Column: 2021 NBA All-Star Game reserve predictions

Image+credit+Nathaniel+S.+Butler+via+Getty+Images.

Image credit Nathaniel S. Butler via Getty Images.

By Hunter Deniaud

The NBA All-Star game, a basketball exhibition showcasing the league’s star players, will take place on Mar. 7 in Atlanta, Georgia. The starters for the Western Conference include Stephen Curry and Luka Doncic at the guard spots and Lebron James, Kawhi Leonard, and Nikola Jokić at the frontcourt positions.

The starters for the Eastern Conference were also released and have Kyrie Irving and Bradley Beal slated in at the guard spots and Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid at the frontcourt positions.

The reserves for the All-Star game will be released on Feb. 23 at 7 p.m ET on TNT.

Many are debating the players that Ernie, Chuck, Shaq and Kenny will announce. Many have all had great seasons to this point, but some players will be left off and considered snubs.

Players such as Damian Lillard, Donovan Mitchell, Paul George and Rudy Gobert are all seen as shoe-ins for the big game as they have all had miraculous seasons and each one of them has their teams as a top-five seed in the stacked Western Conference.

The Eastern Conference is also filled with talent and has many star players that will sadly be left off of the All-Star team. The two main guard reserve positions will likely be filled by James Harden and Jaylen Brown. Both of these players have had amazing seasons and arguably both of them have a case to be an All-Star starter.

Anthony Davis

Another player who is a perennial All-Star and seen as a top ten player in the league by many is Lakers star forward Anthony Davis. Davis has had a great year up to this point, but not to his normal standards, as his numbers have dipped to 22 points and 8 rebounds a game. Many fans have discussed how he may be taking this season slow after the deep run the Lakers made in the bubble, which led to a Larry O’Brien trophy. The victorious season was followed by a shortened offseason which was the shortest of all time at 72 days. Even with reduced statistical numbers, Davis is still seen by many as an All-Star. Unfortunately, Davis has recently been battling right Achilles tendinosis which needs rest and will likely cause Davis to miss the All-Star game in Atlanta.

Zion Williamson

With a likely injury replacement for Davis, the rising star is Zion Williamson, who is in his second year after being drafted first overall in 2019. Williamson is averaging 25 points and seven rebounds in only 32 minutes a game. Williamson is shooting the ball at an efficient clip and adds hype and excitement to the game as he is seen as one as the greatest NBA prospects since Lebron James. Expect to see Williamson throwing down some highlight-reel dunks in the All-Star game.

Chris Paul

The Suns have turned their franchise around and are looking to be in the playoffs for the first time since 2010. Pheonix is currently the fourth seed in the Western conference and only four and a half games out of the one seed. Chris Paul will likely hear his name called to be an All-Star reserve. This would be Paul’s eleventh All-Star nod to add to his Hall of Fame resume. Paul was traded from the Thunder to the Suns this offseason and has installed a winning culture that is already evident in some of the young Sun’s rising stars. Paul is teaching Booker how to be a young leading guard of a franchise and the 2018 number one overall pick, Deandre Ayton, how to be an aggressive big man who can take over the game. He brings more than just leadership to the Suns as he has also been a vital part of the Suns early success averaging 17 points and nine assists a game.

Devin Booker

The last wildcard player to get an All-Star nod will be Paul’s backcourt running mate Devin Booker as he has taken his game to the next level and has impacted the game in a winning fashion. Booker is averaging 24 points, four rebounds and four assists a night and is shooting the ball at an efficient rate. If the 24-year-old gets the nod it will be his second All-Star appearance, and probably not his last, as he looks to be a future star of the league.

Jayson Tatum

Another young Celtic may get the nod, and that Celtic is none other than forward Jayson Tatum. Tatum has played in 24 games this year and in those games, he has averaged a cool 25 points per game along with seven boards and five assists. Tatum is only 22 years old and this would be his second All-Star selection so it would not be surprising to see his name on lists like this in the future.

Image credit Ned Dishman via NBAE.
Image credit Ned Dishman via NBAE.

Domantas Sabonis

Another front-court player who could be given the nod is Indiana Pacers star power forward Domantas Sabonis. The son of Hall of Famer Arvydas Sabonis is having his best season to date as he is averaging 22, 12 and 6. Sabonis also has great shooting splits this season as he is shooting 53% from the field and 36% from beyond the arc. His good play is also leading to wins as the Pacers currently sit in the fourth seed of the Eastern Conference standings.

Khris Middleton

The last front-court player who will likely be an All-Star selection is Bucks forward Khris Middleton. Middleton has had a great season so far and is flirting with a 50-40-90 season as he currently has shooting splits of 50-43-89. His great shooting efficiency has come with solid scoring numbers of 20 points per game and six rebounds and assists a night. Middleton is a superb defender and seen by many as one of the top tier “3 and D” players the league has to offer. Middleton is a major part of the Bucks success as he has been Giannis’ robin. Collectively the star-studded duo has led the Bucks to a solid 17-13 start and a third seed spot currently in the Eastern Conference.

Zach LaVine

With players being snubbed, it is likely that Bulls star shooting guard Zach LaVine will earn his first All-Star nod. The high-flying former dunk contest champion is having a career year averaging 29 points per game along with five rebounds and assists. A deeper dive into LaVine’s stats shows his incredible shooting splits 52% from the field, 43% from three and 86% from the line. Many believed the Bulls would be the laughing stock of the Eastern Conference, but LaVine has single-handedly almost carried the Bulls to a playoff spot as they currently sit in the ninth seed; Just one spot out of a postseason appearance.

Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images
Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Julius Randle

When speaking of the laughing stocks of the NBA, the New York Knicks must be discussed. This year, the Knicks have come out of nowhere and shocked the basketball world. A major part of the Knicks early success is forward Julius Randle who is having a career year and giving hope to New Yorkers that their team may make the playoffs this season. Randle is averaging a career-high of 23 points per game, along with 11 rebounds and six assists. Randle has also improved on his deep ball as this season he is shooting 40% from three. A year ago no one would have expected the Knicks to take this major jump as they were seen as a rebuilding team, but Coach Tom Thibodeau and Randle have led this young team to become a gritty defensive team who hustles and plays hard every night.

Snubs

The two wildcard spots are hard to give out as there are a handful of players left who have had great years so far.

The most improved player candidate, Jerami Grant, has improved his scoring almost 12 points per game this season and has taken the next step towards becoming a household name. Grant is averaging 24 points per game along with five rebounds while playing top-tier defense night in and night out. The major thing holding Grant back from being an All-Star is the Pistons horrendous record thus far. The Pistons sit at a measly 8-21 and are the last seed in the Eastern Conference.

Former All-Stars such as Bam Adebayo, Trae Young and Nikola Vučević likely will not be selected this year as all three of their teams have underachieved mightily and none of them are currently above the tenth seed. Ben Simmons has made a strong case to be selected as an All-Star this season as he has averaged 15 points per game along with 8 rebounds and 8 assists a night with DPOY type defense but his lack of a jumper still holds him back.