Roster spots on the All-Star team are highly coveted by the stars of the league, with most of the 24 roster spots already virtually set in stone. However, every season there are a few slots towards the back end of the group that are up for grabs and a healthy number of the NBA’s elite are squarely in the mix to contend for their place on the list. A number of injuries and inevitable absences due to health and safety protocols could open the door for a first-time All-Star in 2022 and these seven players are primed to make a run at the first selection of their careers.
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Darius Garland, Cavaliers
The third-year Cavalier has taken another leap in his development this season, now one of just seven players in the league currently averaging over 19 PPG and 7 APG. His play is a huge reason why Cleveland still owns a winning record halfway through December – a position the franchise hasn’t been in since LeBron James was donning wine and gold. There is an abundance of stars at the guard position in the East and while Garland’s averages don’t stack up to some of his conference peers, he deserves recognition at least.
Jarrett Allen, Cavaliers
The host city deserves to have a player or two thrown into All-Star contention and if Garland doesn’t get a berth, we may see Jarrett Allen rewarded. Boasting career-best scoring (17.3 PPG) and rebounding (11.2 RPG) numbers, Cleveland’s man in the middle currently holds the title as the league leader in dunks with his contributions on defence equally important. Big men don’t often get a chance to shine during the ASG festivities, but Allen should still be in the running to snag one of the final spots for the Eastern squad.
Anthony Edwards, Timberwolves
Minnesota fans haven’t had a lot of reasons to smile recently; however, the franchise has clearly nailed the Anthony Edwards pick. There has been scepticism surrounding Ant’s legitimacy as a No. 1 draft pick, but the bouncy Timberwolf has rewarded the front office early on in his career as he continues to look more and more like a modern-day star. A 48-point eruption a month ago against Golden State was just a small insight into the potential Edwards has as the top scoring option for the Timberwolves and we can only expect to see him trend upwards as his early career continues.
Ja Morant, Grizzlies
Prior to his knee injury, Ja Morant wasn’t only an All-Star lock, but shaping up to be a dark horse MVP threat. The high-flying guard continues to evolve into a superstar right before our eyes and another leap in production in year three had Morant poised to contend for Most Improved honours while leading the Grizzlies to a noteworthy start. His return date is still up in the air and a lack of games played will be the only thing that gets in the way of Ja becoming an All-Star in 2022.
Miles Bridges, Hornets
A huge breakout season from Miles Bridges has him poised to make a lot of money this offseason. Charlotte failed to sign their explosive forward to an extension before the season started and Bridges has responded by averaging over 20 points for the first time in his career. A step up in production has been a huge boost for the Hornets and even though his shooting numbers have dipped recently, Bridges’ hot start appears here to stay. If Charlotte wins a few more contests to entrench themselves in the top-4 of their conference we could see Bridges rewarded with an All-Star berth.
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Deandre Ayton, Suns
Chris Paul and Devin Booker have fuelled Phoenix’s eye-popping start to the season, but interior force Deandre Ayton can’t be overlooked. While his 16/11 line doesn’t jump off the page, Ayton’s impact can’t be purely measured by the box score, with his presence as a lob threat opening a ton of lanes for those aforementioned guards to attack. Ayton’s presence as a defensive anchor for the Suns has also been important in the early portion of the season and if Phoenix keeps winning a high percentage of their games they might deserve to have three players represent the franchise during All-Star weekend.
LaMelo Ball, Hornets
A triple-double threat almost every time he steps onto the court, it hasn’t taken LaMelo Ball long to flirt with stardom. The exciting playmaker has made Charlotte a league pass favourite for casual NBA fans and an ever-improving jump shot has Ball in line to claim the first All-Star nod less than 100 games into his career. Knocking down nearly 40% of his deep-ball tries on 7.5 attempts a contest and his stellar court vision leading to the 7th highest assist average (8.3 per) in the league makes Ball a can’t miss affair on a nightly basis, and in turn, a young star in the making.
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