First Time All-Star?
The 2019 NBA All-Star game featured five first time all-stars. Ben Simmons, D’Angelo Russel, Khris Middleton, Nikola Vucevic, and Nikola Jokic all made their first all-star weekend appearance. Even so, many of the game’s greatest players have yet to make a single all-star game. In 2020, there will be a strong list of candidates eager to crack the all-star list for the first time. This article will take a look at a few of the most likely candidates to receive a first time all-star nod. Though it may be a tall order, these guys have the skills to make it happen.
Rudy Gobert owns the last two Defensive Player of the Year Awards in the NBA. Despite that, he has never been named an all-star. Yes, it sounds crazy. But it’s true. Gobert has been a defensive standout for years with the Utah Jazz. However, last year he produced career best totals on offense. Gobert scored a career high 15.9 points per game, while also having his best shooting season at 66.9% from the floor. Rebounding the basketball is no issue for Rudy either. He was top five in rebounding this past season, averaging a tick under 13 per contest. Oddly enough, Gobert has even made the All-NBA team twice. Somehow though, he has yet to be named an all-star. On a Utah team loaded with talent, Gobert figures to make an even bigger impact in 2019. If that happens, he could be a first time all-star in 2020.
It was a phenomenal season for the Toronto Raptors forward. Pascal Siakam took home the Most Improved NBA Player honors after a breakout year. The man nicknamed “Spicy P” turned heads around the league, and even amongst his own teammates. His points per game averaged jumped from 7.3 to 16.9, and that was just the beginning. Siakam also collected 6.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game to go along with that unexpected scoring average. He did this while playing 11 more minutes per night than he did a year ago.
Despite his efforts, Siakam was not named an all-star for the eventual NBA champions. The 25-year-old will now enter his fourth season with Toronto. With the departures of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green in free agency, Spicy P will be leaned on even more heavily. With a unique blend of size, speed, and athleticism, Siakam will be a prime candidate for a first all-star appearance in February.
How did Luka Doncic’s first year in the United States go? Pretty good, he won NBA Rookie of the Year as a teenager. Doncic had an insanely impressive season, even for a number two draft pick. He seemed to score with ease for the Dallas Mavericks as he posted 21.2 points per game. Though, scoring was far from the only notable area of his game. Doncic impressed in virtually all aspects of the game last season. His assist and rebound totals excelled too, as he averaged 6 assists and 7.8 rebounds per contest. The first-year shooting guard racked up eight triple-doubles; fourth most in the league.
In year two, Doncic will now be joined by Kristpas Porzingis on the Mavericks roster. This means Dallas, and Luka Doncic will now be in an even brighter spotlight come October. The native of Slovenia now has an excellent chance to be a first time all-star in his sophomore NBA season.
The Phoenix Suns stink. But, you shouldn’t say the same about Devin Booker. Booker enters his fifth season in the NBA, and he doesn’t 23 until late October. Granted, Booker has his issues defensively. Though, that doesn’t take away from what he has done scoring the basketball since day one. In fact, Devin Booker dropped 70 points on the Boston Celtics in March of 2017. That game may have been an outlier, but Booker can still fill up the stat sheet. The former Kentucky star, improved his scoring average each year since he entered the league. Last season, Booker tied for sixth best in the NBA averaging 26.6 points per night. Booker impacted the game in other spots too, collecting 6.8 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game. While he did not have a great year shooting triples, Booker did post a career best effective field goal percentage at 52.1%.
The problem is not Devin Booker. The Western Conference is loaded with excellent guard talent, and Devin Booker simply has not been appreciated enough. It also doesn’t help that Phoenix has failed to win more than 24 games in a season since Booker was drafted. In an active offseason which included the additions of Dario Saric, Ricky Rubio and Aron Baynes, the Suns hope to make strides forward in 2019. If that occurs, all-star game voters may begin to give Booker the respect he deserves.
The Denver Nuggets were a surprising two seed in the West last year. After narrowly missing the playoffs the year prior, Denver impressed on multiple fronts during the 2018-2019 season. One of those areas is shooting guard Jamal Murray. Like Devin Booker, Murray is a former Kentucky product. He too can fill up the stat sheet. At 22 years old, Murray continues to get better year by year. His past season, was his best thus far.
Even as a number two option behind Nikola Jokic, Murray managed to score 18.2 points per game. Additionally, he set career high marks in rebounding and assists. Murray is stable from the three-point line and free-throw line as well. He shot 36.7% on threes last year, and 84.8% from the charity stripe. We know that availability is crucial in the NBA. Jamal Murray fits that criteria as he’s missed only eight games total the past two seasons.
Murray has the same issue as Devin Booker. The guard play out west is as deep and talented as you may ever see in the NBA at one time. However, unlike the Suns, Murray’s Nuggets figure to be in the mix for a playoff spot and a high seed. This will surely give him increased notice among all-star game voters. If Denver performs well as a unit this season, Jamal Murray will be in line for a first ever all-star game appearance.
Other Notable Candidates
Other notable candidates for their first ever all-star game include:
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