NBA All-Star Game snubs are inevitable. Deserving players get left off the roster, fans respond with anger, NBA pundits speculate, players say they plan to use the snub as “motivation.”
But this year — with the field of All-Star guards deep as ever — the snubs came in bunches.
The guards who are on the rosters — Kyrie Irving, Kyle Lowry, John Wall, Kemba Walker, Isaiah Thomas and DeMar DeRozan in the East; Stephen Curry, James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Klay Thompson out West — are all there for a reason.
NBA ALL-STAR WEEKEND
All-Star Celebrity Game, 4 p.m., ESPN
Rising Stars Challenge, 6 p.m., TNT
D-League All-Star Game, 11:30 a.m., NBATV
*All-Star Saturday Night (Skills Challenge, 3-Point Contest, Slam Dunk), 5 p.m., TNT
All-Star Game, 5 p.m., TNT
* The Blazers' C.J. McCollum will participate in the 3-point contest
But the guards who aren’t on the rosters — Chris Paul, Bradley Beal, Mike Conley, Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, to name a few — all make their own compelling case.
- Paul, who suffered a hand injury a few days before the All-Star starters were announced, wouldn’t have been able to play in the game regardless. But he was more than deserving of a ceremonial spot, which commissioner Adam Silver would have filled with the next best option, as we saw with Carmelo Anthony's replacement of the injured Kevin Love. Instead, Paul’s streak of nine consecutive All-Star Games is over, just like that.
- Beal, fully healthy and playing the best basketball of his life, has been an integral part of the Washington Wizards’ recent success. He’s averaging a career-high 22.3 points per game on 47.2% shooting (24.8 points on 52.4% shooting in February) and has shown an on-court rapport with All-Star point guard John Wall that has the Wizards looking like a legitimate Eastern Conference contender.
- Conley, perhaps the most talented player to never make an All-Star team, returned from a lower back injury in December after missing just nine games (well before he was projected). He’s playing the best basketball of his 10-year career, averaging a career-high 19.3 points per game (on 44.1% shooting) and has helped keep the Memphis Grizzlies in the heart of the Western Conference playoff picture.
- Unlike the rest of this list, Lillard and McCollum’s success hasn’t translated into the win column for the Portland Trail Blazers, who sit in 10th place in the West with a 23-33 record. Statistically? Both are in the midst of career years, averaging a combined 49.1 points per game (on 45.6% shooting), 9.4 assists, 8.6 rebounds and 5.0 three-pointers (on 37.9% shooting). Not to mention the fact that Lillard is the first player since 1987 to average 26 points (at the time of the All-Star roster selections), 5.5 assists and 4.5 rebounds and not be named an All-Star.
BY THE NUMBERS
A look at Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum's stats this season:
Damian Lillard: 25.7 points, 5.8 assists, 4.9 rebounds, 0.7 steals, 43.3% FG, 34.6% 3P, 90.1% FT
C.J. McCollum: 23.4 points, 3.6 assists, 3.7 rebounds, 1.0 steals, 48.4% FG, 41.1% 3P, 89.6% FT
“(The guard position is) as deep as it’s ever been,” seven-time All-Star point-forward Grant Hill said in a recent phone interview with USA TODAY Sports. “We have some great guards in the league. But it is a guard-driven league. It’s a different league than it was, say in the ‘90s. In order to win now, you have to have great point guard play. ... It’s definitely the era of the point guard, and you have more great point guards out there than maybe in years past.”
In a field led by Westbrook and Harden, who are both putting together historic, MVP-worthy seasons, “great” is an understatement.
“It’s just fun to watch,” Hall of Fame shooting guard George Gervin told USA TODAY Sports recently. “I think once (Houston Rockets) coach (Mike D’Antoni) inserted James Harden into the backcourt at point guard, I mean, wow. It just accelerated his game. So now we’re seeing things that we didn’t ever see in him. That just goes to show you about positions. ... Same thing with Westbrook, now that Kevin (Durant) is gone. It’s Westbrook’s team and Westbrook always seems to have something to prove every time he steps on the court and he’s one of the best to do it.”
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(© 2017 KGW)