As of January 21, 2016, the All Star Starters for the 2016 NBA Star Game in Toronto, Canada were announced for both conferences. The starting lineup for the Eastern Conference will be: Kyle Lowry and Dwyane Wade in the backcourt, followed by Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Paul George in the frontcourt. For the Western Conference, their starting lineup will consist of: Stephen Curry and Russell Westbrook in the backcourt, followed by Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and Kobe Bryant in the frontcourt.
Every year there is a problem with what the fans have decided through their voting. Last year, it was Kobe Bryant starting over MVP-candidate James Harden. This year, the popularity contest strikes again, as several worthy players were not voted into the starting lineup. Players such as Andre Drummond, Hassan Whiteside, DeMarcus Cousins, and MVP-candidate Draymond Green will all miss out on the joys of being voted by the fans to be the first five on the court. Andre Drummond is averaging career numbers across the board. He’s pulling down a career-high 15.5 rpg to go along with a career-high 17.7 ppg. Not to mention his Detroit Pistons are sixth in the Eastern Conference at this point in the season. Hassan Whiteside has blocked the most shots in the league and leads the league at a massive four blocks per game. Draymond Green may be on a team with current MVP Stephen Curry, but he is the Most Valuable Player on that roster by far. He can score, pass, rebound, and defend at a high level, and is redefining his position.
Fan favorites Jeremy Lin and Kyrie Irving both almost snuck their way into the All-Star starting lineup as well. So on top of the first five having a lack of centers, they would also have a player who comes off the bench for his team, and a player who has only played 15 games this season. At some point, the mantra “All-Star Weekend is for the fans” gets a little out of hand when players who have barely played or don’t start for their teams can almost crack the starting lineup.
A few seasons ago, the NBA wiped away the center position from the All-Star Ballot, thus making it harder than ever for an actual big man to be selected in the big game. Granted, there are spots coming off the bench for players to be chosen, where coaches decipher who they believe is worthy of being a reserve. Nevertheless, even that is not enough; there will still be deserving players who will be shunned in the eyes of the coaches.
The NBA should revert back to its original voting of each position, instead of combining the positions into frontcourt and backcourt. In that format, big men who work hard every game for their teams receive some recognition. Especially the big men who are actually heading their team to a playoff spot, unlike a forward such as Carmelo Anthony starting; whose team is sitting behind the Miami Heat at ninth in the Eastern Conference. To give Anthony credit he is finally learning to distribute the ball, averaging a career-high 4.1 apg. However, him nor James should be receiving minutes at the five when there are eligible and more deserving players who could take his place.
Additionally, fans shouldn’t have as much total influence in the voting of the All-Star Starters as they do now. Regardless of who is the first five to play, the game will be entertaining to watch. There will no defense played, alley-oops thrown, and ESPN highlight-reel plays no matter who’s on the court. Fans should have weight of who gets selected, but players should also have a say in who is chosen. The players can select who they believe should be starting and they can’t chose themselves or players on their own team. That way, it’s a mixture of the fans and the players and the results will lead to a starting lineup of personnel who have played top notch basketball for the first half of the season.
While changes may never be made to the popularity contest that is All-Star voting, Adam Silver and the fans need to understand that although it is a weekend “for the fans”, the players who play and make the league millions of dollars earned some recognition on the big stage as well. The popularity competition needs to cease; effective immediately. Hopefully with the leadership of Adam Silver, the NBA will find a compromise so the game is based on merit and not entirely on fan favoritism.