Very soon, the 2020 NBA All-Star starters will be named. And the Phoenix Suns young star Devin Booker will not be among them.
While a couple of the starting spots on each team are up for debate, the starters at guard in the West are almost certain to be James Harden and Luka Doncic. That pair averages nearly a 30-point triple double this year and will ensure the 2020 All-Star game is Eddie Johnson’s personal nightmare. The West stat line could consist of 40 threes by those two alone and a 80/20 ratio of threes to twos. Eddie might just melt down.
As of the latest release of fan votes, Booker is not very near the top of the leaderboard among West guards.
Funny that the injured Stephen Curry and bench-riding Alex Caruso have more fan votes than Booker. Not to mention East players Tacko Fall, Trae Young, Derrick Rose and Zach LaVine, among others, with more fan votes than Booker.
“It sucks that political-wise, whatever happens from the votes and everything, we have to kind of go through that system,” Kelly Oubre Jr. said of how the vote is going so far.
It also sucks for Booker that the East is so much shallower in All-Star talent than the West, even in a year Curry and Klay Thompson are out of consideration due to injury.
Once the starters are named in a big TV ceremony in the coming days, all those votes go away anyway.
The rest of the All-Stars will be selected exclusively by the 30 NBA head coaches. Sometime this weekend, I believe, the coaches will each be forced to sit down at a computer and select seven additional players (3 forwards, 2 guards and 2 wild cards) for each Conference’s team.
One of those coaches, head coach Monty Williams of Phoenix, cannot vote for Booker himself but has a message for all the other coaches who can.
“I know he’s worthy of it,” Williams said. “When you look around the league, there are guys that have a record similar to us and they have guys that they’re saying should be on the team. Devin (Booker)’s right there with (Brandon) Ingram with New Orleans, those guys who probably have to get picked to be a part of it.”
Williams says he’s done a lot of lobbying among the other coaches, preaching Booker’s incredible talent and impact on this year’s resurgent Suns team.
“I feel like you’d be hard-pressed to name another guard that’s that much better than Devin,” Williams said.
Well let’s go through the process here.
Booker has three ways to get onto the team: (1) as one of the two reserve guards, (2) as one of the two wildcards, or (3) as an injury replacement for one of the named guards.
After talking to several other media, some local and some national, a consensus is that Damian Lillard and Donovan Mitchell will be the first two voted as reserve guards. Portland isn’t winning any more than Booker’s Suns this year, but Lillard is a lock because of his pedigree and his pure impact on the Blazers wins. And Mitchell is the best player on a 31-13 Utah team that doesn’t have any other established All-Stars in the rotation. Those two are apparently locks.
Who gets the wild card spots though?
Most of the media I consulted believe that Chris Paul is also a lock for what he’s done with the 7th seeded Oklahoma City team. Paul has not been named to an All-Star team in four years, but he’s clearly the reason the Thunder have won the games they’ve won. We’ll see on that one.
Tale of the tape:
If you look at the statistics — which coaches may or may not do this weekend — the second best reserve in the West would have to be Devin Booker, right behind Damian Lillard.
Even in the categories Booker isn’t among the top three reserves statistically, he’s right on their heels.
“His game is pure art,” teammate Kelly Oubre Jr. said of Booker.
While Mitchell edges Booker in Win Shares (4.6 to 4.5) the Jazz have almost twice as many wins to divvy up among their players. None of the other ‘contenders’ compare to Booker in shooting, scoring or win shares.
Yes, the coaches will likely be boring and name Lillard, Mitchell and Chris Paul as the top three reserve guards thanks to their win totals combined with career pedigrees.
That leaves Booker fighting for the second wild card spot. His primary guard competition for that spot are Russell Westbrook (pedigree), Ja Morant (exciting player on upstart Memphis)... or a 7th big man.
Let’s review the three starters and three reserves among the West forwards real quick.
Locks: (1) LeBron James and (2) Anthony Davis of the Lakers, (3) Kawhi Leonard and (4) Paul George of the Clippers, (5) Nikola Jokic of the Nuggets.
That leaves one more reserve forward spot and one wild card. Who else deserves the All-Star game nod among forwards in the West?
Remaining candidates among big men include Brandon Ingram of New Orleans, Karl-Anthony Towns of Minnesota and Rudy Gobert of the Jazz. Anyone else? Danilo Gallinari of the Thunder?
Here’s the thing. Ingram’s team has won less than Booker’s. Towns too, plus he’s been injured a lot. A LOT. Gallo is maybe the 4th best player on the Thunder, behind the three-headed guard monster, so you can’t really name him.
You could even make a case they won’t want to put both Kawhi and Paul George on the team, since the Clippers are also slightly disappointing in January and George has missed some time to injury and “load management”.
See how shallow the front court group is in the West this year? At least, in terms of swaying the coaches into using a wild card spot to name a 7th big man.
The final wild card
To me, the final wild card spot comes down to: Booker, Westbrook and one of Ingram or Gobert (whoever doesn’t get the 6th forward slot already).
Ingram is having a good season, but this is really his first good one, and the Pelicans are even further out of playoff contention at this time than the Suns. I can’t see Ingram being named over Booker.
Gobert deserves the All-Star nod, but let’s be honest: once you’ve already named two Lakers and two Clippers, do you really want to name two Jazz players as well? Plus, Gobert’s game doesn’t really fit the All-Star profile. With teammate Mitchell already a “lock”, I am not sure the coaches will suddenly name two Jazz players among their seven reserves.
Same for Houston, by the way. Would the coaches name Westbrook with Harden already on the team? Houston has been relatively disappointing this year, and those same coaches declined to give Chris Paul any nods when he played next to the supernova Harden, so I don’t see that changing with Westbrook next to him. Harden sucks everyone’s aura into himself.
This is why I think Booker makes the All-Star team.
“If you’re looking at Devin Booker play basketball,” Oubre says of his guy. “And you’re saying that he’s anything but a superstar in this league, let’s be real man, don’t talk to me. He should be in the All-Star Game because he’s worked for it and he has the talent too.”