In the NBA, a big part of legacy comes down to All-Star selections.
While Michael Jordan is remembered for his six NBA Title wins, he’s also held in mythical regard for his 14 All-Star selections.
Lebron James, too, who’s three rings are complemented nicely by his 15 All-Star selections.
But while some players make it an annual tradition to be in the NBA’s midseason showcase, others are trying to make it for the first time.
Whether they’re established veterans or rising stars on the precipice of superstardom, an All-Star selection changes the way we perceive players and the way their career is looked back on.
With that said, 2020 should be a year when we see a couple players receive the honor for the first time. With player movement between conferences over the offseason and injuries to some of the game’s best, most notably Kevin Durant, there is room for a first-time selection to make it to Chicago for NBA All-Star 2020.
Let’s take a look at the 5 most likely candidates.
Donovan Mitchell, G Utah Jazz
Third year could be the charm for Donovan Mitchell. For the first time in his young career, the Louisville product is surrounded by enough playmakers to make the Jazz a real contender in the West and propel him into his first All-Star Game.
Mitchell’s problem has never been production —he’s averaged 22.1 points per game in his first two seasons — but rather the fact that he plays in a conference stacked to the brim with backcourt talent.
But now Mitchell has more help than ever with the offseason addition of Mike Conley from Memphis. While Conley may naturally stifle some of Mitchell’s production, the influx of another top backcourt talent will make the Jazz better and put more of a spotlight on Mitchell. It will also aid in his development massively, especially in a year when many are expecting Mitchell to make the jump to stardom.
Devin Booker, G Phoenix Suns
There’s a storied quote that goes like this: “If Devin Booker puts up All-Star stats for three consecutive seasons but the Suns are bad enough that nobody notices, did he really put up All-Star stats?”
Booker’s career already has produced a lifetime of hot takes. One half of the NBA population thinks it’s a crime that he hasn’t received All-Star honors yet, while the other half sees him simply as a player exploiting a bad team to produce high numbers.
This season could shine some light on what is actually true.
The Suns will not be playoff contenders this season, with a .500 record as their absolute ceiling, but Booker is not stranded dearth of talent like in previous seasons. Top pick DeAndre Ayton is entering is second season in Phoenix and the Suns acquired both Ricky Rubio and Dario Saric over the offseason.
While the Suns won’t win a lot of games, they’ll be more competitive than they have been over the past half-decade. And that is where Booker can shine. As the main offensive force on the team, Booker’s 26 points per game will look a lot better this season (if he gets there) than they did for the Suns a year ago.
The All-Star Game isn’t all about stats, but at some point, a player needs to be rewarded for carrying a team on his back.
Jayson Tatum, F Boston Celtics
Jayson Tatum will have several eyes on him this season.
After a rookie campaign that helped led the Celtics to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2018, Tatum’s stock took a dip after a good, but not great, second season — we’ll call it a sophomore slump. He wasn’t bad by any means, in fact his numbers were much better, but expectations were sky high for the Duke product last year.
But after a wild offseason in Boston, Tatum has more of a chance than ever to become the “guy” for the Celtics. Kyrie Irving is gone, and new point guard Kemba Walker has stated clearly that his goal is to help progress the younger talent on the team, which Tatum is the highlight.
We know a few things: Tatum will get more minutes; he’ll have the ball put in his hands and he’ll put up more shots. If he can capitalize on those three things, plus show the naturally progression of his ability to drive the lane and make contact, he could become the Celtics go-to offensive facet.
He may be a long shot, but in an Eastern Conference that’s begging for new talent to arise, Tatum could be the one to stand out among the young pack.
Rudy Gobert, C Utah Jazz
When Rudy Gobert is finally selected to an All-Star team, it’ll be the feel-good moment of the year.
After being considered the headline “snub” of the 2019 All-Star Game, Gobert broke down in tears in his next press conference. After being named All-NBA Second Team, All-NBA Third Team and a 2-Time Defensive Player of the Year, Gobert is waiting for an All-Star selection to complete his resume.
And in a similar case to Mitchell, his candidacy will be tied to the Jazz’s success. If Utah emerges as a threat in the West with Gobert leading the charge down low, it’ll be hard to avoid him once again. The numbers will be there, the status is already there, and the fans simply want to see the ‘Stifle Tower’ in Chicago in February.
C.J. McCollum, G Portland Trailblazers
What may have been lost in the insanity of the NBA Playoffs last year was that C.J. McCollum went berserk for 15 straight postseason games.
While normally considered the second fiddle to Damian Lillard in Portland's backcourt, McCollum reminded the world of his skills after averaging 24.7 points per game during the Blazers run to the Western Conference Finals, including 41-, 37-, 33- and 30-point performances.
McCollum’s play not only brought Portland deeper into the playoffs than the franchise has been in over two decades, but also reminded everyone that he’s one of the most unappreciated offensive threats in the league.
The West will be ultra competitive for roster positions, but McCollum could find himself fitting into the spot left open by Klay Thompson, who will miss the 2019-20 season while recovering from a torn ACL.
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