SPORTS

Will The Utah Jazz Have An All-Star?

Jan 5, 2020, 1:44 PM
Mitchell Gobert...
Rudy Gobert #27 of the Utah Jazz is congratulated by Donovan Mitchell #45 (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The NBA opened voting for the 2020 All-Star game on Christmas Day, and if early voting returns are any indication of who will make the team, the Utah Jazz might once again be without an All-Star. 

As of January 2, the first date votes were released, Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell had the seventh-most votes in the Western Conference among guards with 108,349 votes. Rudy Gobert wasn’t among the top 10 vote-getters for Western Conference frontcourt players. 

If the 12-man rosters were filled out entirely based on fan voting, Mitchell would miss the final roster spot by more than 50,000 votes. 

Luckily for both Mitchell and Gobert, fans account for only 50 percent of the vote for the 10 starters between the two teams. The media gets another 25 percent of the vote and NBA players get the final 25 percent. 

That trio grouping will determine the four starting backcourt players between the two teams, and the six frontcourt players. 

The rest of the seven reserves for each squad are named by the 30 NBA head coaches — if Mitchell and Gobert want to make the rosters, they may want to send out some gift baskets. 

If the voting was determined today, the starters from the West would be guards Luca Doncic (DAL) and James Harden (HOU), while the frontcourt would feature LeBron James (LAL), Anthony Davis (LAL), and Kawhi Leonard (LAC).

Coaches are asked to select three frontcourt reserves, two backcourt reserves, and two wild-card players to fill out their ballots. 

Mitchell would be competing with Damian Lillard (POR), Russell Westbrook (HOU), D’Angelo Russell (GSW), all of whom have received more fan votes but are unlikely to over either Doncic or Harden for starting spots. Devin Booker (PHX) is nearly 17,000 votes behind Mitchell but will get heavy consideration. 

Though they didn’t make it in the top 10 of fan voting, Jamal Murray (DEN), Lou Williams (LAC), Chris Paul (OKC), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (OKC), and CJ McCollum (POR) will all get consideration based on team success, as they’re all currently playing for teams that will compete for the playoffs in April. 

Gobert won’t catch James, Davis, or Leonard, and still, he trails Paul George (LAC), Karl-Anthony Towns (MIN), Kristaps Porzingis (DAL), Nikola Jokic (DEN), Carmelo Anthony (POR), Brandon Ingram (NOP), and Dwight Howard (LAL) among Western Conference frontcourt players. 

Of the grouping in front of Gobert, George and Jokic are locks to make the team assuming they are healthy, considering the top three rankings of the Clippers and Nuggets, and their previous All-Star appearances. 

Gobert would then be competing with each of the five other players in front of him in fan voting. He’d likely also be vying with LaMarcus Aldrige (SAS), who was selected in front of him last year by the league’s coaches. 

Despite finishing the season with All-Star caliber numbers, Mitchell began last season slowly, and when teamed with the Jazz slow start in the playoff standings, and was understandably left off the roster. 

This year, Mitchell has improved his scoring from 22.5 points per game by the time All-Star reserves were announced to 25.1, tied for the 10th leading scorer in the NBA. He’s also raised his field goal percentage from 42.5 percent to 46.4 percent, and three-point shooting from 33 percent to 36.1 percent. 

Of guards competing with Mitchell for a reserve spot, only Lillard and Booker have better scoring averages (which can be a human-default tiebreaker in assigning votes), but neither the Trailblazers or Suns have records above .500.

If the Jazz can maintain their current level of play through January and improve their record, it will be very difficult for NBA coaches to leave Mitchell off the roster. His combination, of scoring, highlight-reel play, and team success are a good combination to make his first All-Star appearance.

Gobert may face a tougher battle. 

The biggest obstacle in front of Gobert his style of play. Having won two straight Defensive Player of the Year Awards. It’s hard to argue Gobert is anything but the best defensive player in the world. Still, he held that crown last year and still failed to get elected. 

Gobert has seen a drop in his points and blocks per game from last year, though his rebounding average has climbed to 14.2 per game, tied for second in the NBA. As a frontcourt player, Gobert must also hope to earn a reserve spot over forwards and centers. That means along with competing against Jokic and Towns for an All-Star selection, he also competes against smaller forwards like Ingram and George for his spot. 

Another hurdle facing Gobert is his role as a true center. If Jokic is in fact elected as a reserve, it will be hard for NBA coaches to deny Towns a spot with averages of 26.5 points (8th best in the NBA) and 11.7 rebounds per game. It seems unlikely NBA coaches would select three true centers to make the All-Star roster. 

The Utah Jazz last had an All-Star in 2017, when Gordon Hayward was selected off a team that was 11 games over .500 and had averages of 21.8 points and 5.7 rebounds, and 3.5 assists. If they continue to play at their current level, the Jazz will likely be hovering around 15 games over .500 by the end of January, and Mitchell will have considerably better averages than the players he’s competing against for a spot on the All-Star roster. 

With that in mind, it seems like a relatively safe bet that Mitchell will break the Jazz two-season All-Star hiatus. However, unless the Jazz can climb into a top-three seed in the West, considering the name value of frontcourt players in the West, Gobert may once again be on the outside of the All-Star roster looking in, even if he’s the Jazz most impactful player. Getting selected as a wildcard addition will likely be Gobert’s best bet, but he’ll face a tough battle competing against both backcourt and frontcourt players to earn one of the final two spots in the West. 

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