“Under the Radar” NBA All-Stars

Photo via Getty Images

Photo via Getty Images

Davis Cuffe, Sports Editor

 

 

The NBA All-Star game is right around the corner and that means it’s time to cast some ballots. Under the current NBA All-Star, voting format fan votes count for fifty percent of the final decision. That means your vote counts! While it’s fun to vote for the obvious guys, the Currys, the Lebrons, the Durants of the world, here are some under the radar All-Stars that we’ll be voting for at The Green Hope Falcon. These guys are all “Under the Radar” so players like Jaylen Brown or Zach Lavine that are top five in fan votes don’t apply.

 

West:

 

 

Shai Gilegous Alexander: After Chris Paul and Steven Adams were both traded in 2020 Shai became the franchise guy and the leader of OKC’s youth experiment. In 2019 when he was traded from the Clippers for Paul George Shai took a huge leap and was a large part of why last year’s OKC squad was so successful. Shai took another leap this year and averaging career numbers averaging 22/6/7 on nearly 50/40/80 shooting in only his third year in the league. Shai is doing all this with one of the weakest surrounding casts in the league. OKC decided last offseason to go out with the old and in with the new, opting to trade older pieces for draft picks and young players. Meaning this OKC team is made up of players unfamiliar to the casual NBA fans. While this team isn’t atop the western conference standings, this OKC team has been competitive taking teams like the Lakers and Bucks to the last shot. Much of that credit is due to future All-Star, Shai Gilegous Alexander.

Photo taken by Derick E.
Hingle on www.wsj.com

Zion Williamson: Compared to Zion’s college career, Zion’s freshman NBA season was a tad lackluster. Injuries and weight problems held 2019’s number one overall pick back from playing to his full potential. Through this season though Zion has been flat out dominating, averaging the most points in the paint since Shaquille O-Neal. Currently averaging 25/7/3 and shooting almost 70% at the rim, Zion has been a force through twenty-six games and a bright spot on a struggling Pelicans team. After being drafted first overall in 2019 Zion was one of the most hyped-up prospects ever, drawing Lebron and Barkley comparisons before setting foot on an NBA court. Through the 2020 season Zion became one of the most-watched players in the league and was put under the spotlight by the media. In 2021 it seems like Zion has disappeared in the eyes of the media and has gone under the radar to many.

 

Rudy Gobert: Quietly one of the most controversial players in the league, Rudy Gobert has been through a lot. Gobert started 2020 a subject of ridicule after crying in a postgame conference due to him missing 2020’s All-Star game. Gobert later found himself in the spotlight again after being the NBA’s first COVID positive player, and infecting star teammate Donovan Mitchell. Some hated Gobert for shutting down the NBA some called him a savior for effectively being the one to cause America’s first lockdown. Then midway through the offseason news came out that star teammates Mitchell and Gobert’s relationship was unsalvagable. Trade rumors began to circulate, with Gobert involved in many. The season started and Gobert was still on the Jazz. Flash forward to February and the Jazz have won twenty of their last twenty-one games, are first in the west and Gobert is dominating. The clear defensive player of the year Gobert is dominating the glass and having a career year. Gobert is a clear All-Star. 

 

Christian Wood: One of the best stories of the 2021 season Christian wood has quite a tale. Wood was expected to go in the first round in the 2015 NBA draft but instead went undrafted, leading to a brutal draft night picture of Wood slumped in his chair, defeated. The night only got worse for Wood as he was later dumped by his girlfriend that night. For five years Wood bounced across the league often traveling from the G-League up to the NBA and was cut five times. After finally having a successful season in Detroit in 2020 Wood was able to earn a three-year 53 million dollar deal with the Houston Rockets. This deal has proven to be a discount for the Rockets as Wood is averaging an efficient twenty-two and ten. While Wood has recently been injured and removed from action, his team the Rockets have recently been struggling, only further proving his worth. 

 

Honorable Mentions: Devin Booker, Chris Paul, Donovan Mitchell, De’Arron Fox, Demar Derozan, Paul George

 

East: 

Gordon Hayward: In 2017 Gordon Hayward left a successful Utah Jazz team to join the Boston Celtics on a near-max contract. Hayward was a rising star at only twenty-six years old and Boston looked like contenders. Five minutes into Hayward’s first game as a Celtic he went up for a shot and came down with his ankle facing in the wrong direction. Hayward had suffered a dislocated ankle and a fractured tibia. After missing the 2017 season with those injuries Hayward played out those next two years of his contract but never returned to his Utah Jazz form that he held in 2016. In 2020 Hayward was a free agent, and many considered him washed at thirty years old. Fortunately for Hayward Michael Jordan and the Hornets thought otherwise and signed him to a four-year 120 million dollar contract. A contract that many considered lucrative, just look up “Gordan Hayward contract” and check the results. Flash forwards to February and Hayward is having a career year on a promising Hornets team. He’s currently averaging 22/4/5 on nearly fifty, forty, ninety shooting and has had some huge games including a career-high forty-four point performance. For the first time in years, the Hornets don’t totally suck, and a lot of that is due to a player many thought was done in 2020. 

 

Julius Randle: Transitioning into another guy with a previously terrible contract that’s making a team not totally suck, that usually totally sucks. In the 2020 offseason, the Knicks had high hopes. All season rumors circulated of the Knicks landing superstars like Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, fans dreamed of the Knicks landing the number one pick and signing superstars. The Knicks could finally get back to relevancy and redeem themselves after years of terrible basketball. When the time finally came the Knicks missed out on quite literally everything, their star free agents went to the other New York basketball team, and the Knicks weren’t able to get a top-two pick. Instead, the Knicks settled for the next best thing and overpaid Julius Randle. To keep it short and sweet, the Knicks had Knicked. But now in 2021, there’s some light in the Kicks organization and it’s not Spike Lee. The Knicks are good! Currently seventh in the eastern conference, the Knicks are competitive and led by Julius Randle. He’s taken up the role as the leader of this team and is hitting big shots in big games. Julius Randle is having a career year and quite simply balling out, give him the credit he deserves and what Knicks fans need.

 

Nikola Vucevic: Seemingly a constant in the NBA Nikola Vucevic is having another phenomenal statistical season and a career one at that, averaging almost twenty-five points per game. Vucevic is doing all this with very little help and at thirty years old. He is almost the only good thing on a poorly constructed Magic roster. It’s a scary thought where this Magic team would be without Vucevic. 

 

Honorable Mentions: Malcolm Brogdon, Domantis Sabonis, Terry Rozier, Lamelo Ball, Jerami Grant, Bam Adebayo, Pascal Siakam

 

In 2021 the NBA is incredibly talented, with a huge variety of All-Star worthy players. Be sure to watch these guys compete on March seventh when the NBA All-Star game tips off in Atlanta. While this year’s All-Star Weekend is going to be condensed it’s still sure to be a fun one.