6. Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
If defense could be quantified es easily as offense is, The Warriors’ starting power forward would be a shoo-in for New York City this February. A “stretch-four” who makes the opposition run around with his 34 percent mark from deep, Green does everything well except for the stuff that typically makes the highlight reels. An unusually mobile 230-pounder, he’s quite the bulky utility man, and an indispensable piece for the Western Conference-leading Warriors. Helping teams win and lose on a high level doesn’t always result in glitzy accolades, but if it did, Green would be a star.
5. Eric Bledsoe, Phoenix Suns
The Suns are still ahead of the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference standings, but with zero all-stars, they have two fewer than the Thunder’s über-famous Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. And while Phoenix wins with a full-out, balanced assault of speed, shooting and athleticism, one Sun has stood out just a little bit more than the rest of them: Bledsoe. The 6’1” University of Kentucky alum is leading his team in points, steals and assists, nightly flustering other point guards with the uncanny court power that earned him the nickname “Mini LeBron.”
4. Tyson Chandler, Dallas Mavericks
The 33-17 Mavericks are four games better than they were this time last year, and right in the mix with the No. 6 seed amidst a historically potent Western Conference. But, like the Suns, they’ll have no representatives in this year’s exhibition game in New York. Chandler has been a terrific rim-protector for Dallas, and his typically productive self as a pick-and-roll finisher, clocking in with the second-highest NBA field goal percentage at .676. Tyson is just what the Mavericks have needed, and the Western All-Stars would have him along for the ride if their squad was a reflection of the truest difference-makers.
3. Nikola Vucevic, Orlando Magic
Because he plays on a bad team in year three of a transitional phase, Magic center Nikola Vucevic is still unknown to most casual fans. But he’s one of the best post-up scorers in the league, averaging 19.4 points per game as he regularly overwhelms other big men with his 7’0”, 260-pound frame and fancy touch around the rim. When Orlando’s unseasoned roster matures around him and the Magic (hopefully) bring in a defensive-minded coach, it’ll be real hard to keep Vucevic from the league’s shiny February summit going forward.
2. Kyle Korver, Atlanta Hawks
Kyle Korver’s having one of the best shooting years of anyone, ever. If he stays above 90 percent from the free-throw line, 50 percent from three, and 50 percent from the field (as he currently is) Korver will enter a new stratosphere of marksmanship that he can call all his own. So why isn’t he an All-Star? The 40-9 Hawks certainly have their fair share of ballers headed to NYC with Al Horford, Paul Millsap and Jeff Teague selected for the game, but perhaps the Eastern Conference coaches erred when they didn’t throw Korver onto the team as well.
1. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
The biggest snub of all has, of course, already let the world know how he feels about his exclusion. Here’s what Lillard put out on his Instragram account, after being left off the team last week:
Lillard’s made the fifth-most threes of anyone in the league this season, and he frequently drains them at will when it comes to crunch time. “Videogame Dame” has rightfully earned a reputation as one of the game’s most fearsome closers, and if he’s truly so motivated after being spurned by the league, then the Western Conference has a lot to be afraid of on his upcoming revenge tour.
— John Wilmes