Predicting All-Star 2015’s biggest snub


Kyle Korver is facing a three-month recovery time following surgery. (John Bazemore/AP)

NBA All-Star Weekend may still be the better part of a month away, but with the starters set to be announced during tonight’s TNT pre-game show, we’ve officially entered “The Lead Up,” that period of endless discussions over snubs, undeserving wins and a host of other perceived injustices.

Yes, it’s trivial subject to argue, but that’s not going to stop us debating fan votes and coaches’ choices, even if the majority of players who aren’t selected for the media blitz of All-Star Weekend would probably be more content giving their bodies a break and sipping Mai Tais on a beach in Barbados for a couple of days.

Occasionally, though, a player puts up such a stellar first 41-plus games that pretty much everyone agrees he’s deserving of recognition. This season that player is Atlanta’s sharpshooting guard, Kyle Korver—the man who’s probably been called Ashton Kutcher more times than “All-Star candidate”.

Korver’s play this season has been captivating to watch. Every opponent’s game plan facing the Hawks must have DO NOT LEAVE KORVER OPEN written in six-inch block letters on every page, and yet, no one can seem to accomplish the feat. He always gets open shots.

At first glance, Korver’s numbers aren’t eye-popping. He’s averaging 13.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 2.9 assists—fairly standard for a third or fourth option on a really good team. If you take a closer look, however, your eyes will most likely pop, so be sure to take the necessary precautions (strap on some goggles, have someone else read to you, etc).

The benchmark of the truly elite when it comes to offensive efficiency is the 50-40-90 Club—players who’ve made at least fifty percent of their field goals, forty percent of their three-pointers and ninety percent of their free throws made over the course of an entire season while meeting the NBA minimum number of makes to be considered a leader in each category (300 FGs, 55 3Ps and 125 FTs). Only six players in NBA history are members: Larry Bird, Mark Price, Reggie Miller, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Durant.

Korver is on pace not only to join that exclusive club, but to found a new one all his own. Currently shooting 51.8 percent from the field, 53.5 percent behind the arc, and 92.2 percent from the stripe, Korver is on pace to become the founding member of the 50-50-90 Club. (Steve Kerr achieved a 50-50-90 during his 1995-96 season with the Bulls, but failed to meet the minimum number of field goals or free throws.)

There’re a lot of games still to be played this season, but that it’s even conceivable for Korver to pull off the 50-50-90 is a testament to the discipline of his shot selection and his incredible stroke.

What more can you say about the guy? He’s leading the league in true shooting percentage (.741) and on pace to break both his own NBA record for highest three-point percentage in a single season (.536) and Steph Curry’s for most threes made in a single season (272). Translation: He’s really good.

Now, if you ask a casual fan whether a player who’s on pace to have the greatest shooting season in NBA history deserves to be an All-Star, they’d probably think you were messing with them. Of course he does!

But far from a sure thing, Korver’s chances of landing the All-Star nod he’s earned are pretty slim.

The sharpshooter has no shot at garnering the fan votes necessary to secure him a starting spot (he was nowhere close to the East’s top 10 backcourt vote-getters as of the most recent published returns). The only way he’s getting there, then, is if the other head coaches in the conference vote him in as a reserve—less of a long shot, but still a long shot.

Coaches vote for seven reserve players in their conference: two backcourt, three frontcourt and two wildcards. The Hawks may have the best record in the East, but teams rarely get more than two All-Star nods unless they’re superstar-laden, Big Three types. Korver is the fourth-leading scorer on his own team, and the three guys ahead of him—Al Horford, Jeff Teague and Paul Millsap—are bigger names. Each can also create shots for both himself and his teammates, typically a must even for the reserve All-Stars. Korver is more reliant on his teammates passing him the ball in rhythm.

Yet, on Tuesday night’s NBA Gametime post-game show, Ernie Johnson posed Hawks centre Al Horford the following hypothetical: Game seven of the NBA finals. You’re down two with 3.1 seconds left. Who takes the last shot?

“I want to win. We don’t want to go to overtime, we want to win,” Horford replied. “So Kyle’s going to get that shot.”

That’s a huge vote of confidence from the closest thing the Hawks have to a franchise player.

It’s clear when you watch Atlanta play that Korver has the ultimate green light. More importantly, he’s playing with supreme confidence.

No, he probably won’t be an All-Star, but he deserves to be one. Even though he’ll be at All-Star weekend anyway to compete in the three-point competition, he’s more than earned those Mai Tais.

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