By Sam Hyman
Jennings has been fantastic this season. Even in the absence of a former top overall draft pick in center Andrew Bogut, the Bucks have ridden Jennings to an unexpectedly respectable record and remain right in the thick of the playoff hunt.
Instead of Jennings, the final guard spot went to New Jersey Nets point guard Deron Williams. In a standard draft, there is no doubt that Williams (one of the league’s top talents) would be taken ahead of Jennings. That being said, this is not a standard draft. For starters, the Nets have been pitiful this season; so bad that they do not deserve an All-Star selection, no matter the individual performance. Individually, Williams’ performance so far this year could not be more misleading. While his 21 points and 8.5 assists per game seem impressive, the measly 41 percent shooting from the field and league-leading 4.2 turnovers per game are simply horrendous.
The debate over snubbed players in the Western Conference is much more difficult as it pits individual performance against team success. While the Dallas Mavericks and Denver Nuggets are two of the NBA’s top teams, neither team has any one player who deserves to be on the All-Star team. For the defending champion Mavericks, Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki was selected as this year’s token struggling veteran All-Star. Nowitzki is undoubtedly one of the league’s premier players but his play so far this season has been down-right atrocious. More importantly, after sitting out for a week of the season because he admittedly came into camp out of shape, to select him as an All-Star is a slap in the face of his hard working and more deserving counterparts.
In Dirk’s place as one of the reserve forwards, Utah Jazz power forward Paul Millsap would be the obvious choice. While carrying a team who many experts picked to finish dead last in the NBA to playoff contention, the oft-underappreciated sixth-year bruiser has built on last season’s breakout year. Naturally undersized for the position and as one of the game’s true workhorses, Millsap has put together a solid all-around line of 16 points, 9.5 rebounds, and two assists per game. If there was ever a chance to reward individually hard work and an overachieving team, this is certainly it.
After Millsap, other potential snubs include forwards Rudy Gay and Pau Gasol along with guards Kyle Lowry and Monta Ellis. While cases can be made for all four players, none are as deserving as Millsap and no other All-Star selection is less deserving.
There always are and always will be arguments for the snubbing of certain players around All-Star time. Sometimes these arguments are worthy and sometimes they are not.
Whether the actual picks were right or wrong, there is no denying the performance thus far of Jennings, Millsap and Smith and it is truly a shame that they were not justly recognized.