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Deandre Ayton’s legitimate All-Star bid, despite latest injury

Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton has a strong chance to make the 2022 All-Star game

Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images

Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton has been knocking at the door of his first All-Star bid this season, ranking 10th among West forwards in fan voting so far, receiving a lot of national attention after last year’s Finals run, and upping his numbers across the board this season for the best team in the NBA.

In many years, the league’s best team gets three or more of their players named to the All-Star game. Out East, it’s likely that the Bucks will get all of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kris Middleton and Jrue Holiday named to the team, unless Holiday gets excluded for games missed due to injury/COVID.

The Suns have two All-Stars, Chris Paul and Devin Booker, fairly well locked in among the guards, but no other Suns player besides Ayton ranks among the leaders at Frontcourt — which accounts for at least 50% of the All-Star selections.


SELECTION PROCESS

Reminder on the selection process:

STARTERS (5 per conference)

  • Fans (50%), media (25%) and players (25%) vote for STARTERS — two guards, three forwards per conference

RESERVES (7 per conference)

  • NBA head coaches vote for the other 7 players on a 12-man All-Star team — two guards, three forwards and two wildcards who can play any position.

That’s, at minimum, six big men who will represent the Western Conference in the All-Star game.


LOCKS

LeBron James and Nikola Jokic lead all vote-getters among fans by a wide margin in the Western Conference Frontcourt voting.

Considering the fan vote counts 50% toward picking the starters, and that Jokic was last year’s league MVP, you can bet those two will be starters.

Let’s skip that third starter spot for the moment and finish with our locks to be named to the Western Conference All-Star team as reserves, at least.

Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns should be locks for All-Star, considering their great performance so far this year. Gobert’s inclusion on the team is even more locked in than his teammate Donovan Mitchell (among the guards). Towns is already a two-time All-Star, is having his best season in years and the Wolves (21-22, 7th in the West) are actually relevant again. Also, if you’re an advanced-stats fan, Gobert and Towns have the 2nd and 3rd most ‘win shares’ this season among West frontcourt players.

That’s FOUR names etched in stone for the Frontcourt: LeBron, Jokic as starters, Gobert and Towns as (at least) reserves.

That leaves at least two Frontcourt spots open for business...


Who’s the third starter in the frontcourt?

It can’t possibly be Andrew Wiggins, currently 3rd in fan voting, can it? Wiggins has barely been the third best player on his own team, and is already losing minutes and touches to the returning Klay Thompson. In the five games since Klay first returned, the Warriors have gone 2-3 while Andrew Wiggins production has dropped to 14.4 points in 30 minutes per game from 19.1 points in 31 minutes per game. Good numbers, but not All-Star numbers.

I cannot imagine media and players jumping on the ‘Start Wiggy’ bandwagon with the fans. They, and the coaches, would sooner have Draymond Green, clearly the Warriors 2nd best player, starting this game. In fact, I’d bet Wiggins doesn’t even make the team after players, coaches and media have their say. He’s got way too much baggage from his first seven seasons anyway.

So who gets that third starter spot?

Would be Paul George, but for that elbow injury that’s caused him to miss the past month and might put him out for much longer. He’s not that close to returning, and there’s rumors he might be out much longer than January.

Maybe Anthony Davis? He’s 5th in fan voting and is an 8-time All-Star, but has also missed a ton of time and might not be back in time for media/player voting for starters. According to reports, the Lakers will re-evaluate AD’s knee (sprained MCL) in the next week or so. And even before that, AD was not playing at his usual All-Star level this year.

Notice a pattern? There’s a big chance neither PG or AD play in the All-Star game even if they are selected, meaning they would be replaced by Commissioner Adam Silver with other West players.

The All-Star game HAS to have at least six Frontcourt guys selected to the team. That could be accomplished by George and Davis making it, along with the aforementioned locks in LBJ, Jokic, Towns and Gobert.

Let’s assume that, for the moment.

Still, it’s likely that both George and AD would skip the game itself, opening the door for Silver to name injury replacements. Sure, he could just load the team with more guards, but my guess is that the West will have six frontcourt players on it at minimum - one set of starters and their reserves.


Who deserves the last two Frontcourt spots in the West?

Draymond Green (6th in fan voting)

Dray has been the league’s best defender and one of the best playmakers in the game again, reprising his All-Star-level role of the prime Warriors this season (he’s a three-time All-Star). He’s clearly the second-best player on the second-best team in the West. Green will make the team because media, players and coaches all love him as much as the fans do and will see he’s having his best year since his All-Star heyday.

Brandon Ingram

Ingram has a case to make it again this year, after being named by coaches as the last Frontcourt reserve two years ago. After a down year last year, he’s nearly matched his raw stats from the All-Star year, though his shooting and efficiency are well down.

Working against him is the loss of fan votes to buoy his case, and that the Pelicans are absolutely dreadful (16-27, 13th in West). We all know good scorers from bad teams are ignored by media and coaches.

Kristaps Porzingis

One-time All-Star Porzingis is having a bit of a rebound year in Dallas in that he’s staying relatively healthy. His numbers are basically the same as prior years when he didn’t make the team (20/8 with more than 1.5 blocks), but his shooting and efficiency are down.

Working for him is that the Mavericks have been pretty good of late, have risen to 5th in the West and have the 4th best defense in the league. KP will get some credit for that, especially with Luka getting negative press for his emptier stats this season and the Mavericks ability to stay afloat when Luka missed some time.

Can the 5th seed Mavericks end up with two All-Stars? SHOULD a 5th seeded team not named Lakers even have two All-Stars?

Jaren Jackson Jr.

Imagine JJJ making the All-Star team ahead of Deandre Ayton? Jackson isn’t getting a ton of fan love, or even much media love for an All-Star bid despite the Grizzlies scorching run up the ladder in the West to 3rd/4th with the Jazz.

Still, he’s at least the 3rd best player on a really really good Memphis team (you could argue Desmond Bane is #2 in Memphis) and he has become a lot of what we all expected coming out of college as an impact defender in space and at the rim, despite being foul-prone, rebound-allergic and not shooting it very well yet (only 31% on threes, 41% from the field). We will find out soon what the players and coaches think of Jackson’s candidacy when they vote.

Andrew Wiggins (3rd in fan voting)

As mentioned above, I’m out on Andrew Wiggins making All-Star this year. There’s just a ton of Warriors fans out there. They’re voting Klay too! Even if you were in love with his game so far this year, Klay Thompson is taking away a lot of those extra touches now. Wiggins productivity is back down to ‘good role player’ level (14 points per game).

Deandre Ayton (10th in fan voting)

Ayton is clearly the third-best player on the best team in the league and the best record over the last two years. He had a historic run on the league’s biggest stage last year, anchoring the otherwise-small Suns on their Finals run. He proved he can succeed against any lineup — small-ball or big-ball. For a national audience searching for any reason the Suns made the Finals at all, Ayton has been a major recipient of credit.

This year, DA has upped his numbers and developed a real offensive move with the baby hook to supplement his impressive defense, rebounding and pick-and-roll finishing.

And as mentioned above, the league’s best team often gets extra credit in All-Star selections. No one would be surprised to see the Suns with three All-Stars.

Ayton is 10th in Frontcourt voting among fans, and has been named on several national media podcasts as a last-in or first-out option in the West Frontcourt, even before considering injury replacements (like Book got the last two years).

The question is: how do players and coaches view Ayton? Do they see him as an All-Star? Are they negatively influenced by the Suns refusal to give him a max contract this past offseason? We’ll find out very soon.

Here’s the downside: DA could be hurt by his missed games this year. He’s only played in 28 of the Suns 43 games and this latest ankle injury on Sunday could linger right through voting time. Yet, despite missing 15 games, DA still has the 6th most Win Shares (which accumulate over the season) among West frontcourt players this season. Four of the other five are already mentioned as locks above (Jokic, Gobert, Towns, LeBron). The fifth, just ahead of Ayton, is Jonas Valenciunas of the lowly Pelicans, who has played 50% more minutes than Ayton this season.


What do you think, Suns fans?

The argument for Ayton to make the All-Star game — either by coaches vote or as injury replacement — is pretty strong, actually.

The team might initially be named with PG and AD as the 5th and 6th bigs, while the coaches’ wildcards go to the guards again.

But if those two, or any of the other four locks, miss the game and need an injury replacement, I believe it’s down to Draymond Green and Deandre Ayton getting the nod.

Dray’s got the pedigree for the first injury-replacement bid, while DA has the recent success of the Suns in his corner.

DA just might become an All-Star in his 4th season, just like we all expected eh?

Poll

Will Deandre Ayton end up named to the All-Star team?

This poll is closed

  • 56%
    Yes!
    (270 votes)
  • 43%
    No
    (206 votes)
476 votes total Vote Now

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