The NBA just released the starters and rosters for the NBA All-Star game that will take place on the weekend of February 17th-19th in New Orleans of this year. While some of the starters and snubs may seem a bit obvious, it is a interesting concept to know why they were snubbed or favored: it all lies in the voting process. NBA All-Star voting is very well-rounded in terms of taking into account the likes of the fans, the players, and the media coverage in order to compile the best teams of players that people want to see, players want to play with, and will make headlines for major sporting news organizations.
NBA All-Star voting is quite simple. Fan voting counts for 50% of a player’s rating, while player voting and media voting both count for 25%. Relative rankings among these three categories are then averaged, creating a player’s “score”. For example, if any given player were to be ranked 5th in fan voting, 3rd in player voting, and 10th in media voting, their All-Star “score” would be 6.0 [(5+3+10)/3]. We’re all math majors here at Check Down, folks. The voting is divided among front-court and back-court for player positioning. I’ll be taking a look at each conference and why the rosters were created the way they are, how close some players were to making it, and why it doesn’t make sense in terms of skill levels and statistics.
The Eastern Conference
Kyrie, LeBron, and Greek Freak all make sense here. Kyrie finished 1st in voting for every category for All-Star guards except media, where he finished 3rd to Isaiah Thomas and DeMar DeRozan. LeBron finished 1st in voting for every category for All-Star front-courters. Giannis Antetokounmpo finished 2nd in voting for every category for All-Star front-courters. Jimmy Butler’s pick is interesting because he was 3rd among players and 3rd among media for his position, but finished 5th in fan voting… behind Kevin Love and Joel Embiid. Now even though fan voting isn’t intrinsically based upon who the general population of fans want to see (rather it’s more about fanbases supporting their players, and a majority of a player’s vote comes from voters within their fanbase), this is interesting. It’s obvious for me to see why Kevin Love would be getting so many votes; he helped bring Cleveland a championship! Of course Cleveland will go crazy about basketball now, which is why LeBron and Kyrie leading the polls makes sense (if only they led the National election polls too…. ANYWAY). But Joel Embiid? Here’s why I’m confused: Philadelphia has been struggling in the basketball world. It’s no lie. They went nearly a quarter of their season before they could win a game last year. They’ve been getting top draft picks for a few years now, and their No. 1 overall pick isn’t even playing right now. BUT: Dwayne Wade, Chicago Bulls guard, finished 2nd in fan voting among guards… but Jimmy, the clear star of that team, couldn’t break the top 3. Now don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Jimmy Butler. He’s got talent, second to LeBron in Eastern Conference small forward scoring, hitting 52 earlier this year. But I don’t understand why Chicago couldn’t rally around him like they could Dwayne Wade. Jimmy Buckets received more than 300,000 votes less than Dwayne Wade. His overall All-Star score was just under 4. A respectable number, but it shouldn’t be of starting value. Now I do understand how basketball positions work; there are 2 guards, 2 forwards in a center. I also understand that basketball players should play defense. I ALSO understand that the All-Star game is widely considered a joke, while the selection to the team carries much more weight. So knowing this, WHY ON EARTH IS ISAIAH THOMAS, 2ND IN PLAYER VOTING, 1 IN MEDIA VOTING, AND 4TH IN FAN VOTING NOT STARTING? Here’s why:
DeMar DeRozan and Isaiah both had the same All-Star score: 2.75. But in a the event of a tie, the fan vote is the tiebreaker. So, if Dwayne Wade doesn’t get as many votes, which he shouldn’t have, and it doesn’t make sense why he did, Isaiah is an All-Star starter like he should be. Now on to statistics: Isaiah is currently LEADING the Eastern Conference in scoring. 2nd is DeMar. DeMar has more turnovers in more games, and isn’t as versatile a player. It really doesn’t even make sense that he’s a shooting guard. With his height he should be a small forward, but that’s a whole different argument.
In conclusion with the East, Boston fans can blame Chicago fans for Isaiah’s snub, seeing as Bulls fans randomly decided to vote more for an aged player who joined the team for fun, rather than vote as much for the clear center of the franchise in Jimmy Butler. Now here’s some funny things I found in the voting:
- Ben Simmons, 1st overall pick who hasn’t played a game this year, got more fan votes than Taj Gibson, Chicago Bulls starting forward
- Jaylen Brown, Celtics bench rookie, received more fan votes than Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, starting forward for Charlotte
- Thon Maker, Bucks bench rookie who is 20 years old but probably 32, got more player votes than Justice Winslow, Miami starting guard.
The Western Conference
There are so many issues with Western Conference voting. I don’t know where to begin. I’m going to actually make sub-paragraphs about each thing. That’s rare for your boy. But it all comes down to two people not starting: Russell Westbrook and DeMarcus Cousins (or at least where Boogie finished in the voting).
Westbrook vs. Curry and Harden
You could make arguments for every one of these players that each of them is the best at their position. The statistics show it and their team’s performances show it. Here’s my argument for Russell: He’s averaging a triple double and leads the West in scoring. Better rebounder than Steph and Harden combined. 2nd in assists to Harden, but less turnovers than Harden and averages about 2 minutes less than Harden. He does more in less time. There. My central argument to this point is that statistics, specifically the metric of total efficiency (PER according to Hollinger’s stats on ESPN), should carry some weight in the voting process or decision process. It doesn’t make sense that Draymond Green finished higher in overall voting than Karl-Anthony Towns, a far superior statistical player and center of his team. Anyway, moving on.
Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant… and Boogie?
Arguably two of the most impactful players in the Western Conference, KD finished 1st in every voting category while Kawhi finished right behind him in 2nd, except for fan voting, where he finished 3rd to Kevin Durant and……. wait for it…. The biggest squid in the NBA……. Zaza Pachulia. The 32-year old Georgian (the country) finished 2nd in fan voting among front-court players. This brings in a huge problem for All-Star snubs. DeMarcus Cousins would have finished top-3 in fan voting, more likely starting than not, if he managed to eclipse the 1-million fan vote mark and Zaza doesn’t randomly receive 1.5 million votes. I simply don’t get it. Let’s look at something else here: The Washington Wizards are looking to reunite John Wall and DeMarcus, teammates on Kentucky before they were both drafted in 2010. You would think Wizards fans might yoss some votes to Boogie, seeing as Marcin Gortat, their starting center, only received 66,000 votes. John Wall and Bradley Beal, one of the most dynamic and dangerous backcourts in the NBA, combined for about 400,000 votes. Sorry Washington, but you may have lost your chance at Boogie. If he receives this All-Star game start and eventually finishes on an ALL-NBA Team, he might be headed to D.C., but I think without these credentials, he’ll be staying in Sacramento or going elsewhere.
Explained: Westbrook Not Starting
Like I mentioned before, in the event of an All-Star score rating tie, the fan vote decides who starts. This could not have been more pivotal for determining the starting guards, as Steph Curry, James Harden aND Russell Westbrook all averaged 2 for a rating (the lower the rating, the better, I should add). Here’s how: Steph Curry finished 1st in fan voting, 3rd in player voting (by a LONGSHOT, nearly 100 to Russell and 75 to Harden), and 3rd in media. James Harden finished 2nd in everything (deservingly, considering he’s the 2nd best point guard in the NBA behind, hmm, I’m not sure…. RUSSELL WESTBROOK), and Russell Westbrook finished 3rd in fan voting (only less than 300,000 behind Steph and less than 200,000 behind Harden), and 1st in player voting and 1st in media voting. Here’s my problem with Westbrook not starting, in addition to his statistical dominance: He’s the current front-runner for MVP. That cannot be more set and stone. Curry is absolutely out of the MVP picture, KD I don’t think stands a chance with his recent iso-play controversy, and James Harden is just going to come up short, in addition to being on a better team. So why isn’t the current MVP starting? He’s obviously considered so by the players and media, and not far off by the fans. This is why statistics has to play a role. If you’re terrible statistically, there’s a reason you’re not going to be an All-Star, but it’s not the same standard the other way around. Except for Zaza Pachulia of course, who just wins tip-offs and lets big men like JaVale McGee and Pseudo-5 man Draymond Green do the dirty work.
I’m hugely disappointed to see some of the most talented players in the NBA not be rewarded. But that’s what the playoffs are for, to showcase your talents on a stage that matters. We’ll see how far Russell can carry his Thunder before inevitably falling to Golden State, and the same deal with Isaiah Thomas and the Celtics before they succumb to the Cavaliers (or not, their contests this year have been close). As for All-Star weekend, I’m excited to see what the 3-point contest brings this year, and if Zach LaVine can throw down the most impressive dunks for the 3rd straight year.