After initially being the two biggest snubs from the Eastern Conference All-Star roster, former UConn greats Kemba Walker and Andre Drummond were added to the NBA All-Star Game as injury replacements for Team LeBron.
Team LeBron saw four of its players get injured, and since three of them came from the Eastern Conference, NBA fans expected Drummond and Kemba to be among the early replacements, although Kemba was initially passed up for Goran Dragic as Kevin Love’s injury replacement.
Drummond will be replacing injured Wizards point guard John Wall, and Kemba is in for Knicks star/unicorn Kristaps Porzingis, who was recently lost for the season with a torn ACL. The positions of the replacement players doesn’t really make sense to me either, but they eventually got it to balance out.
Both players are having great seasons again, with Drummond having the best of his career so far, becoming a far more versatile offensive player in his sixth year in the NBA and also putting up a legitimate case for Defensive Player of the Year honors. It’s the second All-Star Game for the Pistons big man as his team battles back and forth for one of the final playoff spots in the East.
Walker will be heading to his second All-Star Game as well, flourishing in a largely thankless role on a mediocre Charlotte Hornets team. This is the third-straight season Kemba has averaged 20 points and five assists per game, scoring efficiently and making the most out of teammates with limited talent while establishing himself as one of the best offensive players in the game.
I’m not exaggerating about the “making the most” part either; Walker’s on/off split—the measure of the average scoring margin when a player is on the court over the margin when he is resting—is the highest in the NBA. Lineups with Walker on the floor have a plus-17.6 average margin over opponents compared to when he’s on the bench according to Basketball-Reference.
Both are great players deserving of the honor, and it’s great to see both of them in the game. UConn fans will have two players to root for on Feb. 18, but thankfully only one team, as Kemba and Drummond—the Huskies’ two best NBA players of their era—will be on the same team for the first time. They would have been teammates in the 2013 Rising Stars Challenge, but Drummond missed the exhibition with an injury.
The updated full list of NBA All-Stars from UConn:
Ray Allen (2000-02, 2004-09, 2011)
Caron Butler (2007-2008)
Andre Drummond (2016, 2018)
Richard Hamilton (2006-08)
Clifford Robinson (1994)
Kemba Walker (2017-18)