The 2022 NBA All-Star weekend has finally arrived. With such a turbulent season, the league as a whole seems grateful for a break from the daily grind of the regular season.
Despite sitting comfortably at the top of the league at 48-10 and winning 18 of their last 19 games, even the Phoenix Suns are looking forward to the time off.
“We have time to, as coach [Monty Williams] would say, get your cup full and just recharge our bodies and get ready for post-break,” said All-Star guard, Devin Booker.
But the All-Star weekend is not just a break for the players. It is a celebration of those who have performed at an elite level. Sunday’s All-Star game will showcase the best in the game today, and Friday night’s Rising Stars tournament will showcase the best to come in the years ahead.
Now in theory, Saturday’s 3-Point Contest should showcase the best long-range shooters so far this season. But when this year’s participants were announced on Feb. 8, Suns fans must have wondered: where the hell is Cam Johnson?
The same question on the mind of Suns All-Star guard Chris Paul.
“You would think with our team being No. 1 in league it would be nice to get some more representation from our team,” Paul said to reporters last week after practice. “Not to take [anything] away from the other guys... but that’s a problem. That’s crazy.”
As of Feb. 18, Cam Johnson is 24th in 3PM with 134 three-pointers made and 5th in 3P% with 43%.
Johnson’s 3PM may suggest he was not snubbed. But as of Feb. 18, only four of those picked for the contest are among the top twenty in 3PM (VanVleet, Mills, Bane, and Young), with Kennard above Johnson in 22nd and LaVine tied with Johnson for 24th.
Additionally, only four of the above are among the top twenty in 3P% (Kennard, Mills, Bane, and Towns), with Kennard as the only participant with a higher 3P% than Johnson at 44.8%.
Just based off the raw numbers, C.J. McCollum and Karl-Anthony Towns seem to have the weakest cases for their inclusion. While McCollum has only played in 41 games and could point towards his 3PM per game, which currently places him 9th in the league at 3.1 per game, his 3P% of 38.9% currently places him well below his peers at 43rd. As for Towns, being the lone ‘big man’ among the leagues top shooters might be his case.
However, this is not a case of Johnson specifically being snubbed. Rather, this just illustrates how difficult it is to select the best long-range shooters in today’s game when seemingly everyone is capable of hitting threes at a good percentage. Per NBA.com, 74 players are currently averaging 2+ made threes a game this season (min. 30 games played), 54 of whom are shooting above 35%.
Just five years ago, only 36 players finished the 2016-2017 season averaging 2+ made threes a game(min. 50 games played), 28 of whom shooting above 35%. Five years earlier, merely 11 players finished the 2011-2012 season averaging 2+ made threes a game (min. 50 games played) and only 8 of them shot above 35%.
When considering which of the league’s leading three-point shooters were snubbed, it is safe to assume that the Warriors’ Steph Curry would not or did not accept an invitation to this year’s 3-Point Contest. Despite winning last year’s edition and currently leading the league in 3PM with a whopping 251 threes, Curry is already a two-time winner in the contest and seven-time participant. And maybe the newly-minted Pacer Buddy Hield was looking forward to spending time with his family over the break and also declined an invitation, as he did last year, passing on the opportunity to defend his 2020 trophy.
But surely the likes of Evan Fournier (170 3PM on 39.4%), Anfernee Simons (162 3PM on 40%), Gary Trent Jr. (153 3PM on 39.7%), and the aforementioned Cam Johnson would have jumped at the chance to compete. And in regards to Trent Jr., he previously stated he would take the trip down to Cleveland if invited.
As for Johnson, he seems to have taken the decision with the graciousness and maturity that Suns fans have come to expect from the third-year wing from UNC.
“Ah, yea well, what can you say, right?” Johnson said while laughing. “[I] just try to prove it on the court, but again, it’s not about 3-point shooting. You don’t win games on that weekend.”
“The big thing for me is just to continue making [3-pointers] in the games [ahead]. That’s way more important.”
On a far less important note, here is whom I would have invited to compete in this year’s 3-Point Contest. Since this is my fantasy contest, I am reverting back to the 2019 format and inviting 10 players:
- Fred VanVleet, Toronto Raptors
- Patty Mills, Brooklyn Nets
- Evan Fournier, New York Knicks
- Anfernee Simons, Portland Trail Blazers
- Desmond Bane, Memphis Grizzlies
- Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks
- Gary Trent Jr., Toronto Raptors
- Luke Kennard, Los Angeles Clippers
- Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls
- Cam Johnson, Phoenix Suns
Despite Johnson’s remarkable 3P%, he ultimately only made my list because I expanded the participants from 8 to 10, and because McCollum missed so many games, as he missed 19 games recovering from a collapsed right lung.
Thoughts, Bright Siders?