By John Miller
The NBA season has surpassed the halfway point, and the weekend of Feb. 18, also known as All-Star Weekend, is quickly approaching.
Voting for the NBA All-Star Game starters has concluded, and the starting lineups were announced this past week. This season, the buzz around the All-Star Game has been the new voting system to select the All-Star starters.
In prior seasons, the fans have had all the power in electing the starting lineups. This season, the fan vote has been reduced to counting for only 50 percent of the vote. A panel of media members makes up 25 percent of the vote, and each NBA player was allowed a vote to make up the remaining 25 percent.
The NBA did this to avoid having embarrassing selections named to start in the All-Star Game. The question here is, did the new system work? I would say for the most part, yes.
Starting lineups consist of two guards and three frontcourt players (forwards and centers).
The Western Conference starters are Golden State Warriors point guard Steph Curry, Houston Rockets point guard-shooting guard James Harden, Warriors small forward Kevin Durant, San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard and New Orleans Pelicans power forward Anthony Davis.
Starting for the Eastern Conference team are Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving, Toronto Raptors shooting guard DeMar Derozan, Chicago Bulls small forward Jimmy Butler, Cleveland Cavaliers small forward LeBron James and the sensational unicorn that is Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Both lineups are quite solid and deserving for the most part. I am stoked to watch Antetokounmpo; the man is nearly seven feet tall with the ball handling skills of a point guard, the leaping ability of a kangaroo and the size of a center.
Arguments can be made that Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry, Washington Wizards point guard John Wall and Boston Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas deserved to start in the backcourt over Derozan and Irving.
Derozan is averaging 28.2 points and 3.9 assists per game, while Irving is averaging 23.6 points and 5.6 assists per game. Wall is averaging 22.9 points and 10.2 assists, Thomas 28.7 points and 6.0 assists and Lowry 22.2 points and 7.1 assists (Bleacher Report). All five deserve to be All-Stars, but I personally would like to have seen Thomas and Wall in the starting lineup.
The Western Conference starting lineup is almost perfect. There was a major snub of Russell Westbrook, point guard for the Oklahoma City Thunder, in the selection of the starting five. Instead of Westbrook, Curry was given the starting nod.
Curry is averaging 24.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game. Westbrook is averaging 30.6 points, 10.6 rebounds and 10.4 assists per game, which is phenomenal. Curry certainly deserves to be an All-Star, but as a reserve.
This could be a blessing in disguise for both NBA fans watching the Thunder and for Westbrook himself, since this will only make an already angry Westbrook even angrier. Right now, he plays every game at 100 mph and tries to destroy the rim every time he rises for a dunk.
Westbrook plays the game angrily because his superstar teammate of eight years in Oklahoma City, Kevin Durant, left in free agency for the already great Golden State Warriors. This explains why it could be a blessing in disguise for Westbrook—he will be coming off the bench in the All-Star Game, and his archenemy Durant will be starting. This means he might not play with Durant at all if their minutes are staggered in a specific way.
Had the old voting system been in place, Warriors center Zaza Pachulia could have started the game. Pachulia is at best a mediocre player who averages 5.5 points and 6.0 rebounds per game (espn.com), which are far below what the best players in the league average. Pachulia was one of the top vote recipients primarily because of the large amount of votes he received from the people of his home country of Georgia.
The Westbrook snub and nearly disastrous Pachulia situation provide evidence that even though All-Star voting took a major step in the right direction, it is still imperfect. 50 percent of the say is still a great deal of power for a fan base of people who vote based on who plays for their favorite team, as opposed to the most deserving players.
Personally, I would like to see the voting be split evenly amongst players, coaches, the media and the fans. Each group’s vote would count for 25 percent of the overall vote, and this would be the fairest method of selecting the All-Star Game starters.
In this system, even if Brooklyn Nets point guard Jeremy Lin gets 500 thousand votes from China, 75 percent of the remaining votes will be cast by people (hopefully) smart enough to see that Lin is not nearly good enough to be called an All-Star. The reserves for each team should continue to be selected by the head coaches in each team’s respective conference.
There needs to be a system in place where mediocre players who get too many fan votes are not even in the discussion, such as Pachulia and Lin.
There are no rewards for winning the NBA All-Star Game. The purpose of the game is to put on a show and to make money, so there should be a system in place to ensure the best players in the game are participating.