February 25, 2021

2021 NBA All-Snub Team: 10 Players Who Should've Been Named All-Stars

It happens every year. 

No matter what, the NBA All-Star Game announcement tends to hurt someone's feelings. But with the league being more talented than ever and just 24 spots available, All-Star teams are bound to leave off some much-deserving players. 

What is different about this year is the number of talented players who deserved to make the All-Star team. 

We easily fielded a 10-man team with snubbed players. 

Guard: Mike Conley Jr.

Mike Conley Jr. is arguably the best player never to make an All-Star team.

The Jazz are more than 15 points per 100 possessions better with their point guard on the floor.

Part of what held Conley back was his lack of juicy stats: 16.4 points, 3.4 rebounds and 5.6 assists didn't quite grab the voters' attention, but it’s clear his value has transcended the stat sheet.

Conley is in the 85th percentile as the ball handler in pick-and-roll situations, producing an efficient 1.03 points per possession. He’s also deft at sliding into a secondary role while another Jazz teammate takes the controls. Conley in the 83rd percentile as a spot-up shooter, which makes the game easier for his teammates.

While he lacks jaw-dropping stats, Conley has been one of the most valuable players in the league this season.

Guard: Trae Young

Trae Young is having a brilliant individual season, but his Hawks have been an utter disappointment with a subpar record and drama among teammates.

On the year, Young is averaging 27 points, 9.6 assists and four rebounds while draining 37% of his 3s. His ability to launch shots at a moment’s notice, and use that threat against a defense to open up lanes for his teammates, is truly Stephen Curry-esque.

And while Young has been very efficient operating in the pick-and-roll (he’s in the 80% percentile league-wide), his leadership skills, defensive troubles and endless foul-baiting drag him down.

Young is a 22-year-old magician on the basketball court who would've been a joy to watch at this year's All-Star Game. But that's OK, we'll take him on our All-Snub Team. 

Forward: Khris Middleton

Khris Middleton is one of the most well-rounded players in the league because he has such a complete offensive package. The 6-foot-7 forward is a constant threat to join the vaunted 50-40-90 club (his current splits are 49.8/43/89.5). Despite his teammate’s two-time MVP status, Middleton is clearly the Bucks' superior clutch-time option thanks to his ability to shoot, drive and facilitate at a high level. 

Not many forwards rank in the 81st percentile as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, the 80th percentile as a post-up scorer, and the (gasps) 96th percentile as a spot-up shooter.

Middleton has a fluidity to his game. He’s one of just three players this season averaging at least 20 points, six rebounds, five assists while shooting better than 43% from deep. The other two? Kevin Durant and Paul George.

Middleton's ability to drain contested jumpers is special, and perhaps the most valuable skill come playoff time.

Forward: Jimmy Butler

Jimmy Butler should be an All-Star, plain and simple. He clearly was docked points for his absence and Miami’s slow start, which is understandable, but he’s been a top-10 player in the league when healthy this season.

The Heat are currently 15-17 on the year, but they’re 12-8 when Butler suits up. The Heat are also 12 points per 100 possessions better with Butler on the court, and it’s not hard to understand why. He’s like Draymond Green, except he can score. 

Watch any Heat game, and it’s apparent how much work Butler does. He can guard the opponent's best player, as well as serve as an Ed Reed-style free safety by disrupting passing lanes.

On offense, he’s Miami’s de-facto point guard and main scorer. Butler is the only player this season averaging at least 19/7/7 splits and swiping 1.9 steals per game. The closest players to those stats? Nikola Jokic, Luka Doncic, James Harden, LeBron James and Russell Westbrook. Not too shabby.

If Butler stays healthy this season, it’s going to look worse and worse that he wasn’t included in the All-Star Game. 

Forward: Bam Adebayo

Bam Adebayo continues to develop his offensive skill set. He’s much more comfortable shooting mid-range jumpers than the defense concedes when chasing around Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson.

Of the six players in the league averaging at least 19 points, nine rebounds and five assists this season, Adebayo is shooting the best percentage at 57%..

On defense, he’s the same enveloping vulture he’s always been. Opponents shoot three percent worse than their averages when he’s guarding them, and his infectious energy and relentless work ethic have served as perfect traits to make him the bedrock of the Heat organization.

What has tied him down is the Heat’s record. There are very few centers these days who can erase mistakes on defense, serve as facilitators and offense and can get buckets on their own.

Adebayo is already one of the best.

Guard: Fred VanVleet

The Raptors have clawed back from a 2-9 record to 16-17, good for fifth-best in the Eastern Conference. A lot of that is because of Fred VanVleet, who has been just the gritty, smart, offensive weapon the Raptors crave. He’s a slithery pick-and-roll player who can bomb 3s with the best of them, and has a relentless dribble-drive game. He also leads the league in deflections this season with 125, a good indicator of his hustle.

VanVleet is pouring in 19.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 6.7 assists per game while 38% shooting from beyond the arc. Toronto puts up 114 points per 100 possessions when VanVleet is on the court to a pitiful 104 points per 100 when he rests.

As Kyle Lowry has been in and out of the lineup and the Raptors have shed a ton of talent over the past couple of offseasons, VanVleet’s ability to pressure the defense is instrumental, especially as Pascal Siakam develops.

Not many players can make the great Giannis Antetokounmpo look like someone lost in Times Square.

Guard: DeMar DeRozan

Nothing fancy here, just a rock-solid veteran producing at a high level for a young Spurs squad that finds themselves in the thick of the playoffs.

For a player once labeled as an inefficient chucker, DeMar Derozan has pulled off a twist as good as any Christopher Nolan movie. He’s scoring 1.23 points per possession in isolation chances, shooting 58%, which ranks in the 93rd percentile league-wide.

DeRozan is averaging 19.8 points, five rebounds and 6.9 assists on the year, and has played a lot of power forward this season while LaMarcus Aldridge has remained sidelined.

DeRozan sports one of the best fade-away jumpers this side of Kawhi Leonard and has improved his playmaking immensely in the past few seasons.

The Spurs currently sit sixth in the Western Conference, a very respectable position, and it’s largely thanks to DeRozan’s steady play.

Forward: Brandon Ingram

There is no doubt about it: Brandon Ingram has leveled up like Super Saiyan Goku this year.

During his early days with the Lakers, there were questions about whether he would ever develop a reliable jump shot. Nowadays? Ingram has clearly put those worries to bed. His shooting splits are 47/39/88. Those same splits during his rookie year? 40/29/62.

This season, Ingram has formed an explosive offensive tandem with Zion Williamson. He’s taken on even more playmaking duties and is looking more and more like Kevin Durant did in his formative years.

Ingram is still afforded many ball-handling opportunities, and even with less than optimal spacing, he’s generating 1.06 points per possession as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, good for the 86th percentile.

Ingram's still growing stronger, too. He should continue to add more muscle to complement his never-ending wingspan. And if he does that, he'll be unstoppable.

He’s already done an excellent job of utilizing his slithery length knifing through the lane and around picks. We expect to see Ingram in an All-Star Game in the near future. 

Forward: Tobias Harris

Tobias Harris is not the flashiest player in the league, but he’s having an excellent season for the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers.

He’s nearly one percentage point away in the free throw category from joining the 50-40-90 club and has been averaging 20.7 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.4 assists. Harris is one of the NBA’s iron men and has hardly missed any games to injury during the prime of his career.

Playing on a squad with electrifying talents such as Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons is bound to overshadow some, but Harris deserves praise. He’s a reliable off-the-dribble scorer, and the 76ers are 10 points per 100 possessions better when he’s on the court.

To put a cherry on top, Harris has been an absolute monster in isolation opportunities, despite being surrounded by Embiid and Simmons, who prefer to play in the paint.

On the season, Harris is producing 1.36 points per possession, ranking in the 97th (!!!) percentile.

Forward: Domantas Sabonis

Many may be outraged by Domantas Sabonis not being picked as an All-Star, but The Athletic’s John Hollinger made a compelling case as to why he should not be selected. 

“The case for him to make the All-Star team this year is, frankly, bizarre. The Pacers are massively better this year when he doesn’t play — outscored by 2.5 per 100 possessions with him on the court, slamming opponents by plus-12.5 when he sits. He hasn’t been as good offensively as he was a year ago ...  plus opponents are pretty openly hunting him on defense.”

While that may be a tad harsh, it’s odd that the Pacers, who have been hit hard by injuries this season, still manage to blow opponents out when Sabonis is resting.

Sabonis may be an interior-minded player, but the only other human in the league averaging at least 20 points, 11 rebounds and five assists is Antetokounmpo.

Sabonis is the litmus test this season for advanced stats versus on-court production. There is no denying he’s tough as nails, has a bruising post game and can act as a facilitating hub from the elbows. 

Photo: Getty Images