Starting 5 of players most likely to earn their first All-Star appearances this season

Robert Marvi
10 Min Read
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The start of the 2021-22 NBA regular season is nearing, and that means that a fresh crop of prospects will have opportunities to prove to fans that they are difference makers.

A few of them will earn the honor of making their first-ever All-Star team.

The NBA is in good hands these days, and one of the reasons why is that there are many young upstarts rising to the occasion and establishing themselves as new stars.

In particular, there are several men who are poised to make the trip to Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland for the 2022 NBA All-Star Game.

Here are the most likely first-time All-Stars this season by position.

1. Point Guard: Ja Morant


Since coming into the league two seasons ago, Morant has been considered to be absolutely brimming with talent and athleticism.

He won the 2020 NBA Rookie of the Year award after averaging 17.8 points, 3.9 rebounds and 7.3 assists per game during the 2019-20 season.

Despite the lack of reliable players around him, he took the Memphis Grizzlies to the brink of the playoffs in his rookie year, scoring 35 points in a 126-122 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers in the play-in tournament.

This past season, the Murray State University product guided the Grizzlies into the playoffs where they lost to the top-seeded Utah Jazz in the first round in five games. Morant played outstanding ball though, averaging 30.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 8.2 dimes in the series.

A big playoffs against one of the best defensive teams in the league can easily propel Morant to take the next step in his already rapid development.

Morant recently revealed that one of his goals this season is to be an All-Star.

“My goals for this season are, number one, to be better than I was my last two seasons,” Morant told HoopsHype. “To be an All-Star and make an All-NBA team are my other two goals this season.

The 22-year-old also stated that he believes he is among the five best point guards in the league. This season, he’ll surely be motivated to back up that statement.

The thing to watch with Morant is his 3-point shooting, which has thus far been a weakness. If he becomes a good or even a solid 3-point shooter, the sky could be the limit for him.

2. Shooting Guard: Collin Sexton


In the 2020-21 season, Sexton put up 24.3 points a game for the Cleveland Cavaliers, a nice improvement from his first two campaigns.

He also showed an improving ability to involve his teammates, averaging 4.4 assists per game.

Sexton forms half of one of the NBA’s more promising young backcourts with Darius Garland, who also showed solid improvement last season.

Although the prospects seem grim once again for Cleveland as a team, Sexton should have the opportunity to feast, especially given the lack of proven scorers on the team.

Sexton saw his name appear in trade rumors all offseason long, but Cavs general manager Koby Altman did express interest in having the 22-year-old stay in Cleveland for the long term. A possible lucrative contract extension could be a big motivator for Sexton this season.

If the University of Alabama product continues to improve this season on the defensive end and with his facilitating skills, he may end up representing the hometown team in the All-Star game.

3. Small Forward: Andrew Wiggins


When Wiggins was the top pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, many were very high on his potential. Although he was a good player for the Minnesota Timberwolves, he never really tapped into his full potential there.

But after being traded to the Golden State Warriors in the 2019-20 season, the 6-foot-7 forward has refined his game. With the Warriors, the University of Kansas product seems to have found a role that he is really fit for.

He had always been a mediocre 3-point shooter, but last season Wiggins improved to 38.0 percent from beyond the arc.

His defense, also a weak link of his, has seemingly gotten better as well. His improvement on that end is evidenced by several metrics, including defensive win shares and defensive box plus-minus.

In fact, Wiggins ranked fourth among all small forwards this past season in defensive real plus-minus.

With star shooting guard Klay Thompson set to miss the start of the season, Wiggins should have many more opportunities to shine.

4. Power Forward: Christian Wood


Wood is one of a handful of undrafted players that has found success in the NBA.

In his first two seasons, Wood played sparingly while showing some signs of potential. The 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons were big ones for Wood as he proved he could be a solid player in the league.

Last season, he was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise tumultuous and rough season for the Houston Rockets. The 26-year-old took his game to a whole new level and averaged 21.0 points and 9.6 rebounds per game while shooting 51.4 percent from the field and 37.4 percent from beyond the arc.

This year, Jalen Green, the immensely skilled rookie who was the second pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, is sure to take some pressure off Wood. This could help him continue to improve and refine his game.

Furthermore, Rockets guard Kevin Porter Jr. recently stated that he will be the team’s point guard, and that he’s looking to achieve a lofty goal this season.

It seems like Porter will be willing to set up his teammates a lot this season, something that will surely get Wood some good looks throughout the entire campaign.

If voters look past a team like the Rockets, who could struggle at times this season, they may just give Wood his first All-Star nod.

5. Center: Deandre Ayton


As the top pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, Ayton was expected by many to have a shot at becoming the game’s next great center.

While his numbers were strong in his first couple of seasons, they weren’t eye-popping. In fact, his scoring dipped from 18.2 points per game in the 2019-20 season to 14.4 points per game this past season. However, his efficiency shot up a solid amount, likely because the Suns acquired Chris Paul, one of the best point guards in NBA history.

He started to blossom during the Phoenix Suns’ unexpected trip to the NBA Finals. Throughout last season’s playoffs, he averaged 15.8 points and 11.8 rebounds per game while shooting 65.8 percent from the field.

The confidence and experience Ayton gained during a deep and successful playoff run could result in him getting his first All-Star game appearance this season.

It was recently reported that Ayton’s talks with the Suns over a contract extension had stalled. The 23-year-old addressed those rumors during the team’s training camp.

“I love Phoenix, but I’m really disappointed we haven’t really gotten a deal done yet,” Ayton said on Tuesday. “We were two wins away from winning a championship and I just really want to be respected, to be honest. To be respected like my peers are being respected by their teams.”

The possibility of getting a max contract extension, like some of the other players in his draft class, could definitely motivate Ayton to step his game up even more.

With the Los Angeles Lakers and Warriors looking stronger this season, the Suns will need Ayton to take his game to a higher level. Another season with Paul could also help him do just that.

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Robert is a native of Santa Monica, Calif. and a graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara. He has been an avid NBA and NFL fan since he was a little kid in the mid-'90s, and he has always loved soaking up knowledge about both leagues and their respective histories. He feels strongly that sports aren't just entertainment, but also a means for learning life lessons.