Dallas Mavericks point-forward Luka Dončić was a glaring omission on the list of All-Star game reserves announced Thursday. The rookie sensation was relegated to the league’s junior varsity Rising Stars game.
Doncic’s All-Star snub was largely overshadowed by his team’s acquisition of Kristaps Porzingis in Thursday’s blockbuster trade.
Doncic was among the most popular players in the league based on the All-Star fan vote — garnering the most votes in the Western Conference behind only LeBron James. However, he didn’t have enough player or media votes to be named a starter, and the coaches ultimately opted for more seasoned All-Stars (like the Warriors’ Klay Thompson) when selecting reserves.
But Doncic didn’t just deserve to be an All-Star based on popularity alone. He’s putting up stellar numbers — 20.4 points, 6.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists a game — while becoming the new face of a franchise with his exciting play that’s been highlighted with buzzer-beaters, step-back three-pointers and nifty passing.
He’s on pace to be only the fourth rookie in the past 40 years to average more than 20 points, five rebounds and five assists in an NBA season; Michael Jordan and LeBron are both on that list. He could join Jordan and Oscar Robertson as the only rookies to average 20-6-5.
The 6-7 Slovenian likely had three reasons for getting snubbed. First — he’s in a stacked Western Conference where there’s far more talent than the pedestrian Eastern Conference.
Second — he’s on a bad team. The Mavericks are 23-28, fourth-worst in the West. In that regard, Utah’s Donovan Mitchell (22.5 ppg) and the Clippers’ Tobias Harris (21.2 ppg, 7.9 rpg) might have been just as deserving based on their teams’ success.
Third — coaches prefer veterans over rookies in the All-Star Game. Blake Griffin in 2011 was the last rookie to get named to the All-Star team by coaches, and before that, it was Tim Duncan in 1998.
In the Eastern Conference, the biggest notable name left off the list this season was Jimmy Butler, who likely took a backseat in consideration for his teammate Ben Simmons. Brooklyn’s D’Angelo Russell also was a notable omission given his performance and the Nets’ much-improved play.