Every NBA player at some point was the best at something at some level. High school, AAU, college, or a professional league… even the 15th man for the league’s worst team was a star for someone. At any given moment in the league currently, there are a maximum of 450 NBA players with a job; often there are less. So let’s get that out of the way: NBA players are not bad basketball players.
To be sure, several basketball players are more talented or skilled or dedicated (or any combination of those) than the rest of the league. For fan service, and as a way of showing professional respect, an All-Star game is held. These are the best of the best, largely. There have been complaints of blacklisting, ignorant fan voting, and ballot stuffing from overseas. If it can be said that there was ever a “wrong” All-Star selected, he wasn’t so far down the list that he wasn’t in the conversation (with the exception of a legacy vote for an aged star).
Some players, though, just really didn’t stand out for the majority of their career. For whatever reason...injury opportunity, diluted competition, contract push, change in coaching, change in teammates, change in team, black magic… sometimes a mediocre (by league standards) player will have a standout year. Sometimes it will be a blip of a few seasons in an otherwise unremarkable career. Sometimes the stars will align and one of those standout seasons coincides with an open roster spot on the All-Star team.
Another reason players get selected, perhaps undeservingly, to the All-Star team is because of team success: the people responsible for selecting the roster reward a team’s regular season success by voting on more than one All-Star (sometimes as many as 4 players are selected from the same team). Yet another reason (and perhaps the saddest one yet) for a player being selected is just a dearth of exceptional talent: once you’ve divided the talent pool in 2 by conference, sometimes there is just no exceptional talent at a specific position and the fans and coaches are stuck voting for the “best of the rest”.
Without further ado, 15 of the Flukiest All-Star Selections:
15 Kenyon Martin
Martin may well be the most understandable selection for the All-Star Game on this list. Drafted 1st overall by the New Jersey Nets, he was a part of the exciting Jason Kidd-run Nets era. He made the All-Rookie team and was the 2nd option for the two years the Nets made the Finals. Despite being a 2nd option, Martin’s game was always criticized more for its holes than praised for its strengths.
Kenyon Martin made the All-Star team in 2004, the year the Nets would fall to eventual champion Detroit in the 2nd round of the playoffs. For the season he averaged a sturdy (and not spectacular) 16.7 points and 8.3 rebounds. Following that season, he was traded to Denver, where he played a supporting role in the Carmelo-led Nuggets. While his role had diminished, his regard among league aficionados had grown by leaps and bounds as his nastiness and brutishness became more appreciated. An injury struck him down in 2006, and his game recovered a bit but began a steady downward trajectory. As his ability to contribute on the floor waned, he bounced around the league in stints with the Clippers, Knicks, and Bucks.
14 B.J. Armstrong
The light of Michael Jordan shone so brightly in Chicago that the players who were left when MJ “retired” seemed all the more amazing for holding things together. Drafted 18th overall by the Bulls, Armstrong didn’t even begin to start for his team until his 4th season (and the final year of the Bulls’ 1st threepeat). A point guard with a deceptively ever-youthful appearance, Armstrong’s stats never really stood out. In his lone All-Star season in 1994, Armstrong managed 15 points, 4 assists, and 2 rebounds a game: hardly what one would expect from an All-Star. While Armstrong was a pesky defender, it did not show up in the box score metrics and he was never selected to an All-Defensive team.
To illustrate how expendable Armstrong was, he was left unprotected by Chicago in the Raptors expansion draft. Drafted away from the Bulls, Toronto traded him to the Warriors before their inaugural season even began. After two years in Oakland, he was sent to the Charlotte Hornets who also traded him away two years later (to the Lakers). Immediately waived by Los Angeles, he signed on briefly with Orlando and then Chicago again (who released him a year later). B.J. finished with career averages of 9.8 points, 1.8 rebounds, and a meager 3.3 assists.
13 Dana Barros
Dana Barros is a poster boy for the fluke career year All-Star selection. Barros was a combo guard who, after being picked 16th by the Supersonics, contributed in brief minutes off the bench behind Dale Ellis, Nate McMillan, and (later) Gary Payton before being shipped to Philadelphia (via Charlotte) in time for the 1993-94 season. As a full-time starter in Philly, Barros posted elevated stats that were still mediocre by starter standards in his first year. His second season as a Sixer, though, saw his points per game jump from 13.3 to 20.6 and his assists jump from a pedestrian 5.2 to a respectable 7.5. Barros also saw increases in rebounds and steals (although all the increases can be mostly explained by his getting an additional 9 minutes of game time a night). It was that year, 1995, that Barros was put on the All-Star team, and awarded with the Most Improved Player award.
Barros parlayed his success into a much more lucrative contract with the Boston Celtics (roughly $3.5m per year up from less than $1m). In Boston, though, he lost his starting spot and the jump in stats/minutes that went with it. He became a fixture in Boston for a total of 5 seasons of diminishing returns before his inclusion in a massive 4-team trade to Dallas… who in turn traded him before he ever suited up to the Detroit Pistons. Following 2 seasons in Detroit, Dana Barros signed for 1 game with the Celtics before retiring. His career stats were a whopping 10.5 points, 1.9 rebounds, and 3.3 assists.
12 Theo Ratliff
Defensive stars are sometimes difficult to defend by basic metrics. Much of what they do does not show up in the box score. Theo Ratliff was definitely selected to the All-Star team based on his defensive prowess (and his team’s success, as the 76ers won 56 games that season). Selected 18th by Detroit, he played for the Pistons for just over 2 seasons before being traded to Philly. In Philly, his production jumped a little, and he peaked in 2001 with 12.4 points, 8.3 rebounds, and an astounding 3.7 blocks. While that was the year he was selected, he only managed to play in 50 games that season. To his credit, Ratliff did also get selected to 2 All-Defensive 2nd Teams and led the league in blocks per game 3 times.
But Ratliff was rarely healthy for a full season. After 4 years in Philly, he was sent to Atlanta. The Hawks traded him to Portland after 3 seasons (in the trade for Rasheed Wallace that set him up to be the missing piece in Detroit’s championship season). The Blazers sent him to Boston after a season and a half; and the Celtics sent him to Minnesota the following summer. After being waived by Minnesota mid-season, he wound up signing several short deals that put him back in Detroit and Philadelphia, made him a Spur, and finally a Laker. The Spurs, in the short time they had him, managed to trade him to the Charlotte Bobcats for a full 3 months. In all those seasons past his first stint in Philly, he averaged just 48 games a season (despite playing in 85 regular season games in 2003-04 due to scheduling quirks and a midseason trade). He finished his career with paltry averages of 7.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 0.6 assists per game… although he did finish with 2.4 blocks per game (and is 20th on the All-Time Blocks list).
11 Steve Johnson
If you haven’t heard of Steve Johnson, you are likely not alone. His Wikipedia entry describes him as such: “He was generally regarded as a good low-post offensive player, but as a poor defender and rebounder (and as a foul-prone player as well).” If that doesn’t scream “All-Star!”, we’re not sure what does. His scoring averages seem very underwhelming for a “good” offensive player (he only topped 15 ppg twice, and never cracked 17 ppg)... until you realize his ungodly foul totals (3.8 per game… and topping out at 4.8 per game in his rookie year) limited him to just an average of 21.8 minutes per game. Johnson was drafted 7th overall by the then-Kansas City Kings. After 2 ½ seasons he was traded to the Bulls. The Bulls traded him the following summer to San Antonio, who flipped him the next summer to Portland. In his 2nd season in Portland, he filled in at center for the injured Sam Bowie, and was voted to the All-Star team, averaging 15.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per game. Due to injury, he was unable to play in the game.
Two seasons later he was selected by the Minnesota Timberwolves in their expansion draft, but played only 4 games in Minny before being sent to Seattle. The next season he signed with Golden State, and retired after that season (when injuries kept him to less than 30 games in a season for the 3rd straight season). His final career averages were 11.7 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 1.2 assists. It is pretty safe to say that Johnson was about as mediocre a player as had ever been put on an All-Star team.
10 Antonio Davis
Antonio Davis spent his first six seasons bruising for the Indiana Pacers after having been selected 45th in the 1990 draft (the 18th pick of the 2nd round). In the summer of 1999, he was traded to Toronto, and became instrumental in shaping a young Raptors team led by Vince Carter. Combined with several other tough customers, he helped in propelling Toronto to a playoff spot in 2001, and managed an All-Star selection in that year. In his lone All-Star year, Davis averaged 13.7 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 1.4 assists (to go with 1.9 blocks).
Davis spent 2 more seasons in Toronto before being traded to the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls traded him 2 years later to the Knicks. The Knicks sent him back to Toronto, where he played 8 final games before being waived for a season-ending injury. Davis was always a well-regarded locker room presence and defender who brought toughness to his teams. What he wasn’t, really, was what you would call an All-Star player… and his career averages reflect that: 10.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 1.1 assists.
9 Dale Davis
Like Antonio Davis (no relation), Dale Davis began to make a name for himself with the Indiana Pacers in the early 90s. Dale was drafted 13th overall in 1991, and spent his first 9 seasons banging bodies as a Pacer. It was in his final season in Indiana, at age 30, that he made his one and only All-Star team (that was the year Indiana made the Finals under then-coach Larry Bird). While Davis was a tremendous force, his selection as an All-Star was predicated on team success, legacy, and admiration… as he was averaging just 10 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 0.9 assists that season.
Following the loss in the Finals to the Lakers, he was sent to Portland in exchange for Jermaine O’Neal. Davis stayed in Portland for 4 seasons during the infamous Jailblazer era, before being moved to the Warriors. Half a season later, Golden State shipped him to the New Orleans Hornets for Baron Davis. New Orleans waived him a week later, and he signed back on with the Pacers for the remainder of the season. He finished his career with a final two years with the Detroit Pistons. For his career, Dale Davis averaged just 8.0 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 0.9 assists.
8 Gerald Wallace
Gerald “Crash” Wallace was an interesting exception to the rest of the list in that his All-Star selection had more to do with the fact that he played for a recent expansion team than anything else. Wallace spent his first 3 years with the Sacramento Kings after being drafted 25th. Left unprotected by Sacramento, he was snatched away by the Charlotte Bobcats in their expansion draft. He quickly became one of the faces of the franchise, and when the Bobcats finally made the playoffs in their 6th year in the league, Wallace was one of the leaders of the team and one of the better producers. While teammate Stephen Jackson seemed more responsible for the team’s success, it was likely Wallace’s tenure with the team that gave him the go-ahead nod. For that season, and the few that preceded it, he did appear to have an All-Star’s production level; but much of that was owed to the talent level of a new expansion team. That season he averaged 18.2 points, 10 rebounds, 2.1 assists, along with 1.5 steals and 1.1 blocks. He also was elected to the All-Defensive 1st Team that season (his lone All-Defensive selection).
Half a season later, Crash was traded to Portland. Portland dealt him to Brooklyn a year later. After he faltered in Brooklyn, he was traded to the Celtics (after 2 seasons). Two seasons later, he would be moved by Boston to the Warriors...who that same summer sent him packing to the 76ers. Philadelphia then waived him without his ever playing as a Sixer. And that appears to be the end of the NBA odyssey for Wallace. His career averages, inflated by his time in Charlotte, are still a relatively mundane 11.9 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 2.1 assists.
7 Josh Howard
Josh Howard was a very pleasant surprise for the Dallas Mavericks, who picked him with the next-to-last pick of the 1st round in 2003 (29th overall). He came out of the gates strong and wound up starting 29 games for a very solid Dallas team (Dirk, Nash, Finley, Antawn Jamison, Antoine Walker, and fellow rookie surprise… the undrafted Marquis Daniels). Howard nabbed a spot on the All-Rookie 2nd team since it was pretty much impossible to move Dwyane Wade and LeBron James from his 2 potential slots. His role quickly increased, and in 2007, he was picked as an All-Star (Dallas was on a historic pace for wins with only 9 losses at the All-Star break). The 2nd leading scorer on that Mavs team, Howard averaged 18.9 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 1.8 assists that season.
Howard went on the radio and took a controversial stance on admitting marijuana use that seemed to sour his relationship with the Mavericks organization, and he was traded to Washington for Caron Butler in 2010. Tearing his ACL in Washington, his career was severely hampered. A couple months into the 2011 season, he signed on with the Utah Jazz. The following season, again after the season began, Howard signed with the Timberwolves… only to be waived the following month. Howard made the camps of both San Antonio and New Orleans since then, but has yet to play another NBA game. Should his career be over, he will have finished with respectable (but not All-Star level) averages of 14.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 1.6 assists.
6 A.C. Green
A.C. Green was a tremendous defensive presence and good locker room presence whose initial stint with the Lakers included 4 trips to the Finals (2 wins and 2 losses). Green was picked 23rd overall by Los Angeles in 1985, and played there for 7 seasons. In 1989 he was selected to the All-Defensive 2nd Team. The year following, the year that stopped the Lakers’ Finals runs from being consecutive, he was voted into the All-Star Team: averaging 12.9 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 1.1 assists a game that season. Undoubtedly his selection had more to do with his defense and his choirboy image than statistical production.
He left Los Angeles in 1993 for the Phoenix Suns, where he played 3 ½ seasons, being included with Sam Cassell and Michael Finley in the Jason Kidd trade with Dallas in 1996. The Mavs held onto him for 2 more seasons, before dealing him back to the Lakers. In his 1999-2000 season with Los Angeles, he played a pivotal bench role and helped the team win another championship. Following that championship, he signed on for a final year in Miami, reuniting with former coach Pat Riley. For his career, Green averaged 9.6 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 1.1 assists.
5 Tyrone Hill
It could be said that Hill began his career as a disappointment, as he was selected 11th overall by Golden State and given a starting job… but averaging only 7.4 points and 7.5 rebounds in his 3 years there (he cracked double digits in rebounds in his 3rd year, bringing up his average significantly). In 1993, he was traded to Cleveland, where he blossomed. And in his 2nd year as a Cavalier, he was selected to his first and only All-Star team on averages of 13.8 points and 10.9 rebounds (and less than 1 assist, block, and steal per game).
Much of what he accomplished during his career was on the defensive end and could not be captured in the box score. He was commonly referred to as a “lunch-pail” player, which is seldom the type of language used to describe an All-Star. After 4 seasons in Cleveland, he was sent in the Vin Baker/Shawn Kemp/Terrell Brandon trade to the Bucks. The Bucks held onto him for a season and a half before shipping him to Philadelphia, where he played a pivotal role in the Sixers team that lost to the Lakers in the finals in 2001. Following the Finals loss, he was traded back to Cleveland, where he was waived after the trade deadline the following season when they were unable to find a team willing to trade for him. Hill signed back on with the Sixers for the remainder of 2003, and caught on for a whopping 5 games the next season in Miami before being waived again. For his career, Hill averaged 9.4 points, 8.6 rebounds, and approximately 875 lunches brought to work in a pail.
4 Mehmet Okur
Mehmet “Memo” Okur was a solid player who was a victim of missing his appropriate playing era by about 10 years. Okur was a stretch big from Turkey who shot 37.5% from 3 during his career. If he were in his prime as of the writing of this article, he’d be a perennial All-Star, and likely a focal point of the offense. As it happened, Okur came into the league as a 23-year-old rookie in 2002 with Detroit after being picked in the 2nd round a year earlier. Okur was blessed with good coaches and good, strong teammates in his two years in Detroit and, as a part-time starter in 2004, he helped Detroit beat the Lakers for the championship. Following that, he signed on with the Utah Jazz and was voted to the All-Star team in his 3rd season with the Jazz. In his All-Star season, he averaged 18 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 2.4 assists… and made 1.6 threes per game on 38.4% shooting.
After another 4 seasons with the Jazz, he signed with a Turkish team during the lockout, and was then traded by Utah to the New Jersey Nets for a 2nd round pick (he’d ruptured his achilles in 2010 and was not nearly the man he had been). He played 17 games for the Nets before being traded to Portland in the same trade that sent Gerald Wallace to the Nets and and the pick that’d become Damian Lillard to Portland. Seven days later he was waived, and he then retired due to injuries. He finished his career with an average of 13.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 1.7 assists.
3 Mo Williams
Of the 15 players on the list, Williams is the only one currently still playing in the league. That makes discussing him a bit more sensitive. This article is not out to denigrate anyone, and it should be noted that Williams is a longtime quality player who has far exceeded the expectations that came with being selected 47th overall (the 18th pick of the 2nd round) back in 2003 by the Jazz. Williams played just one season for the Jazz before signing a long-term guaranteed contract with the Milwaukee Bucks. Milwaukee traded Williams to Cleveland 4 years later, where he became a running mate, and beneficiary, of LeBron James. In 2009, Williams and his team lobbied hard for his selection to the All-Star game, citing his individual performance and the team’s success (Cleveland wound up winning 66 games that season). Williams was left out of the initial roster. After Ray Allen was selected as an injury replacement for Jameer Nelson (who played his same position whereas Allen didn’t) instead of Mo, he raised a considerable stink in the media about it. It took a 2nd injury, this time to Chris Bosh, to get Williams on the All-Star squad. That season, he averaged 17.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 4.1 assists… and shot 43.6% from 3-point range.
A season and a half later, Williams was traded to the Clippers for Baron Davis and the pick that became Kyrie Irving. A season and a half passed as a Clipper before he was included in a 4-team trade that brought Lamar Odom back to the Clippers and put Williams in a Utah Jazz jersey again. The next season, Williams signed on with Portland. The following summer he signed to play with Minnesota. Just before the trade deadline of that, the 2015 season, he was sent to the Charlotte Hornets for Gary Neal. The summer following, he signed on to play for the Cavaliers, who would go on to win the championship. He currently is slated to be the 2nd- or 3rd-string point guard for the defending champs. His current career averages are 13.2 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 4.9 assists.
2 Chris Gatling
Chris Gatling was drafted 16th overall in 1991 by the Golden State Warriors. Perhaps no player more aptly could be referred to as a journeyman, and it is an absolute wonder that he was ever selected to the All-Star team. Gatling spent his first 4 ½ seasons with Golden State, and was traded along with Tim Hardaway to the Miami Heat (for Bimbo Coles and Kevin Willis). He signed with Dallas the following season, where he was selected as an All-Star. He was traded just 8 days after the All-Star game to the New Jersey Nets (but played just 3 games). That season, he averaged a very uncharacteristic 19.0 points and 7.9 rebounds without any real increase in minutes.
Gatling spent another season and a half in New Jersey before getting himself traded (he’d requested it) to Milwaukee. He played just 30 games as a Buck and was traded in the summer to Orlando. Orlando traded him mid-season to Denver, who traded him again at the end of the season… this time to Miami. He did not suit up for Miami that time, as they sent him later that summer to Cleveland, where he played one season before being traded back to Miami. Gatling played 54 games for the Heat in what was technically his third stint with the organization. So if you lost count, in the span of just 31 months he was traded 6 times (that’s an average of being traded every 5 months for 3 straight years). In 2002 he was waived by the Heat and played briefly internationally in Russia and Italy before calling it a career. Chris Gatling’s career averages were 10.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 0.7 assists per game.
1 Jamaal Magloire
Jamaal Magloire spent just 4 seasons of his 12 year career as a full-time starter (and one of those seasons was just 23 games due to injury). Yet in that span, he managed one All-Star selection… and for a team that finished at 41-41, no less. Magloire was picked 19th overall by the Charlotte Hornets, just 2 seasons before their move to New Orleans. It was in their second season in the Big Easy that Magloire made the All-Star squad in the East (which really said more about the poor shape of the “Leastern” Conference than Magloire’s actual qualifications). His star season, he was averaging 13.6 points and 10.3 rebounds; solid but hardly All-Star worthy.
After one more season in New Orleans, he was sent packing to the Milwaukee Bucks. They, in turn, traded him to Portland the following summer. In the offseason he signed with the New Jersey Nets, who cut him at the trade deadline. He finished out the season with the Mavericks after signing with them 4 days after being cut. That following offseason, when he was presumably on his way out of the league (and playing around 10 minutes per game), he signed with the Miami Heat. He played for Miami from 2008-2011, but averaged only 36 games per season with the team. A couple months into the 2011-12 season, he signed a contract with the Toronto Raptors. He was waived before the next season began. Magloire’s career averages were 7.2 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 0.6 assists.