Ten of the 24 All-Star slots have been chosen. Fans, media and players each had a say in who got picked. It’s now on the league’s coaches to fill out the remaining spots. Snubs are expected, as they are every year, but some are sure to ruffle feathers.
The All-Star Game is an undignified popularity contest. I’d love to say I couldn’t care less who participates, but enough selections, or lack thereof, could make the difference on a potential hall of fame ballot.
For example, champion Jrue Holiday of the Milwaukee Bucks is one of the league’s best two-way guards. He’s been a pro for 14 years and was an All-Star once, along with four defensive team selections. Holiday’s squads have won seven playoff series. If he retired today, I fear voters five years from now wouldn’t show his career the respect it deserves because he wasn’t a regular at the game when he should have been. Never mind his pro averages of 16 points with six assists and four rebounds per game.
The Miami Heat’s Bam Adebayo is another stud who has gone unrecognized. He earned an All-Star bid in year three, the season Miami finished two wins shy of its fourth championship. In that campaign, he logged 15.9 points on 55.7% efficiency, along with 10.2 rebounds and 5.1 dimes a night. As a third-year player, 71.5% of his field goals were assisted.
Adebayo is much more polished offensively and a prolific scorer in the box. When he recognizes drop coverage with the ball, he takes a couple of dribbles and pulls up in the lane. After a pick, he’s waiting for the rock back to inflict severe damage on the rim. Through 46 games this season, Adebayo leads the NBA in points scored in the interior with 728.
A few years ago, Bam depended on teammates to help him score. This year, sixty percent of his field goals are assisted. He is now capable of creating his own shot.
He’s a legit 21 and 10 guy, plus a top-five defender in the league. In my book, those dudes are perennial All-Stars. In Adebayo’s case, he may not get in, and he’s been the best player on the team this year. He didn’t even get enough votes to show up on the first 10 names of the fans’ returns. That’s an indictment on Miami supporters for not voting enough for their guy. Leaving it up to the coaches is a coin flip.
The coaches who pick, of course, know more than the people covering the game for their careers or those watching for pleasure. But instructors watch film on the opponents the team is preparing for. Beat writers miss a lot of the action, too, when covering their team as a few games are going on.
The reason for making it or not might come down to the coaches watching enough film on Adebayo. Hopefully, in his case, they have because the tape is evidence of a big man who defends smaller forwards and guards at the perimeter. It shows a center that is the brain and backbone of Miami’s 2-3 zone.
The Heat’s best defenders next to Adebayo are Jimmy Butler, Victor Oladipo and Caleb Martin. Each of them has missed more time than #13. Butler has logged 36 of Miami’s 51 games. Oladipo has participated in 25 and Martin in 41. Adebayo has missed five games this year, but he’s been the most crucial reason the Heat have the best paint protection of 30 teams. His ability to stop the ball outside and bother a shot inside blows up opposing offenses.
Following Miami’s win at home over Boston on Jan.24, uncharacteristically, coach Erik Spoelstra said Adebayo should have been an All-Star last year and that he deserved it this season. “He missed five weeks. So what? He was playing at an All-Star level. There’s been other guys who have missed a month or five weeks and still got in…”
With the 14 remaining reserve spots set to be selected on Feb. 2, Adebayo has one more opportunity to show he belongs in the star-studded festivities. That will come on tour in Cleveland on Tuesday.