Am I the biggest homer in all of sports fandom? Maybe. But give this a read nonetheless and then tell me how big of a homer I am in the comments.
Tavan Parker, in his first SLC Dunk post (congrats!), went into great detail explaining how Gordon Hayward can be the Jazz’s first All-Star since Deron Williams in 2010-2011. He also jinxed Gtime into breaking/dislocating his left ring finger. I kid, I kid. I bet Robyn is so upset that he can’t wear his wedding ring for a little bit. She’s probably mad at you, Tavan.
I’ll keep it short on Hayward, but here are my thoughts. Even with the injury, if Gordon comes back and plays like he has looked in the limited time he has gotten this preseason, he will be an All-Star. He has looked like he is playing as a man among boys. It looked effortless and easy. I think the addition of George Hill and Joe Johnson and the healthy returns of Dante Exum and Alec Burks will really open the floor for him. It has seemed that way when we have seen them together on the court thus far.
We've heard about how much time he's put in this off-season and I think it is showing through in his play and overall confidence. He’s already shown All-Star worthy numbers. If the Jazz have a solid record, he'll look like the team's best player and get enough attention to receive votes — as if the Jazz need any more attention or hype.
Also, remember that there is now a spot on the Western Conference All-Star Team that has been previously occupied for the last 5 or so years by a certain undeserving Los Angeles Lakers player who shall not be named on this site.
Now, for the other Jazz man who I think has a shot at an All-Star selection.
I think Gobert is ultimately the X factor for the Jazz this year. He didn’t quite make the leap that many of us expected last season. If he makes that leap in this campaign, the Jazz will go as far as he can take them.
Rudy might have an even better chance than Hayward of being selected an All-Star. His defense will be there, that’s almost a given. His confidence will only grow with his progression and mentoring from his French pal Boris Diaw. George Hill and Joe Johnson help with this also. His on-the-court chemistry with Exum is clear and undeniable.
To put it simply, it boils down to his free throw shooting. It sounds dumb, but it's true. If he can be as aggressive as he has been this preseason in going hard to the rim after catching passes or offensive rebounds he will get to the line a lot. If he can make 70-75% of his free throws that should be around 5 or 6 points per game. Easy points. Points he simply hasn’t gotten up to this point of his career. If he can average 14/13/3 (ish) he should be considered as an All-Star selection. I think those numbers are very attainable for our man Rudy.
Keep in mind that, as Tavan pointed out in his Hayward piece, much of the consideration for Jazz players as All Stars will be contingent on their record. The Jazz have already garnered a lot of attention this off-season. If they can warrant that attention by playing well and maintaining a top 5 spot in the West, that All-Star recognition will come.
Let's look at the big men selected to last year's Western Conference All-Star Team: LaMarcus Aldridge, DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis and Draymond Green.
Aldridge: Stats at the All-Star break - 49 games played - 17.0 pts - 8.4 reb - 1.4 ast
He was shooting 50.4% and on one of the best teams in the league with a 45-8 record. Sheesh. He had 51 blocks and only 16 steals. Solid numbers, very low assists, one of the best teams.
Cousins: Stats at the All-Star break - 44 games played - 26.8 pts - 11.1 reb - 3.2 ast
He was shooting 44.5% and had 52 3Pts. He had 57 blocks, and 59 steals. Their record was 21-31. I think they were really overachieving too. Great numbers, average record. I think those numbers may go down a bit without Rondo.
Davis: Stats at the All-Star break - 47 games played - 23.4 pts - 10.0 reb - 1.9 ast
He was shooting 49.9% with 105 blocks and 60 steals. The Pelicans’ record was 20-33. The Pelicans felt as though they were underachieving and did all season long. Like Cousins, great numbers, average record. If Davis is healthy he may even surpass last year’s numbers.
Green: Stats at the All-Star break - 51 games played - 14.2 pts - 9.5 reb - 7.2 ast
He was shooting 48.5% with 68 3Pts @ 42%. He had 65 blocks and 68 steals, but crazy AST numbers for a big man. Obviously was on the best regular season team in NBA history. Their record was 48-4. Incredible.
Cousins’ numbers are the best of this group, but he will likely be on the worst team. Still, he will probably be an All-Star. Davis is in the same boat, hard to ignore those numbers. Aldridge’s numbers will probably go up to what he was accustomed to putting up in Portland. The Spurs will be good but probably not quite as good as last year, maybe. I feel like I say that every year. Green’s numbers will probably go down a little I suspect. There is no way that the Warriors get 4 All-Stars. Durant and Curry are all but locks, but I think that Green and Thompson drop out. Hayward can take Thompson’s spot, or the spot of the Laker who will not be named.
We also need to take into account that Blake Griffin is back and healthy. He’ll put up All-Star number and will probably be selected. DeAndre Jordan averaged 12.1 pts - 14.0 reb - 2 blocks before the All-Star break thanks in large part to playing without Blake Griffin as he was out with an injury or for punching some dude at dinner. Jordan’s numbers will go down with a healthy Griffin in the mix.
Karl-Anthony Towns will almost certainly garner some All-Star attention as well. He averaged 18.3 pts - 10.5 reb - 1.7 blocks while playing all 82 games last year. I’d imagine those already solid numbers will go up some this year. The dude is good and his team will be better.
So Rudy would most likely be battling with Aldridge, Jordan, Towns and maybe even our own Derrick Favors for an All-Star spot. Don’t think that I don’t believe Favors is capable of being an All-Star as well. He is very capable and I hope that he puts together a compelling case for a selection. I can’t say I think that Rudy is a more important piece to this team’s success either. I just think Rudy is more noticeable. He’s more flashy, more confident.
How fun would it be to have him in the All-Star game?! His game is more interesting and well-rounded than that of Aldridge. I see Rudy as being the anchor of this team. If he can make some of the strides with his offensive game that I’ve mention, he should be considered for the Western Conference All-Star Team. If any of this is to come to fruition, the Jazz need to be a real player in the West. They need to take all of this preseason hype and actually make it translate to real, good basketball that has them in the top ranks of the Western Conference.
None of this may happen. And that’s fine. As long as the Jazz are filling most of our expectations I’ll be happy. It may be that one or both of these guys make the All-Star snubs list. I’d be fine with that, maybe. Go Jazz!