On Thursday the NBA will announce its starters for the upcoming All Star Game in Toronto, representing the very best players in the Eastern and Western conference respectively. Those selected few starters will be named based on fan voting through online ballots, texting and social media. For many years there has been a question as to whether fans should be allowed to vote, because as of late it’s become more of a popularity contest rather than an accurate assessment of who should actually be partaking in NBA’s marquee event. So what would happen if you took away fan-voting and had another alternative for starters to be named? What would that process look like? Let’s first take a look and start with the Western Conference lineup.
In the West, there are only three teams worth mentioning. Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs and the defending champion Golden State Warriors. It’s also no coincidence that the starting five all stems from these three teams. These stars have made the difference thus far, as to whether their teams are contenders for a trip to the NBA Finals this year or pretenders like the rest of the West.
Steph Curry has been playing great all season and it looks as though he will win the back to back MVP award, if the Warriors continue to be the best team in the league. He leads the NBA in points with 30 ppg while having a .510 field goal and .905 free throw percentage. He also leads the league in 3 points made at 4.8 a game and has the highest player efficiency rating at 32.26, averaging 6.4 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game.
If Steph hasn’t been the most valuable player on his own team, then you have to say it’s Draymond Green. The former Michigan State Spartan leads the NBA in triple doubles with eight and is 6th in the league in assists with 7.4, leading all forwards.
On the Thunder, it’s a no brainer for Durant and Westbrook to be named starters as they keep their team afloat. They are both in the top ten in scoring (Durant 26.6 and Westbrook 24.2) and both lead their respective positions in rebounding (Durant 7.9 and Westbrook 7.1) and double-doubles. Durant has also been shooting .510 percent from the field while Westbrook is second in assists with 9.7.
The player that will likely be snubbed for a starting spot will be Kawhi Leonard in favor of Kobe Bryant. Bryant is having perhaps his most dreadful season to date, shooting a league worst .346 from the field and .249 from the three point line on a terrible Lakers team with an abysmal 9-34 record. And yet in his 20th and final year in the NBA, he is the leading vote-getter for the All-Star Game. Kobe is only a starter because he WAS one of the best to ever play in the NBA and fans would like to watch him for the last time on the biggest stage.
But should that be at the expense of Kawhi Leonard?
Leonard is on the second best team in the league with the fifth best player efficiency rating (25.74) and leads the team in points, minutes and steals. But hey, the theme of being overlooked has always been the niche of the San Antonio Spurs and I’m sure Kawhi is more concerned in getting another championship rather than getting a start in Toronto. So enjoy your last start Kobe, even though Kawhi has proven to deserve the All-Star start this season.
Now lets look at what the Eastern Conference should look like:
The East has been really close this year and has a lot of players that deserve to be representing this conference, so let’s gets the obvious choices out the way.
First there is LeBron James, who is on the best team in the East and continues to show he is one of the best players in the world. He is fifth in points with 25.3 while also averaging 7.3 rebounds and six assists per game. There is also the return of Paul George, whose Pacers have been a surprised playoff team in the East averaging 23.7 points, 7.4 rebounds and four assists per game while leading all forwards in steals with two per game.
The rest of the lineup is up for debate. Carmelo Anthony had more votes than Andre Drummond. That really shouldn’t be the case and only seems that his popularity has given him the slight edge. Although Carmelo has been playing well for the Knicks and averaging 21.5 points and 7.6 rebounds per game, his team is just under .500 and still fighting for a playoff spot. Drummond on the other hand has made a big impact for his Pistons, who are currently sitting 7th in a tight Eastern Conference. He leads the league in rebounds at 15.5 and also leads in double-doubles with 35, which includes five games where he had 20 points and 20 rebounds. And besides he’s made a couple of great campaign videos for him to be selected.
The backcourt of the East should be entirely different than what fans have voted in. Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat and Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers have won out and will start the game. Wade, however, isn’t really putting up All-Star type numbers to be a starter as he has averaged 18.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game this season. If there is a Miami Heat player that should go to the All-Star game in general, it should be Chris Bosh who averages 18.9 points and 7.8 rebounds.
In the case of Kyrie, his name should not even be mentioned for an All-Star selection. He is averaging a career low in points, steals, assist, field goal and three point percentage while only playing just 13 games this season. And yet he may be starting over DeMar Derozan, John Wall, Kyle Lowry, Isaiah Thomas, Jimmy Butler and Reggie Jackson who all deserve it more.
If you take out the fan voting the backcourt should comprise of Chicago Bulls’ Jimmy Butler and Toronto Raptors’ Kyle Lowry. The Bulls have been a top 3 team in the East for most of the season and thats because of Jimmy Butler. He leads all shooting guards in steals and blocks averaging 22.4 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.4 assist per game this year. He even broke a longstanding Michael Jordan Bulls record this season scoring 40 of his 42 points in the 2nd half against the Toronto Raptors.
Speaking of the Raptors, Kyle Lowry has been one of the best guards in the East. He is second in the league in steals with 2.27 per game and is in the top five in scoring (21.0 ppg) and rebounds (5.1 rpg) among point guards in the league while averaging 6.4 assists. With the NBA All Star Weekend being in Toronto, it would have been great to see Lowry start in Sunday’s game.