Thankfully the slots available were enough to get the past two Most Valuable Player Award winners Russell Westbrook and Stephen Curry in. A pair of Rookie of the Year winners also got in on the act earning votes to play in Los Angeles next month.
Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard have developed their game since winning the award for first year players in the in 2011 and 2012 respectively to earn the spots. But nine time All Star Chris Paul didn’t make the cut as a starter or reserve neither did Charlotte Hornets Guard Kemba Walker.
While Paul is the other half of Houston Rockets perfect backcourt sans Golden State Warriors, Walker is the only reason Charlotte has a fighting chance of making the playoffs despite lying five games behind eighth ranked Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference. Nearly all the elite players in the NBA’s deepest position have been called up with the exception of a few who despite missing out on the “big” game can easily take a middling club to the next level.
Like Paul and Walker Memphis Grizzlies Mike Conley has been left out of the list for the umpteenth time despite leading Memphis to seven straight playoff appearances. That streak looks likely to end with the Grizzlies caught up in a knee jerk reaction by sacking Coach Mike Fitzdale.
However, should Grizzlies management decide to go front a full scale rebuild, Conley and the non All Star Point Guard group could help these teams out:
New York Knicks
The Knicks need an elite Point Guard to jolt its flagging playoff hopes which is crucial to a franchise that has missed the postseason event in four straight seasons. A fifth year absence is totally unacceptable for a franchise with a future MVP winner in Kristaps Porzingis on the roster. Jarrett Jack has been more than a steady hand for the team while first year player Frank Ntilikina learns the NBA’s nuances. The team did away with the services of Ramon Sessions for former lottery pick Trey Burke a fortnight ago to keep the spot competitive.
To be able to climb above its tenth place in the Eastern Conference, the Knicks will have to move Burke, Enes Kanter and a host of others to create space. With a $12 million salary for this season and the 2018-2019 campaign, Walker is on an affordable contract with skills way above his pay grade. New York has tried and failed several times to fill the Point Guard spot and in trade season, quality getable options are available. Beyond Porzingis, the Knicks lack a consistent threat to take some pressure off the Unicorn.
Like New York, Detroit has a star but one who needs help particularly outside the paint. Andre Drummond is the throwback version of an NBA big who plants himself beneath the basket and dominates the glass. He is the league’s top rebounder and is averaging 14 points per game too. However, his intended sidekick Reggie Jackson has been hampered by injuries dating back to last season to give him ample support. More telling, Jackson’s shooting woes has become an issue to the extent opposing teams ignore him and pack bodies close to Drummond to limit his effect in the game; Boston Celtics did this earlier in the season with resounding success.
The Avery Bradley experiment isn’t working and Langston Galloway and Ish Smith are capable bench players not game changing playmakers. With large sums committed to Drummond and Jackson for the next three seasons, missing the playoffs in back to back years is a strain. Flipping Jackson’s $16 million salary and a young player like Stanley Johnson is good enough to cater to the finances of a better three point shooting playmaker.
After spending several years collecting draft picks and using them on Nikola Jokic and as an attractive piece to nab Paul Millsap, the time is up for Denver to get back into the postseason. With two All Star caliber front court players on hand, Nuggets need an upgrade on Jamal Murray and Emmanuel Mudiay to maintain its current playoff status. The best way to create space on the roster and salary books is to trade two of its many Power Forwards with Kenneth Faried and Trey Lyles high on the list.
Mudiay is struggling to live up to the expectations of a seventh pick while Murray, though impressive to get the starting nod ahead of Mudiay, still has a lot of rough edges to his game that needs smoothening. A consistent provider of assists and points gives Denver a big chance to place fifth at the end of the regular season and advance ahead of a team like Minnesota Timberwolves.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah
@YawMintYM on Twitter