Even by the standards of commentators and NBA pundit personalities that protect the sacredness of the league with their usual quips like, “Adam Silver you’ve done it again!” or “This league!!!” were all in agreement at this point: the NBA All-Star Weekend was an embarrassment. You could find NBA2K streams from 11-year-olds that were probably more entertaining than the 8 total points that Luka and Jokic put up despite being two of the most-talented players of the decade.

There lies the problem: you understand their lack of effort in that this should normally be a well-deserved break after a toiling first push over halfway through an 82-game regular season; there simply isn’t enough buy-in or reward for the superstars that are acknowledged and sent to the weekend location because while the accolade is honorable achievement, it’s merely another stat added to a resume of a superstar’s Basketball Reference page and they’ll move along, wishing they were preserving their body for games that matter. In a league that already prioritizes individual stardom and legacy through the personal brands that they’ve built, do you think Ja Morant really needs to risk injury in an exhibition or dunk contest to improve his prowess amongst fans and the media? Absolutely not. He already has a shoe line on the way, the nightly highlights for the world to see on social media, and the prioritization of winning games when even the casuals will be watching to see what he does on the big stage in May and June. It’s already a battle to get stars to play in regular season games as it is.

The showcase weekend ultimately is a shame because it puts a stench of a lack of effort or likable personalities on a league where there are so many of them because it’s only the big names who don’t have that urgency that get voted in. There are a plethora of names around basketball that HAVE to put in that effort on a night-to-night basis to not only accumulate their playing time, but are essential roles in the team element of basketball despite not having the name recognition that would allow them to get sent to ASG Weekend. 

If the actual all-stars don’t want to get honored on the trip, it’s time we send the janitors, these role players essential to winning, team-oriented basketball, that would put in 100% should their name have been sent to Salt Lake City this year; we’ll give the accolade to the players who care. This is the Janitor All-Star lineup of the 2023 season thus far: the guys that the team could not live without but unfortunately won’t be on the ballot.

Center: Steven Adams, Memphis Grizzlies

The Memphis Grizzlies have self-proclaimed that they’re the most-hated team in the NBA with their antagonistic chip on their shoulder as the young, up-and-coming team that took swings at champion Golden State last year (basketball, and non-basketball related). The way that you establish that sort of character with credibility is not pig-tailed Dillon Brooks playing lockdown defense or Ja Morant claiming he’s fine in the west; it’s having Steven Adams on your team. Steven Adams is probably the one person in the NBA that you would do nothing but say “no sir, no problems here” if he were to ask if you wanted a fight as a 7-foot Adonis from New Zealand that could probably hunt a large animal with his bare hands. In a league where small ball has taken over and the enforcing, rebounding big man that embodies toughness has died out, Adams is the essential piece to Memphis’s identity and success. You simply can’t embody being the antagonistic tough guy without the tough guy, otherwise you end up getting clowned by the rest of the league, and Adams is simply the adult in the room that is needed in Memphis.

Before Adams went out with a PCL injury, the Grizzlies were 31-15 and were going toe-to-toe with Denver for the top of the Western Conference. They were second overall in second-chance points in the NBA with Adams’s offensive rebounding prowess and had an 11-game win streak before the Shannon Sharpe incident. Jaren Jackson Jr. may be a DPOY candidate with his capability of impacting shots inside and outside of the paint, but Adams is pivotal to striking fear by the basket on defense while also unlocking their halfcourt offense; it can’t just be Ja pushing the ball down on the fast break the entirety of the game.

Without Adams, they’re 5-8 in this stretch and need the enforcer. They need their identity back. Steven Adams is a Janitor All-Star by busting the myth that the traditional Center is dead in the modern NBA.

Forward: Bobby Portis, Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks are another defensive-minded, high-effort team led by the physicality and length of their stars like Giannis, Jrue Holiday, and Khris Middleton, with Brook Lopez being a blocking machine down low. But who leads the way with a double-double off the bench and carries that same high-intensity spark off the bench? Your potential 6th Man of the Year candidate, Bobby Portis.

His capability of guarding the opposition’s best forward or even their big man, crazy eyes and all, is the difference between the Bucks and the other Eastern Conference teams that provides them with depth. Middleton’s health has been an issue this season, and in the 11 games that Giannis has missed, Portis has filled the void with 16.8 PPG and 11.1 RPG. He has the third-most double-doubles in the NBA and leads all bench players in rebounds. He’s what makes Milwaukee on the same tier as Boston as one of the steadier teams in the Conference- they won’t be in a position of panic should one of their pieces end up not 100% come playoff time.

Forward: Norman Powell, Los Angeles Clippers

Speaking of 6th Man of the Year, you simply can’t talk about that award and not immediately think of the Clippers’ history: Jamal Crawford, Montrezl Harrell, and Lou Williams all winning it within the last decade with the franchise.

None of those seasons scored as many points off the bench in such an efficient and calm manner as Norman Powell has off the bench.

The Clippers’ superstar wings, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, while elite, are the model of inconsistency and unreliability; Powell should get an award off of figuring out who is playing and when and navigating how much to fill in for them every single night. He’s the janitor the cleans up the load management with poise and just goes about his business in the most normal, “Norman Powell”-generically-named way possible as a leader on the court. He leads the league in bench scoring at 17.2 PPG on 48.5 FG% and captains the second-unit with complete balance as a lengthy forward. 

He is the calm after the storm in the unpredictability that comes with the modern-day Clippers Curse that SURELY will go away after the signing of Russell Westbrook.

Guard: Derrick White, Boston Celtics

The Celtics machine that is the deepest in the NBA and cruised to the best record in the league from end-to-end so far doesn’t necessarily need anyone to go above and beyond in their system; everyone has been eating when seated at the table.

That doesn’t stop Derrick White for always being the life raft of the team. If there is ever an absent Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, or Jayson Tatum, it almost feels like the Celtics heart and soul is still completely intact with White commanding the floor as a high-effort guy who’s come all the way from receiving no Division I offers, working his way up from DII, and now playing pivotal minutes for a team poised to win the NBA Finals. White even won Eastern Conference Player of the Week in Week 17, a week Boston went 4-0, as he averaged 24.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 7.5 assists.

He and 6MOTY-favorite Malcolm Brogdon lead the second-line backcourt for Boston to be the perfect B-Team for the J-Team of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Brogdon was understandably one of the most-impactful bench acquisitions this summer, but White overperforming following the San Antonio trade last year has made all the difference and what makes the Celtics the Eastern Conference team to beat. There is never not a dynamic floor general on the floor due to the presence of White and Brogdon manning their backcourt.

Guard: Malik Monk, Sacramento Kings

In an attempt to break the now-current longest playoff drought in the four major American sports leagues, the Kings unexpected hot start that involves a Northern California crowd going absolutely bananas and lighting a giant purple beam in the sky following a victory, they are the pleasant revelation of “WHY NOT US?”

Malik Monk and his energy he brings to this team perfectly aligns with what they represent, and he is critical to one of the best stories in basketball this year. A scoring stud out of Kentucky and a lottery pick in the 2017 draft, it felt for a while as if he’d overstayed his welcome and would never be able to amount to the production we expected out of him after only averaging 10 points per game and getting a drug suspension in Charlotte before having a brief stint with the Lakers. His development was written off just as the Kings are always the irrelevant California franchise in the midst of a playoff drought almost four times longer than everyone else in the entire NBA.

Monk’s chip on his shoulder, his energy and personality that he brings off the bench as he averages 14 points off the bench as a sharpshooter, and the way that he’s rallied the team to

Photo: Ezra Shaw / Getty Images

give them something to believe in has meant the world to this Kings team that is fun and finally has something to be excited about. In a Western Conference with players like Jokic, Ja, Luka, Kyrie, Durant, Booker, Curry, Kawhi, Paul George, and LeBron, the Sacramento Kings are your 3rd overall seed with a 35-25 record. Monk’s random games where he can explode behind Fox for 45 points on any given night provides a complete spark to their offense when the opposition’s second unit is gassed.

Monk had already lost that potential to be the prestigious, transcendent superstar and is now the glue guy that puts in high effort on defense, completes the locker room with immaculate vibes, and does not care about anything but laying it all on the line and getting buckets. Off the bench, he’s what has made the Kings such an incredible story.

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