Voting for the 2015 NBA All-Star Game ends in just 10 days, with several star players perhaps missing out on a chance to make 12-man rosters of the West and East teams. At the moment, fan voting has John Wall, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Pau Gasol, and Carmelo Anthony as the starters in the East, while the West has Stephen Curry, Kobe Bryant, Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin, and Marc Gasol in the West.
The other 14 players will be selected by coaches, and given some of the elite talent in both conferences, there is certain to be some rising stars who won't be playing on Feb. 15 at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Some players have had strong seasons that may not have grabbed the immediate attention of the coaches. Across the board, Chicago Bulls shooting guard Jimmy Butler has played the best season of his career. Butler is averaging career-highs in points (21.7), shooting percentage (.478), rebounds (6.3), and assists (3.2), and he’s also good for 1.6 steals per game.
Despite Butler’s impressive production helping the Bulls post the third best record (25-11) in the Eastern Conference, he’s currently fifth among East guards in the latest All-Star Game fan vote results released by the NBA Thursday. Ahead of Butler in the voting for guards are Wall, Wade, Kyle Lowry and Kyrie Irving, and it’s highly unlikely Butler surges ahead of any of them.
Butler still has a chance to make the first All-Star appearance of his career when the NBA’s 30 head coaches select the reserves. The coaches are to pick two guards, three frontcourt players and two other players regardless of position to complete the 12-man rosters.
Butler isn't the only under-the-radar player in jeopardy of missing the All-Star game. Whether it’s due to coaches feeling compelled to pick a veteran star like Tim Duncan, or a current superstar who missed a significant amount of games with injuries like Kevin Durant, or even one position loaded with too many worthy candidates, there will be many deserving players who will inevitably be left out. There’s also the issue of fans bestowing an All-Star spot to a player on a losing team, like Anthony and Bryant, simply because of brand-name recognition and appreciation for their career success. Both Anthony and Bryant are still exceptional scorers, but the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers have combined to win 16 games.
The West is expected to shape up like this: Curry, Bryant, Davis, Griffin, and Marc Gasol as starters, with Duncan, Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge, Chris Paul, James Harden, Klay Thompson, and Damian Lillard as reserves. But do Dirk Nowitzki and Dwight Howard, two perennial All-Stars, get the nod over Thompson and Lillard?
In the East, the starters should include Wall, Wade, Anthony, James, and Pau Gasol, to go with a bench that consists of Lowry, Butler, Irving, Joakim Noah, Chris Bosh, Paul Millsap, and Jeff Teague. What's the fate of Derrick Rose? Should DeMar DeRozan get picked?
With that in mind, let’s take a look at 11 top performers who, for one reason or another, likely won’t be in action at Madison Square Garden in the 64th All-Star Game. Some of the players on this list have All-Star experience, while others are burgeoning or under-rated stars.
Bradley Beal, SG, Washington Wizards
As Wall’s running mate, Beal has buried 46.7 percent of his three-point attempts, the fifth best mark in the league. None of the four marksmen ahead of Beal can match his 15.2 points, and Beal’s also good for almost 1.5 steals a game. Beal’s the second-leading scorer on the No. 4 team in the East, but just like Knight, he’ll have to wait another year with so many guards in the conference.
Tyson Chandler, C, Dallas Mavericks
Another double-double machine with a 21.99 PER, Chandler’s third in the NBA with 12.1 rebounds and is second in field-goal percentage (67.0). The problem with Chandler’s case for a second-straight All-Star appearance is Duncan and Howard, as well as DeMarcus Cousins and DeAndre Jordan -- a smattering of bigs almost as deep as the guard position.
DeMarcus Cousins, C, Sacramento Kings
Maybe if the Kings didn’t fire Mike Malone and remained in the West playoff picture Cousins would have a better chance. Averaging 23.5 points and 12.3 rebounds, Cousins is fourth in the league with 19 double-doubles. But coaches are more likely to favor players on winning teams, and Sacramento has slipped to six-games back of the West’s final playoff spot.
Monta Ellis, SG, Dallas Mavericks
The leading scorer (20.5 points per game) for the NBA’s second-highest scoring team, Ellis also leads the Mavs with 4.4 assists and 1.7 steals a game. The issue is how does he move ahead of Paul, Lillard, or Harden? It’s an impossible task for Ellis, but he’s put up his best season of the last three years. It may come as a surprise to some that Ellis has never made an All-Star appearance despite a 19.5 career scoring average.
Draymond Green, SF, Golden State Warriors
The Warriors have been among the best teams in the NBA for the first half of the season, and Green has played a major role. Fourth in scoring (11.9), second in rebounding (8.3) and second in steals (1.55), Green’s likely to be left off in the West in favor of stars like Durant and Duncan. Even Thompson, his Warriors teammate, may stand in the way.
DeAndre Jordan, C, L.A. Clippers
Jordan’s in the same position as Chandler. He’s first in rebounding (13.6) and shooting (71 percent), and third in blocks (2.36), but Duncan and Howard’s presence hurt his chances for his first All-Star berth.
Brandon Knight, PG, Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks have been one of the biggest surprises of the first half of the season. They’re 19-18 in the East, good for sixth in the conference, and much of the credit belongs to Knight. Knocking down 45 percent of his shots, Knight’s scoring a career-best 18.2 points per game with 5.1 assists and 4.3 rebounds. However, there’s a huge glut of guards for coaches to choose in the East, which likely hurts Knight's chances.
Kevin Love, PF, Cleveland Cavaliers
He came to Cleveland to win a title, and despite posting 17.7 points and 10.4 rebounds with 19 double-doubles, Love's shooting numbers have dipped significantly compared to last season and the Cavs have struggled for huge stretches of the season. With guards like Lowry, Atlanta’s Jeff Teague, and teammate Irving, along with forwards like Bosh and Millsap all playing well, Love could miss out on earning his fourth career All-Star appearance.
Tony Parker, PG, San Antonio Spurs
Parker would normally be on the list of superstars expected to automatically earn an All-Star berth from the coaches, but there are just too many guards to pick ahead of him. The Spurs are a respectable 21-15, but are behind both Houston and Golden State, two teams that have three potential All-Stars in Harden, Thompson and Howard. And like Westbrook, he’s missed 14 games this season, which probably leads to his omission this year.
Zach Randolph, PF, Memphis Grizzlies
Another winning club in the West that will probably have only one All-Star with center Marc Gasol as the lone representative. Randolph’s in the midst of yet another double-double year while posting his best shooting percentage (48.3) in three seasons. He’s even improved his defense with a steal per game, and he’s fourth in the NBA in rebounding. Durant and Duncan’s likely inclusion, along with Aldridge, coupled with the number of star guards in the West probably keeps Randolph out this year.
Russell Westbrook, PG, Oklahoma City Thunder
Coaches will be torn on this one, especially considering Westbrook probably would have made the roster if he didn’t miss 14 games with a broken hand. But when Westbrook has played he has racked up 26.3 points, 6.9 assists and 2.1 steals in 22 games. He’s also second in the league with a 29.4 PER. No one will envy the coaches when they possibly leave Westbrook off in favor of Paul, Harden or Thompson.
Honorable mentions: Wesley Matthews, SG, Trail Blazers; Nikola Vucevic, C, Orlando Magic