The NBA All-Star process needs work

By Spencer Brown

Now that the Super Bowl has ended, as anticlimactic as it was, sports fans can turn their attention to the next big sporting event, NBA All-Star weekend.

The selection of NBA All-Star Game players is an event with arguably the most flawed system outside of the BCS. 

Let’s begin with the selection of the starters. For those that may be unfamiliar with the process, fans are allowed to vote for who starts the All-Star game. It seems like a nice sentiment, and for the most part, the fans get it right. They just never get it completely right. 

There is no exact science one way or the other that would produce a list of starters everyone can agree with. There are some individuals voted in every year, however, that should not even receive All-Star consideration at all. 

This year’s least deserving All-Star is Kobe Bryant. He has played 6 games this season, out of 47. It is almost definite that Bryant will not play, which will open up a spot for someone more deserving. What if he was healthy in time to play, though?

Next we have the curious case of Kyrie Irving. The best player on the Cleveland Cavaliers and maybe the best young point guard in the NBA is an All-Star for the second year in a row. For the second year in a row, he has received an invite to a game he should be watching from the stands in street clothes.

Irving has great numbers and no doubt, barring injury, will be a top player for years to come. But the Cavaliers finished last season 24-58. This year they are currently 16-31. That’s 89 losses over the last season and a half. Correct me if I’m wrong, but an All-Star should at least elevate his team to somewhere near playoff contention. His numbers are good (21.5 points, 6.2 assists, 3.1 rebounds per game) but so are Kemba Walker’s numbers (18.7 ppg, 5.0 apg, 4.2 rpg). And Charlotte, Walker’s team, currently sits in the eighth playoff spot as well. 

Dwyane Wade is another debatable name, but I won’t agitate Heat nation.

There has to be some element of restriction when allowing the fans to vote. It is about the players they want to see but the word All-Star should maintain some sense of clout not just associated with a popularity contest.

Then we have the ballot itself.

The NBA came up with the brilliant idea a couple of years ago to do away with the center position on the ballot. It is a reflection of a changing NBA. A lot of teams are transitioning to positionless basketball. The players are smaller and coaches are adjusting their offenses to become more up-tempo. 

This is not a holistic view of the league. Centers (and power forwards) do still exist, just not in the abundance they did in the ‘90s.

With an adjusted ballot, you get an Eastern Conference frontcourt of LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George. I applaud these gentlemen’s ability to play multiple positions, but they are not equipped to start at center. This setup, in my opinion, stole a starting bid from a deserving Roy Hibbert. 

In an era where we glorify offense and highlights, we’ve ignored those most deserving of accolades despite their lack of appearances on SportsCenter. Centers are not the most spectacular, but it takes a certain skill set to play that position. Skill that shouldn’t be diminished by a hunger for a highlight reel play or jersey sales.

Aside from those issues with the starters are the reserves. Every single year, we have snubs. Last year was Stephen Curry and J.R. Smith. This year, the major snub is Lance Stephenson and some would say Anthony Davis. 

The Anthony Davis case has some strength to it because of his numbers this season. The unfortunate deal breaker is Houston’s Dwight Howard has similar numbers, and his team is 15 games over .500, while the New Orleans Pelicans are six games below .500.

Lance Stephenson was just flat out left off the list with no validation. He has been the second best player on the NBA’s best team, leading the league with four triple doubles this year. His progression is the reason the Indiana Pacers have been so lethal and are looking to take that next step.

What’s odd about this situation is that you’ll often see the best team have three players on the All-Star team. The Miami Heat, trailing the Pacers by three games, have three All-Stars while the Pacers have two.

The discussion whenever someone mentions an All-Star snub is who and how difficult it is to determine the player that should be taken off. 

That may be a scripted media “belief” used to avoid controversy because, every year, it’s actually quite simple identifying who doesn’t belong. 

This year it’s Joe Johnson.

No in-depth analysis needed here. He has not been having an All-Star season on the court and the Brooklyn Nets have more than underperformed.

The NBA All-Star Game is sure to be the spectacle it is every year. Maybe next year we’ll get all All Stars. 

Sean can be reached at [email protected] and @Neumannthehuman.