The 24 roster slots for the 2021 NBA All-Star Game, along with the unfortunate injuries for two players, awarded players All-Star status within the following franchises:
Boston Celtics: Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum
Brooklyn Nets: James Harden, Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving
Chicago Bulls: Zach LaVine
Dallas Mavericks: Luka Doncic
Denver Nuggets: Nikola Jokic
Golden State Warriors: Stephen Curry
Indiana Pacers: Domantas Sabonis, injury replacement for Durant
Los Angeles Clippers: Kawhi Leonard and Paul George
Los Angeles Lakers: Anthony Davis and LeBron James
Milwaukee Bucks: Giannis Antetokounmpo
New Orleans Pelicans: Zion Williamson
New York Knicks: Julius Randle
Orlando Magic: Nikola Vucevic
Phoenix Suns: Chris Paul and Devin Booker, the latter replacing Davis
Philadelphia 76ers: Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid
Portland Trail Blazers: Damian Lillard
Utah Jazz: Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert
Washington Wizards: Bradley Beal
That’s 18 of the 30 NBA franchises, or 60% of the league, represented within these selections. Fans of the other 12 teams may feel slighted, but to give them some more enjoyment and to take a walk down recent memory lane for NBA fans in generals, let’s take a look at the most recent All-Star selection for the teams that missed out this year.
To make things interesting, I will be excluding players who were selected this year as well as a previous year on a different team. So you won’t see James Harden come up for the Houston Rockets.
Atlanta Hawks: Trae Young
Atlanta Hawks’s most recent All-Star was none other than Trae Young in 2020, and despite his absence this year, they look set to have a perennial All-Star candidate for years to come. That wasn’t always the case. Before that it was Paul Millsap 2017. In 2015 Millsap, Al Horford, Jeff Teague, and Kyle Korver all got All-Star status as a reward for the Hawks’s great start to the 2014–15 including a 17–0 month of January and winning their first ever division title. The current Hawks roster is brimming with potential beyond Trae Young, including the likes of John Collins, Clint Capela, and De’Andre Hunter.
Charlotte Hornets: Kemba Walker
Charlotte’s last All-Star is similarly as obvious as Trae Young, given Kemba Walker’s importance to the Hornets during his time there. He made 3 All-Star rosters from 2017–19. Before that, the last Hornet to receive this honor was Gerald Wallace back in 2010. Of course there were some players from the 7–55 lockout shortened season who were robbed. It’s impossible to type, let alone say, that statement with a straight face. There is a lot of buzz (pun intended) surrounding the emergence of rookie LaMelo Ball, and maybe he’ll get an All-Star appearance in the near future too.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Kevin Love
Kevin Love in 2018 was one of the two most recent All-Stars for the Cleveland Cavaliers, sharing this honor with none other than LeBron James. This was following Kyrie Irving’s departure and LeBron’s last season in Cleveland. Kevin Love was the quietest of the Cavs big 3 that reached 4 NBA Finals from 2015 to 2018. He was often the last of the three to take a big shot behind LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, but still capable of doing so in the rare situations where they did turn to him. These days, Kevin Love is battling injuries just to get back on the court for any capacity for the Cavaliers.
Detroit Pistons: Blake Griffin
Detroit Pistons are in rebuilding mode and they’ll face an uphill battle for Jerami Grant or anyone else to become an All-Star in the upcoming years. Prior to that decision, Blake Griffin in 2019 earned that status shortly following his trade from the Clippers. In the two seasons prior, Andre Drummond represented the Pistons in the All-Star Game. Andre Drummond showed promise to be one of the best centers in the NBA back then, and that promise is currently compromised as his current team the Cavaliers are sitting him out while they find the right trade for him.
Houston Rockets: Russell Westbrook
Russell Westbrook was one of the bigger names that missed out on the All-Star game this year, so the answer is obvious. Prior to this year, Russell Westbrook had only missed one All-Star game (2014) since making his first appearance in this event in 2011 for Oklahoma City. Speaking of 2014, that was the eight and final of Dwight Howard’s consecutive All-Star appearances to cap off the height of his contributions to the Houston Rockets. While Dwight Howard is now a role player (winning a ring with the Lakers in 2020 along the way), Russell Westbrook has formed a dangerous backcourt duo with Bradley Beal in Washington.
Miami Heat: Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler
A slow start to the season and a host of missed games denied Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler an encore All-Star appearance following their selections in 2020. All-Star or not, it’s clear that these two players are talented as Pat Riley will be hopeful that they are the pillars to build a championship team around. They came close last season, falling to the Lakers in the NBA Finals in 6 games. Heat and NBA legend Dwyane Wade also made his final All-Star appearance in 2019 albeit as a retirement gesture alongside Dirk Nowitzki. Although that decision was controversial, I wouldn’t mind it being done more even if it skews All-Star appearance stats.
Memphis Grizzlies: Marc Gasol
The Memphis Grizzlies entered the NBA in 1995 (based in Vancouver prior to relocation in 2001), and so far 26 years of history has yielded just 3 players that have been All-Stars in their colors. Only one of them wasn’t named Gasol, that being Zach Randolph. That includes Mike Conley, who many believe to be one of the best players without an NBA All-Star appearance. Marc Gasol made the most recent All-Star roster for a Grizzlies player in 2017. His next stop would be the Toronto Raptors, contributing to a 2019 title win before heading to the Los Angeles Lakers. Ja Morant seems the most likely to become the fourth.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns
A player who perhaps is on his way to becoming as beloved in Minnesota as Kevin Garnett and Kevin Love were, Karl-Anthony Towns’s back to back All-Star appearances in 2018 and 2019 were the most recent for the Timberwolves. He is a talented center who is effective down low but can also do some damage outside. In 2018, Minnesota had two All-Stars with Jimmy Butler joining Karl-Anthony Towns. That duo instead are more remembered for their conflict that forced Butler out of the team. While the Marquette product has since reached the NBA Finals, Towns is now tasked with making things work with D’Angelo Russell to turn this franchise around.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Russell Westbrook
Discounting Chris Paul (2020) and Paul George (2019) given their participation this year, that leaves Russell Westbrook who was selected alongside Paul George in 2019. In Oklahoma City’s short NBA history, they haven’t always been a title contender but they’ve rarely been short in star power. That remains the case even in this season following Chris Paul moving to the Phoenix Suns, as Shai-Gilgeous Alexander is having a quietly stellar season so far. He’s yet another promising player that should be getting an All-Star selection in his future provided he keeps up this trajectory.
Sacramento Kings: DeMarcus Cousins
When DeMarcus Cousins made his hat trick of All-Star appearances from 2015–17, there was no doubt that he deserved his spot each time. That was the level of player Cousins once belonged to prior to several injuries derailing his career. He would make his final All-Star team in 2018 following his controversial move to the New Orleans Pelicans. Despite his immense talent, he could not put an end to the Sacramento Kings’ lengthy playoff drought which exists to this day. De’Aaron Fox, like Shai-Gligeous Alexander, is having a great season so far but has somewhat gone under the radar.
San Antonio Spurs: LaMarcus Aldridge
Prior to last season, the San Antonio Spurs made the playoffs every season since the 1996–97 season. Along the way, they accumulated several All-Star selections across several players. The latest in those ranks was LaMarcus Aldridge who made the All-Star roster both in 2018 and 2019. LaMarcus Aldridge first broke through playing for the Portland Trail Blazers, but his move to San Antonio was part of a mass exodus from the City of Roses that only left Damian Lillard and then bench player CJ McCollum to rebuild. The 7-time All-Star did not enjoy a Spurs title though, and his time as a key player in Texas could be coming to an end.
Toronto Raptors: Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam
Last but certainly not least, the 2019 NBA Champions have undergone a lot of changes since that triumph. The biggest of those changes being Kawhi Leonard trading the largest city in Canada for the bright lights of Los Angeles. Since then, Kyle Lowry remained a strong contributor and Pascal Siakam emerged as a force of his own merit. Lowry and Siakam gained All-Star status in 2020. Kyle Lowry made 6 All-Star games in a row from 2015 to 2020, alongside DeMar DeRozan and Kawhi Leonard across those appearances. A slow start denied any Raptors players including scoring machine Fred VanVleet from such honors in 2021.
While it’s not quite like Major League Baseball where literally every team gets at least one player in the All-Star game, it appears no NBA franchise goes too long without an All-Star selection. So if you’re a fan of one of the 12 teams that missed out this year, keep your head up because your team’s time will likely come again soon enough.