The should-be NBA All Stars


Liam Nance, Staff Writer

Every year in February, the NBA All-Star Game occurs. It is a game that includes the best players in the league. The All Stars consist of 24 players that were voted the best players up to this point in the season. However, with a hard cutoff of 24 players, there are always players that people thought were snubbed, and this year is no exception.

This year, three players were the biggest snubs for this All-Star Game when considering a player’s overall impact on the game throughout the first half of the season.

The biggest snub from the All Star game this year was Jimmy Butler. Over the past eight years, Butler has made six All Star teams, and 4 All NBA teams, and despite his failing to make it this year, he is arguably having the best year of his career. He is averaging 22 points and 5 assists this year on a career high 62% true shooting. True shooting is a statistic where a player’s efficiency is adjusted to a two-point shot. Essentially it combines two pointers, 3 pointers, and free throws to find a player’s efficiency relative to a two point shot. These strong averages, along with his superb leadership and intangibles, make him one of the better offensive players in basketball.

However, Butler separates himself from other all star candidates with his defense. He has always been a strong defender, having made five All Defensive teams. He uses his strength, quickness, and anticipation to guard players well in isolation and create havoc in passing lanes. Butler is currently leading the league with 2.1 steals a game this year.

Jimmy’s combination of offense and defense makes him a clear top 20 player in the NBA and a no-brainer as an All Star. The stat EPM or estimated plus-minus can be used to examine these players objectively. EPM looks at how much a team is better or worse when a specific player is on and off the court and then adjusts that data to make it more accurate and filter out possible confounding variables, such as your teammates or opponents. Jimmy Butler ranks 11th in this stat, making it abundantly clear that he should have been an All Star.

Anthony Davis is the second player who was a serious snub for the all-star game. When he’s played this year, he’s been a legit candidate for the MVP. He uses his athleticism, size, quickness, skill, and footwork to score at the rim at will. This year he’s averaging 26 points, 12 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game on an impressive 62% true shooting percentage.

Davis combines his elite offense with top tier defense on the other end of the floor. He has elite length and timing to protect the rim exceptionally well, averaging 2 blocks per game this year. Although Davis protects the rim at a great rate, he isn’t a player that lacks the mobility to play on the outside like some slower centers in the league like Rudy Gobert. He can cover ground well and can switch onto perimeter players effectively. In addition, he is good at getting his hands in passing lanes and forcing steals, averaging 1.2 per game. These factors make him one of the best defenders in the NBA.

Impact metrics agree with the fact that Anthony Davis is a clear all star. EPM ranks him 12th in the NBA, even though he has played much of the season while injured. The only major criticism of Davis this year is his availability, as Davis has only played in 35 games this season. However, that is still well over half of the available games so far, and if someone is a true top 10 or 15 player in the league, missing a few games should not impact his all star case.

The final all star snub for me is James Harden. Throughout his career, Harden has been historically one of the best players in basketball. In the last 10 years before this season, he made 10 All-Star Games, 7 All-NBA teams, and won 1 MVP. Although Harden is getting older, he is still a deadly isolation scorer. Harden uses stepback threes, and foul drawing tricks to maintain his scoring level into his 30s. He is averaging 21.5 points this year on 62% shooting, a very strong mark. In addition, Harden is one of the best playmakers in the world. He primarily operates out of pick and roll, throwing skip passes or pocket passes to create shots for his teammates. This year, he is averaging a league leading 11 assists per game on under 3.5 turnovers, a testament to his playmaking prominence.

Even though he isn’t a great defender, his still great offense makes him an obvious addition to the all star team. And although EPM isn’t as high as Butler or Davis, ranking him 19th, it still makes him look like a clear All Star. If we factor in his track record and current production, leaving him out of this game seems almost disrespectful.

This year, the All-Star Game had a record low TV Rating, and it is becoming evident changes need to be made. One obvious solution is that the NBA should prioritize that the best players actually play in the game. Having Jimmy Butler, Anthony Davis, and James Harden in the All-Star game this year due to their performance could have been one way to make the game more interesting for fans and give them the recognition they deserve.