is having the most effective season of his career. He's shooting a career-high 40.4 percent from three-point range and contributing defensively to a once-again-dominant Warriors team. 

    The notion that he has a case to be an All-Star this season isn't completely ridiculous, but it would have been a lot easier for people to get their heads around if he had been named a reserve rather than a starter alongside the reigning MVP in Jokic and an inner-circle GOAT contender in James.

Snub: Zach LaVine

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    Tim Heitman/Associated Press

    Four of the five Eastern Conference selections were clear-cut and non-controversial. LaVine's teammate, DeMar DeRozan, got a spot in the backcourt, and LaVine has a strong argument that he should have been the one to join him instead of Atlanta's Trae Young.

    DeRozan is the one getting fringe MVP buzz, but LaVine has been just as important to Chicago's surprise success. He's proved more than capable of sharing touches with DeRozan, Lonzo Ball and Nikola Vucevic over a full season, and his own production has stayed right where it was last season, when he made the All-Star team for the first time in his career.

    Team success is the other factor that many argue should give LaVine the edge over Young. The Bulls are currently half a game out of first in the East but have spent much of the year atop the conference, while Young's Hawks are currently on the outside looking in at the expanded 10-team play-in tournament pool. Non-playoff teams have had All-Star starters before, but the edge is usually given to the player on the winning team if all else is equal, making it something of a surprise LaVine didn't get the nod here.

Surprise: No Starters from NBA’s Best Team

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    Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

    On the subject of team success, it's a bit of a surprise that the team with the best record in the NBA and defending Western Conference champion, whose starting backcourt comprises two well-liked perennial All-Stars, didn't get a representative in the starting lineup.

    Devin Booker's individual stats outpace Chris Paul's, but the impact Paul had on winning in his first year in Phoenix has continued this season. The respect he commands from the media and fellow players might have made up for the deficit in the fan vote. 

    Last year, the best team record-wise (the Jazz) also didn't have a starter, but Gobert and Donovan Mitchell aren't nearly as popular as Paul or Booker. Between those two huge names, it's at least somewhat surprising one of them didn't get in. They'll both be reserves, though.

Snub: Luka Doncic

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    Amanda Loman/Associated Press

    Until the Wiggins curveball, the biggest question about the Western Conference field was which of Doncic and Morant would get the second backcourt spot next to Curry.

    There are strong arguments on both sides of this debate. The case for Doncic: He has the Mavericks sitting at fifth out West with a much weaker supporting cast than the one Morant has. Both have missed around the same amount of time due to injuries (Doncic has missed 15 games; Morant has missed 13), and the Mavs are 6-9 without Doncic while the Grizzlies are 11-2 without Morant, suggesting that Doncic is more essential to his team's success. And while their scoring numbers are virtually the same, Doncic's counting stats in other categories outpace Morant's (8.9 rebounds per game to Morant's 5.9; 8.7 assists to Morant's 6.9).

    More goes into these selections than individual stats, and Morant had Doncic beat among the fan, player and media voting that determined his status as a starter. But Doncic's case to be a starter for the third year in a row was legit.

Snub: Rudy Gobert

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    Ringo H.W. Chiu/Associated Press

    Gobert is the obvious loser of the surprising announcement that Wiggins got the third Western Conference frontcourt spot. The addition of player and media votes was supposed to keep the starters from being a pure popularity contest, but Gobert couldn't make up the ground in either case. This may have been due to it seeming counterintuitive to vote for two centers in the small-ball era of the NBA, and it could have been seen as an either-or choice between him and Jokic even though that isn't the way the actual ballot is broken down.

    Regardless, Gobert was clearly the more deserving selection here. The individual numbers are there (16.0 points, 15.1 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game), as is the defensive impact. Utah is 12th in the league on that end of the floor without strong perimeter defense to back up what Gobert brings in the paint—a testament to just how dominant he is there.

    With the likes of Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis missing most or all of the season due to injuries, this could have been the year Gobert cracked the starting lineup for the first time. 

    It was not to be, although he would have been a worthy choice.

Snub, Honorable Mention: Paul George

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    Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

    The case of George is an interesting one. He's been out for a month with an elbow injury that will likely keep him out most if not all of the season; before that, he was playing at a borderline MVP level and would have had a great chance at getting into the starting lineup via the player and media vote. He would have probably been neck-and-neck with Gobert to get the spot that ended up going to Wiggins.

    The timing of the injury was likely disqualifying in a lot of those voters' eyes, as he would not have been available to play in the All-Star Game next month. But neither will Durant, and he was still voted not only a starter but the captain of the Eastern Conference. Even just as a ceremonial gesture, George could have had a case to be named a starter based on his production before the injury.

    Stats via unless otherwise noted.