Who could become a first-time All-Star next season?
With seven players making their NBA All-Star game debut, the 2022 season represented somewhat of a changing of the guard within the realms of league stardom. Sure, the veteran Warriors won another title, but they defeated a young Celtics team in the Finals and an upstart Mavericks squad in the conference finals. A new era is just about upon us.
Whilst the 2023 All-Star Game, due to be held in Salt Lake City, Utah, likely won’t contain another seven men making their first appearance as an All-Star, there will be a handful of first-time participants.
Let’s take a look at some of those likely to be in the mix.
We’ll kick things off with the most obvious nomination.
Ant-Man has, in just two seasons, shown that he’s a superstar in the making. He’s an electric scorer able to light it up from deep or snatch a soul at the rim.
(Vendetta Sports extends our condolences to Yuta Watanabe’s next of kin).
After making an obvious splash in the offseason in an attempt to push themselves into the upper reaches of the perilous West, all eyes are going to be on the Timberwolves. There is potential for Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert to cannibalise each other statistically, so Edwards could emerge as the standout player on this young team.
Once he gets to the All-Star game, Edwards is the type of irrepressible offensive force that could take home an All-Star MVP, too.
Barnes’ rookie campaign bore all the trademarks of a star just waiting to emerge.
The 21-year-old is already a heady defensive player who could have a Defensive Player of the Year trophy in his future and was more advanced as a playmaker in his rookie year than many anticipated.
Playing for one of the NBA’s darling franchises in Toronto, a team expected to get better in 2023, Barnes and his Raptors will garner quite a bit of attention this season. This season, at least, Barnes is unlikely to get enough of the popular vote to force his way into All-Star starter status, but a coaches vote onto the bench is conceivable.
Perhaps the biggest roadblock to Barnes making his All-Star debut are teammates Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet. Siakam was a beast last season and should maintain his production assuming he stays healthy, whilst VanVleet earned his first All-Star nod. If Barnes is the third best player on the Raps next season, does he warrant consideration?
You could almost copy and paste the Barnes section for fellow second-year man Mobley.
A defensive savant with an offensive repertoire that is more developed than expected? Tick.
A team on the rise, full of exciting young talent? Tick.
A pair of teammates with previous All-Star appearances under their belts who stand in his way? Tickety, tick, tick!
Mobley faded badly as his rookie season wore on, though that could at least be partly attributed to Cleveland’s almost unfathomable injury issues. With a full team around him and another year of development, Mobley could move past Jarrett Allen as Cleveland’s second-best player this season.
If the Cavs find themselves on, say, a 45-win pace, is that enough for Mobley and Darius Garland to earn All-Star berths?
Oklahoma City Thunder
This selection is dependent on the Thunder’s willingness to legitimately compete in the upcoming season. Frankly, it’s time for the Thunder to try to win basketball games but given the brazenness of their tanking to this point, you just never know.
When SGA does actually play, he’s a stud. The 24-year-old Canadian has averaged around 24 points, five rebounds and six assists over the past two seasons, both heavily interrupted by ‘injury.’
Let’s assume for a moment that a Thunder team led by SGA, Josh Giddey, Lu Dort, Chet Holmgren and Aleksej Pokusevski (sorry – couldn’t help myself) are allowed to compete and find themselves sitting around the fringes of the top eight. That’s a legitimate feel-good story, right? Somebody from that team is going to gain some recognition and SGA is the obvious candidate.
In the loaded Western Conference, it still might not be enough to force his way in, but make no mistake, Gilgeous-Alexander is on the cusp of being an All-Star.
Fox has often flattered to deceive through his NBA career to date. His remarkable speed leads to numerous highlight reel plays, but his poor defense, spotty shooting and run-of-the-mill playmaking hold him back from being a true centrepiece.
Sacramento seemed to think along similar lines, taking point guards Tyrese Haliburton and Davion Mitchell in consecutive drafts, an apparent vote of “No Confidence” in Fox. The Kings front office – as is their wont – changed their minds last season, moving on from Haliburton and handing full control of the team back to Fox. To put it simply, he thrived.
His post All-Star break numbers (29.3 points, 7.5 assists, 50/37/73 shooting splits) are without doubt All-Star worthy. Fox developed an almost instant synergy with Domantas Sabonis — the prize for moving Haliburton — as the Kings offense flourished (though the less said about their defense, the better).
Assuming Fox can carry even 90% of that offensive production into the new season, his numbers will simply prove too overwhelming to leave on the sidelines come the All-Star game, despite the Kings again being expected to struggle.
Whilst Fox has benefited from Haliburton being moved, it’s fair to say that Haliburton himself hasn’t exactly suffered in his new surroundings.
In 26 games as a Pacer, the 22-year-old gave the Pacers 17.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, 9.6 assists and 1.8 steals with remarkably efficient 50/42/85 shooting splits.
Those raw numbers could actually improve due to a pair of factors: Haliburton’s increased comfort within his new system and the Pacers jettisoning incumbent floor general Malcolm Brogdon. There’s a series of other circumstances favouring him, as well. There is less depth of talent in the East; the young Pacers will be a story should they win more games than anticipates; his old school stylings will endear him to coaches; and he plays for the sort of small market franchise that tends to get All-Star recognition from commissioner Adam Silver, should an injury replacement be required.
Tyrese is clearly the man in Indiana. He’s a red-hot chance to make his All-Star debut in 2023.
New Orleans Pelicans
Soon to turn 31 years old, McCollum is the obvious outlier on this list.
It’s a nod to the ridiculous depth of strength in the Western Conference over the past decade that McCollum, who has averaged comfortably over 20 points a contest for the past seven seasons for some very good Portland teams, hasn’t come close to an All-Star nod.
After his trade to New Orleans at last season’s trade deadline, McCollum put up 24.3 points, 4.5 boards, 5.8 assists and 1.3 steals per game – each and all career highs, no doubt aided by not having to share the ball with Damian Lillard.
Brandon Ingram and – should he remain fit – the returning Zion Williamson will receive most of the accolades should the Pelicans continue their rise up the standings. Williamson, in particular, is a huge chance to get voted onto the All-Star team as a starter. The coaches, though, understand the impact that McCollum has had on his new team. If he posts similar numbers and the Pellies are in the playoff seedings, expect McCollum to finally break his All-Star duck.
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