We finally have a decent idea of what the most star-studded basketball game will look like as the NBA announced its All-Star reserves for the 2023 All-Star Game.
Making the All-Star starters list is one of the best barometers determining whether a player is a legitimate superstar. However, there are only ten slots for the All-Star game for 30 teams of at least 12 players. A league with at least 15 star players can’t accommodate every good player into the starters list.
This is where the reserves come in. The All-Star reserves team recognizes players who played great basketball this season. Some of the players in this list were former starters, while others are getting the first All-Star nod of their careers.
This piece will discuss the biggest names left out of the All-Star starters list and their performances this season. We’ll also talk about some of the debutantes and the biggest names who won’t appear in Salt Lake City, UT.
Embiid, Morant Leads All-Star Reserves
Only ten players can become All-Star starters, so it’s inevitable that some will miss the mark by the smallest of margins. However, their positions as All-Star reserves don’t diminish their incredible showings in the league this season.
At the top of the list is Joel Embiid. The Cameroonian big man has been an All-Star for six of his seven years in the NBA. His per-game averages of 33.5 points, 10.1 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 1.7 blocks a night could easily win him the MVP honors any other year. He’s led the team to third in the Eastern Conference.
However, many of the All-Star starters are also playing terrific basketball this year. Their incredible performances slightly overshadow the Embiid’s impressive body of work this season.
Meanwhile, Ja Morant is the biggest name among the Western reserves. The point guard is the bright spot in a loaded Western Conference. The guard has a nightly stat line of 27.4 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 8.3 assists a night on efficient scoring numbers.
Moreover, his high-flying dunks and incredible finishes made it easy to see why he’s a shoo-in to the All-Star game. A player as talented as Morant is an automatic lock for the All-Star Game, whether as a starter or a reserve.
These two were just as likely to make the All-Star Game as starters. Even the basketball analysts at OKBET are surprised the two didn’t garner enough votes to make the starters team. Some may argue that the insistence on voting two guards, two forwards, and a center as starters is limiting in a league where positionless basketball is the norm.
Until the league changes, Embiid and Morant must be satisfied with starting as reserves.
Introducing the First-Time All-Stars
The current NBA season isn’t only memorable for the incredible MVP race we’re witnessing. However, the best players in the NBA aren’t the only ones gunning for the Michael Jordan trophy.
Four first-time All-Stars will join this club of distinguished basketball stars. While these stars aren’t at the level of established superstars, their respective games broke out this season that fellow players, coaches, and the media had to give them a nod.
Tyrese Haliburton is thriving for the Indiana Pacers. His production jumped as the focal point of the Pacers’ rebuild since his shock trade from the Sacramento Kings. He’s averaging 20.3 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 10.3 assists a night. He’s also shooting efficiently on the floor (48%) and from deep (40%).
Another player who got great returns from surprising trades is Lauri Markkanen. He was shipped off to the Utah Jazz in the Donovan Mitchell trade as a cog in a rebuilding effort. After averaging 24.9 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 1.8 assists, it’s safe to say he’s now the team’s centerpiece.
Jaren Jackson Jr. is one of the best lottery picks in the 2018 Draft, and his selection at four is a testament to the Grizzlies’ team-building philosophy. He’s currently rocking the NBA with nightly averages of 16.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.0 steals, and 3.3 blocks.
Finally, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is leading the Oklahoma City Thunder out of the Wembanyama Sweepstakes. The Canadian superstar gets per-game averages of 30.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 5.6 assists, and 1.7 steals a night on 51% shooting.
The Biggest All-Star Snubs
There are only 12 All-Star slots per conference, which means some players may have to sit out of playing the All-Star Game. Unfortunately, these players are also putting up numbers that equally deserve the nod.
At the top of the All-Star snub list is Trae Young. If you put his numbers beside the selected players, the two-time All-Star is having a down year. However, his 27.0 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 9.9 assists are impressive enough to get a nod.
De’Aaron Fox is one of the biggest reasons why the Kings are poised to make the playoffs for the first time since 2006. While 24.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 6.1 assists are average compared to the All-Star starters, his on-court impact for a struggling franchise should have netted him a spot among the All-Star reserves.
If you look at the current Miami Heat roster, Jimmy Butler deserves the lion’s share of the credit for their 29-24 record. His 21.7 PPG, 5.9 RPG, and 4.9 APG are nothing to write home about, but his grit and leadership are helping the Heat soar above the competition.
Finally, James Harden is a worthy addition with his 21.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 11.0 assists a game. However, his previous form for the Houston Rockets may be hurting his chances of adding to his 10 All-Star call-ups.
Are You Ready for These Exciting All-Star Reserves?
While we can argue which players deserve the All-Star nod or not, we must appreciate the All-Star reserves and starters. They’re playing incredible basketball for their respective teams, and the All-Star Game is the best way to honor them.
Moreover, the All-Star break signifies an important shift for the league. The end of the break signifies the start of the playoff chase. Teams will begin to play more earnestly, and these All-Stars will shine all the more.
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