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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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NBA Daily: Youth Fueling San Antonio

Gregg Popovich has typically relied heavily on his veteran players. Now, he has a cast of young talent that is fueling a Spurs resurgence. Chad Smith puts the spotlight on the rising stars in San Antonio.

Chad Smith

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Last season was strange for everyone, but especially San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich. It was the first time in his 25-year tenure that his team missed the playoffs. Heck, it was the first time his team ever finished with a losing record since he took the job in 1996. But, in spite of that season and the fact that Popovich will turn 72 next week, his motivation and excitement are still there.

Popovich has done it and seen it all during his time on the bench. From winning five NBA titles to coaching countless Hall of Fame players along the way. His list of accomplishments is endless, but the coaching job he is doing this year might just rank right near the top.

Most teams around the league are either primarily comprised of young and inexperienced players or made up mostly of veterans who know how to manage the game. You won’t find many that have a nice mixture of both, let alone having the talent that the Spurs seem to have. Their roster doesn’t have an All-Time great player, either; you won’t find a Tim Duncan, David Robinson, Manu Ginóbili or Tony Parker here. They have a great veteran duo, to be fair — both DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge are capable of playing at a high level — but neither can be asked to carry a team at this stage of their respective careers.

It is Popovich’s job to take those ingredients and cook up something special. And it’s here where his and San Antonio’s player development abilities shine through.

The 2019 NBA Draft was oozing with talent at the top with guys like Zion Williamson, Ja Morant, and RJ Barret taking the spotlight. And while no one wants to miss out on the postseason, their down year could have been a blessing in disguise for Spurs, who have long had a knack for plucking hidden gems in the first round. Dejounte Murray, Derrick White and Keldon Johnson were all drafted by the Spurs as the 29th overall selection.

And this season, while White has only played one game because of an injury, it has been the duo of Murray and Johnson that has been the spark for a reinvigorated San Antonio.

Murray, in particular, is finally having the breakout season that many envisioned. He has improved his scoring average by five points per game and is posting career-high averages in rebounds, assists and free throw percentage. Not only is he hitting the free throws, but Murray is also getting to the line more often instead of settling for mid-range jumpers.

As good as Murray has played thus far, it has been Johnson’s emergence that has been turning heads around the league.

Not many players from the loaded 2019 draft have busted onto the scene in their second year quite like Johnson has. After appearing in just 17 games last season, the former Kentucky product has elevated his game to new heights. So far this season he is averaging 14 points and seven rebounds while starting every game for San Antonio.

While his minutes and shot attempts have greatly increased in his new role, Johnson has maintained an efficiency that has allowed him to blossom. The Spurs desperately need some floor spacing, as they rank in the bottom five of the league in terms of three-point shot attempts; Johnson’s ability to shoot both vital to their strong start and has been heavily relied upon with guys like DeRozan, Murray and Aldridge all making their living in the mid-range area.

Johnson also has the tools and intelligence to make a major impact on the defensive end of the floor. His large frame allows him to guard bigger players and take contact, while his length and athleticism make him a great closeout defender. Popovich has relied on him heavily in their games where they’ve had to face the likes of LeBron James, Christian Wood, Pascal Siakam and former Spur Kawhi Leonard.

White’s prolonged absence has opened the door for another youngster, Lonnie Walker, who has flourished with the opportunity. There is a reason San Antonio took him with the 18th overall pick a few years ago and, now, he seems to be putting it all together. His scoring and efficiency have drastically improved, while his patience and understanding of what is happening on the floor seem more apparent.

Walker has always had elite-level athleticism, but he has worked on his jump shot and finishing ability at the rim. He has been one of their best scoring options this season, capable of putting up 20 points or more on any given night. Walker and Popovich have given much of the credit to Murray’s leadership.

The 24-year-old point guard seems to be establishing himself as the leader of this team. His patience running the offense and finding teammates in half-court sets has been crucial. Their transition game has been thriving as well, with their young guys getting downhill and putting pressure on defenders. They rank in the top-five in terms of drives per game, as Popovich has emphasized the importance of getting to the rim and creating open shots for others.

Another statistic that Popovich has to be thrilled with speaks volumes about the growth of his backcourt: the Spurs turn the ball over less than any other team in the league. In fact, they are the only team that commits fewer than 10 turnovers per game.

Confidence plays a major role in how well a player develops. And it appears as though Popovich has instilled confidence in Murray and Walker, which has enabled them to take off. Johnson’s confidence was evident last season, where he erupted in his final games at the bubble in Orlando.

Just as he has injected confidence into his young guys, Popovich has channeled patience and better decision-making into DeRozan as well. No longer is he forcing up shots and shying away from the three-point line. It may have taken a bit longer than many expected, but Popovich may have molded DeRozan into the best version of himself.

Whether attacking their talented trio of young players or a veteran like DeRozan, Aldridge or Patty Mills, San Antonio is going to be a tough team to keep down or put away. The Western Conference is stacked once again but, while they may roster the same names as last season, this Spurs team is vastly different.

And, if they continue to grow and trust one another, there could be another playoff run on the horizon for Popovich and San Antonio.

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Will The Pacers’ Change In Style Pay Off?

With deals and changes abound, the Indiana Pacers’ wild rebuild marks them as a franchise on the rise.

Ariel Pacheco

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After coming off four consecutive first-round exits under head coach Nate McMillan, the Indiana Pacers decided it was time to make a change. Instead of dismantling or retooling a core that had been acquired mostly by opportunistic deals, general manager Kevin Pritchard went in a different direction and, early into the season, it seems like it has paid off. 

Under Nate Bjorkgren, the Indiana Pacers have dramatically transformed their style of play. Many of the mid-range jumpers they took last season have turned into shots at the rim or three-pointers instead. There are a lot more dribble hand-offs, staggered screens and an overall sense of purpose in every action on offense. The offense has operated like a well-oiled machine, largely with Domantas Sabonis acting as the main engine. 

This has led to Sabonis’ play and potential being unlocked. Ultimately, Sabonis is well on his way to another All-Star appearance, averaging career highs in points (21.7 PPG), rebounds (12.8 RPG) and assists (5.8 APG). While his usage is similar to last season’s, the way he’s being utilized is very different. With McMillan, Sabonis was mostly used as a post-up big who also scored a lot as a roll-man. Bjorkgren is giving him those same touches but he has also a lot more free reign to operate and make decisions.

Sabonis is now attacking teams in semi-transition after defensive rebounds. Basically, all the offensive actions are run through him, which have accentuated his passing ability. His range has also improved, and he’s turned his 20-foot jumpers into three-point attempts. Moreover, it’s a huge part of the reason why the Pacers rank 11th in offensive rating (111.3). Sabonis is a walking mismatch who can play almost any role in an offense and Bjorkgren has let him roam free.

Better, Malcolm Brogdon is also playing at an All-Star level. He’s averaging 22.2 points per game along with 7.5 assists per game, both career highs. Brogdon’s shooting 43.3 percent from three and is another player who’s benefitted from Bjorkgren’s offense. Brogdon’s ability to shoot threes while dribbling off screens and the ability to attack out of dribble hand-offs has allowed for the Pacers’ offense to be far less predictable than in the past. 

Myles Turner is probably in the lead for Defensive Player of the Year so far. He’s averaging an insane 4.2 blocks per game, practically shutting down the paint for opposing offenses. Turner has been relegated to a mostly spot-up role in the offense, but those mid-range jumpers from last season have become three-pointers to this point. While he has struggled to hit three’s so far, his shot quality is considerably better. However, his value comes on the defensive end, where he is anchoring the 9th best team in defensive rating at 107.8. Opponents are shooting just 54.4 percent in the restricted area when Turner is in. Although his recent hand fracture will surely complicate proceedings there and the Pacers will miss him sorely.

The Indiana bench has also provided some good minutes. Doug McDermott is effective not only with his jumper but with his underrated cutting ability. Justin Holiday has been solid and is shooting 43.1 percent from three. His brother, Aaron Holiday, has had his ups and downs but built himself into a solid rotation player. Naturally, TJ McConnell has been his usual pesky-self. 

There’s still plenty of room for upside as the Pacers have dealt with injuries to some key guys. TJ Warren, last season’s bubble breakout star, is out indefinitely after having foot surgery. Jeremy Lamb tore his ACL last season, is close to returning but hasn’t played a single minute this season. The Pacers’ newest addition, Caris LeVert, will be out indefinitely after a small mass was found on his kidney. All three are proven guys who can really help Indiana take the next step.

Sadly, it gets more difficult with Turner’s injury too.

Interestingly enough, many of the players have seemingly gone out of their way to not only express their appreciation for Bjorkgren’s coaching – while also knowing the difference compared to years past. Brogdon, Sabonis and McDermott have all seemingly made it clear that this style of play is preferable to last year under McMillan. 

“In seasons past, the offense didn’t call for me to do those certain things,” Turner said “But coach has a lot of confidence in me… I’ve just had the chance to show it this season.” 

Questions about the Turner-Sabonis pairing now seem to have gone away. It’s no secret that Turner oft mentioned in trade rumors the entire offseason in large part due to his perceived fit with Sabonis. Bjorkgren has found a way to maximize both player’s skillsets while also keeping them happy with their roles. Bigger, Pacers’ lineups with Sabonis and Turner have a 2.5 net rating. 

The improved play of the Indiana stars is something that can be attributed to Bjorkgren’s shift in their style of play. It’s what Pritchard was hoping for when he made the coaching change. The Pacers made a calculated gamble when they fired a proven coach with this roster in Nate McMillan and now the Pacers are 8-5 with room to grow. If Sabonis and Brogdon can continue this level of play as guys come back healthy, the Pacers will be a team no one wants to face come playoff time.

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Myles Turner Making A Difference With Defense

The Indiana Pacers have always been a good defensive team, but Myles Turner is on a mission this season to take them to an elite level. Chad Smith takes a closer look at the impact Turner has had as the anchor of Indiana’s defense.

Chad Smith

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This week has been a roller coaster ride for the Indiana Pacers, who are returning home after splitting a four-game West Coast trip. It was supposed to be five games but their matchup with the Phoenix Suns was postponed due to contract tracing within the Suns organization. On their day off between games, Indiana traded away All-Star guard Victor Oladipo as part of a four-team blockbuster that sent James Harden to the Brooklyn Nets.

What they got in return seemed too good to be true, until it was. Acquiring a young and talented player like Caris LeVert, whom they originally drafted and subsequently traded to Brooklyn, took many people by surprise. With Oladipo not planning to return next season, it was a brilliant move by Indiana, especially when you consider LeVert’s upside and his team-friendly contract. On top of that, the Pacers also received a 2024 second-round pick (via Cleveland), a 2023 second-round pick (via Houston) and $2.6 million from the Nets.

Unfortunately, the Pacers’ medical staff discovered what the team described as “a small mass” on LeVert’s left kidney while undergoing a routine physical. The good news for LeVert is that this was found and he can begin whatever treatment is necessary for him to return to playing basketball at some point. For now, though, the Pacers will employ the “next man up” philosophy. The team has already lost TJ Warren indefinitely and have been without Jeremy Lamb all season. Now Myles Turner may soon join them on the sidelines.

Myles missed his first game of the season on Sunday due to an injury on his right hand. He met with team doctors on Monday and early reports are that he has a slight fracture in his right hand and will be re-evaluated in the coming days.

In that game against the Los Angeles Clippers, the absence of Turner was glaring. Even without Serge Ibaka and Lou Williams, the Clippers shot 55 percent from the floor and 49 percent from behind the arc. Nearly half of their 129 points came in the paint as they destroyed the Pacers by 33 points, in a game that wasn’t even that close. Indiana had just two blocks in the game and even those came in garbage time.

When Nate Bjorkgren was named the Pacers’ new head coach back in October, many around the league wondered what that meant for Turner. Would the experiment next to Domantas Sabonis come to an end? Were his days as a Pacer now numbered? A rumored sign-and-trade deal with the Boston Celtics for Gordon Hayward never came to fruition, but that ended up working out well for both Myles and the Pacers organization.

When the Pacers selected Turner with the 11th overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, the opinions on him were split. While many saw the raw, unlocked potential that he possessed, others were skeptical of his lack of lateral movement and, of all things, the way that he ran up and down the court.

Draft evaluators were concerned that his awkward running style would lead to long-term effects on his knees. In a breakdown by Draft Express, they noted that “His awkward running style might not change anytime soon. He noticeably lumbers getting up and down the floor, and only made five field goals all season in transition situations.” That was in reference to his Freshman season at Texas, where Turner averaged 10 points, seven rebounds and three blocks per game while shooting 46 percent from the field.

Fast forward to 2021, where Turner is having arguably the best season of his career. While he is scoring at the same level, he has improved several other facets of his game. He is shooting the ball with more confidence, attacking the basket more off the dribble and even hitting the offensive glass. While his three-point shooting is down largely due to more attempts, his work in the paint has him shooting a career-high 63 percent from inside the arc.

Obviously, the blocks are what really pops out, as he leads the league at 4.2 per game. That is staggering when you consider the next best is Rudy Gobert at 2.7 per game, while Chris Boucher is the only other player averaging at least two per game. By comparison, when Turner led the league in blocks during the 2018-19 season his average was 2.7 per game. Entering Sunday’s slate of games, Turner was actually averaging more blocks per game than six teams.

Following a game earlier this season, Turner elaborated on his goals for the year: “It’s definitely been a goal for myself to start the season off strong on the defensive end. I’ve gotten the respect as a shot-blocker in this league. I know it’s something that I do. But I’m trying to take that to the next step.”

“I’ve already proven that you can lead the league in blocks and not make an All-Defensive team or not be Defensive Player of the Year. So it’s time to do more and assert myself more on that end.”

Turner has had four games this season with at least five blocks, including two games where he stuffed the opponent eight times. His defensive prowess is much more than just blocking shots though; he’s averaging a career-high 1.5 steals per game so far and has had seven games in which he recorded at least two steals.

Indiana’s offense will continue to run through Sabonis and Malcolm Brogdon, who are both playing at an All-Star level this season. But, as much attention as those two have gotten, it’s the defense that has really shaped this Pacers team.

The loss of assistant coach and defensive guru Dan Burke was a concern before the season began. The truth is the Pacers are much more aggressive on defense now, playing further up on the perimeter. This is the same scheme that Bjorkgren and Nick Nurse incorporated with the Toronto Raptors. Ibaka played that role last year and this season it’s been Boucher, who currently ranks third in the league in blocks behind Turner and Gobert.

With Sabonis often guarding the opponent’s biggest/strongest player, Turner is left to defend more on the perimeter. This is a real challenge given his disadvantage against smaller, quicker wing players. To his credit though, Turner has stayed in front of them. And that is what makes his shot-blocking even more impressive; every game and on multiple possessions, Turner is essentially guarding two players by himself for seconds at a time.

Since Turner’s rookie season, only three players have blocked more shots than he has. He ranks 15th in the league in deflections and is top-five in terms of defensive field goal percentage at the rim. Indiana’s defensive rating is a 107.7 when he is on the court and a 111.3 when he is on the bench. These are the signs of a truly elite defensive player.

And, with Turner as their defensive anchor, the Pacers have a scary three-headed monster that could ultimately be a nightmare for the top teams in the Eastern Conference this season.

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