Each week during the 2023-24 NBA season, we will take a deeper dive into some of the league’s biggest storylines in an attempt to determine whether the trends are based more in fact or fiction moving forward.
[Last week: The New York Knicks are fun again]
This week's topic: 2024 NBA All-Star Game snubs
The NBA announced its All-Star reserves Thursday, and while there were no shocking surprises, there were a few eyebrow-raising selections and as many glaring omissions. That's right. It's time to talk snubs.
Remember: The first rule of the snub club is you have to remove an All-Star if you want to add one.
Now, for your 2024 NBA All-Stars ...
Damian Lillard, Milwaukee Bucks
Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics
Jalen Brunson, New York Knicks
Tyrese Maxey, Philadelphia 76ers
Julius Randle, New York Knicks
The East is difficult. The field levels off after Adebayo, around Randle and Banchero. The coaches, who select the reserves, could have easily swapped Toronto Raptors point forward Scottie Barnes for Banchero. His numbers are better. His team is worse. It's a coin flip. No one outside Orlando would make a fuss. Our own Dan Devine, who does not select reserves, opted for Barnes. Yell at him if you want. (Please don't.)
You could make cases for Miami's Jimmy Butler, Boston's Kristaps Porzingis and Derrick White or Indiana's Pascal Siakam in that spot, too. All of those franchises are already represented by at least one All-Star.
So, let's discuss Trae Young. His Atlanta Hawks are terrible — 20-27 terrible — and somehow still squarely in the play-in tournament hunt. None of the five teams below Atlanta in the standings nabbed All-Star nods.
But Young is averaging 27 points and 10.9 assists. That's fourth in scoring and second in assists in the East. Here is the list of players who have averaged 27 points and 10 assists in history: Oscar Robertson (five times!), Tiny Archibald (1972-73), James Harden (2016-17), Russell Westbrook (2016-17) and Young. Not only did all of them earn All-Star selections, two resulted in MVPs and all made the All-NBA first team.
Young is also one of the worst defenders in the league, if not the worst, and coaches don't like that.
Regardless, the recent news that Randle's dislocated shoulder will require at least another two weeks rest and Embiid's left meniscus will sideline him indefinitely almost certainly means two injury replacements will participate in the All-Star Game. We can talk about this conference's snubs once they pick Young and whomever.
Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns
Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers
Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Clippers
Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves
The West is even harder. Look at that lineup. It's a thing of beauty.
Sabonis is averaging 19.9 points (on 62/45/68 shooting splits), a league-leading 13 rebounds and eight assists a night. That's a decent night from 20-13-8, numbers matched only by Wilt Chamberlain in 1967-68, when he won his fourth MVP award. Chamberlain is the NBA's standard-bearer for absurd statistical lines, and if your points-rebounds-assists put you alone in a category with him, you're a freaking star.
Likewise, Fox is averaging 27.2 points (47/38/72 splits), 5.5 assists and 4.1 rebounds over 40 appearances. (That's 0.2 more points per game more than Young for those counting at home.) Of the 237 times someone has averaged 27 points a night and hit the 40-game mark, only seven did not result in an All-Star selection: Archibald (1971-72), Lillard (2016-17), World B. Free (1978-79), Dominique Wilkins (1984-85), Purvis Short (1984-85), Booker (2022-23) and Bradley Beal (2019-20). The reasons ranged from injuries to terrible teams and outright snubs, but there's a word for this, and it's called precedent. (Sorry, Swipa. No swiping.)
Miss me with Rudy Gobert. Nobody wants to see him in the All-Star Game. Not even the French. There's Utah's Lauri Markkanen, Houston's Alperen Şengün and San Antonio's Victor Wembanyama, too, although their teams are more concerned with the lottery than the All-Star Game right now. It's OK that New Orleans does not have an All-Star this season. Three Pelicans are playing somewhere around sub-All-Star-level right now.
Chet Holmgren has a case, as do the second-place Thunder for a second All-Star.
But I want to talk about Jamal Murray. We all left the NBA Finals eight months ago thinking, You know what, Murray isn't just a star, he's the league's one and only non-All-Star superstar. He belongs. We witnessed it.
Sure, Murray missed a few weeks in November. He's played about five fewer games than this season's average All-Star. I don't care. He's averaging 21.2 points (48/41/86 splits), 6.4 assists and 3.8 rebounds a night — not exactly gaudy numbers, but good enough to remind us he's That Dude. And again: I don't care.
Murray is one side of the most deadly combination in the game, his pick-and-roll with Jokić. It does not work without him. Ask Bones Hyland. Murray will carve you up when he needs to. Just wait. He doesn't need to so often, although he did drop 35 points apiece in wins over the Celtics and Bucks in recent weeks.
The Nuggets are the defending champions. They are 1.5 games out of first place. They are the betting favorites at BetMGM (by a wide margin) to emerge from the West again. We all know how good they are, and we don't want to reward Murray? Why are coaches selecting the reserves if not to recognize the dudes who belong.
So, who should Murray have replaced? Um ... Towns!
Yes, Minnesota's other big man is averaging a 23-9-3 on 52/44/87 splits (and a worse PER than Murray, by the way), but he was benched in a game in which he scored a franchise-record 62 points. They lost to the Charlotte Hornets for what his coach called "an absolute disgusting performance of defense and immature basketball." That disqualifies him. Sorry, KAT, take your seat at the kids' table. Make room for the real stars.
Determination: Fact. There were snubs, and Jamal Murray is the biggest. (Don't yell at me, either.)