Written By: Noah
After a pretty tight opening voting race, your All-Star starters are as follows, courtesy of NBA.com:
BC – Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers
BC – DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors
FC – Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls
FC – LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
FC – Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
BC – Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
BC – James Harden, Houston Rockets
FC – Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs
FC – Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors
FC – Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
The voting process is still a work in progress, but above anything, it’s an exhibition game meant to showcase the best of the best do their respective things on the court. It hardly means anything. In fact, All-Star appearances have become less and less of a player-ranking barometer over time. It’s a great honor, don’t get me wrong, but the weight an All-Star appearance bears should not be comparable to something like an All-NBA or All-Defensive team selection. After all, why would being more popular with fans equate to being a better basketball player overall? Nonetheless, it’s still the best way to include fans in the action, and is one of the highest-televised exhibition games in the world. There are a couple points worth talking about leading up to the big game, though.
The player voting was hit-and-miss
This year, players got a huge share of entire vote: 25% compared to the fans (50%) and media (25%). Factoring in the amount of players and the high concentration, and their choices could legitimately make the difference between someone starting and someone getting pushed to a reserve spot. Since coaches still vote for the final seven reserves on their teams, enough peer recognition- or a lack thereof- could affect who rounds out the benches. That 25% is a pretty high number that about 450 players account for, except that they decidedly didn’t. Only 324 (just over 70% of all possible players) voted, and they voted for 283 different players. No matter how you slice that, it doesn’t look good.
For example, C.J. McCollum got in (rather ironically) on the most interesting All-Star campaign out there, two years running:
While this was probably more of a hit than anything, Tony Allen also got in on the action:
Outside of a few hilarious examples, it really was all over the place. Players who haven’t even seen the court got on some ballots, and players who are legitimately deserving of All-Star votes didn’t receive important ones. It’s a lot trickier than just saying to the players, “Okay, vote seriously.” You can’t do that. A lot of guys, outside of ones that purposely actually didn’t take voting seriously, voted for teammates, friends, and themselves. Hard to knock that despite the obvious flaws. Plain and simple, it’s up to the players to decide who they vote for, and we’ll just have to ride with their picks and subsequent effects if their 25% share remains theirs going forward until a better solution arises.
Despite changes, nothing has been too shocking
Even with the so-so results of the new voting system, we will still most likely be okay with how the rosters turn out. There will always be snubs; between the strong guard depth in the East and the take-your-pick depth of the WC frontcourt, at least a few worthy names are bound to be left off the final rosters. The starters aren’t exactly reaches, either. Here’s a quick run-down of what we already know and should appreciate instead of overlook in favor of drawbacks:
The East has a few interesting wrinkles to sort out in their reserve selections. LeBron James makes his 13th straight All-Star appearance (all starts, too), providing even more evidence that his consistent production is the basketball equivalent to a universal constant. He is surrounded by four new starters, including first-timer Giannis Antetokounmpo. The East lineup is about as nontraditional as it gets, which makes it all the more fun. Giannis theoretically slated at center is something fans and analysts alike want to see, even though it hardly gives insight as to whether it would work in actual games. I am pleasantly surprised at the amount of votes Giannis piled up; fans and media are giving mainstream recognition to his rise to superstardom, and deservedly so. Beyond the starters, there are a number of very good point guards and small forwards to choose from. The only true center getting comparable All-Star hype to Western peers is Joel Embiid, and he’d be a great choice; outside of doing it to Trust The Process, he’s at or near the top of a very short list of legit centers in the East. Even though matchups take a backseat to voting here, Embiid has the advantage of appealing to both sides; he is immensely popular and has the impact and numbers of a star in the minutes he gets. Selecting him as a reserve or even wildcard would put the candidacies of Carmelo Anthony, Paul George, and even Horford, Millsap, Porzingis, etc. in jeopardy, which would ruffle some feathers. However, in selecting Embiid, we would see a truly refreshing pick: This guy is super talented, marketable, and new. Let’s have some fun with it.
That Western Conference lineup looks great. Curry-Harden-Kawhi-Durant-AD is going to be fun as hell to watch. Outside of being able to outgun most potential East lineups, they could D up if need be. Defense usually only matters for about five-to-ten minutes total during the All-Star game, but what better three guys to have ready for spurts like that than Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, and Anthony Davis? Don’t forget Draymond Green, a presumed reserve, who could also come in with defense as his focus. My goodness. If the game becomes a tight one as the fourth quarter winds down, expect the West to really, really clamp down, because they will have the freedom to do so.
The only real conflicts to stem from the voting have been the following:
- One of Kyle Lowry, John Wall, or Isaiah Thomas may not make the ASG. All three are having fantastic seasons in their own right, and it’d be a shame to see one (or even two, though that’d be a big surprise to many) undeservedly lose out. It may not be entirely plausible for rotation/lineup purposes, but it is a possibility for the Eastern Conference coach, whoever it may be, to select all three and have a quadruple-headed monster at PG. That would also require him to risk not selecting a backup shooting guard, against conventional wisdom. Doing so would also leave the East with a very small team, as either both reserve backcourt spots and one wild card spot would be used, or both wild card slots and one reserve backcourt slot would have to be used, leaving the coach to decide between picking a backup shooting guard (most likely Dwyane Wade) or using . We won’t know until we get there, I guess.
- This was basically unavoidable either way, but only one between Stephen Curry and Russell Westbrook could start. Popularity is hard to argue, as it can’t really be disproven using statistics and good reasoning, no matter which side you take. For Westbrook, the argument is simple: He is averaging a triple-effing-double, plays with the fervor and energy of three men, and OKC dies without him on the floor. The argument for Curry requires taking a different route. Golden State’s record does much of the speaking for him, but he is still a dynamic player in his own right. He is arguably the best player on unarguably the best team. In an odd twist, Russell Westbrook has been the one with hordes of stat-pushers making his case for the starting spot over Steph. Funny time, 2017.
Overall, nothing worth revamping the process for, right?
Is the BC-FC vs. G-F-C ballot still an issue?
In my rather inconsequential opinion, it should not be. Even with the awesome resurgence of the center position, why make a structural change to accommodate something that won’t hold up for as long as that change remains? We’re getting to the point where we can almost name enough All-Star-level centers to question it now, but this might not be the case years from now. The use of the center position on the ballot has produced less-than-ideal results before, leading to the 2012 format change the NBA uses today, and I think it is still the best solution out of the two. It was a way to eliminate the coach’s (or voter’s) obligation to make a mediocre selection because of a stipulation, and people do not want to see mediocrity in an All-Star game. It does seem to hurt a center’s case even if they are All-Star caliber, but the bar has been set: If you’re one of the five or six best frontcourt players in your conference, people will vote for you regardless of your set position. Sounds like fair game to me.
All in all, the NBA All-Star Game (and on a bigger scale, All-Star Weekend) will continue its tradition of being the league’s greatest unified event. It is a remarkably big social convening centered around an exhibition game, which makes it so much more than that. Without putting so much focus on the game itself, the three-day stretch brings fans and players alike to share their most common sentiment: “I love this game.” Enjoy the show.