We are already more than one-third into the NBA season and the All-Star break will be here before we know it. Not only are the Utah Jazz in position to make the Playoffs for the first time since the Spurs swept them out of the 2012 Playoffs, but as the current 4th seed in the West, they are also in position to have its first All-Star since Deron Williams in 2011. As a 4th seed, the Jazz are likely to have at least one and maybe two All-Stars. With how stacked the Western Conference is, the big question for Jazz fans is if both Hayward and Gobert aren’t selected, which player would be left home? Would it be leading-scorer, Gordon Hayward or defensive anchor, Rudy Gobert? Let’s look at the likely All-Star roster and the case for each player.
Rosters are made up of 4 backcourt, 6 front court, and 2 wildcards. The Center position in no longer recognized and two Centers are not required to make the team. The trouble is the competition in the West is stiff. Locks in the West backcourt include Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Chris Paul, arguably the four best guards in the NBA. Locks in the front court include Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, and DeMarcus Cousins. That leaves 2 front court spots and 2 wildcard spots for Gobert and Hayward.
Because the backcourt slots are basically taken, Hayward and Gobert are essentially competing against each other for one of the final four spots. Other notable players competing for these spots include:
Marc Gasol, Grizzlies
The Grizzles are the sixth seed and Gasol has been their best player. I’d be surprised if in the end, Gasol wasn’t on the squad. He’s averaging a career high 19.5 points along with 6.1 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.6 blocks, and 1 steal. He has also extended his range to three shooting 41.5 percent from three and hitting 43 more so far this season than his next closest season.
Damian Lillard, Blazers
Lillard has certainly put up All-Star numbers, but for a team many were picking as a top five or six team in the West, the Blazers have underperformed. Time will tell if the coaches take that out on Lillard. Seems to me that his 27 points, 6.2 assists, and 4.5 rebounds per game will be enough. His Defensive Rating is also a career-worst 115, that is really, really bad. To put that in perspective Harden’s career-worst Defensive Rating is 108.
LaMarcus Aldridge, Spurs
Typically top three teams in each conference get two All-Stars. The Spurs have the league’s second best record and it is likely that Aldridge, the Spurs’ second best player, and his underwhelming numbers (17.4 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2 assists, and, and 1 block) will make it. His point and rebound averages are lower than any of his last five-seasons (All-Star seasons).
Klay Thompson, Warriors
If ever they is a time a team will earn four All-Stars it is when there is clearly a team with the league’s best record and there are four legitimately deserving players. Thompson sits on the bubble, which is crazy considering his explosive 60-points-in-three-quarters display earlier this season. Still, Thompson does little more than score and his scoring, assisting, rebounding, and shooting numbers are all down from his last two All-Star seasons. Also, his Defensive Rating is worst than any season since his rookie year.
Draymond Green, Warriors
Draymond may be the Warriors’ most important player. If the coaches value that over stats, then Draymond will make his second straight appearance. His scoring, assists, and rebounds are all down from last year. His shooting numbers are down 4.4 percent from the floor and 6.1 percent down from three. I would be surprised to see Draymond on the team.
Blake Griffin, Clippers
Will this be the third straight year that Griffin missed out on the mid-season classic? Averaging 21.2 points, 8.8 rebounds, 4.7 assists on 48% shooting, will it be enough when he has already missed 10 games and the Clippers have slipped in the standings?
The Case for both Jazzmen:
Playoff teams generally get an All-Star, sometimes two. Elite teams get three All-Stars and rarely four. The Jazz will get one for sure, but after looking at the other candidates I can’t help but think that both Hayward and Gobert will make the team. One factor that will determine how many All-Star pots the Jazz will get is how many Warriors will get the nod. If the Jazz earn one All-Star, I can’t help but believe it should be Rudy Gobert. I always thought Gordon Hayward would be the next Jazz All-Star and I hate to think I would be in the position of pushing one player down to make a case for the other. The truth is, both are All-Star worthy, but when I watch the Jazz, Rudy Gobert is the Jazz’s best player. The Jazz’s identity is defense and Rudy is the defensive anchor, while also being the best defensive player in the league. Gobert has a league-leading 97 Defensive Rating while also leading the league in field goal percentage, second in blocks, and fifth in double-doubles. Gobert has been better than Gasol, Lillard, Aldridge, Thompson, Green, and Griffin.
Hayward is averaging 22.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1 steal. Hayward’s numbers are better than Gasol’s, but Gasol is his team’s first All-Star and will get the nod before a second Jazz All-Star. I think the coaches will give the Spurs a second All-Star before the Jazz. That makes Hayward competing for the last spot against Lillard, Thompson and Green. His numbers are not better than Lillard’s, but the Blazers are 15-21.Hayward’s numbers are better than Thompson and Green’s, but the Warriors are 30-5. That means for Hayward to make the team, he’ll need to be an injury replacement. Let’s hope someone ahead of Hayward isn’t available for the All-Star game.