Who missed out on the 2018 NBA All-Star Game?
FILE - LA Clippers guard Lou Williams, right, drives against Sacramento Kings guard Garrett Temple during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018, in Sacramento, Calif. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
As soon as the reserves for any NBA All-Star Game are released, you know what's coming: lists of the so-called snubs! That's right, with just 12 players per side, and the talent pool exploding in the Association, it's quite easy for a few players having standout campaigns to still miss out on a spot in the league's annual showcase.
For the 2018 All-Star Game edition, here are four players from each conference that arguably should be playing in LA come Feb. 18 (Feb. 19, PHL time). Although, with that said, who knows, they might get a belated nod due to an injury replacement, should something sideline one of the first 12.
Lou Williams (LAC)
Despite a ton of injuries, there's been one major reason why the LA Clippers are currently at .500, just a half-game back of the eighth seed in the West, and his name is Lou Williams. Having come over from the Houston Rockets in the Chris Paul trade, Williams was originally pencilled in as the second coming of Jamal Crawford. However, with so many players getting sidelined, Williams was tasked to up his game, and he's more than delivered.
Williams is currently averaging a career-high 23.3 points, shooting at career-best clips (45.1 FG%, 40.5 3FG%). He's also knocking down 90.4 percent of his free throws, and dishing out 5.1 dimes. Those are some red-hot offensive numbers, and you can tell he wasn't happy about missing out on playing in his home arena in the All-Star Game
Damn right. Smh https://t.co/sbHuK4fqD3— Lou Williams (@TeamLou23) January 24, 2018
Devin Booker (PHO)
Speaking of gunners, Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns has seen his numbers increase each season. Right now, the third-year scorer is norming 25 points (43.7 FG%, 38.2 3FG%), 4.5 rebounds, 4.7 assists, and 1.0 steals, all career-highs. The major blow against him however, is that his Suns are 17-30, good for the third-worst record in the conference. He also missed 10 games, including a nine-game stretch in December.
That said, when the Suns start to rack up wins, it'll be much easier to make the case for Booker. Until then, here's his take on the situation:
Opinions over statistics— Devin Booker (@DevinBook) January 24, 2018
Paul George (OKC)
When guys like Jimmy Butler and Paul George were traded to Western Conference teams, we knew this was going to happen. Clear-cut All-Stars as leaders of their respective teams in the East, they're now alternate options on their new squads, and as a result, their numbers dipped, and likely affected their All-Star status.
While Butler was able to get in as a reserve, by virtue of him becoming the Timberpups' go-to guy, George has had to understandably take a bigger step back, playing alongside Russell Westbrook. While he's shooting a career-best 42.9 3FG%, his other numbers, 20.8 points, 43.6 FG%, 5.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, are all down from his stints in Indiana. That said though, his defense is still top-notch, and is a big reason why OKC's been able to right the ship after a poor start, to become the fifth seed in the West.
A fiery Westbrook hit out at George's absence from the West All-Stars, and he may have a very good point:
Russell Westbrook called it “outrageous” that Paul George was not named an All-Star: pic.twitter.com/62vmKKbFSx— Royce Young (@royceyoung) January 24, 2018
Chris Paul (HOU)
Everyone was worried when the Houston Rockets landed Chris Paul that he and James Harden would have to learn how to share the ball with each other, as both love handling the rock. As it turned out though, we had nothing to worry about, as the two have been able to flourish, thanks to some top-notch staggering of minutes by head coach Mike D'Antoni.
Paul isn't scoring and assisting as much, just 19.1 points and 8.9 assists per game, but those are still exemplary numbers, and he's embraced the three-ball, attempting 7.0 an outing while hitting at a 39.6 percent clip. In fact, Paul's biggest knock is health. He's missed a total of 17 games from Houston's (as of writing) 45 game slate, more than a third of their assignments. Had he just been slightly healthier, he may have been a lock, given the Rockets' status as the #2 team in the West.
Andre Drummond (DET)
Tobias Harris (DET)
Early on in the season, the Detroit Pistons were flying high, opening their campaign with a 10-3 start and seemingly locking down a top-four spot in the East. Since then though, they've been inconsistent, with injuries, especially to starting point guard Reggie Jackson, playing a big role in hindering their progress. As of writing, Detroit is down to ninth in their conference, a game back of the younger Philadelphia 76ers.
Had the Pistons not deviated too far from their hot start, it would have been likely that they'd have an All-Star or two in the mix. In particular, some props must be given to center Andre Drummond, who radically transformed his game in the offseason. He's still a double-double machine, but he's also upped his free throw shooting from a dismal 38.6 percent to a whopping 62.9. In addition, he's also handing out a career-best 3.9 assists a game.
Given his situation, he may very well have to do backflips every time he scores:
Guess I gotta start doing back flips after every point I score to get attention around here!— Andre Drummond (@AndreDrummond) January 24, 2018
Lmao on to the next
Alternately, an argument could be made as well for his teammate, Tobias Harris. The versatile forward is norming a career-high 18.1 points a game, thanks to his three-point shot jumping up to 41.4 percent, also a personal best. He's obviously not a household name, but if the Pistons were above .500, the All-Star Game would have been a nice stage to get some attention.
Ben Simmons (PHI)
After missing what would have been his rookie season, Ben Simmons has been producing some beautiful music with Joel Embiid and the rest of the 76ers. With an ultra-versatile game wrapped up in a 6'10" frame, Simmons has been able to amass four triple-doubles already this season, behind only LeBron James and Russell Westbrook.
Through 42 games played, Simmons is averaging 16.3 points, 7.9 rebounds, 7.2 assists, 1.9 steals, and 0.9 blocks. Pretty good right? But his production has shrank with each month, as teams have begun to figure out how to defend him. He avoids three-pointers and free throws like the plague because he struggles with both shots, and canny opponents can use this to their advantage. That said, it's only his first year in the Association, and given some more experience, Simmons should be able to smooth out some of the rough patches in his repertoire.
Goran Dragic (MIA)
The #4 team in the Eastern Conference, the Miami Heat, got there without having a single player with All-Star exposure to their name. One guy who perhaps could have changed that? Their point guard Goran Dragic. Sure, his 17.3 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 4.9 assists, are not his best, nor are they very eye-popping, but the Heat have done some truly impressive things, despite the way they've started the last two seasons. Dragic is certainly deserving of, at the very least, "on the bubble" status.
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