The Western Conference might not be all that top-heavy this season, but it’s filled with good teams, which means there are a correspondingly high number of great players leading those teams. The Clippers are one of these good teams, but differ from most of the others in that they don’t have a superstar leading the charge. Instead, they’ve won games off depth and well-rounded efforts from across the roster. However, sitting comfortably in 8th place with the trade deadline and All Star break coming up, it seems like they “deserve” an All Star.
The first question is which player on the Clippers has earned the potential spot. Early in the season, it seemed like it was Tobias Harris’ spot to lose. Then, Danilo Gallinari made gains due to his defense, consistency, and incredible efficiency. Now, in recent weeks, Lou Williams’ overall impact and sense of irreplaceability has pushed him forward, despite his inferior production and defense. For me, the Clippers’ All Star (if they get one) should be Tobias Harris.
Lou and Gallo have both missed a handful of games this season, while Tobias Harris has played in every contest. Tobias is the leading scorer and rebounder on the team, with the rebounding being particularly important. The Clippers struggle to rebound as is, and Tobias stepping up in that regard has been huge all season. Gallinari leads Tobias in most advanced metrics, and if he’d played as many games as Tobias, I’d probably give it to him. But Tobias’ consistency and availability has been crucial, and so he gets the nod, 4th quarter struggles or no.
The next question is whether Harris should get a spot, period. The All Star teams have 12 players apiece, with the 5 starters already chosen. That leaves seven spots, with two guards, three forwards, and two wildcards. Instead of making an argument for Harris, it makes more sense to go the other way and figure out who should definitely be on the team.
Damian Lillard is a lock as one of the guards, with his effortless scoring and improved overall play leading the Blazers to a top four seed once more. Similarly, Nikola Jokic is the best player on the second-best team in the conference, and has carried the Nuggets to the top of the standings even with many of his key supporting cast missing significant periods of time. Anthony Davis might be on his way out of New Orleans, yet his numbers are staggering, and he’s an absolute lock to make the squad as well. With those three in, that leaves one guard, one forward, and the two wild card slots. The final guard spot doesn’t really matter for Tobias, but for me it goes to Jrue Holiday, who has been an absolute beast for the Pelicans, despite their disappointing season.
The next two in for me are Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert. I don’t care about the Wolves being mediocre. Towns putting up 23, 12, 3 assists, 1 steal, and 2 blocks per game on ridiculous efficiency (and with good defense) makes him an undeniable All Star to me. Gobert’s raw production isn’t all that impressive, but 15 points, 13 rebounds, and Defensive Player of the Year level impact on the other end makes him another easy candidate. The spots, without that much effort, have been whittled down to just one.
This is where it gets really tough. Russell Westbrook, LaMarcus Aldridge, Tobias Harris, De’Aaron Fox, Luka Doncic, and Steven Adams are all in the mix for me, and there are a handful of other players who coaches might vote for as well. While I think Tobias is right there with these guys, based on the numbers, it would be hard for him to make the game. Russ and LMA, in particular, probably have an edge on Tobias from the coaches’ vote. Aldridge is averaging similar points per game, more rebounds, and is a superior defender. Westbrook is putting together yet another triple-double season, though his shooting efficiency has been so atrocious that he’s in the “maybe an All Star” category. Still, he just produces a lot more than Tobias does, and has done so on a team that’s been extremely good all season. In the end, I’d probably give the nod to Westbrook, with Harris second and Aldridge shortly behind.
Tobias Harris has been very good this season. If he were in the Eastern Conference, he’d make the All Star team no problem. But in the West, I think he falls just a bit short, as do the other Clippers who might possibly get votes for the roster. However, if there are injuries, I presume that Tobias will be one of the first names to get called upon by Adam Silver, and he’s worthy of that honor. It’s been a fantastic season for Tobias, and it would be awesome if he hears his name called as a reserve tonight. I just don’t know if it’s in the cards.