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The 5 biggest NBA All-Star snubs

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There are more deserving All-Stars than spots on the All-Star team, so qualified players are inevitably going to be left out. But these five have the best cases for belonging in New York.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The reserves for the NBA All-Star Game were just announced on TNT, and unfortunately, there is only room for seven additional players per conference. As such, everyone that made it has earned the honor.

But with so much talent in the league right now, other equally deserving candidates were left out. This is what happens every year, but it's especially true this year because there were so many viable candidates in the Western Conference and one spot went to Kobe Bryant via the fan vote. Bryant and Miami's Dwyane Wade (who was selected as a reserve) will be replaced by two players on the list below due to injury, but they still took up spots that would otherwise go to deserving players.

Because there are only 24 spots, there are many players that one could argue were "snubbed." These are the five players we believe had the best cases for going to New York.

Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers

Lillard is the clear favorite to replace Bryant, so his snub may be short-lived. Including Lillard originally would've meant bumping Klay Thompson, Russell Westbrook or Chris Paul, who have all put together incredible years when they've played. Yet it was still stunning to see the NBA's king of clutch left off the roster.

Lillard has continued to improve in his third season as he makes the leap from stardom to superstardom. The 24-year-old leads the league in fourth-quarter scoring and has made countless big shots for one of the league's best teams. Not only has he made advances to his offensive game, but the point guard has also improved as a rebounder and continues to progress defensively. His superb play has the Blazers as one of the best teams in the NBA.

He is the straw that stirs the Blazers' drink. LaMarcus Aldridge is an essential piece himself, but it's Lillard's shot-making that allows Portland to play possum in so many games before catching up in the fourth quarter. Save for Stephen Curry, nobody is as much of a terror in the pick and roll in the league.

Lillard said he would be "pissed off" if he didn't make the All-Star team. The league should watch out.

Damian Lillard was named to the All-Star team on Feb. 8 following Blake Griffin's injury.

DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings

Cousins is having the best statistical season of any big man in the league outside of Anthony Davis. He averages 23.8 points, 12.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.6 blocks a game on just 33.8 minutes. He ranks sixth in PER, with only Davis, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry and LeBron James above him. He's fourth in real plus minus. The Kings are 17.2 points better per 100 possessions when he's on the court than off, essentially going from playoff team to Philadelphia 76ers depending on whether Cousins suits up or not. Nobody averaging over 24 points and 12 rebounds has ever missed the All-Star Game before Cousins.

Bottom line: the debate should be about whether Cousins deserves MVP consideration, not why he deserved to be an All-Star.

Of course, the snub has little to do with Cousins' play. It's the other stuff that prevents him from getting the recognition he deserves. Cousins pouts and his body language is often terrible, even now. He gets technical fouls. He gives up on plays. Since the Kings fired Mike Malone for no reason, those issues have resurfaced with more force.

But they shouldn't be what defines Cousins. He is one of the best players in the league and he should be in New York during the All-Star break. As SB Nation's Sactown Royalty writes:

Yes, the Western Conference is deep and it's hard to say that someone who did make the team wasn't deserving.  But dammit, DeMarcus Cousins was deserving too, and it's extremely disappointing to see that his dominance and growth continues to either not be acknowledged or respected by the league at large.  But if DeMarcus Cousins isn't an NBA All-Star, I don't know who is.

The NBA rectified this error on Jan. 30 and added Cousins to the team as Kobe Bryant's replacement.

Kyle Korver, Atlanta Hawks

It's not often you see a three-point specialist make an All-Star team, but if one deserved to make it, it's Korver. The 12-year veteran is taking nearly six per game and hitting 53 percent of them, which is unheard of and puts Korver into the discussion for greatest shooters of all-time. Considering the league has put a premium on three-point shooting, his absence is surprising.

What makes Korver more than just a role player is his ability to impact the game on offense without the ball. The threat of Korver's three-point shooting is enough to bend the defense and create open looks for his teammates. Korver averages just 2.9 assists per game but the points he creates just by attracting attention can't be measured. It's not surprising that the team's field goal percentage is 49.6 percent when Korver is on the court and 42.4 when he's sitting. Only stars have that type of offensive impact, even if they are unconventional.

Brandon Knight, Milwaukee Bucks

One could argue the Bucks deserve an All-Star after their breakout first half under new coach Jason Kidd, and Knight stands out as the best of the bunch right now.

Originally acquired from the Pistons two years ago as part of the Brandon Jennings trade, Knight has proven to be a much better player than most people realized. Not only is Milwaukee's point guard averaging career highs in points, assists, rebounds and steals, but he's posting the best shooting numbers of his career, too. There were doubts about whether Knight could run a team -- this is why the Pistons traded him in the first place -- but he's answered those emphatically this year.

One stat that hurts Knight's case: the Bucks actually outscore teams by a significant amount when he sits, though that's heavily influenced by the Bucks' depth and Knight having to go against starters.

Mike ConleyMemphis Grizzlies

What else does Conley need to do to make an All-Star Game? He's averaging 17.4 points and 5.6 assists while shooting 46 percent overall and 42 percent from three. He only trails Monta Ellis when it comes to clutch points (ahead or behind five points, five minutes or less left) and shoots 47 percent from the floor and 47.6 percent from three in those situations. His team ranks second in the West with the third best record in the league. And he still can't get a nod.

But there are so many great point guards in the West right now, so Conley's snub is understandable. He doesn't have the flash or the numbers other do. He does have the poise and all the intangibles everyone claims to love in point guards, but that's clearly not enough to get recognition.

Hopefully, his day will come and he will be discussed among the top point guards in the league instead of always being called underrated like it's a compliment.

OTHER SNUBS: Dirk Nowitzki, Dwight Howard, Nikola Vucevic, Monta Ellis, Draymond Green

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