5 Players That Got Snubbed from the 2021 All-NBA Teams

By Nick Sterling in Sports
| June 23, 2021 8:45 am PDT

The NBA released their All-NBA teams recently, but it wasn’t without some controversy.

The All-NBA First Team consists of Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry, Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard, Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic.

The All-NBA Second Team includes Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul, Los Angeles Lakers forward Lebron James, New York Knicks forward Julius Randle, and Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid.

Finally, the All-NBA Third Team comprises Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving, Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal, Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler, Los Angeles Clippers forward Paul George, and Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert.

The players on each team had great seasons and played a huge hand in their respective playoff runs. The thing is, I think there were better options that missed out. Let’s look at five players that got snubbed from the 2021All-NBA teams.

5. Russell Westbrook (Washington Wizards)

Russell Westbrook gets the distinction of receiving the most votes of any player that didn’t make the list. Westbrook made one of the All-NBA teams from 2011-2013 and 2015-2020. He earned All-NBA First Team in 2016 and 2017.

Westbrook entered the 2020-2021 season on his third different team in as many seasons.

The Washington Wizards guard had a slow start to the season, but really hit his stride at the beginning of April. Westbrook played a big factor in the Wizards going 17-6 in their final 23 games. The strong close helped them qualify for the postseason for the first time since 2018.

He even broke Oscar Robertson’s record for most career triple-doubles with 182. He has since upped that total to 184.

Westbrook finished the season with 22.2 PPG, 11.7 APG, and 11.5 RPG. He averaged a triple-double for the fourth time in five seasons. His APG and RPG were career highs. He also led the league in APG.

I think Westbrook could replace either Kyrie Irving or Chris Paul. Both players played integral roles in leading their respective teams to the No. 2 seed, but did they have better seasons than Westbrook?

Irving scored more points per game and had a better shooting percentage, but he missed 18 games. His 6.0 APG only ranked 21st in the league. It’s fair to wonder if Irving was even the best player on his team. However, teammates Kevin Durant and James Harden missed nearly half the season.

Paul’s impact goes beyond the stat sheet. His 16.4 PPG and 8.9 APG are good, but not among the league’s top guards.

The big thing with Paul is his ability to make teams better. He took a seemingly hopeless Oklahoma City Thunder to the playoffs in 2019-2020. This season, he helped the Suns earn the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference.

If I had to guess, I’d say the Wizards low seed in the final standings played a factor in Westbrook not making one of the All-NBA teams. Had the Wizards been a top five seed in the East, there’s a good chance Westbrook makes it.

4. Zion Williamson (New Orleans Pelicans)

Zion Williamson came into the NBA as one of the most hyped-up prospects of the decade. Two years into his NBA career, Williamson hasn’t disappointed.

Williamson stepped up his game in 2020-2021. He increased his scoring average from 22.5 to 27.0. He also shot 61.1 percent from the field. Both marks were eighth-best in the league.

Williamson is just one of two All-Star Game starters not to make the All-NBA Team.

The biggest knock on Williamson is not his individual play, it’s his team. The New Orleans Pelicans finished with a 31-41 record and failed to make the playoffs. Like I mentioned before, every player to make the All-NBA team was on a team that made the playoffs or play-in tournament.

Obviously, there are things Williamson can work on with his game, but I don’t think he’s far away from making an All-NBA Team. The guy has shown the ability to be a dominant player in this league. Considering this is just his second season, Williamson has some time before he reaches his prime.

When you look at people to replace, Julius Randle certainly comes to mind. Randle had a breakout season for the surprise New York Knicks. He finished the season with 24.1 PPG, 6.0 APG, and 10.2 RPG. He also set a career-high by shooting 41.1 percent from three-point range.

The big difference here is Randle led his team to the No. 4 seed in the East, while Williamson’s Pelicans finished 11th in the West. Not to mention, Williamson probably had a better supporting cast around him.

As Williamson continues to improve as a player, his team should get better. I think there are plenty of All-NBA Team appearances in the future for Williamson.

3. Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns)

It seems like Devin Booker is always getting snubbed from something. He was snubbed from both the 2020 and 2021 All-Star Game. He played in the game both seasons as an injury replacement. It’s nice he got his shot, but he should’ve been in the game from the start.

Booker has been a great player since he entered the league in 2015, but his team hasn’t surrounded him with the necessary pieces. That all changed this season.

The Phoenix Suns made their first playoff appearance since 2010. And it wasn’t like they barely got in. They finished with the second-best record in the league.

Booker was the driving force behind the Suns excellent season. He finished the season with 25.6 PPG. He also shot 48.4 percent from the field. That number was just 0.05 percent below his career high.

I know playoff stats don’t count towards All-NBA teams, but Booker’s performance just exemplifies his status as one of the league’s top players. He put up a playoff career-high 47 points in a series-clinching victory over the defending champs.

He also went 8-10 from three-point range in that game.

I think the obvious choice is to replace Chris Paul with Booker. We talked about Paul’s impact going well beyond the stat sheet, but in terms of player vs. player, I think most people would say Booker is better.

It’s also a misconception that Paul is the only reason the Suns became title contenders. Head coach Monty Williams nearly won Coach of the Year in just his second season with the team.

The Suns added Jae Crowder in free agency. Crowder’s veteran presence and playoff experience really helped the team behind the scenes. He’s also a great defender.

It’s a shame Booker doesn’t get the credit he deserves. I bet an NBA Championship would make up for all that though.

2. Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics)

This one was a pretty big surprise to me. I know the Boston Celtics underwhelmed a little bit this season, but that had more to do with injuries. Jayson Tatum certainly did his part.

Tatum had the best season of his career. He averaged career highs with 26.4 PPG, 4.3 APG, 7.4 RPG, and 86.8 free throw percentage. The best part about Tatum’s game is he steps up when it matters most.

After averaging 25.3 PPG in the first four months of the season, Tatum upped that total to 29.7 in April. That month, he recorded a 53-point game and a 60-point game. In the game Tatum put up 60 points, the Celtics overcame a 32-point deficit. The comeback was the third biggest in NBA history.

Like I mentioned with Booker, playoff stats don’t factor into All-NBA teams, but Tatum proved his worth in the postseason.

He put up 50 points in the play-in game against the Washington Wizards. He followed that up with a 40- and 50-point game in the Celtics playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets.

I would definitely put Tatum on the All-NBA team over Jimmy Butler. Tatum had more points per game and rebounds per game than Butler. Butler does have an advantage over Tatum as a defender.

Tatum took over as the leading force on the Celtics, while Butler plays on a Miami Heat team that gets equal contributions from multiple players.

The Heat did have a better record than the Celtics, but they only finished one spot ahead of them in the East.

Tatum is only 23 years old, so he has plenty of time to evolve as a player. A lot of people see Tatum as a future MVP in this league. A new head coach could put the Celtics back up there with the East’s best teams.

1. Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz)

There should be an unwritten rule that the best player on the best team makes the All-NBA Team. Donovan Mitchell took his game to the next level in the 2020-2021 season.

Mitchell’s season got off to a slow start. He averaged just 22.2 PPG in the first two months of the season. He really turned it on after that, averaging 28.5 PPG.

Mitchell finished the season with career highs in PPG (26.4), APG (5.2), RPG (4.4), and three-point percentage (38.6).

The Utah Jazz were always on the brink of being top contenders in the West. They finished fifth twice and sixth in the West in Mitchell’s first three seasons. The Jazz took that next step this season, as they finished with the best record in the NBA. Their .722-win percentage was the Jazz’s best since the 1998-1999 season.

Mitchell not being honored for his part is a bit questionable. Kendrick Perkins noted the disconnect on social media.

Mitchell did miss the final 16 games of the regular season with an ankle sprain, and the Jazz went 10-6 in that span.

Mitchell has shown the world he belongs among the league’s top players this postseason. In Utah’s second-round playoff series against the Los Angeles Clippers, Mitchell averaged 34.8 PPG. I know, I keep bringing up playoff stats and they don’t factor in All-NBA, but it just shows how great these players are.

The Jazz did have Rudy Gobert represent them on the All-NBA team. Mitchell is definitely a better player, but they play two different positions, so we can’t replace Gobert with him.

This is a tough decision, but if I had to pick someone to replace, I’d go with Kyrie Irving.

Irving’s stats are similar to Mitchell’s. They also both missed over 15 games. Irving is deserving of his spot, but Mitchell had just as good of a season and led the Jazz to a better record. Not to mention, Irving plays with two superstars.

Mitchell should use the snub as motivation. He turns 25 in September, so he still has his best years ahead of him.

Looking Ahead to the 2021-22 NBA Season

 There are so many great players in the NBA. It’s hard not to have All-NBA Team snubs, and the silver lining is that being forced to omit players creates some nice conversation.

Of course, I think a bigger issue may be the structure as far as who makes it. They go with two guards, two forwards, and one center.

More flexibility in future All-NBA Team constructions could be ideal.

It seems like most people agree that Donovan Mitchell had a much better season than Rudy Gobert. However, Gobert is a center, so he gets the spot.

The good news is that that a lot of the 2021 All-NBA Team snubs are under the age of 25. They have plenty of time to continue evolving their games. Who knows, maybe one of these guys will go from All-NBA snub to MVP.

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