A Six-pack Under The All-Star Radar



HANG TIME, Texas
— All-Star.

It’s a word that explodes rather than rolls off the tongue. It’s the gaudy label that usually gets attached to the players who crackle, pop and send sparks flying like an electricity transformer that’s been struck by lightning.

But what of the players who spend their long careers quietly humming through the power lines and rarely getting noticed?

The patron saint of the overlooked is Eddie Johnson, who played 17 seasons with the Kings, Suns, Sonics, Hornets, Pacers and Rockets, 1,199 games and scored more points (19,202) than any player in NBA history without once being selected to play in the All-Star Game. He still ranks in the top 50 all-time scorers in the league, ahead of Hall of Famers Gail Goodrich and Scottie Pippen.

Sitting at Johnson’s right hand is Derek Harper, who played 16 seasons with the Mavericks, Knicks, Magic and Lakers and retired in 1999 ranking 11th on the all-time steals and 17th in career assists and never got a single chance to take an All-Star bow.

So with a nod of appreciation for their efforts and in honor of Johnson and Harper, it’s time to take a look at a six-pack of current players who have been flying under the radar and might be due some All-Star love before they’re gone:

Jamal Crawford, Clippers, 13th season — All those years of playing for bad teams in Chicago, New York, Golden State and Portland with the only two playoff seasons of his career mixed in with the Hawks has built up and often well-deserved reputation as a mad gunner who’ll take any shots as soon as he’s in the building. But consider those teams, consider that he was often cast in exactly that role to provide big points off the bench. Now he’s in a perfect place in reserve with the best-in-the-NBA Clippers and is having the time of his career.

Al Jefferson, Jazz, 9th season — He’s learned to use those big hands to become a very good passer out of double-teams, but his strength is still as a low post scorer from the left block. His scoring average is down a bit over the past few seasons because he doesn’t have to carry so much of the load with an influx of talent. Nothing at all fancy about the way he plays, but shows up every game to put in an honest night’s work and produces. Playing the bulk of your career in Minnesota and Utah will never help anybody’s profile. He has deserved his due.

Kevin Martin, Thunder, 9th season – How foolish now does anyone feel who wondered if this guy would be able to step into the hole left by James Harden’s departure in Oklahoma City? There’s no beard and he doesn’t have the explosiveness, but having already proven over a seven-year span in Sacramento and Houston that he could carry an offense, now he fits like a hand inside a custom-sown glove with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. He’s shooting a career-best-by-far 45.5 percent on 3s, 93 percent on free throws and, most important, has not caused OKC to miss a beat.

Andre Miller, Nuggets, 14th season — How does a guard you’d never want taking a shot with your life on the line keep moving ahead in his second decade in the league? But using his slick veterans moves to get to the rim himself or to use his amazing passing skills to get up his teammates for layups or dunks. Either way the result is usually an easy finish. In every one of his seasons there have always been other point guards who were faster and quicker and could fill up the basket more. But a guy with his smarts and productivity should have taken one All-Star bow by now.

Josh Smith, Hawks, 9th season – Because he’s still only 27, because he can still make your jaw drop from either a stupendous or stupid shot, the NBA world has managed to turn right by Smith. That’s despite his putting together a career stat line — soon to be 10,000 points, 5,000 rebounds, 2,000 assists and 1,000 blocked shots — that will rank him among the all-time greats. There are signs that he’s finally learning and other times when his shot selection still makes you cringe. If there is a current player who can eclipse Eddie Johnson as the best to never play in a single All-Star Game, it’s J-Smoove. But at 27, maybe there’s still plenty of time.

Anderson Varejao, Cavs, 9th season – For the early part of his career he was merely the one-trick pony who threw himself around like a bucking bronco just let out of the chute. But now Varejao is leading the league in rebounding at 14.4 per game, also averaging a career-high 14.1 points and therefore is tied for fourth place in double-doubles with 16 in his first 25 games. While the big question around the league is whether a would-be contender will be able to pry him away from the rebuilding Cavs, the other is if Cleveland’s place near the bottom of the standings will cost Varejao his earned recognition as an All-Star?

35 Comments

  1. Mr. Burns says:

    What about David Lee? Compare his numbers this year to the fact that his name doesn’t even show up on the latest votes tally (it shows top 10-15 frontcourt players). He’s in line to be a huge snub this year if the coaches feel the same way about him as the fans apparently do.

  2. Joshua Greenfarb says:

    Growing up in the “great northwest” near Seattle and watching those Sonic 90s teams were experiences that are timeless. Yah, they only made the Finals once against the infamous Bulls (I think that was the season they set the regular season record for winning percentage). However, they were usually in the playoff wars one way or another. Particularly, they had a lot of radically excellent regular seasons. They were extremely fun to watch. They had one of the deepest benches. Those early-mid 90s Sonic teams remind me kind of of today’s LA Clippers. Blake Griffin can be compared to Shawn Kemp, in some ways — certainly, similar from an athletic standpoint. Both are renown for their incredible dunking abilities. Chris Paul — come to think of it — can be compared to Gary Payton (when Payton was in his prime). “The Glove” Gary Payton got that nickname for being known as a great defender, always being amongst the league leaders in steals. Paul is similar in that effect — he’s also always amongst the league leaders in steals. Payton could dish and score; so can Paul. Paul is qucker, so Payton would post up a lot (being taller than a lot of opposing point guards), but the overall impact and effectiveness are similar. It was always exciting to watch another Payton-Kemp lob dunk; the similar effect connects when Paul lobs to Griffin. The Clippers have taken over L.A. It appears to have been nicknamed “lob city.” The Clippers make L.A. great. The Lakers? Whatever. Their time is over. The Clippers will be the contending team in L.A. for years to come, similar to those old Sonic teams who put up incredible winning seasons for many years during the 90s.

    • Joshua Greenfarb says:

      I bring this up because of the reference to Eddie Johnson (who I notice is now a game-announcer for the Phoenix Suns).

      I recall Eddie Johnson, when he was in Seattle, helped “mentor” Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp when those two just broke into the league and were green but brimming with potential. Eddie was a scoring machine. He could score a lot as a starter or a 6th man off the bench. He would handle a lot of the scoring, while Payton and Kemp could really focus on a lot of other facets.

      Eddie Johnson — I believe someone once said about him — could offensively beat teams with “one hand tied behind his back.” Noting his ability to be able to take control of games with his ability to score, to get buckets. And make it look easy.

      I’d have to check, but I believe E. Johnson had a few seasons where he averaged over 20 PPG. He was probably close to being voted on an all-star team, more than once. I think he at least won the 6th Man of the Year award, one or more times.

      I will always be a Seattle Sonic fan, even though they’re now the OKC Thunder (which is why I’m a huge Thunder fan). Imagine a team that could go ten-deep. I think they once had an everyday team consisting of: Sam Perkins, Shawn Kemp, Derrick Mckey, Ricky Pierce, Gary Payton, Eddie Johnson, Nate McMillan, Michael Cage, Dana Barros, and Vince Askew. At that time, I believe only the Phoenix Suns had a comparably-deep bench. Those particular 90s Suns and Sonic teams were probably among the deepest teams in NBA history. Bench depth may not be as prevalent today as it was in those days. But I’ll say the LA Clippers are close to being as deeply incredible/versatile as those old school Seattle/Phoenix teams. Maybe the only knock on the Clippers’ bench depth is that a few of their bench guys are a bit aged or not performing as well as they can (like Lamar Odom).

      If the Clippers can get healthier, they’re not quite as deep as those early-90s Seattle/Phoenix teams … but they’re pretty darn close.

  3. Nick Ivanoff says:

    I’m off topic from the veterans here. But it looks as if Jrue Holiday is about to get snubbed from the All-star game. He’s averaging 18ppg 9apg while shooting 45% compared to Deron Williams who’s averaging 16.5ppg 8apg while shooting 39%. Yet Derron looks like he has the allstar spot locked down.

    • Joshua Greenfarb says:

      Jrue Holiday is an all-star point guard. Period. Whether he gets on this year’s all-star team or not, it matters not because Jrue Holiday is an all-star.

  4. Max says:

    Do not forget Ray Allen. Never mentioned, but he is one of the few that is a guarantee of making his FREE THROWS, and knocking down 3 points in the 4th. I think who picks a player up to sponsor has too much control over how that player is preceived come All Star time.

  5. Hugh says:

    How do you forget about J.R. Smith? Especially after his performances in the last 2 games?

  6. Nico_ojo says:

    What about Tyson Chandler? He has never been an AllStar, and that were right, until now. He is averaging 12,8pts an 10rebounds per game, but the most important, +21 Efficiency. I think Varejao, Josh Smith and Tyson Chandler are the three who deserve an AllStar nomination the most. Not Jefferson, Miller o Kevin Martin, who has many competitors in his position. Not like Tyson, because of the lack of good enough centers in the League, specially in the Eastern conference.

    Am i right?

  7. Chase says:

    Sadly I think Smith & Jefferson are the only guys on this list that’ll eventually make one hopefully sooner rather than later. Miller & Crawford will definitely join Eddie Johnson & Derek Harper as two of the best overlooked players in nba history.

  8. aaa says:

    What about KG??

  9. steppx says:

    you must be kidding with Jefferson? I have never NEVER seen a worse big man defender than Big Al. Do you even watch games?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

    • Chase says:

      Arguably the best low post scorer in the game-he’s that good- and a pretty good rebounder as well. His defense is lacking but you’re not giving him enough credit

  10. Jezeble says:

    Wow! No Joakim Noah? How is anybody to take his article seriously when Joakim Noah is not on this list? Without Derrick Rose, Noah is the one keeping the Bulls afloat. He is doing everything — including scoring — this season. Check his numbers — better yet, watch him play!

    • Chase says:

      I’m guessing he hasn’t been playing long enough to get consideration for this list. Most of these guys have been around a decade nearly, Noah just got out of his rookie contract maybe a year ago. Give him time, but I’m sure hell make one in the next few seasons.

  11. Richard says:

    How about put up four All star teams where they can play single elimination and a championship. All star week has become boring. Slam dunk contest ain’t that exciting anymore because most players have done the best dunks before, if not for the props there’s nothing to it anymore than a dunk practice. If they had tweaked the Rook vs Soph games, why not the all-star. I think it’ll be much exciting when we can see more of our favorite players playing during the weekend and less of the voting arguments and snubs.

  12. Mikey B says:

    The A/S game has always been a farce. It’s All Stars as defined by spectators, (80% of which know nothing about what Basketball truly is!) It only became publicly recognised, when Ming (Didn’t play a game due to injury,) and Iverson (Wasn’t even in the league!) were voted as starters in the game, that this became blatantly obvious.

    There should be two A/S games, one selected by the halfwitted fans, and another selected by the Coaches/Players/Refs. Try to run one of them like a proper NBA game, the other in the current format. You can play in one, but not the other. I think this might give a true indication of who are legit All Stars in this league. BTW, the Players/Coaches/Ref’s one, takes precedence, over the moron select one!!!!

  13. villmatic says:

    Still no love for the Warriors I see… Even though the team is 5th in the west with huge performances by Lee and Curry.
    #DubTheVote

  14. nelson lin says:

    Where the heck is David West, he should be in here, bringing a team without their leading scorer and making them number one in the central. David West has been putting up all star stats this year and is very deserving for the backup forward spot.

  15. ko0kiE says:

    finally some credit for Andre Miller.. he’s been a good solid PG all those years and a perfect fit for the nuggets.. nice counterpart to the young and speedy Lawson.

    but there were always point guards better than him.. early in his career there were Stockton, Kidd, Nash, Payton, Iverson, Jackson, Davis.. now there are CP3, Deron Williams, Westbrook, Rondo, Rose, Parker.. not to mention the shooting guards ;)

  16. Bob M says:

    Coaches should be able to pick a couple of deserving players. Al Jefferson is a beast. K Mart can go crazy scoring points. Derek Harper is one of my all time favorites. He made big shots, steals, and won a lot of games with his play.
    I have to agree that the All Star Game is a weak spectator sport. No defense, 15 highlight plays, and try to win in the last 5 minutes, the script doesn’t change.

  17. Albert says:

    You forget to say Varejao is 5th in Efficiency and that Sekou Smith does not say anything about him in MVP ladder.

    • CAVS says:

      Varejao might be putting up the numbers but its hard to say he deserves any MVP consideration unless the CAVS can put some wins together

    • dattebayo says:

      Let’s not get carried away please. The Wild Thing is 15th in the Player Efficiency Rating behind 5 other big men including Andre Blatche and Brook Lopez. The fact that those two are 10th and 11th in that category makes me seriously doubt the significance of that stat.
      I really like Varejao and his hustle and the fact that he is leading the league in rebounds is just amazing. Yet he doesn’t have a versatile skillset that I would expect from an allstar. He has no jumpshot or postup game and he relies heavily on others to set him up and the rest of his points come off of offensive rebound putbacks. He is not the kind of player that you can rely on to score with consistency and he already had 7 games with less than 10 points. I don’t think he will be an allstar, unless he gets voted into the starting lineup of ASW (which is highly unlikely at this point).

      • Hm says:

        “The fact that those two are 10th and 11th in that category makes me seriously doubt the significance of that stat.”
        That makes no sense. Those guys are great players and they’re easily the best players on the Nets.

      • A.J. says:

        No, what “makes no sense” is that for the first time in U.S. history, the names “Andray Blatche” and “Brook Lopez” have been referenced in a sentence that included the words “great players.”

        As far as Varejao is concerned, PER is only an offensive stat. In light of the fact that Varejao’s is so high, it’s more offensive in more ways than one. Just more proof that Hollinger was decent at developing advanced statistics, but far from perfect. I think we’ll discover that now at Memphis, when he puts on his dunce cap and advises them to draft the lousy Tristan Thompson and the terrible Dion Waiters all over again. Hollinger’s savvy computer had those two bozos near the top of his prior draft lists. OOPS!

  18. k.tondre says:

    What about Stephen Jackson? He’s only averaged less than 10 points per game his first two, and his latest two seasons of his entire 12 year career. Five of those years he averaged more than 15 points. How has he not gotten an All-Star nod yet?

  19. dattebayo says:

    How can Miller, Crawford or Martins become an allstar. There are 5 guard spots on the West:
    Harden, Westbrook, Bryant, Paul, Parker, Mayo
    Oh yeah, if those Lin maniacs vote him into the starting lineup, there are only 4 spots left.

    Jefferson is a good player, but Duncan averages better numbers on a better team, so that will not happen either.

    Smith could be an allstar, but his numbers aren’t great and no one is voting him in the starting lineup so he will probably get snubbed again.

    • Eli Odell J. says:

      good breakdown buddy, good players, even great players, but hey, theres what 450 players play in the year? only 24 allstar spots….. theres almost always gonna be a man or two standin in their way, less they can get over the hump and leapfrog em they gon remain just where they are…

  20. Big Euro says:

    Fran, just the other day, you published an article where you stated that the All-Star game is no more than a popularity contest.

    On a similar vein of thought, I feel that these guys who have been overlooked will have other accolades given to them that in real basketball terms are more meaningful than ASGs. Josh Smith and Varejao have made All NBA defence and Jamal Crawford and Lamar Odom have won 6th man of the year. The ASG is a showcase which I am sure most players would like to attend but it becomes more trivial by the year.

    For guys like K-Mart, Miller and Jefferson, their games sadly are not high octane enough to gain respect from fans voting in the ASG and secondly they face stiff competition from more highlight making players I.e. Blake Griffin. For them, to have been in the league for so long and to still be contributing is testament enough to their abilities. The real fans respect their game and will remember how good they were for years to come.