Golf broadcasters and writers have been known to identify someone as "the best player who has yet to win a major." It's a backhanded compliment, to be sure, but it's still a compliment.
Perhaps an NBA corollary could be calling someone "the best player who has never made an All-Star team."
That current player may be Utah's own Deron Williams.
Sure, he's only in his fourth year in the league and his time will come. But the fact is, Williams has been playing at an All-Star level going on three years now. His outstanding performances in the playoffs the last two seasons followed by his being a contributor to the 2008 USA gold medal-winning Olympic team made him a virtual lock to be named an All-Star this season.
Well, that was until he injured his ankle during an exhibition game. D-Will missed the start of the regular season and then took awhile to get back to form once he returned. That doomed his All-Star chances for 2009, barring the unlikely event he is named as an injury replacement in the next couple of weeks.
Williams, of course, isn't the only never-star snubbed yet again. In fact, he's not the only Jazz draft pick surnamed Williams who could rightfully feel a bit upset about not making the team.
Cleveland's Mo Williams, a 2003 second-round pick by Utah, didn't make the All-Star team despite tremendous lobbying on the part of his other-worldly teammate, LeBron James.
There are others, too, of course. In fact, here are a baker's dozen of NBA players who are having outstanding seasons (again), yet are still in search of their first-ever All-Star invitations:
Deron Williams, Utah: He is the undisputed current leader for the Jazz. But while three of his teammates -- Andrei Kirilenko, Mehmet Okur and Carlos Boozer (twice) -- have All-Star credentials, D-Will is still not-so-patiently waiting. It's true, Williams got off to a slow start this season, but his numbers are still outstanding. Utah's floor general is averaging 17 points and is second in the entire league in averaging 10.2 assists.
Williams and Detroit's Tayshaun Prince are the only two of the 12 U.S. Olympians from last summer who have never played in an All-Star game.
Al Jefferson, Minnesota: The 6-10 center plays for a team that has lost a lot of games, which is a major reason he was snubbed. He also happens to play center in the same conference as Yao Ming and Shaquille O'Neal.
But Jefferson has been great all season, and the Timberwolves are no longer a pushover. In fact, Minnesota went 10-4 in January with Jefferson leading the way. He's averaging 22.7 points and 10.5 rebounds -- which is better than both Yao and Shaq.
Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City: Last-year's Rookie of the Year plays for a team that has struggled this season. But Durant, no doubt, would be a big scorer on any team he played for. Why should he be forgotten simply because he hasn't been blessed with as many talented or experienced teammates as many others?
Durant is sixth in the NBA in scoring this year, averaging 24.8 points. He's the leading scorer in the league for those who didn't make the All-Star team. He's not just a scorer, however. The 6-9 swingman averages 6.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.2 steals per game.
Mo Williams, Cleveland: The Cavaliers are legitimate title contenders this season, and much of that credit has to go to Williams, who is in his first full season as the team's point guard. Williams doesn't get as many assists as many floor generals in the league due to the fact that the offense often runs through LeBron James instead. But just ask James what a difference it has meant to his team having Williams around. LeBron has often said in recent days that Williams is deserving of an All-Star spot. The 6-1 speedster is averaging 17.2 points per game.
Andre Iguodala, Philadelphia: The 76ers have a new A.I. leading the way now. The team that boasted Allen Iverson for so many years is now led by Iguodala, a 6-6 do-everything swingman. Iguodala is scoring (17.7 ppg), rebounding (6.2 rpg) and passing (5.2 apg), making him one of the game's top all-around performers.
Andre Miller, Philadelphia: The ex-Ute has been a solid but not flashy point guard in the NBA for a decade. He's getting older now, and his best chances to be named an All-Star are probably behind him. Even so, Miller is still putting up strong numbers (15.9 ppg, 6.3 apg) this season.
Hedo Turkoglu, Orlando: The Magic certainly can't complain about a lack of representation in Phoenix. Center Dwight Howard, forward Rashard Lewis and point guard Jameer Nelson, a first-timer, are among the 12 players on this year's Eastern Conference roster.
That being said, Turkoglu, now in his ninth year in the NBA out of Turkey, is also having a huge year for the Southeast Division leaders. Turkoglu, who has long been one of the better 3-point shooters in the game, is averaging 17.2 points per game this year after scoring better than 19 points per outing last year.
Mike Bibby, Atlanta: Despite averaging 16.5 points and 6.1 assists during his 11-year career with the Raptors, Kings and Hawks, Bibby has never been an All-Star. While teammate Joe Johnson is headed to his third All-Star game, isn't it about time Bibby made it to one? He's played a major role in the Hawks' resurgence the past two years. He's averaging 15.7 points and 5.4 assists this season.
Rajon Rondo, Boston: Celtics veteran guard Ray Allen was snubbed this year, but at least he's been a regular in the past, having been an All-Star eight times previously.
Rondo, on the other hand, has also been a huge part of the defending champions' success the past two seasons. The third-year point guard is averaging 8.1 assists this season to go along with 11.1 points. What's been particularly impressive is his 51-percent shooting from the field. That's the best shooting of any guard in the NBA this year.
Jason Terry, Dallas: The veteran scorer has been coming off the bench this season for the Mavericks, but when he enters the game, Terry's been instant offense for the Mavericks. He's averaging a career-best 20.3 points per game. Then again, everyone has known for years about the 6-2 guard's ability to fill the basket. He's averaging better than 16 points for his 10-year career with the Hawks and Mavs.
Marcus Camby, L.A. Clippers: Coaches like to preach defense and rebounding, but when it comes to being an All-Star, those traits are often overlooked.
Camby is an outstanding defender and rebounder. He's averaging 13.4 rebounds per game this season for the Clippers, which is second best in the league. He's also second in the NBA in blocked shots. Plus, it's not like Camby can't score. He's certainly not as prolific as many others in the league, but he's still averaging 11.9 points per game.
Jose Calderon, Toronto: He finally missed a free throw, his first of the season. Still, the Spanish point guard has been near perfect from the line, making 84-of-85 this season. Not only is he a great shooter (50.5 percent from the field, 13.2 points per game), but he's a fine passer, too (8.7 assists per game). Calderon, now in his fourth NBA season, is one of the league's top point guards already and is still getting better.
David Lee, New York: His big jump in numbers may have much to do with the run-and-gun style of play preferred by first-year Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni. Still, it's hard to look past Lee's 15.7 points and 11.6 rebounds per game statistics. Those are All-Star-like numbers for an NBA center these days. E-mail: email@example.com