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Sabonis & Strickland Featured in List of Best Non-All-Stars

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A pair of former Trail Blazers players were featured on The Athletic’s list of best players who never played in an All-Star Game.

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Portland Trail Blazers v Sacramento Kings Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

The last-minute inclusion of Jazz guard Mike Conley to the 2021 All-Star Game has shifted the balance of handful of all-time lists. Most prominently, the hypothetical rankings of the best players to never make an All-Star Game appearance. With Conley removed from consideration, The Athletic’s John Hollinger delivered an updated look at the list on Monday.

Hollinger’s top five included two former Trail Blazers players (and Marcus Camby—for his pre-Blazers accomplishments). Arvydas Sabonis landed at No. 5 in the list of best non-All-Stars. After framing Sabonis’ late arrival to the NBA, Hollinger pointed to the big fella’s best shot and the loaded Western Conference field.

In particular, he was the best player on a 46-win team in 1998, averaging 16 and 10 with a heavy compilation of sweet dimes, and wasn’t chosen. The lockout year in 1999, with no All-Star Game, also hurt him; he had a good chance of selection that year. Sabonis was also arguably still Portland’s best player in 2000, when the Blazers had an awesome team that lacked a single centerpiece star, but was only playing 26 minutes a game by then and was only fifth in scoring. Rasheed Wallace got the “token Blazer” spot instead.

Making it as a West center was also virtually impossible in the late ’90s, because David Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwon and Shaquille O’Neal were all in the way. (Remember, coaches voted for centers as a separate position until recently.) An injury to Olajuwon cracked the door open in ’98, but Seattle’s Vin Baker had a career year and got the spot instead.

In 470 regular season outings with the Blazers, Sabonis averaged 12.0 points, 2.1 assists and 7.3 rebounds per game.

Further down the list, guard Rod Strickland came in at No. 3. Hollinger highlighted that Strickland put together an extended run of showcase-worthy campaigns that fell just short of the big game.

Strickland was at least what you’d call a “fringe” All-Star every year from 1994 through 1999, among the longest stretches of any player in the “best to never make it” category, and has a pretty rock-solid case that his ’99 campaign in Washington would have been the year were it not for the lockout. Yes, Les Boulez went 18-32, but the Jordan-less, Pippen-less East that year was a pretty depressing lot.

Strickland, in two separate stints in Portland, averaged 16.2 points and 8.2 assists per game in a Blazers uniform.

You can check out the complete rundown from Hollinger at The Athletic (subscription required).