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Harden, Davis, Brunson... the All Star Game’s big absentees

As is habitual every year, the selections for the All Star Game provoke controversy with several big name stars left out - Harden, Davis, Trae, Brunson...

Like every year, the selections for the All Star cause their small dose of controversy and leave several stars out. Harden, Davis, Trae, Brunson...

It happens without fail every year. Sometimes there is no justice in sport, and that applies to the NBA’s All-Star Game. The team selection for this month’s All-Star Game left out a host of star players who some felt should have been included, fuelling the debate: Who deserves to go and who doesn’t? Who has been unfairly omitted, ignored and who is to blame... While in previous seasons the selection has seemed clearer, it’s worth looking at some of the more notable players who were excluded in this edition.

James Harden (Philadelphia Sixers)

Probably the most notable absentee from the list - particularly because he has been a regular feature in this event have starred in 10 consecutive editions. NBA MVP in 2018 and Top Scorer on three occasions, the change from Houston to Brooklyn and his subsequent course to Philadelphia seem to have diminished the reputation of a star who has not counted for either coaches or fans despite being much better than last year, averaging 21.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 11 assists. His partnership with Joel Embiid is delivering good results for the Sixers (33-17), who are third in the Eastern Conference, and the shooting guard looks more focused and more in tune with his team mates. Tyrese Haliburton, the only one who could have made way for Harden of course, also deserves a place - just like The Beard.

Anthony Davis (Los Angeles Lakers)

Injuries have prevented the Lakers star from going to the All Star Game, but he could well have been there based on his performances when he has played, especially during November. From the 13th of that month to December 4, he averaged 35.3 points and 15.6 rebounds. This season he is 26.8 + 11.9, moving in numbers similar to his stage in the Pelicans and when he won the ring with the Lakers. Domineering and in incredible shape, he missed up to 20 games in a row due to injury. In the end that is what stopped him from entering the All-Star Game along with his Lakers team mate, LeBron James, who will be there. He has been present eight times in the big event, which he last attended in 2021.

Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler
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Miami Heat forward Jimmy ButlerDAVID JENSENAFP

Jimmy Butler (Miami Heat)

It seems that Florida moves in a parallel universe that is extremely difficult to access, but the truth is that few fans make reference to them. Perhaps that is what happened to Butler, or simply that it was not his time. The power of the Celtics (Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown were going to be listed for sure) and the foreign competition prevented the forward from sneaking into an All Star Games that he has played six times, including last year. A player with grit and character, the mud and the trenches are the places where he feels most comfortable, but he does not give up anything and is the sports and spiritual leader of some Heat that are not doing badly (29- 24, sixth of the Eastern Conference). He leads the NBA in steals (2.1 per night) and averages 22 points, 6 rebounds and nearly 5 assists per game.

Trae Young (Atlanta Hawks)

The problems that were starting to surface at Atlanta, a potential pressure cooker about to explode, have diminished the vision that people had of a Trae Young who has already positioned himself against his coach, Nate McMillan. The 2021 Conference finals now seem an ephemeral mirage and the situation is not positive for the Hawks, who are eighth in the East (26-26), but destined to (if they make it past the play-in), fall in the first round. A very low ceiling for a player who was fighting to live up to Luka Doncic and mark an entire generation, something he is doing only by halves while public opinion is against him. He has been to the All Star twice and averages 27 points and 9.9 assists.

Anthony Edwards (Minnesota Timberwolves)

Wolves are not doing well, that’s a fact. Yes, Anthony Edwards is: but the situation in which the Minnesota franchise finds itself means that they have are no representatives at all in the All Star Game. No Rudy Gobert or Karl-Anthony Towns. Of course, nobody was betting on the centers getting called but some people who placed Edwards in the running. The forward suffered from great initial indolence and publicly complained about the team’s momentum, but his attitude has improved and he has achieved career highs in points (almost 25), rebounds (6.1) and assists ( 4.6), in addition to improving his field goal and three-point percentages. The team resists in the heart of the West (28-26), but they neither generate sympathy nor count for the ring. Edwards deserves to go but, for now, he will have to wait another year. That’s just the way it is.

New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson
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New York Knicks guard Jalen BrunsonWendell CruzUSA TODAY Sports

Jalen Brunson (New York Knicks)

Luka Doncic's former teammate narrowly missed out on the All Star . As in the case of James Harden, Haliburton has stayed ahead, like Jrue Holiday, so the Madison genius will not be able to play his first All Star. Nor will Julius Randle, his reviled partner, a good friend of empty statistics but capable of sneaking into the big event in 2021 and 2023. Brunson averages 22.8 points and 6.2 assists, but the great competition and the timid record of the Knicks (28-25, seventh in the Eastern Conference) don't help. If he continues like this, he may be worthy of the event in the future.

Pascal Siakam (Toronto Raptors)

The Canadian Raptors are left unrepresented in the All Star Game despite almost 25 points, 8 rebounds and 6.2 assists from an extraordinary, huge, enormous Pascal Siakam - the undisputed leader of his team and famed for his soccer skills (see above). His improvement in the distribution of the ball is notable, as well as the increase in his shooting range. He was an All Star in 2020, but hasn’t been back since. As in the case of Brunson, he may be affected by his team’s poor record: 23-30 and 12th in the Eastern Conference.

De’Aaron Fox (Sacramento Kings)

The Kings’ resurrection of the Kings has come with another bonus: Domantas Sabonis will go to the All Star Game. However, his fans will surely not be very happy that De’Aaron Fox has been left out of the list. The talented point guard is savouring a magnificent season (24.3+4.3+6.1), he has barely missed a game (he has played 47 out of a possible 50) and the Kings have settled in third place in the Western Conference (29- 21), with a successful Mike Brown on the bench - and Fox, who demonstrates his talent week in, week out. Of course, he faced a lot of competition in his position: Luka Doncic, Stephen Curry, Ja Morant, Damian Lillard... All of whom kept him out.

Devin Booker
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Devin BookerChris GraythenAFP

Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns)

To a degree, Booker’s absence came as less of a surprise as the rest, but it is notable nevertheless. His partner, Chris Paul, who had 12 selections, is off the hook after suffering a drop in form, unsurprising at 37 years of age. But Booker will be able to go in the future. But not this year, in which he averages 27.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists, mainly because of the Suns’ record (27-26). The Suns have gone unnoticed this season and their problems have mounted. That said, Booker has been left out on this occasion. Whether he should have gone or not, is subjective. The debate will continue...