It’s been an interesting couple of weeks leading up to the the All-Star game. With Kobe Bryant, Blake Griffin, Dwyane Wade, and now Anthony Davis sustaining injuries we have had many replacement all-stars. Giving the opportunity to two players that have yet to make it.
One is finally getting the recognition many think he deserved in the first place, and one is just adding another notch to a long list of accomplishments.
Comparing Kyle Korver and DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins
Kyle Korver and DeMarcus ‘Boogie’ Cousins couldn’t be any more different. They are from different conferences, play different positions, and have completely different playing styles. Korver is an 11-year veteran playing for one of the best teams in the NBA, while Boogie, who is into just his fourth year in the NBA, is playing for a lottery-bound team.
But three things they have in common this year is that they’re both having career-best years, both were named All-Stars for the first time this year, and both were named only after replacing someone who couldn’t play due to injury.
Korver is a three-point specialist, one of the few people in the NBA who rivals Stephen Curry as best shooter in the game. Korver is shooting a scorching 52% (!!!) from the three-point line; but as amazing as that is, it isn’t even his career high for a season!
He shot 53% in ‘09-’10, although his attempts per game (2.1) were nearly a third of what they are now (5.8). He is a big part of the Atlanta Hawks’ breakout success so far this season; after replacing Dwyane Wade, the Hawks now have four All-Star players, which goes to show the depth of this team that has no true ‘superstars,’ yet is leading the East.
Meanwhile, Boogie is vying for the unofficial title of best center in the NBA. He is having a sensational fourth season stat-wise, posting up career highs in points, rebounds, assists, blocks, free throw percentage, and minutes played. This goes on top of a great performance this summer for Team USA in the FIBA World Cup, where he helped lead the team to a gold medal. However his team has struggled to win in the tough Western Conference, with a record of 18-33, part of the reason why it took replacing an injured Kobe Bryant for him to make the All-Star game for the first time.
Damien Lilliard-Did he deserve to be a Starter & not a replacement for the All-Star Game
Let us not forget Damian Lillard, who was finally able to be named an All-Star this year after Blake Griffin had to have surgery on his right elbow for a staph infection. Lillard had already publicly stated his anger at not being initially named an All-Star, but a cold streak recently most likely contributed to his late selection. No matter how he felt before, he has to be pleased to make it finally. This is his second All-Star game in his short three-year NBA career, and is one of only three players, along with Anthony Davis and Jimmy Butler, to be playing in the All-Star game while still exclusively on their rookie contracts.(Klay Thompson is also on the last year of his rookie deal, but has already signed a $70 million extension this last off-season)
With the way Lillard seems to be aggressively focused on building his brand and image, it comes to no surprise that he is eager to grab every All-Star opportunity he can get. Unfortunately for him, he hasn’t been named a starter either of the times, which makes him ineligible to qualify for the ‘Derrick Rose Rule,’ under which he would be eligible for a maximum contract worth 30% of the cap, rather than the standard 25% for a player coming out of his rookie contract through that method. However, he still has a chance to be eligible for the rule if he makes it to an All-NBA team this year or next. (The third path is being named the MVP this year or next, but that is unlikely for Lillard, even if he’s a tremendous player.)
With the cap set to rise dramatically in 2016 from $66 million to about $80 million, Lillard could potentially earn over $4 million more per year (for a total of $20 million over the life of a full five-year extension), if he indeed did make All-NBA this year or next, since he made All-NBA third team last year. Securing a spot in the All-Star game this year definitely increases his odds of being selected for the All-NBA at the end of the year, and at the end of the day, this is professional sports, where athletes are trying to maximize their earning potential while they can. Even if he doesn’t make All-NBA this year or next, having two All-Star appearances in his first three years as an NBA player is valuable ammunition come contract negotiation time.
Dirk & his replacement for the All-Star Game
A last-minute replacement of Anthony Davis with Dirk Nowitzki allows him to add yet another appearance to his illustrious career. A staple of the All-Star game every year from 2002 onwards (excluding 2013), this will be Nowitzki’s 13th All-Star game, and at 36, he’s the second oldest player on the active list of All-Star players this year, right behind 38-year-old Tim Duncan, who will be playing in his 15th All-Star game. (Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Kobe Bryant have more All-Star appearances then Duncan, with 19 and 17 respectively.)
With four replacements this year, 2015 is tied as the most injury-plagued All-Star game ever; the only other time four players were unable to participate in the All-Star game was 2010, when Brandon Roy, Chris Paul, Allen Iverson, and Kobe Bryant were all sidelined.
It’s an unfortunate turn of events, but at least four well-deserved players who otherwise would be watching the festivities will be able to showcase their talent at the NBA’s marquee event.