5. Trae Young
One of only two players on this list to sit on a losing record, the infamous Ice Trae must endure relegation to viewership for this year’s All-Star game. Putting up an impressive 9.4 assists per game alongside 26.4 points per game, the slight only hurts worse when considering he was an All-Star just last year. What hurts him most (and what definitely contributes to his absence) lies in the Hawks’ poor record this season. Whereas one could understand and ignore a disappointing Atlanta performance last season to grant him an All-Star spot, two years in a row becomes unforgivable. He has the stats, but he will have to put his team at least into postseason contention if he wants more respect, especially given the weaker competition in the Eastern Conference and the potential to reach the Playoffs with a losing record. If Allen Iverson can take a team of forgettables to the Finals, Young should reach .500 at least. He sits on the cusp, but he has a bit to climb before he can re-enter top tier considerations.
4. Clint Capela
Right above Ice Trae sits Clint Capela, his teammate and only other person on the list with a losing record. Rocking a top 20 in the league Player Efficiency Rating (PER) with a 24.13, Capela makes an easy case for himself over his teammate. The Atlanta Center averages a career-high 14.2 rebounds per game, building on a 5 per game offensive rebound stat. Like no other All-Star snub in the league, Capela consistently produces efficient double double performances. Once again, the only matter standing between the superstar and an All-Star appearance is team record. Part of the problem lies in lack of depth in Atlanta (really lack of a full starting five), but nonetheless history is written by its victors and Capela has thus far failed to produce what All-Stars like Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid have (both of whom sit above on PER as well). The equation could not be simpler: winning record = All-Star selection for the big man.
3. Carmelo Anthony
Consistency and clutch play define the renaissance of this future Hall-of-Famer. If nothing else, he stands a chance to enter the top 10 all-time scoring list for the NBA this year, sitting a mere 28 behind eleventh Hakeem Olajuwon and 395 behind tenth Elvin Hayes. Presently, he averages a smaller 13.9 points this year, but would only need to average 10.7 or higher in his team’s remaining 37 games to jump the needed two spots on the list. Not to mention, if he plays next season as well, only 96 points separate Hayes from eighth Moses Malone and roughly 1,200 from seventh Shaquille O’Neal (a 15+ ppg season’s work). However, what really separates Melo is his intensity on the defensive end and his irreplaceability in the Blazers’ offense. The Western Conference giant would have a much bleaker outlook without this superstar.
2. Jimmy Butler
The veteran and his Miami squad had just settled into a groove and escaped their losing record when the All-Star break hit. Now, this selection may seem like a cheat, given that he turned down a selection since his teammate Bam Adebayo did not also receive selection. Regardless, it seems safe to say that more than anyone else, Butler could not care less about the vanity of the All-Star game. Right now, his focus rests on building a hot streak right out of the break so as to reach the much-attainable fourth spot in the East. If sitting at fifth results in a Finals appearance, the upward movement should incite fear of a repeat warpath through the postseason, if not a ring for the man that certainly deserves it. Oh, and did I mention that he has a top 10 PER right now with an impressive 25.48?
1. C.J. McCollum
Hard choice having this guy as number one, given that he has not played but 13 games this season, but if Kevin Durant can captain in the All-Star game with only 19 appearances, then the Portland phenom, who conveniently is not a locker room cancer like the aforementioned, seems like a shoe-in. Assuming he returns soon, the Blazers may appear unstoppable. Moreover, the league may suffer at the hands of a reinvigorated point guard should the snub of even a reserves list mention get to his head. With the Lakers on a downhill spiral in the absence of Anthony Davis and the Clippers doing God knows what to lose their last three before the break, the return of McCollum could spell disaster in the West if he should push Portland to the third seat in the second half of the season.
Rising Star: LaMelo Ball
In lieu of the regular hot seat option, this week’s list will include a rising star for future All-Star appearances, which can double count for The Collegian’s rookie of the year prediction. Statistically speaking, he simply has not performed at an All-Star level yet. However, one simply must remember that Kemba Walker, presently competing for unofficial team captain in Boston with Jayson Tatum, could never get the Hornets into the postseason. LaMelo, conversely, has the team right in the thick of contention, presently a game-and-a-half away from both fourth and eleventh in the conference. If they can muster a .500 performance in the second half of the season, he will have done what Walker never could. Additionally, is he not just one of the most fun players in the league to watch right now?