The NBA will release its All-Star starters on Thursday and Karl-Anthony Towns likely won't make the cut. The frontcourt players selected out the Western Conference in a combination of media, fan and player voting will likely include LeBron James, Anthony Davis and possibly Kawhi Leonard.
But Towns has a chance to make it when coaches select the reserves for the game. The question is, is he deserving of the honor, which would be his third?
At the root of the question is the 17 games Towns has missed – two because of suspension, 15 because of injury and illness.
When Towns has played, his numbers are All-Star worthy, like his 40-point performance in Wednesday's 117-110 loss to the Bulls. He's averaging 26 points, which would rank 11th in the league if Towns played enough games to qualify. His 11.1 rebounds per game would rank 10th.
Denver center Nikola Jokic is a likely candidate to be one of the seven reserves to make the team, and there will need to be more guards to round out the roster, so it may be close whether Towns gets in over the likes of Rudy Gobert, who beat out Towns for the All-NBA team last season, costing Towns the ability to make around $32 million extra on his current contract. Gobert is averaging 15.4 points and 14.5 rebounds and is known as one of the best post defenders in the league.
For his part, Towns said he's not thinking about the All-Star game too much, even after he was emotional last season after being selected.
"It would be an honor. But, for me, I'm not even worried about that to tell you honestly," Towns said. "I just worry about winning. That's the only thing. I don't wake and say, 'I need to get these amount of points and these rebounds and these statistics for an All-Star bid.' The last thing I'm thinking about is the All-Star bid. I'm trying to figure out ways to get wins for my team, my organization, and to find better ways to lead."
Saunders stumped for Towns before Wednesday's game, saying that the games Towns missed shouldn't matter when considering whether he deserves the honor since his numbers are so eye-popping when he does play.
"He's a transcendent talent that needs to be a part of the All-Star weekend," Saunders said.
Saunders also said voters should take into account statistical performances as well as a team's record with their votes, a not so subtle advocacy that Towns' performance should still matter a lot despite the Wolves 15-29 record.
"You take that into consideration but when individuals are playing at such a high level like some of these guys are, you put Zach [Lavine] in that category, but you put Karl, what he's been able to do when he's been available this year, they're astronomical numbers," Saunders said. "Those are things you want to reward in this league as well."
Added Towns: "I don't got time, thinking about all the other ways we could win to be thinking about All-Star bids. And that's no offense to the committee ... That's where my mind is. My mind is about finding ways to win, finding ways to take those two bad things out the equation and have us play a complete game."