Word got out voting for the NBA’s annual midseason festivities-the All Star Weekend- was causing more consternation for those within the system who viewed it as not rewarding enough to players who had performed well half way into the season.
The votes, since its introduction, will always be about who is popular and who is not but in a show piece game that honors the bright spots of the NBA, there was bound to be some level of production over popularity representatives on the rosters of Eastern and Western Conferences respectively.
As such, changes were made to reduce the effect of fan-only choices by divvying 50% of the votes to players and the media earlier in the season and just like that, the votes were cast, collated and starters of the respective teams were announced. LeBron James, Jimmy Butler, Giannis Antetokounmpo, DeMar DeRozan and Kyrie Irving made the starting lineup for the East while Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant and Anthony Davis did same for the West.
Despite bridging the gap between fans and NBA insiders, there still were anomalies in the selection process as some big and worthy names missed out on a starting berth. Isaiah Thomas for instance will have to wait for his name to be selected by Coaches in the league to earn a spot on the bench in New Orleans for the All Star Game just as Russell Westbrook out West.
Both players suffered from fans getting the final word on who gets to start and who doesn’t in this year’s game. With fans voting for DeMar DeRozan and Steph Curry on one side, media personnel and players voted for Thomas and Westbrook.
However, fan votes won the tie break to hand the starting reigns to Curry and DeRozan to the chagrin of many insiders who feel Westbrook and Thomas deserve a spot on either team than the aforementioned pair. Westbrook is having an outstanding season recording 21 triple doubles this season and is on course to register a triple double average for the season; this feat has not been achieved since Oscar Robertson’s days in the 1960’s. For comparison sake and to highlight how dominant Westbrook has been, the remaining players on the West team have a combined tally of 19 triple doubles. On the East Coast, Thomas has come alive as a late bloomer in games where his dominance on that end has earned the nickname “King of the Fourth”.
Back to the West, Westbrook’s snub at the expense of Curry’s inclusion marks the second time the two time MVP has benefited from those on the outside looking in. The All-Star voting race was the latest despite Steph playing a shade below his astronomical levels for his stacked Golden State Warriors side that has the best record in the league. En route to winning the 2014-2015 title bringing a 40 year drought to the franchise in the process, Curry was named Most Valuable Player for the season ahead of Houston Rocket’s’ James Harden.
The media voted for Curry ahead of Harden but players in the league voted the thick bearded lefty as the best player for the season. Leading Golden State to 67 wins, Steph got the nod for the first of two Maurice Podoloff Trophies for his trophy cabinet in the face of Harden dragging a depleted Rockets team to the Western Conference Finals before getting unstuck against the Warriors. The rallying cry to get Harden the award was due to his ability to carry the team without much support from teammates who were either injured (Dwight Howard) or not in sync (Dwight Howard) or unreliable (Josh Smith). Smith surprisingly came through for the side in the epic semifinals series against Los Angeles Clippers where his unforeseen three point efficiency forced Houston all the way back from a 1-3 deficit to win the series after the awards were handed out.
On the other hand, Curry had reliable partners in Klay Thompson and Draymond Green in the starting lineup plus veterans Andre Iguodala, Leandro Barbosa and Shaun Livingston to count on. Fast forward little under two years and Steph finds himself thrust into a lead position on the on the preference of select media personnel in one case and fans in the other. Though a similar trend might pop up when awards are being handed out at the end of the season, at least one sure thing is Curry doesn’t figure to be third time lucky when it comes who wins Most Valuable Player this year.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah