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The NBA announced reserves for the 2023 All-Star Game on Thursday, and there really weren’t a ton of surprises.
With the starters already in place, the rosters read as follows.
In the East, the starters are Kyrie Irving, Donovan Mitchell, Jayson Tatum, Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo, while the reserves are Joel Embiid, Jaylen Brown, Bam Adebayo, Julius Randle, DeMar DeRozan, Jrue Holiday and Tyrese Haliburton.
In the West, it’s Stephen Curry, Luka Dončić, LeBron James, Zion Williamson and Nikola Jokić, backed up by Ja Morant, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Damian Lillard, Jaren Jackson Jr., Domantas Sabonis, Lauri Markkanen and Paul George.
This season has brought some truly bonkers stat lines from non-All-Stars, though. Even without any egregious selections, there are still arguments that several players were, for lack of a better term, snubbed.
That list includes (at least) James Harden, Jimmy Butler, Anthony Davis, Aaron Gordon, Darius Garland, Kristaps Porziņģis, Pascal Siakam, Trae Young, Devin Booker, Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Edwards and De’Aaron Fox. And you might have a couple more you’re particularly peeved about.
Here, with the help of numbers (advanced and basic) and plenty of subjectivity, we’ll rank the five biggest snubs.
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This spot probably comes down to Porziņģis and Siakam, two versatile big man toiling away on sub-.500 teams in the East.
KP gets the nod for a few reasons. He tops Siakam by fairly comfortable margins in true shooting percentage and rebounding percentage. And he more than doubles Siakam’s block percentage.
And with his combination of shooting and rim protection, Porziņģis has a 95th percentile estimated plus-minus (one of the game’s most trusted all-in-one metrics) that tops Brown, Adebayo, DeRozan, Holiday and Randle, all of whom made the team in the East.
It’s understandably more difficult to make the cut when playing for a team below .500, but that didn’t keep DeRozan and Haliburton out. And when Porziņģis is on the floor, the Washington Wizards have a point differential around that of a 47-win team (compared to one around that of a 34-win team when he’s off).
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It’s long been sort of an unwritten rule that the top team in each conference is entitled to multiple All-Star nods, but Aaron Gordon’s case (which is stronger than Andrew Wiggins’ in 2022) is built on a lot more than that.
Gordon is averaging 16.8 points on just 11.0 shots per game. Among players averaging at least as many attempts, Gordon’s 62.1 effective field-goal percentage trails only those of Jokić (66.1) and Sabonis (63.4).
And the efficient, bully-ball scoring Gordon is providing for Denver is far from his only contribution.
Tatum and Embiid, both All-Stars in the East, are the only players in the league who match or exceed all of Gordon’s marks for points (16.8), rebounds (6.8), assists (2.7), threes (1.0), blocks (0.8) and steals (0.8) per game.
Gordon is a true utility man having the best season of his career and helping his squad to the best record in the West. That and the third-highest raw plus-minus (behind Jokić and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope) makes for a pretty strong case.
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The Cleveland Cavaliers don’t have quite the same “best team in the conference” argument as Denver (they were fifth in the East heading into Thursday’s action), but the Boston Celtics are the only team in the entire league with a better point differential per 100 possessions.
And that may be good enough to justify a second All-Star behind Donovan Mitchell.
Of course, this honor isn’t a team one, and Darius Garland has done plenty individually to warrant consideration.
He’s one of just seven players in the league with at least 1,000 minutes played and averages of at least 20 points and eight assists. Four (Jokić, Dončić, Haliburton and Morant) are All-Stars, and the other three are Garland, Trae and Harden.
That alone puts Garland in pretty good company, but he’s also topping Morant in true shooting percentage, three-point percentage and net rating swing (the difference in a team’s net points per 100 possessions when a given player is on or off the floor).
Being in the East means he’s not head-to-head with Morant, but the comparison shows just how good Garland has been this season.
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Jimmy Butler is 10th in the league in estimated plus-minus. With the exception of Anthony Davis, who had appeared in only 28 games entering Thursday, everyone ahead of him is an All-Star.
And if you’re worried about Butler’s own lack of availability, his 37 games (entering Thursday) are equal to George’s total, one shy of Embiid’s and three shy of Irving’s. He’s also 15th in estimated wins (the cumulative version of estimated plus-minus), and everyone ahead of him got an All-Star nod.
Butler’s case is about more than advanced numbers, though. He’s averaging 22.0 points (his highest mark since 2017-18), 4.9 assists and a league-leading 2.1 steals.
His Miami Heat probably aren’t on the same level as the East’s bona fide contenders, but they’ve climbed to a well-above-.500 record, and he’s still their most important player on offense and potentially defense (depending on how you feel about Adebayo).
And speaking of the Heat big man who did make the game, Butler tops Adebayo in the aforementioned advanced numbers, as well as true shooting percentage and points, assists and steals per game.
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The same availability arguments deployed for Butler apply here, only they’re stretched a bit thinner. Harden has played in only 34 games, but he’s been one of the league’s best offensive players in those appearances.
Harden’s 11.0 assists per game would lead the league if he qualified for the leaderboard, but you really have to look outside this season to contextualize Harden’s numbers.
This is Harden’s second season with at least 21 points, 11 assists and six boards per game. The only other players who’ve pulled off that feat are Magic Johnson (three times), Oscar Robertson (four times) and Russell Westbrook (in 2020-21).
And these are obviously far from empty numbers Harden is putting up. His Philadelphia 76ers are third in the East (within striking distance of first) and posting a point differential around that of a 55-win team with Harden on the floor (compared to one around that of a 43-win team when he’s off).
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