NBA All-Star voting has long been something short of a meritocracy. For years, Yao Ming was voted as a starter by his legion of fans in China, even when he had been injured or was unproductive. Vince Carter used lingering “Vinsanity” love to collect All-Star nods well after he deserved them. Kobe Bryant started the game in his final season despite being one of the least efficient players of all-time that year. A.C. Green and his 14 points per game won a spot thanks to the fans in 1990. So did B.J. Armstrong in 1994 and Anthony Mason in 2001. And on and on.
But in December 2016, the NBA announced changes to the voting system that would limit fans’ input, while allowing players and select media members to help select starters. Last year, the first under the new system, the collective voting body picked a competent bunch of starters, though eventual MVP Russell Westbrook was left out of the lineup despite averaging a triple double.
And this year? There’s not much to complain about at all.
In the Eastern Conference, fans, media and players picked LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kyrie Irving, DeMar DeRozan and Joel Embiid. In the West, they settled on Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, James Harden, Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins.
Now, it’s not as if these lineups are unquestionably perfect. You could argue for Victor Oladipo over Irving or DeRozan, or Al Horford over Embiid or for Draymond Green over Cousins. But it’s tough to argue that voters got this wrong. All 10 players selected are among the league’s best and clearly belong on the All-Star team. You can be annoyed your favorite player didn’t get the nod, but you can’t credibly be outraged that the system is broken.
Ultimately, who goes to the All-Star Game is not the most important thing, but it’s also not meaningless. All-Star berths affect public opinion of players, endorsement appeal, postseason awards and even Hall of Fame selections. And when an undeserving player gets added to the team, someone else loses a spot.
So props to the NBA for setting up a functioning All-Star voting system. The league’s reward is a dearth of blog posts about “All-Star snubs” and an All-Star Game next month that actually features the best players in the starting lineup.