The past 25 years have been an All-Star boon for the NBA, covering both the Michael Jordan and LeBron James eras, with Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and so many more woven between. But let us not forget the randoms: the guys whose faces in old All-Star Game photos make you go, “Oh, yeah, *that* dude was OK for a bit.”
The player pool consists only of one-time All-Stars since 1993, so Brad Miller and Terrell Brandon, sadly, don’t make the cut. Without further ado, the Most Random All-Stars of the past 25 years …
C: Theo Ratliff, Philadelphia 76ers, 2001 (DNP*)
Sadly, fittingly, Ratliff couldn’t play in his only All-Star Game, because he fractured his right wrist just a few days before it. Season-ending surgery capped his campaign with career highs of 12.4 points, 8.3 rebounds and a league-leading 3.7 blocks per game. Two weeks later, Ratliff was traded to the Atlanta Hawks for Dikembe Mutombo, so he also missed the Sixers’ run to the 2001 NBA Finals. That’s tough.
What’s tougher: He never averaged double-digit points again, never averaged double-digit rebounds, and, while he led the league in blocks two more times, Ratliff became best known as the expiring contract that helped the Boston Celtics land Kevin Garnett. Ratliff played for nine teams in the final nine years of his career, missing 20 or more games in all but three of them, before retiring at the age of 37 in 2011.
*Random injury replacement: Jamaal Magloire, New Orleans Hornets, 2004
Magloire averaged career highs of 13.6 points and 10.3 rebounds, shooting less than 50 percent as the 25-year-old starting center for a .500 Hornets team that was mediocre on both sides of the ball. Within two years, those numbers were sliced in half as he came off the bench for the lottery-bound Portland Trail Blazers; within three years, he was averaging two points in nine minutes a night.
F: Tyrone Hill, Cleveland Cavaliers, 1995
Hill was a hard-nosed player, averaging a double-double (13.8 points, 10.9 rebounds) for a Cavs team that barely finished .500 and got bounced from the first round in four games, which is like if a less-efficient Steven Adams made the cut this season. He played a game-low six minutes in his only All-Star outing. A frightening car accident cost Hill half of the following season, when Michael Cage took over the starting job. He’d later enjoy a couple of resurgent seasons with the Sixers, but never matched those numbers again.
F: Jayson Williams, New Jersey Nets, 1998
Williams submitted a similar season to Hill three years later (12.9 points and 12 rebounds per game), only with less defense for a Nets squad that finished 43-39 and got swept in the first round. He was admittedly drinking heavily at the time. A year later, he signed a six-year, $86 million extension. Ten months after that, he suffered a career-ending broken leg. And two years after that, he was playing with a shotgun while giving a tour of his estate when he shot his limo driver in the chest. Moving on.
G: Dana Barros, Philadelphia 76ers, 1995
Sandwiched between a pair of 13 points-per-game seasons and even more mildly productive years as a sweet-shooting reserve was one brilliant Barros season. He averaged (by far) career highs of 20.6 points (46.4 percent shooting on more than five 3-point attempts per game!) and 7.5 assists while playing all 82 games in his only year as a full-time starter, albeit for a 24-win Sixers team. He signed with his hometown Celtics that summer, and M.L. Carr promptly shared his minutes with Todd Day.
G: Mo Williams, Cleveland Cavaliers, 2009
Williams was nice, averaging 17 points, six assists and four boards for two straight years in Milwaukee before arriving in Cleveland. But he can thank LeBron James for his lone All-Star selection, because open looks resulted in career bests of 17.8 points per game and a 58.8 true shooting percentage. It didn’t hurt that the Cavs were on their way to 66 wins and a No. 1 seed. It also didn’t hurt that the East’s guard pool was so shallow that Williams was the conference’s second replacement player in a season when Devin Harris made the cut and Jameer Nelson missed the All-Star Game due to injury.
Apologies to Harris, Nelson, 1994 B.J. Armstrong and 2015 Kyle Korver, all of whom merit mention among Eastern backcourt randos. The ’94 guards when Michael Jordan was playing baseball were wild — Armstrong *started* next to Kenny Anderson and over Mookie Blaylock, Mark Price and John Starks.
Random East All-Star coach: Eddie Jordan of the 2006-07 Washington Wizards (41-41) can fill out his reserves from this list of frontcourt “All-Stars” from the past 25 seasons: 1997 Christian Laettner, 2000 Dale Davis, 2001 Antonio Davis and 2010 Gerald Wallace. Heady times, those post-Jordan years.
G: Nick Van Exel, Los Angeles Lakers, 1998
Even before knee and foot injuries led to him losing his starting job to Derek Fisher down the stretch of a 61-win season for a Shaquille O’Neal-led Lakers squad that reached the conference finals, Van Exel was well on his way to averaging 13.8 points on 11.6 shots with 6.9 assists per game that season — numbers not dissimilar to Spencer Dinwiddie and Kris Dunn this year. Not to mention he soured the locker room so much that they traded him for Tony Battie and Tyronn Lue at the end of the year. Yikes.
G: Sam Cassell, Minnesota Timberwolves, 2004
Cassell was good! That’s how solid the West backcourt has been and what an outlier Van Exel was. John Stockton gave way to Gary Payton, Steve Nash, Tony Parker and today’s loaded point guard corps. Kobe Bryant carried the two-guard torch from Clyde Drexler until James Harden’s recent assumption of the mantle. There isn’t another one-time All-Star guard in the West from the past 25 years other than Cassell. You’d have to dip into the two-timers to get to Baron Davis, Sean Elliott and Michael Finley, all of whom were good, too. So, wear this with a badge of honor, Sam I Am, because that lone All-Star bid at age 34 was well-deserved.
F: Chris Gatling, Dallas Mavericks, 1997
The 24-win Mavs caught lightning in a bottle with Gatling, who signed as a free agent in the summer of ’96, played out of his mind for 44 games (19 points and eight rebounds per game), made the All-Star Game at age 29, and then was traded along with Cassell, Jim Jackson, George McCloud and Eric Montross in a weird deadline deal with the Nets for Shawn Bradley, Ed O’Bannon, Robert Pack and Khalid Reeves. Gatling played three games for the Nets that season before sitting out the rest of the year with … an ear infection? He broke his leg the next season and never came close to being the same player again.
F: Cedric Ceballos, Los Angeles Lakers, 1995 (DNP*)
The former second-round pick was on our radar as a Slam Dunk Contest winner in 1992, but he exploded in his first two seasons in L.A. Ceballos led the pre-Shaq-and-Kobe Lakers in scoring for two straight years, averaging 21.4 points on 52.1 percent shooting from ’94-96. The first of those campaigns earned him an All-Star bid, although a thumb injury kept him from the game, and the second featured his 50-point game. That run helped the Lakers trade for Robert Horry in return, and Ceballos devolved from there due to a series of knee and hand injuries that ultimately forced him out of the league at age 31.
*Random injury replacement: Josh Howard, Dallas Mavericks, 2007
It looked like Howard was going to be good there for a while. He steadily improved over his first few seasons in the league, averaging 15.6 points on 42.9 percent shooting from distance in his third year, and then produced 19 points a night for his next three seasons on a Mavs team that was winning 50 games every year. Then, his offense fell off a cliff, and he was traded in the package that got Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson in time for the 2011 title run. In between, Howard openly admitted on the radio to smoking weed and violating the league’s anti-drug policy.
C: Mehmet Okur, Utah Jazz, 2007
Memo was nice there for a minute, too. Okur averaged 16 and eight with two assists while shooting 38.2 percent on three 3-point attempts per game from 2004-10. A torn left Achilles tendon in April 2010 ended his career, save for two ill-fated comebacks, but in the middle of that six-year run with the Jazz was vintage Okur spacing the floor as a stretch five in Jerry Sloan’s ahead-of-its-time lineup — with dual point guards (Deron Williams and Derek Fisher) and lengthy switchblade Andrei Kirilenko — that won 51 games and reached the conference finals. I’m glad Memo got recognized. I just forgot he did.
The random West All-Star guard pool may be shallow, but the frontcourt is rich with randos. Apologies to 1997 Tom Gugliotta, 2010 Chris Kaman and 2012 Andrew Bynum. That trio deserves the first few reserve spots on 2005-06 Mavericks coach Avery Johnson’s Random All-Star bench.
The only first-time All-Stars this season are Karl-Anthony Towns, Joel Embiid, Kristaps Porzingis, Victor Oladipo, Bradley Beal and Goran Dragic. That’s an impressive group, considering the 31-year-old Dragic, who made an All-NBA roster in 2014, is the most random as a third-tier injury replacement.
More from Yahoo Sports NBA:
– – – – – – –