With voting now open, it’s time to start thinking about the 2017 All-Star game in earnest. Contests like these are historically meaningless, often nothing more than an exhibition meant to showcase the league’s best talent. That being said, though, selecting which players in the league deserve to go is an exciting and often contentious process.
As always, many fans will vote for their hometown team’s best players, hoping to see multiple representatives from their favorite franchise on the court. This year there are several new layers to the voting process, which will combine results from fans, media members, and players themselves. This is aimed at producing a more balanced vote, and at ensuring that less popular (but still talented) players have an equal chance at making the team.
Unfortunately for Atlanta fans, it is extremely unlikely that the Hawks will have multiple players in the All-Star game. Paul Millsap seems like the only likely player to get an invitation, and even his presence is hardly guaranteed.
Part of what is holding multiple Hawks back from having a chance at the All-Star game is the team’s inconsistency this year. Dennis Schröder is one of the best examples of this inconsistency, as he has turned in several up-and-down performances so far. While he has started to play at a consistently higher level recently, his body of work as a whole is still well removed from All-Star status.
For Kyle Korver, Dwight Howard, and Kent Bazemore, an appearance in New Orleans is also unlikely. Howard has put together a perfectly fine season so far, but hasn’t been enough of a focal point on either offense or defense to make an All-Star bid likely. He still has the big-name appeal that his reputation guarantees, but faces a steep challenge to break into the upper echelon of the East’s frontcourt options. Despite rebounding and defending reasonably well, his All-Star case is a little too thin to merit likely consideration.
Bazemore and Korver are much less likely than Howard to receive an invitation. Bazemore has struggled for the entirety of the season, while Korver is playing below his career averages. Each player can be a key contributor on a good team, but not at the level of an All-Star.
Millsap, on the other hand, has easily been the most important and consistent player on Atlanta’s roster. He has provided necessary scoring throughout the season, but his case for being an All-Star hinges on his defensive prowess. Millsap ranks in the top-20 in multiple defensive categories (per Basketball-Reference), and is playing at an expectedly-high level all around.
There are several challenges to Millsap’s chances, though. Many of his numbers are down from last year — his shooting percentages have suffered across the board — and several players in the East have improved from last season. Millsap is one of the best forwards in the East, but it’s difficult to argue that he is definitively better than Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jimmy Butler (when he plays that position), or Paul George right now. Millsap received an All-Star invitation on the second unit last season, and any bid this year will likely take the same path.
Even with slightly-worse numbers than he recorded last season, Millsap has a strong case for being a top-10 player in the Eastern Conference. His chances of making it to New Orleans are a little lower than they were last year, both because of a slight decline and of other rising talents, but he is easily the Hawks’ best chance of receiving an All-Star game invitation.