Some of such players end up on the wrong side of their careers at the time it is right to be voted to the team. Others are not so fortunate to make lasting careers due to injuries and the presence of transcendent young talent like a LeBron James.
As things stand, getting into the All Star is bound to prove more difficult going forward due to changes set to be implemented in future editions.
With exhibition game bound to have players picked by Conference Captains, players not in James fraternity for instance Andrew Wiggins would struggle to make the team because he is on Adidas while LeBron is life time Nike Ambassador aside the point Wiggins represents the distasteful Cleveland Cavaliers team he left behind to Miami.
On the other hand, players like Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony could make the team after missing out on the last edition more to their affiliation with King James than production. With changes coming, guys like Memphis Grizzlies Point Guard Mike Conley will continue to miss out on the call largely due to his position which has a stellar list ahead of him. Irrespective of the politics involved in the new All Star format, here are players set to get the call for the first time:
Serge Ibaka, Toronto Raptors
Despite his immense contributions since landing in the league in 2009, the Congo native is yet to be named an All Star after leading the league in blocks-twice-and earning three NBA All-Defensive First Team call ups. Key reason behind that flaw is Ibaka’s teammates throughout his time in the association. Playing for Oklahoma City Thunder, Ibaka wasn’t going to get votes with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook on the roster. Another is playing in the stacked Western Conference where the likes of Marc Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge come first.
His short stint in Orlando was too rocky to get him in the game but after a midseason move to Toronto Raptors, Ibaka is in line for a call up. Armed with developed three point shooting touch now, Ibaka’s two way presence is bound to shine alongside those of multiple All Star duo DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. However, neither player is a talked about talent nor sneaker headliner like Westbrook and Durant. The massive exodus in the Eastern Conference helps matters too.
Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
Perhaps the biggest benefactor of the aforementioned exodus would be the Wizards Guard. Following Carmelo Anthony, Jimmy Butler and Paul George exits from the conference, Beal is likely to be handed one of the Guard spots on the roster. Unlike Ibaka, Beal has one All Star on his team; Point Guard John Wall who is set to challenge for MVP honors after years of bringing his talent up to speed with his quick legs. Ahead of the season, the former Gator standout has only DeRozan ahead on the list of Shooting Guards in the conference which should parlay into headlining a big campaign enough to convince selectors of the divisions to pay attention.
Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
The big French man nicknamed the Stifle Tower was drafted to be at best, the third wheel on Utah Jazz exciting core. Gobert was drafted to be the defensive presence the team needed behind Gordon Hayward and Trey Burke. However, the shambolic performance of Burke since getting picked ninth overall in the draft and Hayward’s stunning move to Boston Celtics this offseason, has made Gobert Utah’s building block. The 7 foot 1 inch Center is coming off a productive year which got him the league’s blocks leader and All-NBA selection.
Those feats were chalked playing alongside Hayward meaning Gobert is going to have the ball in his hands a lot more and for longer periods than anticipated since the offense will be constructed around his prominence under the rim. His 14 point per game production is expected to rise as pass first Guard Ricky Rubio feeds him down low.
Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
Just as Isaiah Thomas is on track for a productive and efficient season due to the presence of a superior cast than the one he had at Boston Celtics, Jokic is looking at a big season due to the presence of Paul Millsap. The former Atlanta Hawks multiple All Star’s presence on the team opens things up more for Jokic to highlight games with his passing and shooting range. As the 2014 second round pick came into his own last season, teams concentrated on thwarting his efforts on a Denver team that had inconsistent production from talented young guns Gary Harris and Jamaal Murray. With the addition of Millsap’s steady game, Jokic should get enough wiggle room to impact games more.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah
@YawMintYM on Twitter