The NBA All-Star Game appears to be happening, despite the pandemic. Voting is officially open and the league and player’s association are reportedly working towards an agreement that will see the mid-season exhibition take place in Atlanta on March 7. While there have been several Toronto Raptors All-Star players in recent years, 2020-21 might leave them empty-handed.
For the past seven seasons, at least one of Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Kawhi Leonard, or Pascal Siakam represented the organization at the event, with the previous five years seeing two Raptor players participate. This year, thanks to a losing record and lack of stand out production from key players, that streak might be coming to an end.
While Fred VanVleet’s heroic 54-point effort might’ve helped turn the tide slightly in his favor, it will be extremely difficult for any members of the Raptors to sneak into a crowded Eastern Conference All-Star field.
Several potential Toronto Raptors All-Stars are slumping
Last season’s All-Star Game, coming less than a month before the league shut down, offered another chapter in Siakam’s incredible rise. A season removed from earning Most Improved Player honors in addition to an NBA title, he got voted in as a starter on Team Giannis, scoring 15 points in 18 minutes in his All-Star debut.
The differences between last season and this season are pronounced, however. Apart from a far superior team record, Siakam averaged 23.5 points on 45.8% shooting, including a respectable 36.2% from beyond the arc before the All-Star Game, all the while pulling down 7.5 rebounds per game.
Skip ahead one year later, and while his rebounding is up slightly (7.9), his shooting is down (45.2%) as his scoring (19.2 per game) fell off of a cliff. The same goes for Lowry, whose personal six-game All-Star appearance streak seems in jeopardy.
No one wants to think about age slowing down the greatest player in franchise history, but a drop in points and assists has Lowry looking like a guy who, well, is approaching his 35th birthday. VanVleet, fresh off destroying Orlando, might have the best shot, but he’s up against a tough group of Eastern Conference point guards.
The talent now residing in the East stands as a key obstacle when it comes to getting any Raptors to Atlanta this year. It’s hard to quibble with NBA.com’s All-Star predictions (save for the suggestion of Jaylen Brown as a starter), a group that doesn’t even make mention of a Toronto player for potential inclusion.
Beyond the usual suspects whose household name status guarantees them votes regardless of on-court performance, the likes of Bradley Beal, Domantas Sabonis, Zach LaVine, and Collin Sexton all warrant potential inclusion.
For Siakam, Kevin Durant’s return to health this season knocks him down the pecking order among East forwards. Assuming he will have to rely on the coaches’ vote for inclusion, it’s hard to argue how he’s played any better than Sabonis or Julius Randle, to say nothing of the likes of Joel Embiid, Khris Middleton or Bam Adebayo.
Lowry and VanVleet run into similar problems, with some combination of Beal, Kyrie Irving, James Harden, and Ben Simmons likely nabbing the starting guard roles. Sexton, Brown, LaVine, and Trae Young merit inclusion among the reserves.
If you’re a Raptors fan, having no representation at the All-Star Game is hardly the end of the world. The 2019 title helps make such accolades seem minimal and insignificant, and a few days rest amidst a hectic, condensed schedule isn’t the worst thing for the team.
Still, it’s fun to celebrate your team’s stars, and coming up empty serves as yet another reminder of the general direction that the franchise seems to be headed in.