Mike Conley is widely considered to be the best active player never to make an All-Star Game. He spent years leading the Memphis Grizzlies into the playoffs without receiving the honor, but as a member of the league-best Utah Jazz, he seemingly had his best chance to get there yet. He led the NBA in plus-minus for most of the season, has played stellar defense and is posting career-best efficiency numbers.
Yet when rosters were announced on Tuesday, Conley was left out. There was a slim chance for him to sneak in as an injury replacement for Anthony Davis, but commissioner Adam Silver chose guard Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns instead. Barring another injury between now and the March 7 All-Star Game, rosters are now set. Conley will not make the cut.
And Conley didn't deny his disappointment in missing out. "Man, it was tough. I really, really thought this was the year," Conley told reporters after Wednesday's Jazz win over the defending champion Lakers. "I joked with the guys on the team that I blame them. We should have started the year 31-0. Maybe that would have given me a chance, but I don't know what else to do."
There's not much else Conley could've done. Most value metrics painted him as an All-Star. For example, FiveThirtyEight's RAPTOR metric ranks Conley as the No. 2 overall player in basketball so far this season. ESPN's Real Plus-Minus ranks him seventh. The list goes on and on.
But Conley doesn't fit the traditional definition of an All-Star. He averages only 16.4 points per game, ranked 49th in the league overall and behind only two All-Stars: Ben Simmons and Rudy Gobert, perhaps the two leading contenders for Defensive Player of the Year. Without flashy counting stats, and unless the NBA one day decides to expand All-Star rosters, Conley may forever be denied the honor that he craves.