By Liam Day
Who takes your vote as the 2017 All Star Game starters? The NBA has made a controversial change to the All Star Game voting system. Now the voting relies 100% on the fans. With no limits on who can be voted for, obviously they couldn't have thought that this would work out perfectly. With the bias of most fans, stats may not be the first thing they look for when voting. Zaza Pachulia and Joel Embiid are two players that have favorable leads in the voting count that have been heavily debated on whether or not they are All Star material. From a statistical perspective, the All Star Game rosters are much different.
Starting at the guard position for the Western All-Stars should obviously be Russell Westbrook. He is currently averaging a triple double halfway through the season with over 30 points per game. Despite this, he was sent to the bench for the two time defending MVP, Stephen Curry by nearly 300 thousand fan votes. The secondary guard spots could have gone to any of these three players, Steph Curry, Damian Lillard or James Harden. Two of these probable All-Stars are averaging over 25 points per game and leading their team in assists. With Kobe Bryant gone, James Harden is looking for his chance at the starting guard position. He has been playing with extreme versatility bringing silence to the critics who have doubted his passing ability. ESPN reporter, Kevin McHale, shared his opinion on James Harden’s playstyle saying, "James is a scorer, and at the end of the day, you do fall back on what you are. James is a scorer at heart." Despite these opinions, Harden has been the most efficient passer in the NBA this year. Playing valuable minutes at the point guard position, Harden’s double-double average with 28 points per game and over 11 assists made him the obvious starter at the shooting guard position.
The Eastern Conference guards include Kyrie Irving at point guard who is one of the league's top scorers on the Cleveland Cavaliers. Aside from Irving, Isaiah Thomas earned a spot somewhere in the All Star roster at the point guard position finishing fourth in the fan voting. His stats out-weigh Irving’s with over 28 points and he is leading the NBA in fourth quarter scoring. John Wall is having one of his best seasons of his career, but unfortunately, the NBA fans do not think so. Wall is averaging 23 points per game with almost 10 assists and has led the Wizards to a huge home winning streak and back into the playoff picture. The shooting guard position rightfully went to the top five scorer, Demar DeRozan. With his scoring nearly identical to Thomas’ he has led Toronto to the top of the Atlantic Division. Another option for the position could have been Bradley Beal, as he is also averaging over 20 points per game.
The Western team without a doubt has some of the strongest centers and forwards in the league. Anthony Davis earned the starting center leaving DeMarcus Cousins uncertain of his chances to make the All Star roster. Both of these superstars average over 27 points per game and 10 rebounds. However, the forward positions consists of the two time defensive player of the year, Kawhi Leonard, and four time NBA leader in scoring, Kevin Durant. Of course the biggest effect of the NBA’s decision for fan voting has given Zaza Pachulia a guaranteed spot in the All Star game finishing second in the Western frontcourt voting. He has averaged 7 points and 6 rebounds throughout his whole career. He is eighth on his team in points per game and apparently has shown enough to the fans that he is All Star worthy.
The Eastern Conference's suffrage of the fan voting this year was at the Center position. Hassan Whiteside has been playing at an extremely high defensive level. He is averaging over 14 rebounds per game and over two blocks. With 17 points to go with it, he was looking to make his first All-Star game appearance. Instead, the rookie Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers will be the center representing the East racking in over 700 thousand more fan votes than Whiteside. As he is the only center with over 500 thousand votes, four-time league MVP LeBron James and rising star Giannis Antetokounmpo will be playing as the “big men” in New Orleans.
The stacked Western Conference must live up to their expectations and big names going into February in order to keep their three year winning streak alive against LeBron James and the Eastern All-Stars. Will the NBA learn its lesson from putting the All Star game in the hands of the fans? Or will Pachulia and Embiid show up against all odds?