Meaningful goals and obstacles are crucial to the success of professionals. Maintaining personal levels of success by pursuing wealth or self-valued “worth” are excellent ways for people to better themselves.
But athletes are different. Bettering yourself is essential to the success of the team, but the term “bettering” is so vague in the basketball sense that you can’t really pin it down as an exact improvement to the team’s well-being. Nearly forgotten in “self-improvement” are the murky waters of how it is helping the team.
The balance of team success and individual success is more complex than just saying that there has to be a proper balance between the two. The self-awareness of a role, team concept, strength of play, and surrounding teammates are all factors in the effectiveness of a player.
The large introduction is to give some semblance to the notion that the best players are elected to the All-Star Game, and that all others just aren’t worthy. All-Star votes are fluky and I’ll prove these players that have failed to make the All-Star team are subjects to lack of luck, injury, youth, or just a logjam at a position. They may have failed to get the recognition they deserved, but we’ll make sure they get noticed here.
Here are the rules:
1. They have never been elected to an All-Star Game
2. They are currently playing
3. Have to have played more than 150 games in career
As we’ve pointed out in the past, Cousins is a much better player than he’s given credit for. If he can clean up his shooting numbers and stop the immaturity, he could develop into one of the two of three best big men in the NBA. It’s just that Sacramento has been so bad during his time there that he’s never even been considered for the All-Star Game. As long as the team, which looks to be going in circles right now, continues to lose, DMC will never get a fair shot at the midseason classic… even if he’s probably as talented as anyone on this list.
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5. AL JEFFERSON
The big man cashed in this offseason by earning a three-year, $41 million contract with the Charlotte Bobcats. Jefferson was able to earn the contract due to his offensive skill and ability to post consistent double-doubles.
Jefferson has moved around quite a bit since being drafted by the Boston Celtics out of high school. He was part of the package that brought Kevin Garnett to the Celtics and immediately signed a five-year, $65 million deal with the Timberwolves.
His ability to bully opponents in the paint allows him to get easy points at the basket. Being able to post up gives Jefferson the ability to step back and take a jumper. He shot 41 percent on jump shots past 10 feet last season, which are numbers similar to Pau Gasol during the 2011-12 season.
So what makes Jefferson deserving? Well, his offensive and rebounding numbers are superb and can be considered underrated among some of the league’s elite. Jefferson was an explosive, young talent when he originally signed that contract in Minnesota before the 2007-08 season. In his first season and a half he averaged over 22 points and 11 rebounds, 3.6 of which were offensive. Jefferson was one of four big men at the time to average 20 and 10, quite an accomplishment for a 23-year old.
The problem with Jefferson wouldn’t be diminished skill, it would be injury. He suffered an ACL tear during the 2008-09 season, which kept him out of the final 32 games. The next season would be his last in Minnesota, a season in which he averaged 17.1 points and 9.3 rebounds.
During his tenure in Utah, Jefferson missed only three games and averaged 18.5 points and 9.5 rebounds. He was a reliable scoring option and was the best player in every season, helping the Jazz make the playoffs during the 2011-12 season.
4. TY LAWSON
In an age where every team seems to have a good point guard, it isn’t easy to make a name for yourself, but Lawson has done a great job of doing that over the past two seasons.
The Minnesota Timberwolves originally drafted Lawson in 2009, a draft that may be best remembered as the year of the point guards for Minnesota. Lawson was the third point guard drafted by the T-Wolves so they shipped him to Denver in exchange for a future draft pick.
The trade might have been the greatest thing that ever happened to Lawson, for a number of reasons. The first reason was the talent that Lawson had surrounding him. Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Nene and Arron Afflalo were all part of the team when Lawson was a rookie. Billups starting allowed Lawson to learn from one of the best, broadening his game to include a pull up 3-point jumper. Lawson coming off the bench was the equivalent of a fireball relief pitcher relieving a knuckleballer. His lightning quickness was a change of pace from the bigger Billups.
Lawson averaged eight points and three assists in 20 minutes per game during that rookie season. Those numbers would skyrocket during his second season when the Denver Nuggets traded away Anthony and Billups to the Knicks, as the departure of Billups paved the way for Lawson to start. He averaged 14.6 points and 6.7 assists during his 31 starts that season.
He continued his dominance due to the fast paced-style of the Nuggets that emphasized defensive turnovers and pushing the ball up the court. This has suited the speedy Lawson well as he has averaged 16.7 points and 6.8 assists during his past two seasons. This alone should have punched Lawson’s ticket to the All-Star Game but the issue for Lawson was the players in front of him on the All-Star depth chart. The guards on the 2013 team were Tony Parker, Chris Paul, James Harden, Kobe Bryant and Russell Westbrook. That’s a major roadblock for a lot of players, even a deserving one.
3. JOHN WALL
The No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 Draft is continuing to develop into a premier player in the league. His efficiency, shooting and playmaking ability have improved in every season he has played. Here are his numbers for his first three seasons:
16.4 PTS/8.3 ASTS/4.4 REBS/40.9 FG percent/5.7 FTA/15.8 PER (37.8 MPG)
16.3 PTS/8.0 ASTS/4.5 REBS/42.3 FG percent/6.1 FTA/17.7 PER (36.2 MPG)
18.5 PTS/7.6 ASTS/4.0 REBS/44.1 FG percent/6.2 FTA/20.9 PER (32.7 MPG)
You can see his steady improvement over the past few years and it seems likely that he will continue to improve with a better supporting cast next system. His lightning quickness allows for him to go coast-to-coast for an easy lay-in or for a full-court alley-oop.
However, he still isn’t the greatest shooter from deep shooting only 26.7 percent on only 45 attempts. Rasheed Wallace took more 3-pointers and he played in only 21 games. Wall’s confidence in his jumper is integral to his success in the pick-and-roll game. Wall, like many quick point guards before him, have a knack for getting to the basket but over time need to develop a jumper to keep the defender honest. Wall started to do that this season. His jump shot efficiency skyrocketed from 28.5 percent in the 2011-12 season to 37.7 percent last season. If you want to attribute the difference in numbers to quantity in shots, you’d be hard pressed to prove it. Wall shot only 10 fewer jump shots in the 2012-13 season and did so in 17 fewer games.
If Wall continues to improve his shooting, he should be an All-Star in no time, especially if Washington’s record improves the way most expect it to this season.
2. JOSH SMITH
His inconsistency is maddening, but you can’t deny the longevity of success that Josh Smith has had. Smith has had five seasons in which he has averaged over 16 points, eight rebounds, three assists, one block and one steal. His offensive versatility is stupendous as he is able to play inside and out. The athleticism he owns his extraordinary and it allows hit to be a ball hawk on the defensive side of the ball.
The most underrated part of Smith’s game is his defensive versatility. He can do so many different things due to his length and quickness — coaches allow for him to cover the post on one possession and the wing on the next. His defense capabilities mitigate his sometimes curious 3-point shooting.
Smith’s importance can be felt in the offensive rating of the team when he is on and off the court. The Hawks, over the past five seasons, have played marginally better offensively with Smith in the game. They’ve averaged 4.08 points per 100 possessions better with him on the court during those five seasons, a number similar to Dwight Howard over those same seasons. Continuing his effect on the Detroit Pistons will be a boon to his efforts to make the All-Star team.
1. STEPHEN CURRY
After hearing about his ankle issues the past couple of seasons, it seemed that Curry got the stigma of being an oft-injured player. When looking at the stats that doesn’t seem to be very true at all. Curry occasionally might sprain an ankle but that hasn’t affected his durability much. He missed over half the season in 2011-12 but has played in at least 74 of the team’s 82 games in three of his four seasons.
He has been a lights-out shooter ever since entering the league. Curry has never let his 3-point percentage dip under 43 percent and impressively shot 45.3 percent on 7.7 3-point attempts last season. Ray Allen shot that same percentage in the 2011-12 season but did so on only 5.2 3-point attempts per game.
He took a step from “should be All-Star” to “superstar” last season. He helped carry the Golden State Warriors into the playoffs and made sure they advanced by hitting a total of 23 3-pointers versus the Nuggets while scoring over 29 points three different times. In the first game against the San Antonio Spurs, he scored 44 points and would have won if it weren’t for that meddling Manu Ginobili. Curry seemed tired after that game but showed he was a force to be reckoned with. The NBA better prepare for one of the most exciting, clutch shooters in NBA history.
Will any of these players make the All-Star Game next year?
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