It’s become an annual joke, one that NBA players keep repeating.
For the sixth year in a row, players have had a say in the decision-making process that will begin the All-Star Game. The NBA uses a formula to do this now, with fan votes counting for 50% of the total, a media panel counting for 25%, and the players themselves getting 25%.
And, also for the sixth year in a row, most players didn’t take the process seriously.
There’s no other way to explain how 297 players had at least one of their peers — or themselves — say they should start next month’s All-Star Game in Cleveland. Ben Simmons got two votes; he didn’t play this season because he doesn’t want to play for Philadelphia. Kawhi Leonard got two votes; he hasn’t played this season due to injury. John Wall, TJ Warren, Luka Samanic and Michael Carter-Williams all got votes; they too have not played this season.
The NBA got the votes of 323 players in this year’s vote. Only four players appeared on more than half of those ballots. Kevin Durant was on 64.1% of them, Giannis Antetokounmpo on 56.7%, LeBron James on 52.9% and Nikola Jokic on 51.7%.
Picture this: More than half of NBA players didn’t think Joel Embiid — who would likely win the MVP award if the vote happened today — shouldn’t be an All-Star starter.
The NBA changed the rules six years ago for 768,112 reasons. That’s the number of fan votes Zaza Pachulia received in 2016, nearly enough to make him an All-Star starter this season. His candidacy was fueled by social media influencers and many votes from the former Soviet republic of Georgia.
Therefore, the league went to the weighted formula. And the players made a mockery of it.
In 2017, 283 players earned at least one All-Star starter vote from a peer or themselves. In 2018, the number was 249. In 2019, it was 289. In 2020, it increased to 292. In 2021, again to 310.
At least this season the number has gone down, albeit slightly.
But it would be great to hear players’ arguments about why Kyrie Irving, who has played seven games this season due to his vaccine status, got more player votes (25) than someone like Jimmy Butler. of Miami (23), who helped the Heat to first place in the Eastern Conference.
Or why anyone thought Zylan Cheatham and Jay Huff should start the All-Star Game. Everyone agrees that they are excellent teammates. But they’ve combined for five NBA appearances and zero NBA points this season. Everyone got a vote anyway.
Moses Wright went one game, recording 88 seconds without a score, for the Clippers. He got two starting votes. Much like McKinley Wright IV, his five points in three games for Minnesota earned him both votes. Joel Ayayi has two points in seven games with Washington; he got a vote. George King got one vote, one vote for every point he scored for Dallas this season.
Many of the players who got a vote or two were tough signings who, quite frankly, deserve huge credit for keeping the league afloat this season as rosters were decimated by positive COVID-19 tests.
But most of the player votes didn’t seem to be sentimental or like praise for those who were recruited for these 10-day deals. They were apparently either meant to be funny, to poke fun at the process, or both.
Luckily, fans get pretty much what they wanted, which should be all that matters since the game is about them. The nine players with the most fan votes were all picked as starters – James, Stephen Curry, Durant, Antetokounmpo, Jokic, DeMar DeRozan, Embiid, Ja Morant and Andrew Wiggins. The only starter who was not in the fan vote top 10 was Trae Young; he was 11th among fans, one place behind Paul George.
And, again, the players’ voting stupidity doesn’t seem to have cost anyone a well-deserved nod.
But there will be a day when it does, and it will be an embarrassing day for the NBA.
Tim Reynolds is a national basketball writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at treynolds(at)ap.org
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