All-Star Weekend 2016 is a scant six months away, but now is as good a time as any to start discussing which players might find their way to the big midseason exhibition for the first time this February.
This isn’t a list for players like Kevin Love or Derrick Rose, who have made All-Star teams in the past but took a step back in recent seasons for whatever reason; this is about players who have not yet made an All-Star team at all. This week we’ll go division by division to take a look at which players might have their big breakout campaigns, and we’ll start today with the Central Division.
Here’s a look at a handful of players from the Central who could make their first All-Star team this winter:
Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons – It would have been really easy to include Drummond on last year’s All-Star squad, especially considering he spent the entire year among the league leaders in rebounds (13.5 RPG) and blocks (1.9 BPG). Both of those numbers were career highs, as was his scoring (13.8 RPG), and he saw that uptick in production playing almost two full minutes per game fewer than the season previous. The Pistons stunk last year, however, which took Drummond out of serious consideration the same way it kept DeMarcus Cousins from initially making the West roster. This year, though, Drummond will either be too good to keep out no matter how good or bad the Pistons are, or the Pistons will be good enough to make sure he gets the credit he deserves.
Greg Monroe, Milwaukee Bucks – Like Drummond, Monroe had a career year in Detroit last season, averaging career highs of 15.9 PPG and 10.2 RPG in 67 games, and while it’s been a few years since he shot over 50 percent from the field for an entire season, he always ends up pretty close to that number and should be either a more efficient scorer, or a more frequent scorer in Milwaukee next season. Either way, he’s arguably the best player on that team (for now), and if they find themselves among the East’s top four or five teams, he seems like the most likely player to find his way to the All-Star game.
Reggie Jackson, Detroit Pistons – Jackson took a lot of heat this summer for earning a contract that puts him on par with John Wall, but it’s not like his numbers last season after being traded to Detroit were mediocre. In fact, they were downright John Wall-like; Jackson averaged 17.6 PPG, 9.2 APG and 4.7 RPG in 27 games after finding his way to the Motor City, and that would put him among the league leaders in assists and near the top of point guards in terms of scoring and rebounds. Like everybody else mentioned so far, a lot of this falls on winning, but if Jackson plays as well for a full season as he did for 27 games this past spring, he’s going to be in the All-Star conversation, even with a very crowded field of talented Eastern Conference point guards, which coincidentally does include John Wall.
Monta Ellis, Indiana Pacers – While it certainly does feel like Ellis should have made at least one All-Star game by this point in his career, the reality is that he has not, though his tenure in Indiana may give him his best opportunity in years. It’s been five seasons since Ellis topped 20 PPG, but it’s also been a long time since he played for a team that needed his offensive consistency as badly as Indiana does. He’s averaged as much as 25.5 PPG over the course of a season before, and while that seems like a high expectation, it certainly wouldn’t be crazy to expect him to top 20 PPG and solidify himself as Indiana’s best scorer. Paul George is back this year, so it’s not like Ellis is the only option, but leading an improved Pacers team should be enough to get Ellis back in the All-Star conversation for the first time in years.
Not Yet, But Down the Road…
Jabari Parker, Milwaukee Bucks – It’s hard to project a guy as an All-Star when he’s only got 25 NBA games under his belt, but Parker is the real deal and it seems like only a matter of time before he solidifies himself as a perennial visitor to All-Star Sunday. He’s young and recovering from a knee injury, but the potential is there. Give it another year or two.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks – Parker’s teammate is just as young but has quite a bit more NBA experience, which should put him just a little bit closer to All-Stardom. Antetokounmpo made strides in his sophomore campaign, nearly doubling his scoring average to 12.7 PPG while also hauling in 6.7 RPG, but those aren’t quite All-Star numbers. His potential is limitless but he still has quite a bit to learn.
Nikola Mirotic, Chicago Bulls – Whenever the Chicago Bulls move on from Taj Gibson and/or Pau Gasol and/or Joakim Noah, Mirotic is going to slide into the starting lineup and very likely dominate as one of the more talented stretch fours in the league. He’s older (24) despite his lack of NBA experience, which means he can handle big minutes and All-Star attention, but the opportunity and minutes just aren’t there yet. Rest assured, though – they’re coming.
Which other players in the Central Division do you think could break out as an All-Star this season and beyond? Leave your thoughts in the comments section, and stay tuned this week for the same sort of analysis on the other five divisions.
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