While players like Zion Williamson, Zach LaVine, and Jaylen Brown made the first of what could be many appearances in their still-young careers, the rosters also featured some established veterans who made their first appearances. Julius Randle came out of nowhere to become the centerpiece of a playoff team for the Knicks. Mike Conley Jr was finally rewarded with an appearance after a career in which he has been All-Star-worthy for several seasons.
This NBA season, there are many more emerging first-time All-Star candidates. The league is also more unpredictable than ever, with injuries and the COVID-19 pandemic both forcing teams to shuffle rosters nonstop and creating opportunities and minutes for players who may not otherwise have such big roles.
Here are five more players who could get All-Star recognition this season.
Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies
A knee injury and a positive COVID-19 diagnosis has kept Morant out of the Memphis Grizzlies lineup since November 26. But before that, he was in the MVP conversation, not just the All-Star conversation.
Morant is averaging 24 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists, and 2 steals per game while shooting 48 percent overall and 36 percent from three-point range. The prolonged injury absence certainly lessens his chances, but he was a lock before he got hurt. He could return to the lineup soon, though, and if he picks up where he left off, he’ll definitely be an All-Star this season.
LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets
Staying with the young franchise point guard theme, Ball also could be as close to a lock for an All-Star appearance as it gets.
Ball is averaging 20 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists, and 2 steals per game and making nearly 40 percent of his three-pointers this season. He’s leading a Charlotte Hornets offense that is the highest-scoring in the league.
Ball is also the sort of pass-happy point guard who was built to play in All-Star games. He excels in the open court and at throwing lobs to high-flying teammate Miles Bridges. There’s little doubt he’d put on a show with an All-Star roster around him.
Dejounte Murray, San Antonio Spurs
The San Antonio Spurs are headed for another lottery appearance, but that’s not the fault of Murray, who is blossoming into one of the best two-way point guards in the league.
He’s averaging 18 points, 8 rebounds, 9 assists, and 2 steals per game and is also a very good defensive player. Murray’s perimeter shot is still a work in progress, and the Spurs not being a playoff contender at the moment both hurt his chances a bit, but his production is certainly All-Star-worthy.
Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers
Mobley’s counting stats are good but not eye-popping compared to some other players who are potential All-Stars. The rookie is averaging 14 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 blocks per game. He’s shooting 48 percent overall but making only 33 percent of his three-pointers.
Mobley’s defense has been otherworldly, though. Former NBA player JJ Redick recently called Mobley a future Defensive Player of the Year and his role anchoring the Cavaliers defense has the team in contention for their division title and a homecourt advantage slot in the playoffs – positions no one would’ve predicted the Cavs would be in before the season started.
Anthony Edwards, Minnesota Timberwolves
Edwards has already made himself a darling of the league with his highlight reel dunks and his quirky interviews. Those fun elements shouldn’t overshadow how productive he’s become, though.
In his second season, he’s helping the Minnesota Timberwolves contend for a playoff spot. He’s averaging 22 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists per game while making 36 percent of his three-pointers. Edwards has rapidly improved offensively, particularly as an at-the-rim scorer. He also hit 10 three-pointers in a game this month and has improved defensively.
With so many talented scoring guards in the league, Edwards’ path might be tough this season, but it’s conceivable he could find his way onto the roster as an injury replacement. His dunking ability would certainly be a welcome and entertaining sight in an All-Star game.
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