Sure, it’s only December, and the 2022 NBA All-Star Game doesn’t take place until February 20th. While it might be a bit early for some to start considering NBA All-Star candidates in 2022, we’re not afraid to take the plunge and speculate about a few surprise names who could be in contention.
NBA All-Star candidates 2022
Officiating changes have hit some of the league’s biggest stars. While there’s a core of the Association’s elite who are guaranteed a berth on the 2022 All-Star rosters, there’s the potential for a bit of a shake up. A lot of players are making an early push to be considered among the leading NBA All-Star candidates in 2022 from seasoned veterans to early-career starlets.
Whether a player’s stock is blossoming or bouncing back from a mid-career dip, we are destined for a few surprises when the rosters come out. The talent in the league has never been deeper. Places on All-Star and All-NBA rosters are fiercely competitive.
Competing to be one of the NBA award winners might a stretch for these seven, but they’ve all got a very real shot at making the 2022 All-Star Game.
Ranking 12th in VORP and sixth in WAR, LaMelo Ball has been an analytics darling from the day he made his NBA debut. Charlotte is putting together a nice year, and Ball is at the controls, running the offense and playing active defense. His numbers have leapt across the board to 19/8/8.
Kyrie Irving‘s absence opens up a backcourt spot in the East. Regardless of where you classify Ben Simmons positionally, he’s not in the running either, vacating another All-Star berth. Add in the Hornets’ team success, and Ball is well-placed to make it as a sophomore.
Some would argue for starpower over efficiency in the All-Star Game. It’s meant to be about entertainment after all. Ball brings both in big doses – he’d provide some highlight reel moments in the game itself.
So DeMar DeRozan being an All-Star won’t be a surprise. The Bulls’ free agent addition is as good as a lock to make one of the 2022 All-Star rosters, in fact. With no All-Star appearance since he left Toronto, though, if you were told in the summer that DeRozan was involved in the midseason showpiece, it would have at least raised an eyebrow or two.
DeRozan is sixth in scoring, putting up the second-best points per game tally of his career. He’s eighth in offensive win shares on the season, and ranks in the same spot for FiveThirtyEight’s WAR. Where others have been nullified by the foul-drawing rules, the former Spur is getting to the line more than he has since his Toronto days, with only Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jimmy Butler notching more free-throw attempts per game.
He’s closed games when required, and played some harder defense than we saw in San Antonio. This has been the best version of DeRozan, an elite scorer with a sprinkling of threes and an isolation monster who can pick out open teammates. He should be on the All-Star roster in permanent marker already.
Only nine players have a better box plus-minus than Karl-Anthony Towns. He’s not shooting as much as he should be, and there have been early moments of frustration, but the ultra-skilled big man is still playing high-level basketball on a decent Timberwolves team.
Injuries or woeful team performance have limited Towns’ All-Star candidacy in the past. He’s not only healthy this year, but Minnesota looks like a Play-In team — or maybe even better. Towns is still the best player on the club, even with Anthony Edwards‘ scoring outbursts. This is well-evidenced in his +7.4 net rating on the year.
It could come down to Towns or Rudy Gobert for the second center spot in the West. We know who the fans would rather see.
On of those perennial fringe All-Star players, Malcolm Brogdon is a bit of a longshot to make this season’s team. He shouldn’t be ruled out just yet, though, particularly if the Pacers can go on a run over the next few weeks.
Brogdon is 14th in box plus-minus, 91st percentile in assist rate, and he continues to get to rim at a prolific rate for a player of his size. The long ball continues to fall, too.
Indiana’s record really stands in the way here. There’s also the small matter of Domantas Sabonis, who is more likely to be the Pacers’ representative at the All-Star Game. It will probably require injuries or massive performance drop-off from other East guards for Brogdon to make it, but he warrants a place among the NBA All-Star candidates in 2022.
Aiming for a first All-Star selection since 2017-18, some might turn their nose up at a player averaging 8/8/8 being in this conversation. That’s a misunderstanding of Draymond Green, and arguably of the sport. Green is the frontrunner for Defensive Player of the Year. He’s the heart and soul of a white-hot Warriors team.
With no Kawhi Leonard or Zion Williamson, the West frontcourt is looking uncharacteristically barren. There’s an argument that Nikola Jokic is the only frontcourt player in the West putting up a better season than Green. He’s everywhere for Golden State defensively, and only nine players are recording more assists per game. Jokic is the only other non-guard to rank in the top 20.
Defense doesn’t generally translate to All-Star votes. The coaches know just how great Draymond has been, though. He’s got to be almost a lock at this point.
Labelled as one of our preseason breakout candidates, Dejounte Murray has lived up to that expectation. Filling the void left by DeMar DeRozan, Murray has been shot creator, closer and lockdown defender for the Spurs in 2021-22.
Just six total players are assisting more. No guard is grabbing more rebounds. He’s 15th in WAR, and the career-high 19 points per game ranks ahead of more-celebrated names like Domantas Sabonis, Gordon Hayward and Jordan Poole. Murray is quite simply doing it all.
Impacting the game at both ends, this is the version of Murray that San Antonio have been crossing their fingers and toes for in the post-DeRozan era. They are a whopping 11.7 points better per 100 possessions when he’s on the floor.
While the backcourt in the West is crowded from Steph Curry and Damian Lillard to Donovan Mitchell, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Russell Westbrook, Murray has done enough to be in the mix with the top NBA All-Star candidates in 2022.
With Toronto languishing at 9-13, Fred VanVleet might face an uphill battle to earn his first All-Star selection. He’s also in the shadow of bigger-name teammates in rookie sensation Scottie Barnes and Pascal Siakam, but VanVleet has made real strides in 2021-22.
Shooting almost 50% from two-point range (by far the best mark of his career), and a whopping 44% from three, the Raptors point guard is also carrying a heavy minutes load with over 38 per night.
His role was bound to adapt without Kyle Lowry, and VanVleet has flourished without his backcourt accomplice. Only four players have amassed more WAR, and part of that is because the Raptors are terrible when VanVleet sits, leading to a +14.1 net rating. He’s leapt to the 85th percentile in points per shot attempt, partly because he’s taking fewer and making more shots at the rim.
Much like Brogdon, VanVleet probably needs things to break his way to make the 2022 All-Star rosters, but he’s certainly close enough to warrant discussion.