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The 12 best modern-history players to never make an NBA All-Star team

The 12 best modern-history players to never make an NBA All-Star team

There is much debate about the process of selecting NBA All-Stars. While the game itself is just an exhibition that is more of a showcase for the best athletes in the world, being selected to an All-Star team does have both financial and real-life implications.

The NBA All-Star game is far and away the best of its kind. The NFL Pro Bowl — after basically being a two-hand touch game — literally went to a flag-football format this year due to so many star players sitting out to avoid injury. Major League Baseball resorted to making the winner of its midsummer classic the home team in the World Series just to add intrigue to the game. (And honestly, I am not sure that the NHL All-Star Game is broadcast live on American television...)

Outside of the all-time greats and sure-shot first-ballot Hall-of-Fame players, so much of who actually makes the All-Star Game ultimately comes down to luck and timing. With only 24 spots available, players are often at the mercy of who else plays their position in their respective conferences — while also needing to stay healthy enough and play on a good team. 

Clearly, it doesn’t always boil down to just being an All-Star talent. 

From 2002 to 2011, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and Dirk Nowitzki were All-Stars every year. The point guard position in the Western Conference was just as deep with Chris Paul, Steve Nash and Jason Kidd performing during some of the same seasons. You simply cannot state that someone deserves to be an All-Star player without removing someone just as qualified. I didn't think in the fifth paragraph of this column we would be quoting Sir Isaac Newton, but here we are: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

Since the inaugural NBA All-Star Game in 1951, there have been several changes to the voting process. Let’s look at the history of those modifications.

According to NBA.com:

  • 1974-75: Fans were first given the opportunity to vote for NBA All-Star starters. The seven reserves for each team were picked by each conference’s respective head coaches.
  • 2012-13: With teams playing smaller than in the past, the NBA modified its voting process before the season to eliminate the “center” designation and replace it with three “frontcourt” spots. Previous ballots allowed a voter to select two guards, two forwards and a center.
  • 2016-17: Current players and media joined the fans in the voting process. Fans account for 50% of the vote to determine the starters, while players and media account for 25% each. Once votes are tallied, players are ranked in each conference by position (guard and frontcourt) within each of the three voting groups.

NBA All-Star Draft Era:

  • The NBA revamped the All-Star Game format in 2018. Now, instead of East vs. West, two captains pick the teams from a pool of 24 players who were voted in by fans, media and players. The captains are the All-Star starters who earn the most fan votes in their respective conferences. Alternating picks, the captains draft the eight remaining players from the starter pool in the first round, and then, all 14 players from the reserve pool in the second round, making selections without regard to a player’s conference affiliation or position.
  • The NBA commissioner — currently Adam Silver — selects the replacement for any player unable to participate in the All-Star Game, choosing a player from the same conference as the player who is being replaced. If a replaced player is a starter, the head coach of that team would choose a new starter.

The NBA commissioner also has the power to make special roster additions, as Silver did in 2019 to honor the legendary careers of Dirk Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade.

In this article, we’re focusing on just the modern NBA, because it makes no sense to compare eras when the criteria for being selected has drastically changed and the number of participants has as well. Here are the best NBA players to have never played in the All-Star Game.

Honorable Mention

Drazen Petrovic: His tragic death is the only reason he didn’t become an undeniable All-Star. He was a franchise type of player.

Arvydas Sabonis: If he came to the NBA earlier, there is no doubt he would have been a multiple-time All-Star

Marcus Camby: Legendary blocking, shot-altering, double-double machine with height and hands.

12. JALEN ROSE

2000-2003 stats (IND/CHI): 20.3 points, 4.7 assists, 4.6 rebounds in 39.2 minutes per game on .444/.367/.839 shooting splits

Long before he had the crispiest hairline in sports television, Jalen Rose was a McDonald's All-American and collegiate All-American, the leader of Michigan’s Fab Five and picked 13th overall in the 1994 NBA Draft by the Denver Nuggets. However, it wasn’t until Larry Bird became the head coach of the Indiana Pacers that he officially found his footing in the league. 

Originally, he was backing up Hall-of-Famer Chris Mullin, but it wouldn’t be long before Rose supplanted him as a starter and became the Pacers' second-best player. 

11. LAMAR ODOM

Career stats (LAC/MIA/LAL/DAL): 13.3 points, 8.4 rebounds, 3.7 assists in 33.4 minutes per game on .463/.312/.693 shooting splits

Lamar Odom was a true point forward. A New York City prodigy, he was tagged for stardom since his junior year of high school at powerhouse Christ the King in his native Queens, NY. While his ability screamed superstar, his demeanor told a different story. Lamar always shined in situations where he had others around him of equal ability. 

He was such a talented all-around player that it was almost like he felt guilty taking over the game. That is why he was such a perfect fit alongside Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol with the Los Angeles Lakers; he could pick and choose his spots and mentally he wasn’t required to be “on”' every night. 

Lamar always left you wanting a little more — so gifted, but so inconsistent. He was like a rapper that always sounded better on someone else’s songs than he did on his own albums.

10. ROD STRICKLAND

1991-1998 stats (SAS/POR/WAS): 16.5 points, 8.8 assists, 4.5 rebounds, 1.8 steals in 36.0 minutes per game on .465/.293/.722 shooting splits

Kyrie Irving’s godfather is your favorite point guard's favorite point guard. With his high dribble and incredible change of pace, Rod Strickland could get anywhere he wanted on the court. He was the quintessential New York maestro.

One of the craftiest point guards of his era, “Rocket Rod” was one of the best finishers regardless of size in the NBA. 

In arguably his best season, Strickland produced 17.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, 10.5 assists, 1.7 steals and 0.3 blocks per game in 1997-98, leading the NBA in dimes dropped.

9. RON HARPER

1987-1994 stats (CLE/LAC): 19.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 2.1 steals in 36.6 minutes per game on .452/.283/.726 shooting splits

The versatile 2-guard from Miami of Ohio — who early in his career often bore the responsibility of slowing down his legendary future teammate and cigar buddy Michael Jordan — looked like he was destined for multiple All-Star games early in his career. 

Playing next to All-Star point guard Mark Price — one of the originators of splitting the pick — in addition to Brad Daugherty and Larry Nance Sr. patrolling the paint, those mid-to-late 1980s Cleveland Cavaliers teams under Hall-of-Fame head coach Lenny Wilkens were fun. 

As a rookie in the 1986-87 campaign, Ron Harper started all 82 games, averaging 22.9 points and 4.8 rebounds to go with 4.8 assists and 2.5 steals per game. He placed second in Rookie of the Year balloting behind “The Rifleman” Chuck Person in Indiana.

Harper was the most exciting player on that Cavs squad and definitely the one who seemed to have the most long-term potential before being dealt to the Los Angeles Clippers for Danny Ferry and Reggie Williams. Due to injuries and a trade to the Clippers, whom he initially refused to play for, he eventually ended up on the Chicago Bulls for their second three-peat alongside MJ, his one-time nemesis.

8. MIKE BIBBY

1998-2009 stats (VAN/SAC/ATL): 16.4 points, 6.1 assists, 3.3 rebounds, 1.3 steals in 36.1 minutes per game on .439/.374/.805 shooting splits

Mike Bibby won an NCAA title as a freshman for his home-state Arizona WIldcats and seemed destined for superstardom. After a slow start for the then-Vancouver Grizzlies, Bibby found his NBA footing playing for the Sacramento Kings with Hall-of-Famer Chris Webber, Peja Stojaković and Vlade Divac.

In 2001-02, the Kings had the NBA’s best record at 61-21. From 2003 to 2007, Bibby helped Sacramento make multiple deep playoff runs and averaged 19.0 points and 5.5 assists per contest.

Being the point guard and vocal leader for arguably the best team in NBA history never to win a title, Bibby went head-to-head with the best at his position in the West, but was never named to an All-Star team.

7. RICHARD JEFFERSON

2002-2009 stats (NJN): 19.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists in 37.6 minutes per game on .470/.359/.787 shooting splits

This was the name that surprised me the most as I did the research for this article. Watching the high-powered and highly successful New Jersey Nets with Jason Kidd at the helm, it just felt like Richard Jefferson was an All-Star-caliber guy.

A true two-way player, RJ excelled in the open court, and his defensive versatility was an asset for a team that wanted to force turnovers and play as fast as possible. 

Always a high-flyer dating back to his days at the University of Arizona, Jefferson definitely put up All-Star-worthy numbers in 2007-08, averaging a career-high 22.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game.

Playing in Vince Carter’s shadow absolutely cost him at least one All-Star game nod.

6. LOU WILLIAMS

2015-2020 stats (TOR/LAL/HOU/LAC): 18.2 points, 3.9 assists, 2.6 rebounds in 27.7 minutes per game on .422/.354/.866 shooting splits

Long before his affinity for lemon pepper wings from a particularly legendary Atlanta establishment was a national story, “Lou Will” was as consistent of a scorer off the bench as the NBA has ever seen.

With unshakable confidence, Williams combined off-balance floaters with a pump fake that defenders always fell for no matter how many times they told themselves, “No." He produced on every team he played on. He was the guy that other guys in the NBA always whispered about how nice he was. 

Williams' best season came with the Clippers in 2017-18, where he averaged 22.6 points and 5.3 assists per game while shooting 88% from the charity stripe, earning him the Sixth Man of the Year award for the second of three times in his career.

5. TONI KUKOC

1994-2000 stats (CHI/PHI): 14.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.2 steals in 29.4 minutes per game on .456/.324/.743 shooting splits

Typically, guys who play on championship teams get the benefit of the doubt when it comes to awards and being named to events like the All-Star game. Toni Kukoc played on the highest-profile team of all time in the 72-10 Bulls, who toured NBA cities like The Beatles and Beyonce.

Yet, still — despite being a Swiss Army knife, Lamar Odom before Lamar Odom and an invaluable cog in the Bulls' second three-peat — he was not rewarded with an All-Star game nod.

Being a 6-foot-10 ball-handler in Phil Jackson’s famed triangle offense not only created the necessary spacing for MJ to dominate, but it also freed up Chicago’s role players to reach their full potential. 

Kukoc was a triple threat at the extended elbow, and allowed Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan to slash from the back side, while teams would normally just sag off of Dennis Rodman and Luc Longley.

4. ANDRE MILLER

2000-2011 stats (CLE/LAC/DEN/PHI/POR): 14.4 points, 7.2 assists, 4.1 rebounds, 1.4 steals in 34.4 minutes per game on .459/.204/.807 shooting splits

Here is another guy whose only flaw was being born when he was. 

Andre Miller, the consummate point guard, played like he was from the era before he was born. Always the set-up man, he led the NBA with 10.5 assists per game in 2001-02 while playing for the 29-win Cavaliers pre-LeBron James. 

Miller is the only player in NBA history to have at least 16,000 career points, 8,000 assists and 1,500 steals without making an All-Star game. 

The fact that he wasn’t the most spectacular player in the league was probably held against him. Miller made Kawhi Leonard look like Deion Sanders when it came to self-promotion, and for that reason, I am not even sure he cares that he is on this list. 

3. JASON TERRY

2001-2012 stats (ATL/DAL): 16.8 points, 4.7 assists, 2.7 rebounds, 1.3 steals in 34.4 minutes per game on .449/.383/.848 shooting splits

How about another Arizona alum who thrived after the team that drafted him traded him? Never quite a true point guard, but at only 6-foot-2 even in a more open-court era, Terry was never going to be a starting shooting guard. However, he was fearless, and a shot-creator with range to the parking lot. 

It may come as a surprise to some, but Terry is eighth on the NBA’s all-time three-point list with 2,282 triples, ahead of LeBron.

Speaking of that, Terry was arguably the second-best player on the Dallas Mavericks championship team that upset James' favored Miami Heat in 2011. In the Game 6 clincher in South Beach, Terry came up huge and led the Mavs with 27 points, many of which were clutch buckets to help seal the deal and solidify Dirk’s legendary status in Dallas.

2. AL JEFFERSON

2007-2015 stats (BOS/MIN/UTAH/CHA): 19.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.4 blocks in 34.1 minutes per game on 49.8% from the field (16.4 attempts)

Al Jefferson entered the NBA straight out of Prentiss High School in Mississippi, where he had a decorated career that culminated in First Team All-American honors and being the 15th overall pick by the Boston Celtics in 2004.

Jefferson never made an All-Star team despite having seasons of 21-11-2, 23-11-2 and 22-11-2, although he did make an All-NBA Third Team in 2013-14. He had a soft touch and a big posterior, and while he almost never dunked, his shot was very rarely blocked. 

Similar to Zach Randolph, Jefferson was certainly a guy at the top of the scouting report and someone who garnered a double team. Unfortunately for Big Al, he was part of some terrible Celtics teams, and then was traded to Minnesota for the Wolves' favorite son, Kevin Garnett. He improved every year, and in Charlotte, he was a workhorse. His game would have been more appreciated in the 1980s than when he played. 

1. JAMAL CRAWFORD

2004-2014 stats (CHI/NYK/GSW/ATL/POR/LAC): 17.1 points, 3.8 assists, 2.6 rebounds, 1.0 steals in 33.6 minutes per game on .412/350/.858 shooting splits 

One of the greatest ball-handlers of all time, Jamal Crawford was not just a walking bucket; he was a walking embarrassment. 

He combined the herky-jerkyness with myriad crossovers and behind-the-back dribbles that honestly hadn’t really been seen before. He even dropped 51 in Dirk’s last home game at 39 years old!

Playing for nine different teams probably didn't enhance his chances of being an All-Star, but he tallied just under 20,000 career points and was a three-time Sixth Man of the Year. 

Being a true combo guard may have worked against him too, as some media and coaches were late to adopt the mindset of “positionless” basketball.

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