When the NBA announces its All-Star reserves Thursday night, three former University of Kentucky players could hear their names called.
The league’s coaches had until Tuesday afternoon to make their selections for two players from the backcourt, three from the frontcourt and two wild cards for their respective conferences.
The Sacramento Kings’ DeMarcus Cousins, an All-Star for the first time last year, has made his case — and then some — by setting career highs for scoring in back-to-back games. He had 48 points Saturday, and he scored 56 more Monday.
Washington Wizards point guard John Wall, a two-time All-Star likely to be chosen for a third trip, was the Eastern Conference’s player of the month for December.
Surprisingly, it’s Anthony Davis that could be left out if only two ex-Cats make it in. While Davis continues to put up big numbers, he hasn’t been able to live up to the preseason hype that had him soon passing LeBron James as the game’s biggest star.
The case against Davis, a two-time All-Star: He has been sidelined by various injuries on multiple occasions this season — including a concussion in the New Orleans Pelicans’ loss Monday night. And his team has one of the worst records in the league.
While they’re not considered among the top All-Star options, league assists leader Rajon Rondo and leading rookie-of-the-year candidate Karl-Anthony Towns are two other former Wildcats who have been part of the discussion. If he stays healthy, Towns will be a part of All-Star weekend for the Rising Stars Challenge, and he could be joined by fellow ex-Cats Devin Booker, Trey Lyles, Willie Cauley-Stein, Nerlens Noel and Julius Randle.
Here’s a look at former Wildcats’ chances at being chosen as an All-Star reserve:
If Cousins wasn’t a lock for the All-Star Game before this past weekend, he most likely is now. His 56 points in Monday’s double-overtime loss to the Charlotte Hornets was the NBA’s highest-scoring game this season.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, Cousins also became the fourth player with back-to-back 45-point, 10-rebound games in the NBA’s past 30 seasons. The other three are Charles Barkley (1987-88), Michael Jordan (1989-90) and Antawn Jamison (2000-01).
Entering Tuesday night’s game at Portland, Cousins is averaging 34.4 points (best in the NBA) and 13.6 rebounds in January. He has eight games with at least 30 points and 10 rebounds.
Overall, Cousins started Tuesday’s play third in the league in scoring (27.7), fourth in rebounding (11.4) and third in double-doubles (26).
The Washington Post’s Tim Bontemps would include Cousins in his Western Conference frontcourt.
“Cousins has become the NBA’s best center, and is keeping the dysfunctional Kings within shouting distance of the eighth and final playoff spot in the West,” he wrote on Jan. 22.
TNT analyst David Aldridge would pick Cousins, too.
“Even before the Kings’ surge that has them currently in the eighth and final playoff spot in the West, ‘Boogie’ had done enough to warrant a second straight All-Star spot,” Aldridge wrote on Jan. 25. “He’s so skilled on the block, and getting the ball in his hands on almost every play, he abuses almost all defenses. …”
The Sporting News’ Adi Joseph said Cousins will finally get some love from the league’s coaches.
“Two seasons ago, he was the biggest snub of the year,” Joseph wrote on Jan. 22. “Last season, he was selected by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver as an injury replacement. But the Kings somehow are in the West playoff picture right now, and Cousins is the first and clearly most important reason for that.”
Wall has kept the Wizards in the hunt for the playoffs even though the team has endured an injury-plagued season that includes backcourt running mate Bradley Beal missing half the season.
Wall is 23rd in scoring (19.6), fourth in assists (9.7) and fifth in steals (2.1).
Bontemps considers Wall to have an “open-and-shut case” for an All-Star selection.
“The Wizards haven’t been great this season,” he said, “but Wall has been outstanding ever since recovering from some injuries during a slow opening month.”
Aldridge said the Wizards would be a lottery team without Wall.
Joseph said Wall “has massive respect from coaches and shouldn’t have any trouble earning a spot.”
Davis hasn’t dominated the league like the preseason prognosticators thought he would. But he’s still 10th in scoring (22.9), ninth in rebounding (10.2), second in blocks (2.4) and seventh in double-doubles (23).
The only other player in the NBA averaging more that 20 points and 10 rebounds is Cousins.
Bontemps said he’d give Davis his last wild-card spot in the West.
“The Pelicans have been one of the NBA’s most disappointing teams this season — maybe it’s most disappointing — but Davis remains a terrific player,” he said.
For Aldridge, Davis wouldn’t make the cut.
“With respect to Anthony Davis … we go with (James) Harden — whose Rockets are having a slightly less disappointing season than Davis’ Pelicans. Slightly.”
Joseph didn’t hesitate to pick Davis, including him among his three frontcourt picks.
“Davis has not been quite as electrifying as last year, but he still has more potential than any player in the league — and has been fantastic this season while slowly working on his three-point range,” he said.
Rondo’s 11.8 assists per game lead the league, and his six triple-doubles are second only to Draymond Green’s eight.
One writer in Rondo’s corner is The Boston Globe’s Gary Washburn, who covered the former UK star when he was with the Celtics.
“He’s resurrected his career.” Washburn said in a podcast on the newspaper’s website. “The dude leads the league in assists. He’s been a monster this year. … He’s still not a model citizen. He could still do some maturing. But I just think you’ve got to bring him to Toronto. The guy’s putting up numbers. He’s done everything Sacramento wanted him to.”
Towns made The Sporting News’ list of five All-Star caliber players who won’t be picked.
“Rookies aren’t supposed to make the All-Star Game,” Ian Levy wrote Tuesday. “It’s happened only eight times in the past 30 years …Towns is a rookie on that tier. Towns is averaging 16.1 points, 9.7 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.8 blocks per game. If he keeps that up he’ll be one of 14 rookies in NBA history to hit all four of those statistical benchmarks.
“Towns’ impressive rookie season is about more than emphasizing his future potential. He’s already among the best big men in the league and proving it on a nightly basis.”
All-Star reserves announcement
7 p.m. (TNT)
Friday, Feb. 12: Rising Stars Challenge
Saturday, Feb. 13: All-Star Saturday Night, including skills challenge, three-point shooting and dunk contests
Sunday, Feb. 14: NBA All-Star Game
According to UK, 12 former players have been chosen as NBA All-Stars: Ralph Beard (1951), Alex Groza (1951), Cliff Hagan (1958-62), Adrian Smith (1966), Dan Issel (1977), Antoine Walker (1998, 2002-03), Jamal Mashburn (2003), Jamaal Magloire (2004), Rajon Rondo (2010-13), Anthony Davis (2014-15), John Wall (2014-15) and DeMarcus Cousins (2015).