Utah Jazz: Who will be Utah’s next All-Star?

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - FEBRUARY 14: Donovan Mitchell #45, Joe Ingles #2, and Rudy Gobert #27 of the Utah Jazz against the Phoenix Suns on February 14, 2018 at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - FEBRUARY 14: Donovan Mitchell #45, Joe Ingles #2, and Rudy Gobert #27 of the Utah Jazz against the Phoenix Suns on February 14, 2018 at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Utah Jazz may not have had a player in the All-Star Game this season, but it might not be long until they are once again represented there.

The 2018 All-Star Weekend has come and gone, and while no Utah Jazz players participated in the big event on Sunday, the team was still represented well as Donovan Mitchell played in the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday, then went on to be crowned the Slam Dunk Contest Champion on Saturday.

Still, there’s something special and exciting about having your team represented in the premier event and getting to boast having an All-Star on the roster. Jazz fans thought they’d have that for the foreseeable future when Gordon Hayward received his first ever All-Star nod last season, but of course we all know how that turned out.

So that begs the question, who will be the next Utah Jazz player to suit up for the All-Star Game?

The two obvious answers would be either Donovan Mitchell or Rudy Gobert and there’s certainly an argument to be had for both. Some Jazz fans were hopeful that Gobert would make the cut last year, but his spot was by and large taken by the LA Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan. Particularly in hindsight, based on how he finished out the season, Rudy certainly was deserving of the nod. And his All-NBA honors were undoubtedly further evidence of that.

Heading into this season, several fans had the expectation that he’d pick up where he left off and force his way into the All-Star mix. Unfortunately, a slow start adjusting to his new teammates combined with a pair of knee injuries that held him out for significant time pretty much nipped that possibility in the bud.

However, there’s still a good chance that he could start out strong next year with a relatively similar starting lineup remaining in tact and, as long as he stays healthy, should be in the All-Star conversation based on his defensive prowess alone. If he can get back to the offensive impact he had for most of the year last season, he should easily be an All-Star frontcourt candidate.

But Rudy will have some stiff competition from among his own ranks as Donovan Mitchell will be aiming to reach All-Star status as early as next season as well. With Donovan’s rise to stardom that coincided with the height of All-Star voting, the Utah Jazz attempted to put together a campaign for him to be selected this year, but in small market Utah, it was an uphill battle.

However, considering that Mitchell is averaging nearly 20 points per game as a rookie, if he’s able to improve even further in his sophomore season to surpass the 20-point mark while (hopefully) helping his team get off to a much better start than this year and putting them in the thick of the playoff race while the All-Star teams are being decided, he could have a very good chance.

Not to mention, his Dunk Contest victory should help increase his popularity, giving him a heightened chance of getting in via the fan vote, not necessarily next year, but certainly sometime down the road.

Still, it’s important to remember that even though Donovan Mitchell has emerged as Utah’s leading scorer and top offensive option, he’s just 21 years old and may still have some time to wait before he becomes a bona fide All-Star. Based on Utah’s current roster, the race is between him and Rudy Gobert. Depending on how good the Jazz become in coming seasons, it’s entirely possible that both could receive the nod at some point, but it will be exciting to see who gets in first.

Beyond Mitchell and Gobert, there’s a few others that have a remote case, but they’re not all that likely. Derrick Favors had the appearance of a fringe All-Star back in 2015-16, but he hasn’t consistently gotten back to that kind of production since. Although he wasn’t dealt at the trade deadline as some believed he would be, his future with the Jazz is still in question. Even if he is retained, it’s hard to see a scenario where he reaches All-Star status before his frontcourt partner Rudy Gobert.

Ricky Rubio was considered a potential All-Star talent when he entered the league. Of course, he’s never really come close to that echelon, but if Utah’s development staff can continue to work wonders with him and his play from the Jazz’s recent win streak can turn into the rule rather than the exception, perhaps he could be eligible for such a nod.

Dante Exum was similarly touted as having superstar potential, so maybe he’ll eventually be able to join the All-Star ranks himself.

Beyond that, although the Jazz boast the greatest player to ever grace a basketball court in Joe Ingles, I don’t foresee any other current Jazzman finding his way onto the All-Star roster and certainly not before Rudy Gobert or Donovan Mitchell. It’s a near certainty that the next Jazz All-Star will be one of those two guys.

The only exception to that is if the potent duo of Mitchell and Gobert go on to work the kind of magic that my J-Notes colleague discussed yesterday and find a way to recruit some top talent to Salt Lake City. Based on what we know about the team right now, including their financial flexibility that could help them add a big-name free agent either this summer or next summer, it’s entirely possible that Utah’s next All-Star may be someone that isn’t even on the current roster.

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Whether that will be the case or not remains to be seen. But with two young and rising stars in Mitchell and Gobert alongside a coach that knows how to get the most out of his players, I have a feeling that Utah’s All-Star drought will be a short one. Perhaps by next season and certainly by 2019-20, I’m confident that the Jazz will get a player into the game.

The only question is, will it be Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell or someone else completely unforeseen?