This is not 2021 NBA All-Star propaganda.
This is simply just an online pamphlet, some sort of campaign paraphernalia to inform you of candidates who may be nominated for the 2021 NBA All-Star Game, which is currently being finalized by the NBA and the NBPA. To be set in the 7th of March in the city of Atlanta, State of Georgia, the event, despite the truly extraordinary circumstances that we have, shall remain as years’ past: a culminating game comprising of 24 of the greatest players. This is more than just a game: this is an added case for your favorite players’ Hall of Fame chances, and an added chance for you to see your favorite player in one extra game.
Now that the ballots for All-Star voting are being dynamically counted, that means it’s the beginning of campaign season for the camps of the 400-something candidates from the grand NBA courts to fight for the 24 illustrious roster spots.
With the power of democracy handed to we, the people, we have the chance to craft the 2021 All-Star lineup of our dreams. That is, if we gather enough votes for our favorites, but that’s not something that a little campaigning can’t accomplish.
Which is why I’m writing this manifesto. This is not a sweeping declaration of mandate on who you should vote, but rather, a gentle reminder of five extraordinary individuals that have strong cases for this year’s congregation of All-Stars.
Before you accuse this Jordan Clarkson 2021 All-Star campaign of being entirely a homer pick, let me present some facts for the jury.
FACT: The Utah Jazz are currently at a league-best 23-5 and are showing no signs of cooling off anytime soon.
FACT: The candidate in question is averaging a career high in points with 17.4 per game coming off the bench at an efficient clip of 55.8 eFG% on a high volume of shots. If he’s not making the All-Star game, he’s winning the Sixth Man of the Year title regardless.
FACT: Okay, maybe there is some slight Pinoy bias, but nevertheless, the previous facts remain and collectively point to one thing: Clarkson has been playing the best ball in his career thus far, and it’s translating to substantial wins for the league’s best team.
When Clarkson signed the 4-year / $50 million to return to Salt Lake City, this was simply brushed under the rug as a mediocre signing much like what was thought of for any other Jazz transaction. Now, it’s definitely looking like Utah is getting their money’s worth for the stellar sixth man, who’s second only to Donovan Mitchell in the team in scoring. Clarkson is averaging career highs across the board offensively in both attempts and percentages, highlighted by eight triples a game on 37.1% from downtown. In a new system where Utah has completely remodeled their offensive game to cater to the modus operandi of threes, JC is reaping the rewards.
And by no means is this campaign a stretch, either. History suggests that teams with overwhelmingly great records in the first half of the season are rewarded with a multitude of All-Star selections. From the most historic teams such as the 2017 Warriors (Durant, Curry, Thompson, Green) to the one-season wonders such as the 2015 Hawks (Millsap, Horford, Teague, Korver), the 2021 Jazz might just be having their perfect run at the perfect time, and Clarkson is one at the forefront of it all.
While the Washington Wizards as a team leave a lot to be desired, the All-Star Game is still about individual performance after all, and so far there has been very few ahead of Bradley Beal in that department.
Beal has been nothing short of impressive this season, leading a Herculean task of bringing the otherwise hapless Wizards to any semblance of winning every night. Currently, nobody in the league is better at scoring than Beal and his 32.9 points per game, earmarked by a spectacular 60-piece in a *sigh* loss against the 76ers.
Say what you will about the overblown stats because of his massive usage rate, but Beal has been nothing short of extraordinary this season that even with the Wizards barely afloat in the East’s graveyard at 8-17, Beal has done more than enough to posit a spot in a Magic Johnson tweet, especially one that speaks of the MVP:
Having played nine seasons now for a franchise constantly in turmoil, there have been calls to #FreeBradleyBeal from Washington. While both parties have repeatedly expressed their lack of interest in a trade anytime soon, we as voters have the power to materialize the hashtag for even just a weekend in Atlanta.
NBA circles have long battered the Celtics for refusing to let go of their young assets, Jaylen Brown included, and go all in for a superstar just like in the KG trade’s past. They remembered what Boston did the last two summers: they refused to part with Brown in 2018 for Kawhi Leonard, and like clockwork, refused to give a similar package for Anthony Davis a year after. For a franchise as storied as the Celtics, history was prepared to hand them a harsh reckoning especially with the aforementioned stars winning titles in the immediate seasons.
What people often fail to recognize, however, is that the Celtics are masters of history, and if there was any franchise that could fully control their own, it was Boston. They didn’t want to trade for Leonard because they feared he was going to leave the Celtics after that year, and that he did in Toronto. They didn’t want to trade for Davis because he didn’t want to play for the Celtics anyway, and the opposite of that he’s currently doing in Los Angeles. They wanted someone long term, and they already have that at their disposal. Enter the defendant: Jaylen Brown.
Seemingly in the right place at the right time, Brown has looked ready to steer history back in the Celtics’ favor. He’s currently neck-in-neck with Jayson Tatum for the team’s scoring lead with a 26.0 per game average, a +/- 6 points per game increase from the prior season.
What stands out even further is his offensive efficiency; his offense has launched into alpha status with an excellent 40.9% from downtown on 5.7 attempts per game, and 51.3% from the field, all career highs. Ironically, his offensive trajectory draws very similar to a certain Kawhi Leonard. To push the comparative envelope even further, Kawhi earned his first All-Star appearance in his fifth year, and Brown’s stellar rise in his fifth year thus far is enough to sway All-Star votes in his favor, and remorseful public opinion the Celtics’ way.
I cannot, and will not, state this enough when I say that there is nobody in the NBA conventionally cooler than one Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
It must be the recognizable name (fun fact: his full name is Shaivonte Aician Gilgeous-Alexander; I triple dare you to find any name cooler than that). It must be the Travis Scott-like look and demeanor. It must be the Louis Vuitton drip. All indications point to SGA being the NBA’s next pop culture symbol.
However, unlike the elections in a ‘traditional politics’ sense, SGA’s All-Star campaign goes beyond face value (although it helps). Make no mistake: he deserves your vote. Playing under the tutelage of Chris Paul for even just a season worked wonders for the young combo guard, who’s posting per game norms of 22.6 points, 6.5 assists, and 5.5 rebounds.
The thing that ultimately makes SGA’s All-Star case is the fact that he strikes the perfect balance of grit and swagger. Behind the cool, energetic highlight reel is a gritty, high-ceiling young leader for an Oklahoma City Thunder team that was expected to tank the season into obscurity. Instead, they’re just three games back from the 8th seed in the loaded West, and Gilgeous-Alexander has been the perfect embodiment of the Thunder’s youthful grit.
Just last season, Zach LaVine had all the momentum in the world to make his All-Star case. All-Star Weekend 2020 had been set in Chicago, and LaVine at that point time was mustering his entire prowess to try and lift the hometown Bulls back to relevancy, 40-point game by 40-point game. He played the populist: a flashy scorer that stole the public’s heart with insane dunkery, but his game last season transcended past being just a volume scorer without substance, with averages of 25.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 4.2 assists. But alas, the 2020 All-Star snub became imminent nevertheless. He was robbed of an All-Star appearance, and consequently, we were robbed of a potential Lavine-Gordon dunk rematch that weekend.
However, much like any politician insistent on making a change, LaVine this season has solidified his spot as an All-Star prospective, and perhaps an All-Star – period – by the end of this season.
LaVine has his 2021 All-Star campaign off to a blazing start, with an even stronger showing than last to make sure he has our votes locked early on. He’s somehow managed to leapfrog his overall statistics last season, with current averages of 28.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, 5.3 assists, all while having impressive shooting splits of 51.9% (!) from the field, 43.0% from downtown, and 86.3% from the free throw line. His most recent rally? A 46-point explosion over the Pelicans, including nine triples made.
More importantly, the Bulls are inching closer, slowly and surely, to snapping their three-year playoff drought. If all goes well, we all have LaVine to thank for bringing the wind back to Chicago.
We grossly did LaVine and the rest of the NBA community wrong by snubbing him of his first All-Star nomination last season, and it’s high time we made amends.
And how do we make amends?
Make the All-Star game of your dreams a reality by filling out this ballot, or sending out a tweet or 10 a day with the player’s name and #NBAAllStar affixed.
Jordan Clarkson. #NBAAllStar
Bradley Beal. #NBAAllStar
Jaylen Brown. #NBAAllStar
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. #NBAAllStar
Zach Lavine. #NBAAllStar
This is totally not 2021 NBA All-Star propaganda.