NBA All Star voting: 2013 will prove it must change

This year, the NBA overhauled a part of the All Star selection by eliminating the center position from the ballot. While this was justified and ultimately a good move, the NBA failed to address the larger problem: the All Star voting process itself.

As of January 3, some of the top 15 vote getters in the Western conference include Omer Asik, Pau Gasol, Jeremy Lin, and Steve Nash. In the Eastern conference, they include Shane Battier, Amare Stoudemire, Jeff Green, Jason Terry, and…wait for it...Andrew Bynum.

Before we lose our sanity, only the top-five vote getters in each conference will make the All Star team. This means that the vast majority of the above players won’t grace the court in the 2013 ASG. However, the top two voting getting guards and top three forwards will “earn” starting roles in the game.

That means the starting squad in the West would be Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, Blake Griffin, Kobe Bryant, and Chris Paul. In the East: LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Garnett, Dwyane Wade, and Rajon Rondo. Barring an incredible voter surge, Jeremy Lin and Chris Bosh are the only players with vote totals capable of challenging those 10 players for starting roles by the January 14 deadline.

The reserves are chosen in a much more judicial manner: coaches vote for players not on their own team.

But the problem here is elucidated by players like David Lee and Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors. This duo contrasts perfectly with the fellow duos down in southern California, those of the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers. All three teams have All Star worthy guards: Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, and Stephen Curry. What’s the difference?

The market that each calls home leads to a tremendous disparity in votes. Kobe and the legacy he comes with has garnered over 1.1 million votes, and CP3 has nearly 700,000. Curry, on the other hand, does not even have 100,000. Fans of each team can argue until 2014 which player is better and deserves an All Star spot but nobody would say Curry is seven-fold less deserving than Paul or almost ten-fold less than Bryant.

Curry has played a pivotal role in the revolution by the bay and has earned the right to be recognized as such. But will he? Doubtful with the likes of Kobe, Chris Paul, and even the sub-par performing Jeremy Lin. A comparison between Lin (600,000 votes) and Curry (98,000) is laughable.

Golden State’s point guard is in a difficult position, though, because the West does have a host of talented guards (Parker, Harden, and Westbrook, in addition to those already mentioned). But as a forward, David Lee,  should be a no-brainer. But per that January 3 tally, he’s nowhere to be found in the top-15 forwards in votes. Chandler Parson and all of his 14.5 points and 6.2 rebounds are ahead of Lee.

The Warriors big man is currently the only player in the NBA averaging 20 and 10, has shot 54 percent from the field to go along with 3.7 assists, and has a triple double to boot. So in addition to being a top rebounder and scorer, Lee is top-10 in assists behind point-forward type players like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Nicholas Batum, and Evan Turner. And he is the foundation with which the Warriors build on.

Tim Duncan
Blake Griffin
Dwight Howard
David Lee
FG percentage
FT percentage
Team win %
Statistics as of 1/3/12

Yet the other three players are all top-five in forward All Star votes for the Western conference. As Charles Barkley said of the ASG voting, it’s a “travesty.” Fans vote for who they like best, so it stands to reason that the more people like you, the more votes you will get. If this is the way the NBA wants to do it, might as well base the All Stars on jersey sales.

One may argue that there is considerable overlap between All Star votes and the players who deserve it, so why not keep it? All Star weekend is “for the fans,” so why not let them choose who plays in the game?

Sure, it’s for fans like you and me, but don’t we want to see a showcase of the best NBA talent? And shouldn’t the small market star be recognized over the mediocre players in large markets (Garnett, Griffin, Gasol, etc.)?

Ultimately, the All Star game should honor the best players. And the fact that Andrew Bynum has votes exacerbates that point. The 76er center has not played a minute.

Let’s put the votes in the hand of some combination of coaches, general managers, and sportswriters. There will be biases amongst these people but it will be much less pronounced than fan voting. We will still see greats Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Kevin Durant on the floor. If you want Bynum and Garnett on the floor with them, that ASG should be in NBA 2K13, not in Houston on February 17.


  1. You do have a point; small-market players are certainly at a disadvantage to big-market players in all-star voting. However, I disagree that fan voting should not be a part of all-star weekend. As you said yourself in your argument about David Stern fining the San Antonio Spurs, the NBA is a business, and the business rests upon its stars, and the fans paying money to see the stars that they want to see. You argued that because Gregg Popovich usurped the unwritten rule and hurt the NBAs profitability by sitting his stars during a national TV game (and did this in an untimely manner), he deserved to cost his team $250k. Now, here you state that "Sure, it’s for fans like you and me, but don’t we want to see a showcase of the best NBA talent?" Well, not exactly. Sadly, most fans want to see the most POPULAR players rather than the best ones, just like they want to see Tim Duncan and Tony Parker playing against the Miami Heat, rather than actually seeing a close game (which the mia-sa game was in spite of those two not playing). It may not seem related, but if the NBA is a business that is contingent upon its fans and the stars the fans want to see, it cannot do away with the fan vote.

    Of course, it is not perfect. Jeremy Lin shouldn't be close to sniffing the all-star ballot with guards like Curry, Westbrook, and Parker in the conference, let alone potentially starting over Kobe Bryant or CP3. And as an avid Laker fan, I will say that David Lee deserves to START the all-star game ahead of D12, who is not playing all that well. Howard is still a better defender than Lee, though not only has Lee been better in rebounding and offense, but also his team has won more games! So, clearly D12 is getting in on reputation as a starter (I still think he should make it as a reserve though), and David Lee should get the start. I still think Curry and Lee will get in as bench players, considering that fan vote has nothing to do with that, and coaches will recognize the success that the Warriors have had due to these two players.

    Also, remember, the "votes in the hand of some combination of coaches, general managers, and sportswriters" can be extremely bias as well. Kobe has made all-defensive teams for 10 years running, and as you know, he is not a good defender today. Meanwhile, guys like Tony Allen (who is arguably the best perimeter defender in the league) get passed over for more household names. This voting is conducted by sportswriters, broadcasters and even GMs, I believe. So it can clearly be extremely bias, just as much as fan voting.

  2. "Sadly, most fans want to see the most POPULAR players rather than the best ones." This may be the case but it's worth a shot if somehow Jeremy Lin or other undeserving players make it. I completely believe that Kevin Garnett, a player I personally like, is nowhere near deserving an All Star starting role. Also, to that point, fans may want to see the most popular players but what about small market fans (like Golden State) who truly appreciate what their player has done for their team? He deserves to be recognized and may well become more popular if given the spotlight.

    That's definitely respectable that you see Lee deserves a spot over Howard but most of the NBA fans don't see it or don't care. Recently I saw something where a fan suggested DeMarcus Cousins deserves the spot behind D12.

    I truly do doubt that Curry and Lee will make the All Star team because as Ric Bucher said during a post-game interview, many people are split with D-Lee and Steph and will probably only choose one. Not only that but it'd be a shame if the votes were split in such a way that NEITHER made the's completely realistic, too.

    I agree that the groups I mentioned have bias, and your Kobe analogy is a perfect one. But it's worth a try for a year IF 2013 snubs worthy players. I would also argue that the voting nature where people can vote more than once plays a it exponentially adds votes to Kobe and LeBron.

    Maybe this is a better solution: do something like having coaches choose two players from each team or X total players at each position in each conference and have fans voting for that narrowed down pool. The Jan 3 tally I cited just shows too many things that are just plain wrong. I do like the way baseball forces each team to have representation in the ASG but admittedly that's less plausible in a 12-man roster basketball team.

  3. I'm almost sure one of them will make the team; both are deserving, but players get snubbed every year. Aldridge was snubbed in 2010/11 averaging 22/9 on 50% shooting from the field. Monta was snubbed several times even though he was averaging 23 a game. It happens every single year, in basketball and in football for the Pro Bowl (unsure about baseball, but that's not my forte). And it won't be prevented because there are almost always more deserving players than there are spots in the game. If someone has to make it from the Dubs it should be Lee , as his stats are just scary, but I think both should.

    If Jeremy Lin makes it, yes, something should be done. But that's quite unlikely to happen. D12 or KG making it wouldn't be a travesty, however. KG has done AMAZING work on the defensive end for the Celtics; I read an article on Grantland that said that with KG on the floor, the Celtics have the best defense in the league, and when he's off the court, it is last in the league. And D12, in spite of his down-season, is still averaging very solid numbers on both sides of the court. At the end of the day, having fans vote on all-star starters is a good way for the NBA to keep fans interested in the game and the players they love ("fan favorites") and the coach vote for the reserves will prevent egregious snubs (ie: If Jeremy Lin gets in over CP3, CP3 won't end up not being an all-star at all).

  4. Lee has carried the offense in the Warriors starting front court by himself without Bogut and Rush. Two rookies start next to him in Barnes and Ezeli and yet they are 5th (4th at one point) in the West. He should be starting over Griffin because he leads all categories except blocks or even Howard whose team has a losing record.

  5. Completely agree. I see it kind of like an MVP race: who has impacted their team the greatest? For that, like we've said, D-Lee has the stats and team record to back it up. This idea that fan voting is okay because it keeps fans engaged isn't right. The best players should be All Stars! Granted D12 and Blake are All Stars, but D-Lee should be a step higher - not below. It will be interesting to see how his and Curry's chances play out.

  6. Sportswriters and commentators (the media) should be able to vote for the starters (with a 50% weight to balance the fan votes) or at least vote for the reserves as they do for the league MVP, ROY, DPY, COY, etc. Coaches have favoritisms and sometimes they just vote in for a familiar name without regard of who actually deserves it. Combining the coach votes with the media votes makes more sense. At the very least, the media should decide who gets the two wildcard spots.

  7. Interesting idea. I agree that the media should be able to have a say as well. The process does need to change, but to eliminate the fan vote completely is not the way to go.

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