Is the NBA All-Star an absolute indicator of a players’ ability? To an extent, but it’s half a popularity contest among NBA fans and somewhat of the same among NBA head coaches, who sometimes stick to the same old names just because it’s more comfortable. Sometimes, talent isn’t enough to get recognized.
What do you need? A bit of luck, and to hope there’s no one a lot better than you, just like it is for point guards such as John Wall, Brandon Jennings and Ty Lawson. Sometimes it’s about where you’re playing, like Al Jefferson. Sometimes, it’s hard to explain, like Josh Smith and Monta Ellis, who should have gotten a call or two to the February star showcase by now.
One note before we start – We excluded players with just one year of NBA experience behind them, meaning Kyrie Irving isn’t here yet. Maybe in 12 months.
Al Jefferson, Utah Jazz
The big man, entering the final year of his contract with the Jazz, has been a double-double kind of guy, or close to that for the last six seasons, posting 19.2 points and 9.6 rebounds per game last season and 16.2 points with 8.9 rebounds throughout his career thus far. On paper, better numbers than Marc Gasol, but the lack of defense and playing for teams that don’t usually get much attention (Timberwolves, Jazz, Pre-Big Three Celtics) have been keeping him off the popularity radar.
Josh Smith, Atlanta Hawks
Josh Smith was completely overlooked last season in the All-Star voting and by the coaches, with Luol Deng probably not deserving a place ahead of him. He enjoyed the best season of his career, averaging 18.8 points and 9.6 rebounds per game for the Hawks. I thought Smith was also a good option to go with once Blake Griffin got injured and couldn’t make the Olympic team.
DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings
The question is this – How much do you believe Cousins is over his childish problems, work ethic issues and simply that thing that separates talented players from fulfilling their potential? He made a big leap with his numbers last season, averaging 18.1 points and 11 rebounds per game without a significant increase in his minutes. Offensively, he just might be one of the top 4 big men in the NBA. The question is if he follows up on his sophomore season with a serious effort to show that he’s as problematic as some reports and projections suggest.
Ty Lawson, Denver Nuggets
Lawson has one problem – The point guard position is simply stacked with supreme talent, and he just isn’t up there at the moment with the elite group, but one could argue that if Steve Nash had a place on the Western All-Star team last season, Lawson could have been there to. He averaged 16.4 points and 6.6 assists per game last season for the Nuggets and their up-tempo offense.
John Wall, Washington Wizards
Same problem Lawson has in the point guard division – too much talent spread around the league at the moment. Wall is a second year NBA player, so it doesn’t mean anything, but it was a tad worrying that he showed no improvement in his production last season. Maybe being on a dysfunctional basketball program like the Wizards isn’t helping. He averaged 16.3 points and 8 assists per game last season, but shot a horrific 7.1% from beyond the arc.
Monta Ellis, Milwaukee Bucks
In terms of numbers, Ellis is a scorer at an All-Star level, averaging at least 19 points per game for the last five NBA seasons. He won the NBA most improved player award in 2007 and could have won it again in 2010 after averaging 25.5 points per game. He, and those coaching him, are trying to make his game a bit less individual, but there are few better shot-makers in the NBA, especially when it comes to the difficult ones. It’s his decision making, at times, that can ruin it for him and his team. He averaged 20.4 points and a career high 6 assists per game last season.
Brandon Jennings, Milwaukee Bucks
The second half of the Bucks’ intriguing backcourt duo, heading into its first full season together, with Scott Skiles’ job riding on their ability to become one of the best in the NBA, after missing the postseason the last two years. This sounds like a recording on repeat, but Jennings is a good, maybe very good point guard in a league filled with too many great ones. Still, it seems like he’s pretty close to that level, averaging 19.1 points and 5.5 assists per game last season.