Luka Doncic was recently named a Western Conference All-Star starter for the second straight season, but even he wasn’t convinced it was the right decision. Doncic was named a starting guard alongside Steph Curry, as Damian Lillard was snubbed from the lineup despite having arguably the best season of his NBA career.
NBA players and experts immediately spoke out about the curious All-Star decision. Even Doncic, who benefits the most from the snub, admitted he didn’t deserve a starting spot over Lillard.
Luka Doncic was named an All-Star starter over Damian Lillard
Last week, the NBA announced its All-Star starters for the Eastern and Western Conferences. Kyrie Irving, Bradley Beal, Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Joel Embiid all got the nod in the East. Steph Curry, Luka Doncic, LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, and Nikola Jokic earned the honor in the West.
There weren’t many arguments from fans and media pundits about the 2021 All-Star starters. James Harden had a case to be named a starter in the East, but Irving beat him out for one of the two guard spots. The only widespread qualm was Doncic edging out Lillard for the second guard spot in the West.
Doncic and Lillard were tied after the entire voting process ended, but Doncic got the nod because of a tiebreaker based on fan voting alone. Lillard beat out Doncic in both the media and player votes.
Does Damian Lillard deserve an All-Star starting spot over Luka Doncic?
It’s hard to say Luka Doncic doesn’t deserve a starting spot in the All-Star Game this year. After all, he’s averaging a career-high 29.1 points, 9.4 assists, and 8.6 rebounds per game. He’s having an even better statistical season than last year when he was also named an All-Star starter, but Lillard has been even better.
Lillard is averaging 30.0 points, 7.9 assists, and 4.5 rebounds per game in 2020-21. He’s shooting 38.5% from three and 93.5% from the free-throw line, which are both better percentages than Doncic is putting up. Lillard has powered the Portland Trail Blazers to an 18-11 record through 29 games despite missing C.J. McCollum for the last 16 contests. Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks sit at 13-15 and on the outside looking in on the Western Conference playoff picture.
Aside from his on-court statistics, Lillard is carrying the Blazers to a playoff appearance with his incredible late-game heroics. It seems like every night Lillard makes a game-clinching three against a double team from 40 feet away. What he’s doing for Portland this season isn’t quantifiable with simple stats and figures.
Last Friday, Lillard was asked about his All-Star starting snub.
“When I was younger I cared a lot more,” Lillard said after Friday’s practice. “Obviously, that’s an accomplishment to be an All-Star starter. It’s something that I haven’t done, so of course, I would like to have been named the starter, but I honestly wasn’t surprised…
“That’s just what the reality is. I think for a lot of people who are saying [they are shocked by the result], they’ve taken notice of what I’ve done in the Bubble and what I’ve done this year.”
Luka Doncic surprisingly admits the NBA made a huge mistake
Lillard isn’t the only one who believes he was robbed of his first career start in the All-Star Game. NBA players, experts, and fans alike voiced their displeasure for the snub over the weekend. One of them happened to be Luka Doncic himself.
“I was surprised to be a starter to be honest,” Doncic told Dorothy J. Gentry of The Athletic. “I know Lillard deserved it maybe more than me. At the end of the day, in two years, no one will know who started or not started. Only that you were an All-Star.”
Well, he’s right about that. Lillard may not be an All-Star starter, but he’s still a Western Conference All-Star for the sixth time in nine seasons. Springfield, Mass. better start getting a Hall-of-Fame plaque ready.
All stats courtesy of Basketball Reference