On March 7, the 2021 NBA All-Star Game will controversially tip off at State Farm Arena here in Atlanta. While the game will be played without fans, Trae Young, the face of the Atlanta Hawks, also won’t be participating in the festivities after he was left off of the NBA’s Eastern Conference All-Star team.
Young made his All-Star Game debut last year and did not squander his time in the limelight, recording a double-double. This season, he’s putting up incredible stats as well, averaging close to a double-double with 26.4 points per game (ppg) and 9.4 assists per game. Leaving him off the All-Star team was the biggest snub in the Eastern Conference, not only because of his play on the court but also because of the game being played in his home city.
Young is averaging the seventh-most ppg and third-most assists per game in the East this season. Although the Hawks are currently not in a playoff spot, the young and inexperienced team are still within one game of a postseason berth due in large part to Young’s play.
Most players have legitimate cases for an All-Star spot, but only 13 players in each conference make the game each year, meaning that spots are extremely limited. As such, every year, basketball fans and analysts are quick to say “this player got snubbed” and “that player should’ve made it.”
But in order to make an argument for why a player was robbed of an All-Star spot, you must also argue who that player should be replacing. This year, Young should be in over Philadelphia 76ers point guard Ben Simmons for a multitude of reasons.
Don’t get me wrong, Simmons is a phenomenal player and a huge reason why the 76ers are sitting atop the Eastern Conference standings. He is the main facilitator for an offense that features potential MVP candidate center Joel Embiid. However, in the current state of the NBA where the top stars each average at least 25 ppg, Simmons is an outlier.
Simmons’ greatest strength on the court is his defense, a skill not needed in the All-Star Game. In a game where the two teams have combined for more than 300 points in the last two years, defense is sorely absent from the All-Star Game. Defenders often let the opposing team get by them easily and perform flashy dunks or other fancy plays to put on a show for the fans.
While his defensive abilities cannot be questioned, Simmons’ shooting skills are extremely lacking — some may even say nonexistent. Simmons missed his first 17 3-point attempts in the NBA and didn’t sink one until his third season. Any time he hits a 3-pointer, popular sports Instagram accounts such as House of Highlights and Barstool Sports seize the opportunity to post about it in a mocking and joking way.
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On the flip side, Young is known for his sneaky dribbling moves and ability to hit a shot from literally anywhere on the court. If he were in the game, fans would be given a show that would definitely not disappoint.
In last year’s All-Star Game, Young hit a half-court buzzer-beater right before halftime, exciting the fan base and inciting his team to storm the court. Young also nutmegged then-Houston Rockets guard James Harden in another nifty play. These plays went viral on social media as fans were excited to see one of the league’s flashiest players showcase his talent.
With Simmons in the game instead of Young, plays like those will be limited. Young’s absence is even more disrespectful as it will be here, in his home city of Atlanta. While there will be no fans in attendance, players are still traveling from around the country to play in Young’s arena, and it would still be a big deal if a hometown player stepped onto the court.
In 2017, then-New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis started in the All-Star Game, which was hosted in New Orleans. Davis went 26 of 39 from the field, finishing with a 52-point and 10-rebound double-double and earning All-Star Game MVP honors. The hometown fans loved watching their star player put on a show, and other players in the game respected the fact that Davis was playing at home, often making room for him to shoot and bring the ball up the court.
At only 22 years old, Young will have numerous chances to play in the game again. However, he will certainly be missed in the All-Star Game this year, one in which he deserves to play.