Dejounte Murray is an All-Star. He made it to the game as an injury replacement for Draymond Green and will be the first Spur to get the honor since LaMarcus Aldridge in 2019. It’s a huge moment for the young guard, who’s been playing at a high level all season, and for fans, who will get to see him share the court with the league’s best players.
Few reasonable people will object to his selection as a replacement, since he was the obvious choice, but now that we know he’s in, it’s time to ask if it was fair for him to have to wait for the commissioner to select him after fans, media and players failed to do so.
Was Murray originally snubbed? If so, who would you have taken out of the team to make room for him?
Mark Barrington: I think he deserved to be an All Star this year, but if you look at the Western Conference guards chosen as reserves, it’s hard to make the case that he deserved the spot more than any of them, because all of them are really good, and have been consistently good for a long time. Murray’s performance this season is as deserving as Donovan Mitchell’s in my opinion, but the Jazz are winning a lot more games than the Spurs, and winning does count for something, so I’m not too upset that he was chosen before Dejounte. The only player who doesn’t really belong is Andrew Wiggins, who is having a nice year, but isn’t really an All Star. I get it that the NBA is driving fan involvement with letting fans vote for All Star starters, but it just means that there are always a few undeserving invitations from big market teams. I don’t know how you fix that, but maybe if you expanded the All Star roster to 15 players instead of 12, it would reduce the impact of the fans choosing undeserving players.
Marilyn Dubinski: While Murray definitely deserved to be an All-Star, it’s hard to argue his case over any of the other reserves who made it. Chris Paul and Devin Booker deserve it as the leaders of the best team in the league (and one of them should have been starting over Andrew Wiggins), and the Jazz’s superior status in the standings gives them a leg up as well. While Murray shares a distinction with Luka Doncic as being the only players averaging 19-8-8 in the league, Doncic’s 26 points per game win the day. Perhaps the main argument for Murray over another reserve is the injured Draymond Green, so it’s not surprising to see him make it in his place.
Bruno Passos: He was snubbed in the sense that there are always snubs. Wiggins getting in threw everything off and led to a musical chairs situation with the reserves, and it makes sense that Murray’s lack of team success, national exposure and status left him out. The ASG rosters should absolutely be expanded, not just to lessen the number of worthy players making the cut but because it mitigates the impact of inclusions like Wiggins and makes a fan-oriented event more accessible to more fanbases, which is all it should be about anyway.
Jesus Gomez: I can’t really call it a snub because the other players either have comparable numbers or played for superior teams. No Spurs fan complained when Tim Duncan made it in 2014/15 mostly because San Antonio had a great record, so I’m not about to discredit Chris Paul for his spot. It’s just how this things work. Wiggins is the one guy that probably shouldn’t be there instead of Murray, but Dejounte shouldn’t be a starter either.
It’s just unfortunate that someone who is playing at an All-Star level — and Murray absolutely is — has to wait for the official nod and will have an asterisk next to his name, but it’s happened before and will happen again, because there is a finite amount of spots. Hopefully Murray will continue to play at a high level in future seasons and make it in outright, either because the Spurs are good or because he has truly established himself as household name.
J.R. Wilco: The last time I believed one of the Spurs was being blatantly snubbed was Tim Duncan for DPOY in 2013. There are always cases to be made for too many fringe all stars than there are spots on the team. DJ has a good case to be named, and so do any number of other guys — but I sure am glad he’s able to take the spot that Green can’t. Can’t wait to see what he does with whatever minutes he gets.
Speaking of snubs, Devin Vassell didn’t make the Rising Stars game. Was he wronged? If so, who’d you take out of team to make room for him?
Barrington: Among the second year players, he’s better than about half of the players who made it to the Rising Stars roster. I would probably choose Jae’Sean Tate from the Rockets, but he could replace just about any of the sophomores besides LaMelo Ball, Desmond Bane, Ant, Halliburton, Saddiq Bey or Cole Anthony and I wouldn’t raise an eyebrow. A lot of the remaining guys you could argue that they are on a par with Devin, but they aren’t objectively better.
Dubinski: His snub was more surprising. Just going on stats alone, Vassell is having a better season than Jaden McDaniels, Isaiah Stewart, Precious Achiuwa and Isaac Okoro, and of those players only Okoro is on a team (Cleveland) that is having a much better season than the Spurs. Perhaps the key to Vassell’s snub is he has not been starting, while the other four have all started at least half of their games this season, and between that and the Spurs lack of coverage, he was probably somewhat forgotten.
Passos: I was a bit more surprised by his exclusion, and it’s not just because I wrote a long-ish thing on him last week. He’s within the top 12 in most stats among 2021 picks and, just like Murray, I think he was hurt by the team’s lack of exposure. It felt like he had a better case than guys like Precious Achiuwa or Isaac Okoro, although the former may have gotten in due to a lack of bigs and the latter because the event is in Cleveland.
Gomez: It’s a minor snub, because Vassell has better numbers that some of the guys that made it and the Rising Stars Challenge, unlike the All-Star game, is supposed to be about individual performance and not team quality. For that reason, it would have been nice to see Vassell’s improvement and willingness to fill a specific role be rewarded. Ultimately, not starting probably hurt his chances and the positional restrictions certainly didn’t help him, but it is a little strange to see Okoro make it over Devin.
Wilco: You could make the case that the Rising Stars Challenge is designed to showcase players who are Stars and are Rising. While I believe that Vassell is a better player than Achiuwa and Okoro (or is at least having a better year than either) the fact is that he’s not a Star on his team. Bottom line: he’s a good player that’s coming off the bench for a middling-at-best small market team that’s lost 63% of its games. I’d say snub is an appropriate word to use for Devin’s treatment, but look at how few people thought Kawhi was anything special this far into his second year.