Every year the NBA All-Star snubs debate is one of the hottest in league circles. While 12 players in each conference earned nominations this year, plenty of noteworthy candidates didn’t see their names announced. Part of what makes the All-Star game special is that it only includes a small number of individuals, but that doesn’t mean every selection or omission makes sense.
Fans might think that All-Star games don’t matter because they’re popularity contests. However, they always reference a player’s All-Star selections when introducing him at events or in Hall of Fame discussions. No eligible player with seven or more All-Star selections isn’t in The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, except for Chris Bosh, who missed out last year because of a stacked class. Think twice before discounting these selections.
1. Domantas Sabonis, F Indiana Pacers
Sabonis is one of several cases on this list where a player made the All-Star game in 2020, only to miss it this year despite playing better. Sabonis went from shooting just over one three-pointer per game at a low percentage (25.4%) in 2019 to taking nearly three per game and sinking 35.8% this season. That’s a massive improvement for the 24-year-old, who’s averaging over 20 points per 36 minutes for the second time in his career.
Sabonis is also one of the hardest-working players in the NBA, traveling roughly 2.73 miles per game (tied for fourth-most this season). He’s an offensive hub for the Pacers and is the best player on the Eastern Conference’s fourth seed team.
Domantas Sabonis is the first player in NBA history to average 20/10/5 and not make the All-Star team.
— StatMuse (@statmuse) February 24, 2021
2. Bam Adebayo, C Miami Heat
According to The Ringer, Adebayo has the second-highest assist rate among centers, trailing only MVP candidate Nikola Jokić. The former Kentucky Wildcat is sinking 57.0% of his shots this season, which is up 0.13% from his first All-Star campaign. He’s also 15th in box plus-minus this year, tied with Bradley Beal and ahead of Julius Randle, Ben Simmons, and Jayson Tatum.
With improvements in Adebayo’s box plus-minus and greater scoring (over three more points per 36 minutes compared to last year), it’s confusing why he didn’t earn another All-Star appearance.
3. Jimmy Butler, F Miami Heat
Don’t tell me that Butler didn’t play enough games or minutes to qualify for an All-Star bid. While the star missed a significant number of games early in the season as he battled COVID-19, Butler has the same number of appearances (19) as Kevin Durant. The Eastern Conference All-Star captain is clearly a better offensive machine, but let’s not use a disproved argument to justify Butler’s exclusion.
Davis also made the All-Star game despite only making 23 appearances and facing a lengthy recovery time. By the All-Star break, Butler will have played more games than the 27-year-old star. This season, Butler significantly increased his rebounding (8.3) and assist numbers (8.3) per 36 minutes. His box plus-minus and usage rate are also higher.
To say that Butler isn’t one of the 12 best players in the Eastern Conference is absurd.
4. Devin Booker, G Phoenix Suns
It’s doubtful that Davis plays in the All-Star game this year, given his Achilles injury. That means the Western Conference team needs a replacement player. By all indications, that spot is going to Booker, who served as a replacement for Damian Lillard last year. Booker is shooting a career-high 50.1% from the field this season despite attempting 5.7 threes per game.
At 20-10, the Suns are fourth in the Western Conference and poised to make the playoffs for the first time in Booker’s career. Chris Paul is on his way to his 11th All-Star game, but Booker, who leads the team in scoring by 161 points, didn’t get the call. While Booker’s averages aren’t as gaudy as last season, he’s given up some control of the offense to win games. Let’s not punish him for that.
5. Khris Middleton, F Milwaukee Bucks
Fans don’t realize how vital Middleton is to Milwaukee’s success. Yes, Giannis Antetokounmpo is a force of nature, but Middleton is a plus defender with top-tier catch-and-shoot scoring. He’s shooting 49.8% from the floor, 43.4% from three, and 89.5% from the free throw line this season while producing a career-high 6.2 assists per 36 minutes.
In the eyes of some fans, Middleton’s role as second fiddle to Antetokounmpo hurts his All-Star candidacy. That’s a ridiculous concept. Being the second option as an outside threat and solid defender never hurt Klay Thompson’s All-Star chances. If Thompson was putting up the numbers Middleton is now, fans would be talking about the Splash Brother having a career year. Instead, Middleton won’t join Antetokounmpo in the All-Star game.
6. DeMar DeRozan, G San Antonio Spurs
DeRozan hasn’t made an All-Star game since 2018 with Toronto, and that could’ve changed this year. He’s producing 21.3 points, 7.4 assists, and 5.4 rebounds per 36 minutes while shooting 48.8% from the field and 33.3% from three. He’s attempting more than two threes per game for the first time since that 2017-18 season. The Spurs are 16-11 and are fifth in the West.
7. Trae Young, G Atlanta Hawks
Young goes from being an All-Star starter in 2020 to not even making the team this year. The former fifth overall pick’s numbers haven’t changed much from last season. He’s still averaging 27.8 points, 9.9 assists, and 4.2 rebounds per 36 minutes while shooting a career-high 37.0% from three. However, Young’s deficiencies on defense and Atlanta’s losing ways hurt the 22-year-old’s case significantly.
8. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, G Oklahoma City Thunder
Stepping into Oklahoma City’s star role after Paul vacated the position, Gilgeous-Alexander is doing his best in a bad situation. The Thunder are 12th in the West, which likely sunk SGA’s candidacy, but the 22-year-old is having a career year. His 24.2 points and 6.9 assists per 26 minutes are both career-highs, and he’s shooting personal bests from three (40.7%) and the field (50.6%).
9. Mike Conley, G Utah Jazz
Analytics reveal that Conley is one of the most impactful players in the NBA this season. He ranks among the top seven in ESPN’s real plus-minus, estimated plus-minus, and regularized adjusted plus-minus. Conley is making 44.7% of his total shots and a career-high 41.2% of his 6.8 threes per game. His assists per 36 minutes are back to 6.9, a mark he hit in 2018 and has only surpassed once.
Conley got buried by his two All-Star teammates, Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, and the longtime Memphis Grizzly remains one of the best players never to make an All-Star game.
10. Brandon Ingram, F New Orleans Pelicans
Ingram’s numbers haven’t changed significantly from last year when he was a first-time All-Star. He’s shooting a career-high 39.4% from three, but Zion Williamson’s star surpassed Ingram’s this season. Neither up-and-combing Duke product is very good defensively, but Ingram is an offensive machine with a more diverse skill set than his All-Star teammate.