NBA.com asked its writers which player from the West will make the All-Star game for the first time, and both David Aldridge and Steve Aschburner picked Gordon Hayward.
Aldridge wrote, "Monster output (23 ppg) in a contract year; he's going to get paid next summer, and he should be rewarded this winter for his excellent play."
Aschburner went into more detail with his selection, saying, "It’s tougher to find a first-timer in the West, because so many established All-Stars are having worthy seasons and keeping their teams aloft in the standings."
After talking about the play of Memphis Grizzlies' point guard Mike Conley, Aschburner continued, "Hayward is averaging career highs in scoring (23.1), rebounding (6.4) and player efficiency (23.8) and, despite some mediocre shooting stats, is the likeliest Jazz player to be rewarded when the conference coaches sit down to flesh out the rosters, scanning the best candidates from teams with winning records."
Ian Thomsen also mentioned Hayward, while explaining that there might not be room in the West for a first-time All-Star. He wrote, "In the West you have to cut players who are worthy, and in the East you find yourself reaching for less-obvious candidates in order to fill out the 12-man roster."
Thomsen continued, "The most likely 'rookies' in the more-talented West are Karl-Anthony Towns, who could become the NBA’s best player in a few years but may be excluded from the All-Star Game due to Minnesota’s poor start to the season; and Gordon Hayward, who is leading Utah on a potential run to the playoffs (for the first time in five years) but may ultimately be overwhelmed by the large number of established stars in the conference."
John Schuhmann mentioned Rudy Gobert as one of three possible options with Karl-Anthony Towns and DeAndre Jordan.
He wrote, "Three options are Rudy Gobert, DeAndre Jordan and Karl-Anthony Towns. With how disappointing the Wolves have been, it could come down to Gobert vs. Jordan, and the latter is more likely to make it, because he's been around longer and his team is ahead in the standings."
Utah Valley basketball a 'must-watch'
Greg Mitchell of SB Nation's Mid-major Madness had plenty to say about the UVU basketball team as part of his WAC rankings.
Talking about the Wolverines, who landed at No. 3 in his rankings, Mitchell writes, "the Wolverines are fun to watch. They’re playing at the fourth fastest pace in the country and have scored at least 75 points in all but one of their games. The win against similarly up-tempo BYU might have been a fluky case of fire playing gasoline, but UVU has since taken two Pac-12 teams to the wire in losses."
Burrito's departure creates expansion draft issues for RSL
In a story for MLS Soccer, Sam Stejskal looks at the issues that the departure of Juan Manuel Martinez can be for RSL when it comes time for the expansion draft.
Stejskal writes, "This one has a bit of an added wrinkle, however: With Martinez out, RSL will have to include one player on their 11-man protected list for next week’s Expansion Draft that will not be back with the team next year."
After explaining how the rule that is forcing RSL's hand works, Stejskal continued, "RSL will protect Stephen and Phillips and be forced to either protect Martinez or another international player that they have no intention of bringing back in 2017. Which player ends up being protected is somewhat immaterial, as whoever it is will not be back with the club next year. That creates a situation in which RSL will be forced to leave a player they'd like to retain off their protected list in order to protect an international player they know won't be back."