When the NBA All-Star reserves were announced on Tuesday, there was a lot to talk about. There were a couple of first-timers who have ground in anonymity for some time but are finally getting their due. Some are putting together quality and even breakout seasons but find themselves on the outside looking in.
You’ll never satisfy everyone. Some fan bases say their guy was snubbed. Others get indignant at the thought their guy doesn’t belong. It’s almost as if the league does this on purpose to keep the conversation going. By the way, this is all in the East. We can address why the West got it right next time.
Best 2021 NBA All-Star Game Selections and Snubs in the Eastern Conference
Zach LaVine – G – Chicago Bulls
It’s been a tumultuous career for Zach LaVine. Since entering the league in 2014. He had four different head coaches over his first four seasons in the NBA. Then he dealt with Fred Hoiberg and Jim Boylen; back-to-back! They tried turning him into point guard as a rookie. But he’s turned himself into one of the best scorers in the NBA. This season he’s averaging a career-high 28.6 points per game.
But while we’ve known LaVine could score for some time, his efficiency has taken him to another level. A career .438 shooter, he’s up to .518 this season. He’s extended that beyond the arc, too. LaVine’s canning threes at a .434 clip; also a career-high. Many felt he was snubbed last season when the game was in Chicago. There is no such controversy this time around.
Julius Randle – F – New York Knicks
The New York area has done well with reclamation projects from the Los Angeles Lakers. First, it was the Nets and D’Angelo Russell. We see where they are now. But now the New York Knicks are making waves in the East with one Julius Randle at the forefront. Randle is averaging 23.3 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 5.5 assists.
He’s one of just three players this season averaging at least 20 points, 10 boards, and five assists; Giannis Antetokounmpo and Nikola Jokic are the others. Randle has been a 20-point-per-game scorer so he’ll likely miss out on winning the Most Improved Player award, but he and the Knicks are rolling towards their first playoff appearance since the 2012-13 season.
Trey Young – G – Atlanta Hawks
How does one go from starting the All-Star game one year to being completely left off the roster the next? One word: regression. Last season, Young averaged 29.6 points on .434/.361/.860 shooting. His effective field goal percentage has also taken a hit this season, dipping to .498 after being .519 a year ago. This despite his increased playmaking and a better record for Atlanta.
You also have Kyrie Irving back healthy and Bradley Beal who led all Eastern Conference backcourt players in all voting categories. For Young personally, he’s seen his average ranking between the three votes go from second to about seventh. His largest dip? In player voting. His peers have a lesser opinion of what he’s done this season than last. That’s pretty damning.
Jerami Grant – F – Detroit Pistons
This one stings as someone who has been rooting for Jerami Grant since he entered the league with Philadelphia. He’s the current betting favorite to win Most Improved Player this season, but he wasn’t good enough to make the All-Star roster? It’s actually very on-brand that Grant, despite the breakout campaign that’s seen him double his points per game and more than double his assists, remains an All-Star hopeful.
Just as it was with LaVine before him (and Beal before him), voters obviously need to see it done consistently to not write it off as an anomaly. LaVine had to improve his efficiency before being selected as a reserve this season. Beal had to prove he could be a primary scorer, when teams would know he was getting the ball, before earning his nod. Grant will have his time, eventually.
City of Brotherly Snubs
The Philadelphia 76ers offer the singular best display of the depth voters actually have when picking these rosters. Ben Simmons is averaging 15.7 points, 7.9 assists, and 8.3 boards a game. The former two numbers represent drops over his previous season’s output. But Simmons’s defensive presence and playmaking are empirically vital.
Tobias Harris is averaging career-highs in points, assists, field goal percentage, and three-point percentage, and is averaging the second-most rebounds of his career. One has to believe it’s Simmons’s defensive prowess that offset and overtook what Harris has brought this season. That isn’t to diminish Harris’s contributions, just to say there’s more nuance to the voters than we give them credit for.
The East’s NBA All-Star Nominations and Snubs
All in all, the East got it right. We just may not like how they got there. But even that shows a level of depth to the voting process that we have long felt was missing. Who was your favorite NBA All-Star selection or worst snub?