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Winning likely to help build better All-Star case for Jazz players in future seasons

SALT LAKE CITY — The deadline for NBA coaches to vote for All-Star reserves was Tuesday, but even the NSA might have a difficult time getting its hands on Jazz coach Quin Snyder’s ballot.

It’s top-secret.

He wouldn’t even discuss whether he made a pitch on behalf of his top All-Star candidates, small forward Gordon Hayward and center Derrick Favors, to his peers.

“I’m not going to get into the All-Star balloting,” Snyder said after Jazz practice Tuesday afternoon. “I’ll stay away from that and I’ll stay away from presidential elections.”

The only thing Snyder did reveal was that he wishes he could’ve voted for more players to join Western Conference starters Steph Curry, Kobe Bryant (injured), Blake Griffin, Marc Gasol and Anthony Davis.

“There’s so many guys that are worthy,” Snyder said. “You wish you could recognize everybody. You’re not able to do that.”

Although Hayward and Favors are both having their best NBA seasons and are playing on an All-Star level, it’s highly unlikely either will garner enough (if any) votes from coaches this season.

If nothing else, both are hampered by the fact the Jazz are only 16-29 heading into Wednesday's home matchup against the Los Angeles Clippers.

“Yeah, I think we’ve probably got to win a couple more games … and then maybe we can get in,” Favors said.

That’s how fourth-year big man Enes Kanter sees it too.

“I think maybe not this year,” he said, “but in the future we have really enough talent that can be in there.”

Unlike his coach, Kanter wasn’t afraid to name names, either.

And he had a whole list.

“Like Gordon, Derrick or Rudy (Gobert), the improvement he has put on he might be in there, you never know,” Kanter said.

He continued. “Trey Burke, Dante (Exum), Alec Burks. I want all of them to be All-Stars, of course.” Kanter, who’s having his best pro career with averages of 14.1 points and 7.5 rebounds, didn’t include himself on that list. But he jokingly asked if he’d been voted as a reserve by the coaches.

And someday the 22-year-old desires to reach that elite level.

“I hope so. Everyone wants to be All-Star, of course. But we’ll see,” Kanter said. “We have to win first, so that’s our main focus, not the player but the team.”

Coaches only get to vote for seven players, including three in the frontcourt, two in the backcourt and two wild cards.

Grantland.com basketball writer Zach Lowe listed Favors and Hayward with Golden State’s Draymond Green and Memphis’ Zach Randolph as players deserving of “a close look.”

Favors, who’s averaging 15.7 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.6 blocks, has his eyes on becoming an All-Star, but he’s not obsessing about it. His play puts him right at the top with the league’s best bigs, as evident by being ranked 17th in ESPN’s player-efficiency ratings, just below LaMarcus Aldridge and above Tim Duncan.

“I really don’t pay attention to it,” Favors said. “If I make it, I make it. If I don’t, I don’t. It is one of my goals, but you know how it goes.”

Hayward is coming off of another impressive performance of 26 points, six rebounds, three assists, three steals, two blocks and only one turnover in Monday’s 99-90 loss to his former Butler coach’s Boston team.

Celtics bench boss Brad Stevens, who’d hoped to somehow get Hayward to Boston this past offseason, believes Hayward’s game is better than his star power.

“He’s probably less known obviously for how good he is and how good he’s playing,” Stevens said Monday while in Utah. “I think the opportunity to be a max-contract player speaks to what their organization thinks, what people around the league think about him. Again, I’m really happy for him. He’s found a great home and he’s playing great.”

When the subject of Hayward being a potential All-Star came up earlier this week, Snyder avoided the direct question but gave an insightful answer anyway.

“I think that the good thing for Gordon is the things that he needs to continue to do well for his own development as a player individually are also the things that we need from him,” Snyder said. “His incentives and the team’s incentives are in line.”

Hayward doesn’t back away from the fact he wants to be an All-Star and believes he should be included in that conversation.

The 6-8 small forward is having his strongest season yet, including averages of 19.2 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists, after signing his $63 million contract extension this past offseason.

His play has proved some doubters wrong, but he’s not worried about the popularity contest.

“I don’t really see myself as anything, just a basketball player. I try to get better each year,” Hayward said. “I see myself as one of the elite players in the league. Whether you’re popular or not to me doesn’t matter.

“When the wins come, I think that’s when people start to get rated,” he added. “We’ve just to go be better as a team and I think a lot of the players that we have on the team will start to become popular.”

Hayward would become even more popular with his ally in Boston if he’d pay the next time he hangs out with Stevens.

“It’s hard to say with the money he earns that he’s underrated,” Stevens said when asked about that. “Until he pays for his dinner the next time, that’s what I’ll say.”

As for the All-Star status of Hayward and Favors, Snyder made it clear what he’ll say.

Nothing.

It’s one of the three subjects he avoids speaking about publicly.

With a smile, Snyder said, “Throw All-Star balloting in there with politics and religion.”

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