With so many veterans returning from injury, All-Star rosters should be loaded. But these five players could slip through as first-time All-Stars
Thanks to a combination of injuries and age-related decline, the 2022 NBA All-Star Game was missing some familiar faces and featured seven first-time All-Stars — Fred VanVleet, Dejounte Murray, Darius Garland, Jarrett Allen, LaMelo Ball, Ja Morant and Andrew Wiggins.
With players like Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Zion Williamson and Damian Lillard healthy again, along with all those new young All-Stars back in the mix, there could be plenty of tough choices this year. Still, there’s a decent chance we see at least one or two new first-time All-Stars this year.
Which NBA players are most likely to be first-time All-Stars this season?
5. Deandre Ayton, Center, Phoenix Suns
Ayton may have the toughest case here, if only because of the players ahead of him. Assuming everyone stay healthy, you can probably pencil in Nikola Jokic as the Western Conference starting center. Last year both Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns made the team as centers from the West. There’s a possibility that playing on the same team diminishes their individual impact (or at least the perception of it) enough to let Ayton slip through.
It feels a little icky to point to injury as the most likely path through but if any of those three misses time in the first half of the season, Ayton could well be the next big man up. He’ll need to outplay Domantas Sabonis as well, who is now on the Sacramento Kings and made two All-Star teams in the past with the Indiana Pacers. But Ayton averaged a robust 17.2 points, 10.2 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game last season on a career-best 65.6 true shooting percentage. After his messy offseason free agency situation, he could be playing with a little extra motivation and determined to make the most of his opportunities.