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Among many things that will make the 2021 All-Star Game look different are a number of players that weren't on the floor during the 2020 All-Star Game in Chicago.
In addition to the list of potential first-time All-Stars, there are a few former All-Stars that could find themselves back on the big stage after missing out on selections in recent years. Here are some of the most likely candidates to re-emerge as All-Stars in 2021.
Note: The featured list doesn't include players that missed the majority of the 2019-20 season due to injury.
Last appearance: 2018
Since being traded to the San Antonio Spurs, DeRozan has missed out on the last two All-Star Games in a loaded Western Conference.
At first glance, it's easy to notice that his 19.5 points per game are his lowest figure since the 2012-13 campaign, but his impact goes well beyond his scoring average, though he's still had some big scoring nights.
For one, DeRozan is averaging a career-high 6.6 assists through 19 games. The 31-year-old has already turned in three games with double-digit assists, including a 20-point, 11-assist double-double in a win over the Portland Trail Blazers and a 30-point, 10-assist performance in a win over the Denver Nuggets.
Of course, wins are the most important stat. DeRozan's play has been a big reason that the Spurs are on the right side of the playoff picture after seeing their record streak of consecutive postseason appearances end at 22 last year. Coincidentally, last season was also the first time that San Antonio didn't have an All-Star since that same season it last missed the playoffs.
Simply put, DeRozan should get consideration so long as the Spurs remain in the playoff hunt.
Last appearance: 2019
After being the biggest snub in 2020, there's no way Beal should miss out in 2021.
It's been a rough start to the season for the Washington Wizards, who have had a number of games postponed and rescheduled due to the league's health and safety protocols. Through it all, the 27-year-old Beal has been one major constant and a steadying force.
About a quarter of the way through the season, Beal is averaging a league-leading 34.9 points per game to go along with 5.1 rebounds and 4.7 assists per contest. He's already crossed the 40-point plateau three times this season, including a franchise-record tying 60 points in a loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.
Things could be much better for the Wizards but in no world should the league's leading scorer miss out on this year's All-Star Game.
Last appearance: 2018
Drummond last made the All-Star Game in 2017-18, a year in which he averaged 15.0 points and a league-leading 16.0 rebounds per game.
Fast forward three seasons, and Drummond still leads the league with 15.1 rebounds per game but is now averaging a career-best 18.5 points per game, to boot. In three of his first 19 games, Drummond finished with at least 20 points and 20 rebounds, including a 33-point, 23-rebound double-double in a win over the New York Knicks.
Thanks in large part to Drummond's efforts on the interior, Cleveland looks like it will remain in the Eastern Conference Playoff hunt as it continues to hover around .500 while playing inspired basketball.
If one Cav gets an All-Star nod, it should be Drummond or the team's floor general in Collin Sexton, a potential first-time All-Star.
Last appearance: 2019
Due to some unfortunate injuries, the Orlando Magic have fizzled after a franchise-best start to the season but Vucevic has kept the team afloat in the midst of adversity.
After making his All-Star debut in 2019, Vooch missed out on a selection in 2020. His response? A career-high 22.6 points to go along with 10.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists while connecting on 44.1% of his 6.0 3-point attempts per game.
The 6-foot-11 centre is among the league leaders in double-doubles, including a 28-point, 12-rebound, seven-assist performance that came in a win over the Charlotte Hornets.
Say it with us: "𝙑𝙤𝙤𝙤𝙤𝙤𝙤𝙤𝙤𝙤𝙤𝙤𝙤𝙤𝙤𝙤𝙤𝙤𝙤𝙤𝙘𝙝"@NikolaVucevic | #MagicTogether pic.twitter.com/zT4t6xhe9U- Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) January 26, 2021
Should Orlando get back on track, it will be because of the steadying force of Vucevic, who could very well earn an All-Star nod because of it.
Last appearance: 2017
After signing a lucrative deal with the Charlotte Hornets in the 2020 offseason, Hayward has proven to be worth it and then some.
Through his first 20 games as a Hornet, the 30-year-old is averaging a career-best 23.0 points to go along with 5.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists. Hayward has already turned in a career-high 44 points in a win over the Atlanta Hawks and a 39-point performance against the Orlando Magic that included the game-winning bucket.
Hayward's lone All-Star appearance came in 2017 in a loaded Western Conference, and so far, his numbers this year are even better.
|2020-21 (20 Games)||23.0||5.3||3.6||8.4||16.7||.503||2.3||5.4||.430||3.9||4.5||.856|
The numbers are one thing and the impact is another. Hayward has been the best player for a Hornets team that looks to return to the postseason for the first time since 2017, which, in an unrelated parallel, just happens to be the last time Hayward played on the All-Star stage.
Back from injury…
Stephen Curry - After missing all but five games in the 2019-20 season, the two-time MVP is on a fast track to making his seventh All-Star appearance in a starting capacity.
Kevin Durant - KD is back and better than ever after missing the entirety of last season to rehab the Achilles injury he suffered in the 2019 NBA Finals. Coming off of a career-altering injury at 32, Durant is averaging over 30 points per game for the first time since his MVP campaign in 2013-14.
Paul George - George has shaken off the rust from last season, averaging 23.6 points on .502/.454/.913 shooting splits. I mean, come on.
Kyrie Irving - After being limited to just 20 games in 2019-20, Irving is averaging a career-high 27.6 points on .525/.421/.945 shooting splits through 14 games this season. Again, I mean, come on.
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