The high-octane guard, who is currently the only player in the Eastern Conference averaging at least 20 points and two steals while shooting above 40 percent from three, will still likely be selected by the coaches to represent the Indiana Pacers in Los Angeles on February 18, but he won’t be introduced as a starter.
Oladipo finished third among backcourt players in a vote that combined balloting by fans (50%), media (25%), and players (25%), behind Boston’s Kyrie Irving and Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan. In keeping with the second returns, Rookie of the Year front-runner Ben Simmons also topped Oladipo in the fan vote, but the latter bested the former with the media and the players
Cleveland’s LeBron James, Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid were selected as frontcourt starters out of the East.
“It would be a blessing and an honor to represent the Indiana Pacers as an All-Star,” Oladipo told Fox Sports Indiana’s Jeremiah Johnson following his team’s lopsided win over the Utah Jazz, only a few hours before voting closed. “It’s really out of my control. Credit my teammates for even giving me the opportunity to be thought of as that...”
Tellingly, Indiana went 0-4, surrendering a mammoth 118.0 points per 100 possessions, while the feathery pace-setter was sidelined with knee soreness earlier this month. However, while his absence certainly underscored exactly how pivotal he is to the success of the Pacers, it also may have contributed to him being somewhat out of sight, out of mind.
Of course, it’s not as if Toronto’s three-time All-Star would’ve been without claim to the starting nod in the absence of that downright dominant performance. After all, the former mid-range maven is averaging over 25.0 points per game while taking and making threes at a career-best rate without sacrificing trips to the line.
He’s a legitimate MVP candidate.
None of which even mentions that the Pacers (No. 6) are hanging out near the bottom of the East’s playoff standings whereas Boston (No.1) currently boasts the league’s stingiest defense and Toronto (No. 2) is the only team in the league ranking among the top five in both offensive and defensive efficiency.
So, Oladipo didn’t exactly get snubbed. There just weren’t enough starting spots to go around for three well-deserving guards.
As such, after the reserves are announced this coming Tuesday, the expectation should be that the favorite for the league’s Most Improved Player award will be among the pool of players from which team captains and leading vote-getters LeBron James and Stephen Curry will take turns picking.