The reserves for the 2018 NBA All-Star game were announced on Wednesday, and much to the dissatisfaction of many Aussie basketball fans, Ben Simmons missed the cut.
The versatile point guard has enjoyed a historic start to his NBA career, posting statistics in the early part of the season that are matched only by the likes of Hall of Famers Oscar Robertson and Shaquille O’Neal.
Typically, recording five triple-doubles in the opening three months of the season while being an integral part of a Philadelphia squad that’s finally bearing the fruits of a half-decade long tank would lend itself to an All-Star berth. However, such is the current talent of the NBA, that Simmons’ prolific season still failed to land him a spot in the world’s best exhibition game this season.
Many are considering Simmons’ omission as a snub, but those that made the game ahead of the Aussie have justified their place in the event with outstanding resumes so far this season. There is no Eastern Conference player named as a reserve on Wednesday that fans would call undeserving of All-Star honours, over Simmons.
The issue isn’t that Ben Simmons is an All-Star snub. The problem is that five, six, or even seven players will miss out on the All-Star game in Los Angeles, when their resumes dictate they could easily be playing. For basketball fans and the NBA, the plethora of talent is an amazing issue to have.
The All-Star reserves are decided by the league’s coaches, and their selections must consist of two backcourt players, three frontcourt players, and two wildcards whose position is not a factor. Simmons, being a point guard, was lumped into the backcourt pool with the likes of Kyrie Irving, DeMar DeRozan and John Wall. Both Irving and DeRozan were voted in as starters, leaving Simmons with the opportunity to make it as a backcourt reserve or wildcard.
The coaches elected to bestow Indiana’s Victor Oladipo and Washington’s Bradley Beal with their first All-Star selections, while perennial All-Star guards Kyle Lowry and John Wall also made the game for the fourth and fifth time, respectively.
Toronto’s Kyle Lowry is currently averaging just 17.0 points per game, his lowest mark since being traded to the Raptors in 2012. However, Toronto are rolling through the regular season at 31-14 and currently occupy the second seed in the East. Lowry’s evolution into a more tactical floor general and playmaker is a big reason why the Raptors enjoy an offensive rating of 109.9, fourth best in the NBA. Combine that with the fact Lowry is averaging over six rebounds and six assists, and it’s easy to see why the coaches elected to go with him.
Victor Oladipo has been the surprise player of the season to this point. Having been traded from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Pacers as part of the Paul George deal in the off-season, Oladipo has become one of the most better two-way players in the league. The explosive guard is currently putting up 24.2 points, 3.9 assists and 5.9 rebounds per contest while shooting over 40 percent from downtown. On the defensive side of the ball – an area that Oladipo excelled in during his formative years in the league – his play has been notable. This was perhaps the easiest reserve selection the coaches had to make in the Eastern conference.
Fellow first time All-Star Bradley Beal is currently averaging a career-high 23.7 points per game on 45 percent shooting and has been a beacon of consistency for the Wizards all year. In Washington’s 47 games so far this season, Beal has posted at least 20 points in 35 of those contests, including a 51 point game against Portland in December. Beal’s backcourt partner John Wall may be the most questionable inclusion on the list due to missing 11 games through injury and having a statistically down season as compared to last year, averaging 19.3 points and 9.2 assists. Still, the former number one overall draft pick continues to be exceptionally dynamic on both ends of the floor when healthy and the Wizards are 21-15 with him in the line-up while compiling a record of just 5-6 without his services.
Who could have realistically make way for Ben Simmons in the All-Star game?
Simmons is posting 16.3 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.2 assists on 51 percent shooting from the field. As of this writing, the Sixers are 23-21 and sit seventh in the East. The Aussie came out of the blocks in historic fashion, but his numbers have dipped across the board since November.
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Could Simmons have made the All-Star squad over John Wall? Absolutely.
Should he have? It’s honestly a tossup.
The NBA is bursting at the seams with talent and superstars. There could be an entire third All-Star team made up of players who missed out this season that wouldn’t be out of place in the exhibition game; Ben Simmons, Paul George, Andre Drummond, Chris Paul, Lou Williams, Goran Dragic – the list goes on.
If Simmons continues his career trajectory he will undoubtedly be Australia’s first NBA All-Star, and it’ll probably happen next season. This year though, Simmons fell victim to the absurd quality of the NBA, which is nothing to be ashamed of.