Ja Morant and the 5 Players Who Could Actually Make the 2022 NBA All-Star Game Worth Watching

Sunday night, the NBA will send 24 of its best players to Cleveland, Ohio for the 2022 NBA All-Star Game.

By now, most basketball fans should know some of the game’s biggest players without even looking at the roster. LeBron James, Stephen Curry, and Giannis Antetokounmpo are just some of the superstars taking the court at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. But what about some of the lesser-known stars?

At this point, we know what we’re getting out of the King and the Greek Freak. Yet there are seven first-time All-Stars who can breathe some life into a game that has lost a bit of its luster over the last several years.

If you’re debating whether to watch the All-Star Game or not, consider tuning in for these five first-timers, all of whom should make this high-scoring exhibition engaging and watchable.

5. Fred VanVleet — Toronto Raptors

The 27-year-old VanVleet entered the NBA as an undrafted rookie out of Wichita State. By his third season, he was an NBA champion. Now, in his sixth year, he’s an All-Star playing for Team LeBron.

VanVleet continues to get better with each passing year. The 6-foot-1 guard is averaging 21.6 points and shooting 40.1% from three on a league-high 38.4 minutes per game. He’s also dishing out a career-best 7.0 assists for a Raptors team that has surprised many this season.

FVV is only the fifth undrafted player to make the All-Star Game and the first since Ben Wallace in 2006. You can make the case that no player will enter the game with more of a chip on his shoulder than VanVleet, giving fans a reason to see how this underdog makes the most of his playing time.

4. Dejounte Murray — San Antonio Spurs

Murray came into the league as an unheralded 29th overall pick in 2016 and missed his entire third season with a torn ACL. But the 25-year-old has slowly risen to stardom before breaking out in 2021-22.

For a Spurs team in search of a new franchise icon, Murray is starting to fit the bill. The 6-foot-4 point guard is dangerously close to averaging a triple-double, entering Thursday at 19.9 points, 9.3 assists, and 8.3 rebounds per game. Murray is also a threat on the defensive end, leading the NBA with 2.0 steals a night.

San Antonio’s newest star is a highly-intuitive player with elite passing ability and a knack for playmaking on the defensive end. Add in the fact he has 11 triple-doubles, second only to reigning MVP Nikola Jokic, and Murray will be a treat to watch no matter where or how Team Durant utilizes him.

3. Darius Garland — Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavaliers have been waiting a long time for an All-Star who wasn’t LeBron. So it’s fitting the hosts now have two in Jarrett Allen and Garland, the highly-entertaining guard out of Vanderbilt.

Unlike VanVleet and Murray, Garland was a high lottery pick taken fifth overall in 2019. The 22-year-old’s growth has been palpable each season, culminating in a career-best 20.3 points and 8.0 assists through 47 games. Thanks in part to his spectacular efforts, the Cavs are destined to play playoff basketball for the first time since James’ final year in 2018.

Only six players averaging 15 minutes or more have a higher assist percentage than Garland (36.5%), all of whom are All-Stars. Playing in front of his home crowd, don’t be surprised if the Team LeBron guard sets up several of his teammates — including the King himself — for some highlight-reel plays.

2. LaMelo Ball — Charlotte Hornets

The All-Star Game was made for a player like Ball, the reigning Rookie of the Year. As the game’s youngest player, the 20-year-old is capable of putting on a show.

LaMelo is following up his strong rookie season with an even better sophomore campaign. The Hornets star is averaging 20.2 points, 7.4 assists, and 7.0 rebounds on the league’s highest-scoring team. Plus, he’s used to playing the fastbreak-heavy style of the All-Star Game, considering Charlotte’s pace tops the NBA.

The 6-foot-7 floor general has been a nationwide celebrity since scoring 92 points and pulling up from half-court in high school. His confidence has only grown since then, as every game seems to feature at least one jaw-dropping pass or unbelievable shot. When Ball is on the court for Team Durant, don’t take your eyes off of him.

1. Ja Morant — Memphis Grizzlies

Of the 10 starters on Sunday, only Morant and Andrew Wiggins are first-time All-Stars. But it won’t be Ja’s last appearance, especially after he shows basketball fans everywhere how much he belongs on this stage.

The 22-year-old is not only putting up monster numbers, but he’s playing at an MVP level for the surging Grizzlies. Through 46 games, Ja is averaging a strong 26.8 points, 6.9 assists, and 5.8 rebounds. But his most impressive quality is his athleticism, as the 6-foot-3 guard is able to attack the rim and convert as many field goals near the basket as All-Star big men like Allen, Jokic, and Rudy Gobert.

Morant has managed to achieve superstardom by his third season. He’ll now have the backdrop to be able to prove he belongs among the best of the best. Whether it’s with high-flying dunks or flashy passes to his Team Durant teammates, Ja is going to make Sunday’s All-Star Game one to remember.

All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference and NBA.com and accurate as of Feb. 17, 2021.

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