The NBA opened their All-Star vote on Christmas morning, which is also the start of the annual conversation about which players are most deserving of a spot. In the spirit of that discussion, and because it's the part everyone gets worked up about anyway, I have anticipated which players/teams/fan-bases will be disappointed when the participants are officially announced in January.
The result is the All-Snub team: four guards, six players in the frontcourt, and two wild cards. First, here's who I think will make the actual All-Star team in each conference.
ACTUAL EASTERN-CONFERENCE ALL-STARS
G: Kyle Lowry
G: DeMar DeRozan
G: Isaiah Thomas
G: Kemba Walker
FC: LeBron James
FC: Kevin Love
FC: Paul George
FC: Al Horford
FC: Giannis Antetokounmpo
FC: Jimmy Butler
WC: Kyrie Irving
WC: Kristaps Porzingis
ACTUAL WESTERN CONFERENCE ALL-STARS
G: Russell Westbrook
G: James Harden
G: Steph Curry
G: Chris Paul
FC: Kawhi Leonard
FC: Anthony Davis
FC: Marc Gasol
FC: Kevin Durant
FC: DeMarcus Cousins
FC: DeAndre Jordan
WC: Draymond Green
WC: Gordon Hayward
Eastern Conference All-Snub Starters
G: John Wall
Choosing between Wall and Kyrie Irving was almost impossible. If you're a Washington Wizards fan who smells recency bias after those Christmas Day heroics, fair enough. But let's be clear: Wall is having a fantastic season on a team that finally (maybe) looks worthy of its bloated payroll. He's still a blaze in transition and one of the more experimental passers at his position. Washington's early-season struggles aren't all on Wall—offseason knee surgery restricted his minutes, and the Wizards' bench is ghastly—but they certainly don't work in his favor.
G: Bradley Beal
Even though he won't make his first All-Star team, this should still be considered a breakout season for Beal, who is finally healthy and finally playing up to his significant potential. Before the year started, only eight players in league history had shot over 39 percent on at least seven 3PA/game. Beal is on track to become the ninth. (Kyle Lowry, Eric Gordon, and Zach LaVine would also join that list if the season ended today.)
FC: Dwight Howard
The post-up is still Howard's worst frenemy. He's not terrible with his back to the basket, but the cost of those sets is great for a pass-happy Hawks team that naturally creates more efficient offense when afforded a chance. Remnants of the athleticism and physicality that once made Howard a top-five player still elevate Howard's game on both ends, and opponents still can't score against him at the rim. But it would be nice if Howard would simplify his offensive approach, preferably before his leaping ability is shot, by emulating someone like DeAndre Jordan for an entire season. Just go on a strict, all-you-can-eat diet of rolls, lobs, and putbacks.
A case can be made for other centers to make this list, and Howard admittedly does turn the ball over way too much and doesn't play as many minutes as some of those peers. But he's still an absolute monster on the glass, draws a ton of fouls, and scores efficiently enough to crack the starting lineup of the All-Snub team, if not the actual All-Stars.
FC: Paul Millsap
Leaving Millsap off the actual All-Star team just feels wrong. Atlanta is a decent, if not terribly high-quality, team with Millsap on the floor, but the Hawks get outscored by 10 points per 100 possessions when he's on the sideline. The man is beloved by people who love basketball, and very few players positively impact as many areas of the game. It should be enough to get him on the All-Star roster, but it's definitely enough to get him onto this one.
FC: Carmelo Anthony
Melo will likely be voted in by the fans, because the Knicks aren't an abomination this year, and because he's averaging over 22 points per game. But those numbers reveal a few disturbing trends: Anthony's offensive rebound and free-throw rates have never been lower, and his usage percentage is the softest it's been since he was 19 years old. Only 13.7 percent of his shots have come within three feet of the rim; that number was 21.3 percent last season. That migration would be okay if he were a full-time stretch four launching threes at a deadly clip, but that's not the case.
That said, New York's offense is dreadful without its longtime franchise player on the floor—even if he's no longer quite a franchise player.
Eastern Conference All-Snub Reserves
G: Goran Dragic
How quickly situations change. Two years ago, the Miami Heat traded several draft picks for Dragic, thinking he was the drive-and-kick slasher they desperately needed to lift Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and Hassan Whiteside to the Finals. Fast forward to now and Miami is tanking, and trying like hell to get rid of Dragic's contract so they can A) improve their draft position, B) acquire a future asset to balance out the now-calamitous deal they made in 2015.
But even if he is on the trade block, Dragic is quietly having one of the best seasons of his career.
G: Avery Bradley
Bradley gets better every year. He's averaging 17.6 points and an absurd 7.2 rebounds per game (his career average is 3.0), and the reigning First-Team All-Defensive team member hasn't lost a significant step on that end despite ramping up his offensive responsibilities. Boston's offense is dirt when he steps off the floor, and he remains one of the best perimeter defenders in the game. Bradley is the walking definition of underrated.
FC: Hassan Whiteside
Having Hassan Whiteside anchor your defense is a lot like owning the best Blu-ray player in 2016. His numbers are monumental, but Whiteside's sinister rim protection would have been that much more valuable five or ten years ago, back when opposing bigs weren't so comfortable on the perimeter. He's still effective, but far from Defensive Player of the Year, primarily because he can't/won't step out to contest jump shots as much as he should. And when he does, shooters just drive right by him towards an unprotected basket. It helps explain why the Heat allow nearly eight fewer points per 100 possessions better when Whiteside isn't on the floor.
FC: Joel Embiid
It's unclear how defenses will guard Embiid once he's on a real team with actual ball-handlers, spontaneous shot creators, and consistent three-point shooters. According to Synergy Sports, only six players draw a hard double team more frequently than Embiid, with one being his teammate, Jahlil Okafor. It's been frustrating to watch.
Look at Embiid's stats then imagine what he'd be with ample time and opportunity. He's a fearsome sea creature with soft touch against single coverage, and borderline impossible to stop. And even though his minutes are low and he's only played in 21 games and blah, blah, blah few players squeeze more from every second they're on the floor.
FC: Andre Drummond
Referring to a 23-year-old who just made an All-Star team and led his team to the playoffs as a disappointment would be rude. Yet here we are.
Drummond is the best rebounder in basketball. He erases second-chance opportunities and it takes a focused group effort to keep him off the offensive glass. But these sentences could've been written last year, too. Where is he getting better?
The Pistons are bad on both ends when Drummond is on the court. He's still gross in the post and doesn't provide the consistent pick-and-roll defense Stan Van Gundy needs to keep help defenders home on three-point shooters.
Detroit will only go as far as Drummond takes them. Right now that's a depressing thought if you root for the Pistons.
WC: Myles Turner
This probably says more about the Eastern Conference than it does Turner's game, but his ability to block approximately 19 shots per game, with an automatic jump shot on the other end, is hard to argue against.
WC: Jabari Parker
Every NBA fan's New Year's Resolution should be "watch more Jabari Parker". He's so damn exciting and just refuses to flinch on daring drives to the rim that end in a violent dunk over (or through) a helpless defender with stunning regularity.
In transition, Parker is a Mack Truck driven by someone with anger management issues. The damage that results is astonishing.
21-year-olds who average 20 points per game, shoot 37 percent from beyond the arc, and are an automatic bucket in transition—on a team that currently ranks eighth in net rating—might not be All-Stars, but they are very, very intriguing. Parker's defense isn't superb, but we'll cross that bridge when we get there.
Western Conference All-Snub Starters
G: Damian Lillard
Lillard's range reflects what people expect from star point guards in the modern NBA. That range is now nearly a necessary qualification, and opposing teams hold their breath whenever Lillard pulls up off the dribble, regardless of distance.
But the Trail Blazers are, pardon the basketball jargon, hot garbage right now, and Lillard isn't knocking down pull-up threes at a rate that justifies his volume. Portland has been outscored by 80 points when their star on the floor and "only" 52 when he sits. Obviously, those raw numbers aren't fair due to a minutes discrepancy, and it's hard to punish Lillard for the sins of an entire team's struggling defense, but Lillard is also the leader of a team that's going nowhere. He has to be better on both ends if he wants to be considered beside guys like Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, and James Harden.
G: Klay Thompson
You already know what it is. Thompson might go down as the greatest shooter ever (is that really a hot take?) and is one of the 10 best players in basketball. If All-Star games didn't care about positions he'd go every year for the next decade. But they do.
FC: Karl-Anthony Towns
A tough omission from the actual squad, here, but it's hard for any center to outrun the stench of a bottom-five defense. Towns is also shooting 38.4 percent in the fourth quarter. That stinks, and the deservedly high expectations attached to him and his team have not been his friend.
But please don't forget that Towns turned 21 in November, and is averaging 22 points and 11 rebounds per game with the most effortless three-point stroke of any big man in recent memory. His play this year should not dissuade anyone who previously thought he'd eventually rule the world. That's still going to happen.
FC: LaMarcus Aldridge
Aldridge is the second-best player on a team that's 25-6. There are times when he feels invincible—witness him obliterating the Chicago Bulls on Christmas—as a pick-and-pop big with a trustworthy jumper. If that's not enough to get him onto the All-Star team, it's for a simple and obvious reason: there are players at his position who are better than he is.
FC: Rudy Gobert
The best rim protector in basketball also leads the league in True Shooting percentage. So that's pretty good.
Western Conference All-Snub Reserves
G: Mike Conley
This was supposed to be the year Conley finally made an All-Star team, but a neck injury ended that bid and his numbers have suffered since returning earlier than anyone expected. Conley is still awesome, though, and it's good to see him back on the court.
G: CJ McCollum
The Trail Blazers have the seventh-best offense in the league because McCollum's jumper is as reliable as a microwave. He's shooting 57.4 percent between 10 and 16 feet and 43.5 percent behind the three-point line. Most of those are wild difficult and off the dribble. McCollum is fun. He's just not quite an All-Star.
FC: Harrison Barnes
Surrounded by D-League talent for most of the year, Barnes has morphed into one of the NBA's top isolation scorers. The Mavericks are now his team, so toss him the ball, wind him up, and watch him do his thing.
Minus a minor dip in his three-point shooting, Barnes has carried over his efficient numbers from the Golden State Warriors while holding down a completely different role. He went from spoke to wheel, and made it look easy. Applause.
FC: Blake Griffin
Knee surgery sadly eliminates the possibility of a sixth All-Star appearance for Griffin, but he's still a top-15 player; when he's healthy, he regularly does things no player his size has ever done. Griffin was averaging his standardly excellent 21 points, nine rebounds, and five assists before he went down, but it was his much-improved help defense that had league observers buzzing earlier this season.
FC: Andrew Wiggins
We already covered how disappointing the Timberwolves have been relative to their (probably just a tad premature but still really high) expectations, and Wiggins sometimes looking lost on offense is a big reason why.
But let's be positive! He is still only 21 years old, averaging 21.3 points and shooting 36.2 percent beyond the arc, which is up nearly six percentage points from last season. Wiggins already possesses a Grade A post game when you consider the degree of difficulty and aesthetic beauty of his turnaround fadeaway, and his off-ball defense isn't the primary reason Minnesota can't get stops. He's often forced to scramble around after a teammate gets burned off the dribble, which is unfortunate, but that should improve with time.
WC: Eric Gordon
There are myriad explanations for Houston's startling success, and the first 17 are "James Harden." But Gordon deserves some credit as this team's second-leading scorer. He's averaging 17 points and shooting 45 percent on pull ups from downtown, and attempting an astonishing 2.5 per game. The only two players in NBA history to launch at least eight threes with higher accuracy than Gordon's current split are Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. So, yeah, not too shabby.
WC: Nikola Jokic
Only three centers have a higher Real Plus-Minus than Jokic, one of the most valuable 21-year-old buried treasures in the NBA. He's more "advanced stats darling" than actual All-Star at this point, but that may change now that the Denver Nuggets finally realized they should bring his strengths to the fore by making him their starting center. In the six games since, Jokic is averaging 15.2 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 5.0 assists in 25 minutes. His PER is higher than Marc Gasol, Irving, and Al Horford. Decent.