In a universe where I get to decide how All-Star starters will be selected, here’s how I’ll probably do it: one player each from the top five teams at the time of the selection. Each team will vote their “champion” to represent the team in the All-Star. No teammates should be named to the All-Star. You have 15 teams in the east, 15 in the west. Pick the best player from each team. Starters come from the top five teams. The first set of reserve comes from teams 6th to 10th in the ranking. The rest of the reserves are from the bottom five teams in the conference. Considering the talent in the NBA, I don’t think it is a big swing to assume that each team has at least one player playing at an All-Star level deserving to be an All-Star, regardless of how bad the team is doing in the standings. I think this justifies picking Washington Wizards’ Bradley Beal—but to say that he is more deserving compared to the All-Stars in Indiana, Toronto, Boston, New York, Charlotte, Chicago, Miami, Atlanta, and Orlando, that is just contentious.
If we are selecting now using this process, that means one player each from the Lakers, Blazers, Jazz, Clippers, and Suns. It could be LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Damian Lillard, Devin Booker, and Donovan Mitchel. East All-Star starters would be Joel Embiid, Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Malcolm Brogdon (or Domantas Sabonis), and Pascal Siakam (or Fred VanVleet). Now, is there anyone here who does not deserve to be an All-Star starter considering what they’ve done and how this is one of the reasons their respective teams are currently successful in the 2020-21 NBA season?
One of the main reasons I don’t like fan-voting to determine who gets the honor of being an All-Star is because there is a very real risk of invalidating the hard work of players outside the landscape of meritocracy when fan votes are the ones that hold sway. Right now, Utah Jazz is best in the league with 24-6; they’ve been top tier around the time the votes for All-Star selection for starters are being tallied. And yet not one Utah player was deemed deserving of an All-Star starting role? I’ve read numerous times about NBA players gripping about All-Star snob year after year after year, but this is more than a snob—it is a slap in the face.
If fan-voting and media votes are a big part of selecting the starters, then call the team you are building an All-Star Fan and Media Roster. Have them play a separate game during the All-Star weekend.
Call me an old-timer but this is how I see it: being an All-Star is a reflection of the quality (and result) of your work. I believe the All-Star Games is a showcase of the best of the best, and if that is the case, here is another way of selecting the starters—automatically name stat leaders (points, assists, rebounds, shooting percentage, least turnovers, etc.) as starters. Statistics validate—impartially, if I may add—what the player rightfully earned, which is to be called an All-Star, regardless of the opinion of biased fans. Numbers don’t lie. Fans are petty and subjective.
I’m not saying remove the fan and media votes. I say use them - let them, at the most, vote for bench players. Or like I said earlier, have a separate event game featuring fan and media favorites.
The NBA is overflowing with very talented and gifted players. Every year, we see players who continue to play excellent basketball. Every year, we see players showing how much they continue to improve. Every year, we see players who finally deserve to be noticed because they are having a breakout season. Every year, we see players promoted by the team to become the go-to player of their respective teams. Every year, we see players who transformed erstwhile bottom-feeders into contenders the moment they joined the team. Every year we see consistent role players doing an excellent job of playing above par in a quiet grind. Why do we need fans and media telling us who deserves an All-Star spot when the choices are obvious and defined by performance and statistics?
I understand the importance of fan votes from the point of view of the NBA as a business enterprise trying to make sure the consumers remain engaged, invested, and rewarded. But should it be at the cost of staining or devaluing the esteem that comes with being an All-Star, because the result of talent and hard work is overlooked in favor of popularity?
I used to think the All-Star selection is the best of the best. According to ESPN, Damian Lillard ranks third overall in offense and number one among Western Conference players. How is this not enough to earn him a starting position in the All-Star? That is just the tip of the iceberg. Every leader in different categories except for offense (Beal) and 3-pointers made (Steph Curry) that should ideally qualify a player as an All-Star is not in the starting unit for either West or East—Clint Capela (defensive leader, rebounds); James Harden (assists); Myles Turner (blocks); Jrue Holiday (steals). The greatest injustice of all? Utah Jazz currently holds the best record in the league at 24-6 but not one Jazz player named as a starter, and yet Luka Dončić, playing for a team that is below .500 after 28 games (13-15) and is currently at the bottom half of the Western Conference, is named an All-Star starter.
I refused the due diligence of digging for data to know when exactly was the last time the best team in the conference had no representative in the All-Star starting unit because if that ever happened, it feels unnatural, highly illogical even.
Meh. Maybe the term All-Star has been demoted to a mere misnomer.