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NBA PM: All-Time All-Star Snubs

Anthony Davis not making the All-Star team feels unfair, but not as unfair as these players missing out for their entire careers… Why Chicago needs to make D.J. Augustin part of their long-term plan…

Joel Brigham

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All-Time All-Star Snubs

Every year we have the same conversation about deserving players losing out on an opportunity to participate in an All-Star game, but while being slighted once is painful enough, getting passed over for the duration of one’s career can be borderline humiliating, as the players on this list discovered at the end of their time in the NBA.

A couple of these players still have a few years left to receive their opportunity, but as most of the other players on the list will confirm, time runs out really, really quickly in this league.

»In Related: Western Conference All-Star Snubs

Here are the best players that never were named to an All-Star squad:

Mike Bibby – Back in the early 2000s, when he was a member of the perennially awesome Sacramento Kings, Bibby was well-respected and generally accepted as one of the best point guards in the NBA. In 2004-05, for example, Bibby averaged 19.6 PPG and 6.8 APG for the Kings, which he followed up the next year by scoring a career-high 21.1 PPG and still dishing out 5.4 APG. Chris Webber, Peja Stojakovic and Vlade Divac all made All-Star teams during Sacramento’s hot run at the turn of the century, but Bibby never did, despite the fact that he was as deserving as any guy on this list.

Damon Stoudamire – While Stoudamire did most of his winning with the Portland Trail Blazers, he definitely did his best individual work as a member of the Toronto Raptors his first few years in the league, where he averaged 19 PPG and 9.3 APG his rookie season and 20.2 PPG and 8.8 APG during his sophomore campaign. His numbers dropped off considerably after the move to Oregon, but an argument could certainly be made that one of his first three seasons in the league deserved All-Star attention.

Marcus Camby – A former Defensive Player of the Year, Camby has seen success pretty much everywhere that he’s played. In 2006-07, as a member of the Denver Nuggets, Camby averaged 12.2 PPG, 11.7 RPG and 3.3 BPG, and there were some earlier years with New York that resulted in plenty of double-doubles and game-changing defense, as well. Truthfully, he’s not all that different from Tyson Chandler, who mercifully was named to his first All-Star team in 2013 despite being one of the NBA’s all-time defensive game-changers at the position. The difference between Camby and Chandler, though, is that Camby doesn’t look like he’ll ever get his opportunity.

Andre Miller – He’s just a backup point guard in Denver now, but earlier in his career, Miller was one of the league’s nastiest point guards for the Cleveland Cavaliers, L.A. Clippers, and Denver Nuggets. Of course, the common denominator is that those teams were awful when Miller played for them, and that compared with his general lack of athleticism and flash didn’t make him a particularly exciting addition to the midseason exhibition, despite the fact that his numbers support him as an All-Star. In 2001-02, for example, Miller led the league with 10.9 assists while chipping in 16.5 PPG and 1.6 SPG. That’s an All-Star point guard’s line if ever there was one.

Josh Smith – The only guy on this list with any real chance of getting himself off of this list, Smith is also the player with the most impressive statistical support for the All-Star appearance that has always been just out of his reach. As the only player in NBA history to average at least 15 points, seven rebounds, three assists, two blocks and a steal per game over the course of his career, Smith is a truly unique player, but for the majority of his career he’s been a forward that has been voted out in favor of bigger names at the position like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Chris Bosh. Chicago’s team success in recent years even resulted in Luol Deng making two straight All-Star teams from 2012 to 2013. Stats also aren’t everything, and Smith really doesn’t have the same star power as some of his colleagues. Whatever the reason, he’s still never been an All-Star.

Phil Ford – This is a guy from a different era, but Ford was the Rookie of the Year in 1979 and was actually named to the All-NBA Second Team that same season. His career sort of went downhill from there, but he’s one of only a handful of players in NBA history to have an All-NBA Team accolade to his name, but not an All-Star selection.

Rod Strickland – Despite the fact that Strickland said he wouldn’t show up for the All-Star game if he was ever selected to it, he unfortunately was never even given the opportunity to boycott the festivities. He made an All-NBA Second Team in 1998 and finished among the top 10 in the league in assists seven times in the 1990s. He was kind of a curmudgeon while he played, but was perennially underrated anyway. B.J. Armstrong has an All-Star appearance under his belt, but Strickland, clearly much more deserving, does not.

»In Related: Eastern Conference All-Star Snubs

While it hurts for some of the young guys that didn’t make the team this year, Andre Drummond and Anthony Davis clearly have several years’ worth of All-Star appearances ahead of them. Some equally deserving players, however, just never got the chance.

Augustin Could Be Long-Term Backup Solution in Chicago

Chicago fans were collectively rather sad when it became clear that John Paxson and Gar Forman would not be re-signing little-engine-that-could Nate Robinson last summer, but everybody seemed to understand that the money just wasn’t going to be there to pay for his return.

With Derrick Rose out for the entirety of the 2012-13 season, someone like Robinson was necessary. He showed how even a small point guard, if aggressive, could thrive in an offensive system designed for someone like Rose. He was, to put it bluntly, awesome in last spring’s playoffs. It was a perfect fit both for him and Chicago, and just having him around won the team a first-round series against the Brooklyn Nets they probably wouldn’t have won otherwise. But with Rose returning and Robinson looking for a bigger payday, it was inevitable that Robinson wouldn’t be re-signed.

»In Related: Chicago Bulls Salary Information

The Bulls had hoped that Marquis Teague would step into that Robinson role this season, but when that didn’t happen the team went ahead and signed D.J. Augustin about 20 games into the year.

People who know basketball rolled their eyes at the first 10-day contract because Augustin was a punchline in Indiana last season, but since joining the Bulls he has played some of the best basketball in his career. In 25 games this season, he’s averaged 13.7 PPG, 6.0 APG and 1.2 SPG, all of which are either career-highs or extremely close to career-highs. He’s also shooting 42.7 percent from three-point range, which has made him an invaluable asset for a team that is 26th in the league even with Augustin shooting so well.

Like Robinson before him, Augustin is undersized but capable and thriving in a system designed for a speedy point guard. Chicago is currently the fifth-best team in the Eastern Conference, only a single-game behind the third-place Toronto Raptors, but it’s hard to believe they’d be there without a capable point guard. Kirk Hinrich has missed about 20 percent of Chicago’s games this year due to injuries and Teague has been jettisoned off to the Nets. Meanwhile, Augustin has effectively kept the Bulls in contention for homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs, which is something very few people saw coming.

Unlike Robinson, though, Augustin isn’t likely to expect the kind of payday that Robinson thought he’d ultimately get last summer, which means Augustin could actually be affordable (and apt) as a long-term solution for the Bulls as the backup point guard.

Everyone in the game would love to see Rose come back stronger than ever next season, but based on the issues Russell Westbrook and Dwyane Wade are having this season in the wake of their own meniscus surgeries, this really isn’t the time for optimism. Rather, it’s time for practicality, and since Rose makes so much money the Bulls will need to find an affordable but capable backup should Rose miss extended time at any point over the remainder of his massive contract.

Augustin, clearly, can shoulder that burden. He can perform in their system, he can play with this group and he can live up to this coach’s lofty expectations. The Bulls won’t likely be priced out of holding onto him, but based on what we’ve seen the last two seasons from Augustin and Robinson (and Rose, for that matter), whatever Chicago has to pay is probably going to be worthwhile.

As we’ve already seen, this core of Bulls players can be a perennial playoff team without their best player, but only if the backup point guard is someone who can hold down the fort. Augustin has proven he can do that, and Chicago can’t afford to let him go the same way they did Robinson.

Joel Brigham is a senior writer for Basketball Insiders, covering the Central Division and fantasy basketball.

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Reviewing the Nurkic Trade: Denver’s Perspective

The Denver Nuggets have been on a miraculous run this postseason, but that doesn’t mean that they’re infallible. Drew Maresca reviews the 2017 trade that sent Jusuf Nurkic from Denver to Portland.

Drew Maresca

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The Denver Nuggets are fresh off of a 114-106 win over the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals, pulling within three wins of the franchise’s first trip to the NBA Finals. But what if I told you that the Nuggets’ roster could be even more talented by acting more deliberately in a trade from three years ago?

While Denver won on Tuesday night, they lost a nail bitter on Sunday – for which most of the blame has been pointed at a defensive breakdown by Nuggets’ center Mason Plumlee, who was procured in the aforementioned 2017 trade. What did it cost Denver, you ask? Just Jusuf Nurkic and a first-round pick.

Nurkic was a 2014-15 All-Rookie second team member. He played 139 games over 2.5 seasons in Denver, averaging 7.5 points and 5.9 rebounds in approximately 18 minutes per game. He showed serious promise, but Denver had numerous reasons to pursue a trade: he’d suffered a few relatively serious injuries early in his career (and he’s continued to be injury-prone in Portland), butted heads with head coach Michael Malone and – most importantly – the Nuggets stumbled on to Nikola Jokic.

The Nuggets eventually attempted a twin-tower strategy with both in the starting line-up, but that experiment was short-lived — with Jokic ultimately asking to move to the team’s second unit.

The Nuggets traded Nurkic to the Portland Trail Blazers in February 2017 (along with a first-round pick) in exchange for Plumlee, a second-round pick and cash considerations. Ironically, the first-round pick included in the deal became Justin Jackson, who was used to procure another center, Zach Collins – but more on that in a bit.

As of February 2017, Plumlee was considered the better player of the two. He was averaging a career-high 11 points, 8.1 rebounds and 4.0 assists through 54 games – but it was clear that at 27, he’d already maximized his talent.

Conversely, Nurkic was only 23 at the time of the trade with significant, untapped upside. In his first few seasons with Portland, Nurkic averaged 15 points and 9.8 rebounds per game, while establishing himself as a rising star. As noted above, injuries have continued to be a problem. Nurkic suffered a compound fracture in his tibia and fibula in March 2019, forcing him to miss a majority of this current campaign. The COVID-19-related play stoppage in March gave Nurkic extra time to get his body right, and he returned to action in July inside the bubble.

And he did so with a vengeance. Nurkic demonstrated superior strength and footwork, and he flashed the dominance that Portland hoped he would develop, posting eight double-doubles in 18 contests. He averaged 17.6 points and 10.3 rebounds per game and while his play dipped a bit in the playoffs – partially due to a matchup with first-team All-NBA star Anthony Davis – he still managed 14.2 points and 10.4 rebounds in the five-game series. So it’s fair to say that Nurkic is still on his way toward stardom.

But the Nuggets are in the conference finals – so all’s well that ends well, right? Not so fast. To his credit, Plumlee is exactly who Denver expected him to be. He’s averaged 7.5 points and 5.5 rebounds per game in three seasons with Denver since 2017 – but to be fair, Plumlee is asked to do less in Denver than he had in Portland. Still, it’s fairly obvious that they’re just not that comparable.

Plumlee is a good passer and an above-average defender that’ll compete hard and isn’t afraid to get dirty – but he has limitations. He doesn’t stretch the floor and he is a sub-par free throw shooter (53.5 percent in 2019-20). More importantly, he’s simply not a major offensive threat and his repertoire of moves is limited.

High-level takeaway: Defenses tend to game plan for opponents they view as major threats – Nurkic falls into this category. Other guys pack the stat sheet through putback attempts, open looks and single coverage alongside the guys for whom opposing defenses game plan – that’s a more appropriate description of Plumlee.

On to the wrench thrown in by Zach Collins’ involvement. Statistically, Collins is about as effective as Plumlee – he averaged 7 points and 6.3 rebounds through only 11 games in 2019-20 due to various injuries – and he possesses more upside. The 22-year-old is not as reliable as Plumlee but given his age and skill set, he’s a far better option as a support player playing off the bench. He stretches the floor (36.8 percent on three-point attempts in 2019-20), is an above-average free throw shooter (75 percent this season) and is a good defender. Looking past Nurkic for a moment, would the Nuggets prefer a 22-year-old center that stretches the floor and defends or a 30-year-old energy guy?

Regardless of your answer to that question, it’s hard to argue that Nurkic should have returned more than Plumlee, definitely so when you factor in the first-round pick Denver included. There is obviously more at play: Denver was probably considering trading Nurkic for some time before they acted – did they feel that they could increase his trade value prior to the trade deadline in 2016-17? Maybe. Further, Nurkic and his agent could have influenced the Nuggets’ decision at the 2017 deadline, threatening to stonewall Denver in negotiations.

Had Nurkic been more patient or the Nuggets acted sooner before it became abundantly clear that he was on the move, Denver’s roster could be even more stacked than it is now. Ultimately, the Nuggets have a plethora of talent and will be fine – while it appears that Nurkic found a long-term home in Portland, where he owns the paint offensively. Denver can’t be thrilled about assisting a division rival, but they’re still in an enviable position today and should be for years to come.

But despite that, this deal should go down as a cautionary tale – it’s not only the bottom feeders of the league who make missteps. Even the savviest of front offices overthink deals. Sometimes that works in their favor, and other times it does not.

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NBA Daily: They Guessed Wrong

Matt John reflects on some of the key decisions that were made last summer, and how their disappointing results hurt both team outlooks and players’ legacies.

Matt John

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It doesn’t sound possible, but did you know that the crazy NBA summer of 2019 was, in fact, over a year ago? Wildly, in any normal, non-pandemic season, it all would have been over three months ago and, usually, media days would be right around the corner, but not this time. The 2019-20 NBA season is slated to end sometime in early to mid-October, so the fact that the last NBA off-season was over a year ago hasn’t really dawned on anyone yet. Craziest of all, even though there will still be an offseason, there technically won’t be any summer.

Coronavirus has really messed up the NBA’s order. Of course, there are much worse horrors that COVID-19 has inflicted upon the world – but because of what it’s done to the NBA, let’s focus on that and go back to the summer of 2019. It felt like an eternity, but the Golden State Warriors’ three-year reign had finally reached its end. The Toronto Raptors’ victory over the tyranny that was the Hamptons Five – as battered as they were – made it feel like order had been restored to the NBA. There was more to it than that though.

Klay Thompson’s and Kevin Durant’s season-ending injuries, along with the latter skipping town to join Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn meant two things.

1. Golden State was down for the count
2. Brooklyn’s time wasn’t coming until next year.

A one-year window was open. Even if neither Golden State nor Brooklyn posed the same threat that the former did when it had Kevin Durant, those were two contenders out of commission. If there was a time to go all in, it was in 2019.

Milwaukee certainly seemed to go all in. For the most part.  Malcolm Brogdon’s departure seemed a little odd since he was arguably their best non-Giannis playmaker when they were in crunch time. Not to mention there was nothing really stopping the Bucks from keeping him except for money. Detractors will call out Milwaukee for electing to cheap out by not keeping Brogdon and hence, avoiding the luxury tax. However, there’s more to it than that.

Milwaukee thought it had enough with the core it had on its roster. Coming off the best season they had put up since the eighties, they believed the franchise built the right team to contend. There was an argument that keeping Brogdon may have been overkill with their guard depth – let’s not forget that Donte DiVincenzo did a solid job in Brogdon’s role as the backup facilitator. This would have been more defensible had it not been for Milwaukee picking the wrong guy to let go. That was the indefensible part- electing to keep Eric Bledsoe over Brogdon.

Bledsoe wasn’t necessarily a bad investment. No one’s complaining about an almost 15 point average on 47/34/79 splits or playing individual defense tight enough to get named on the All-Defensive second team. By all accounts, Bledsoe earns his keep. That is until the playoffs. Bledsoe’s postseason woes have been a weight ever since he first entered Milwaukee, and this postseason was more of the same.

Bledsoe’s numbers dwindled to just 11.7 points on 39/25/81 splits, and Milwaukee getting ousted in five games at the hands of Miami made his struggles stand out even more than it had ever been. Bledsoe may be the better athlete and the better defender, but Brogdon’s all-around offensive savvy and his only slight dropoff defensively from Brogdon would have made him a bit more reliable.

Milwaukee guessed wrong when they opted to extend Bledsoe before the postseason last year when they could have waited until that very time to evaluate who to keep around. Now they face a hell of a lot more questions than they did at the end of last season – questions that may have been avoided had they made the right choice.

Now they could have kept both of them, yes, but it’s not totally unreasonable to think that maybe their approach with the luxury tax would have worked and maybe they would still be in the postseason right now had they gone with the homegrown talent. And just maybe, there wouldn’t be nearly as much of this Greek Freak uncertainty.

The Houston Rockets can relate. They got bruised up by a team that everyone thought Houston had the edge on going into the series and then crushed by the Lakers. Now, Mike D’Antoni is gone. The full-time small ball experiment likely did not work out. Since the Rockets emptied most of their assets to bring in Russell Westbrook and Robert Covington, there may not be a route in which they can become better than they presently are.

The mistake wasn’t trading for Russell Westbrook. The mistake was trading Chris Paul.

To be fair, most everybody severely overestimated Chris Paul’s decline. He’s not among the best of the best anymore, but he’s still pretty darn close. He deserved his All-NBA second team selection as well as finishing No. 7 overall in MVP voting. OKC had no business being as good as they were this season, and Paul was the driving force as to why.

For all we know, the previously-assumed tension between Chris Paul and James Harden would have made its way onto the court no matter what. Even so, Houston’s biggest obstacle in the Bay Area had crumbled. If they had just stayed the course, maybe they’re still in the postseason too.

To their credit, none of this may have happened had it not been for the Kawhi Leonard decision. Had he chosen differently, the Thunder never blow it up, and Houston might have very well been the favorite in the Western Conference. Instead, the Rockets took a step back from being in the title discussion to dark horse. But at least they can take pride knowing that they weren’t expected to win it all – the Clippers can’t.

Seeing the Clippers fall well short expectations begs the question if they too got it wrong. The answer is, naturally: of course not. They may have paid a hefty price for Paul George, but the only way they were getting Kawhi Leonard – one of the best players of his generation – was if PG-13 came in the package. As lofty as it was, anyone would have done the same thing if they were in their shoes. They didn’t get it wrong. Kawhi did.

On paper, the Clippers had the most talented roster in the entire league. It seemed like they had every hole filled imaginable. Surrounding Leonard and George was three-point shooting, versatility, a productive second unit, an experienced coach – you name it. There was nothing stopping them from breaking the franchise’s long-lasting curse. Except themselves.

Something felt off about them. They alienated opponents. They alienated each other. At times, they played rather lackadaisically, like the title had already been signed, sealed, and delivered to them. The media all assumed they’d cut the malarkey and get their act together – but that moment never really came. They had their chances to put Denver away, but even if they had, after seeing their struggles to beat them – and to be fair Dallas too – would their day of destiny with the Lakers have really lived up to the hype?

Even if it was never in the cards, one can’t help but wonder what could have happened had Kawhi chosen to stay with the team he won his second title with.

Toronto was the most impressive team in this league this season. They still managed to stay at the top of the east in spite of losing an all-timer like Leonard. That team had every component of a winner except a superstar. They had the right culture for a championship team. Just not the right talent. The Clippers were the exact opposite. They had the right talent for a championship team but not the right culture. That’s why the Raptors walked away from the postseason feeling proud of themselves for playing to their full potential while the Clippers writhed in disappointment and angst over their future.

In the end, everyone mentioned here may ultimately blame what happened to their season on the extenuating circumstances from the pandemic. The Bucks’ chemistry never fully returned when the Bubble started. Contracting COVID and dealing with quad problems prevented Westbrook from reviving the MVP-type player he was before the hiatus. As troubling as the Clippers had played, the extra time they would have had to work things out in a normal season was taken away from them.

For all we know, next year will be a completely different story. The Rockets, Bucks, and Kawhi may ultimately have their faith rewarded for what they did in the summer of 2019 – but that will only be mere speculation until the trio can change the story.

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Looking Toward The Draft: Power Forwards

Basketball Insiders continues their NBA Draft watch, this time with the power forwards.

David Yapkowitz

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We got some updated NBA draft news this week when the league announced that several key dates have been pushed back including the draft, the start of free agency and the beginning of the 2020-21 season.

The 2020 draft was originally scheduled for Oct. 16, but it will now likely occur sometime in November. Obviously, with the COVID-19 pandemic still wildly out of control in the United States, all of these potential deadlines are fluid and subject to change.

With that said, we’re continuing our position by position breakdown here at Basketball Insiders of some of the top 2020 draft prospects. We looked at the point guards and shooting guards last week, and this week we’re covering the small forwards and power forwards.

The power forward crop, like the draft overall, doesn’t appear to be as strong as recent years, that doesn’t mean there aren’t potential contributors and high-level NBA players available, as well as one who might just turn out to be a star-caliber player.

Onyeka Okongwu, USC – 19 years old

Okongwu is the player who just might develop into a star on some level. He was actually underrated in high school and was snubbed for a McDonald’s All-American selection his senior year. He established himself early on at USC as the team’s best player as a freshman and now appears to have turned some heads.

He’s been mentioned as a lottery pick and in some mock drafts, he’s top 4-5. He possesses a great all-around skill-set; he can score in the post, he can put the ball on the floor and attack and he can shoot. But perhaps his biggest attribute is his versatility on the defensive end. He’s got quick feet and mobility and can guard multiple positions.

Okongwu might actually play center in the NBA, especially in small-ball lineups, but he’s mostly played power forward and so he’ll probably see time there in the league. His skill-set fits perfectly with today’s game.

Obi Toppin, Dayton – 22 years old

Toppin is one of the older players in the draft, and in recent history, players that age tend to slip on draft boards. In Toppin’s case, it looks like the reverse might actually be true. He’s been projected as a lottery pick, and even going in the top 3.

He’s an incredibly athletic player who thrives in the open court. He looks like he’ll do well in an up-tempo offensive system that has capable playmakers who can find him in transition. He’s extremely active around the rim and he can finish strong. A decent shooter too, something he’ll need at the next level.

Toppin has the physical tools to be an effective defensive player, but that’s where the questions marks on him have been. In the NBA, he’s likely going to have to play and guard multiple positions. Whether or not he can adapt to that likely will answer the question as to what his ceiling can be.

Precious Achiuwa, Memphis – 20 years old

Achiuwa is another intriguing prospect. this writer actually got to watch him play in person while he was in high school and he was very impressive. He looked like a man among boys. He’s projected to be a late lottery pick.

He has an NBA-ready body and he’s got some toughness around the rim and in the paint. He was a double-double threat during his one season at Memphis and his knack for rebounding is something that should translate to the NBA. He’s a very good defender too, in particular, as a rim protector. He’s very quick and has the ability to guard multiple positions.

One of the main knocks on Achiuwa is his shooting ability. He didn’t shoot that well in college and power forwards being able to space the floor is almost a requirement in today’s NBA game. It’s something he can certainly work on and improve on though.

Honorable Mentions:
Paul Reed, DePaul – 21 years old
Xavier Tillman, Michigan State – 21 years old
Killian Tillie, Gonzaga – 22 years old

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