The Only Correct NBA All-Star Ballot

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NBA All-Star selections are mostly meaningless. The majority of players have never cared about them, even though they’re a factor in contract size and Hall of Fame/retired jersey consideration later on. Yet those players’ fans lose it every year when their guy is left off the starters or the roster altogether. The All-Star game itself is incredibly uninteresting, no one sits through the whole thing just to see their favorite player dunk a couple times with zero defenders around.

The whole thing is silly. That being said, the game does exist and choices have to be made. Since I have opinions and like to make people listen to them, here we go. These are my All-Star selections. Keep in mind I am ignoring the fan-voted starters and everything else and starting from scratch.

WEST

Frontcourt Starters

Kevin Durant, GSW
Kawhi Leonard, SAS
Anthony Davis, NOP

This ought to be the least controversial of the bunch. This is so obviously correct, its even what you’ll actually see in the game! (Luckily, voting for starters is split between the fans, players, and media this season, sparing us from the fans voting Zaza Pachulia in. I love Zaza, but come on, the fans gotta chill.) I wouldn’t be mad if you put in Boogie, whose stats are damn close to Davis’s, but I think AD gets the nod simply for being a better teammate. That stuff matters. Averaging 28/12/2/2 doesn’t hurt either.

Durant and Leonard are no-brainers. Leonard has somehow turned into an efficient all-around scorer (nearly shooting a 50/40/90) while maintaining his suffocating defense. Durant is basically playing point guard on offense and center on defense for Golden State. That’s a testament both to his alien body and how well he uses it. They’re the best two-way players in the West right now.

Backcourt Starters

James Harden, HOU
Russell Westbrook, GSW

While I’m not happy the Westbrook fans that think the world is out to get their man have more fuel for their fire, it’s pretty clear that he deserved to be a starter over Curry. Butere’s the thing: Curry also deserves to be a starter. He’s putting up 26/4/6 with his True Shooting at 62%. And that’s with a Usage Rate of just 28%. Yes, Westbrook is averaging a triple-double (with 22 triple-double games), but keep in mind his Usage Rate is 41%, with a lower shooting efficiency and assist/turnover ratio than Curry.

Curry is still really, really good. He just has three All-Star caliber players around him, which keeps his counting stats lower while making it easier to be more efficient. Russ doesn’t have that luxury, and he’s getting business done anyway. This year, he deserves it. Oh, I almost forgot. Harden is an offensive machine with 13 triple-doubles of his own and is once again playing fully competent defense. He’s in.

Frontcourt Reserves

DeMarcus Cousins, SAC
Marc Gasol, MEM
Draymond Green, GSW

Despite whatever trash cans get knocked over or reporters get berated, Cousins is an other-wordly force with a constantly improving game and expanding range. Being held hostage in Sacramento may demote him from starter status, but that’s it. Did I mention expanding range? Last season, Marc Gasol shot three threes. Total. This season, he’s averaging 3.6 per game. Let me repeat that.

Last season, Marc Gasol shot three threes. Total. This season, he’s averaging 3.6 per game.

That must make him less efficient though, right? LOL. His True Shooting is up three percentage points. And he’s anchoring the defense for a Grizzlies team that’s overachieving for I think the 23rd straight year. He’s got to be there.

Draymond has been somewhat forgotten with the arrival of Durant, but he’s still central to everything Golden State does. He averages 10/8/7 with 2 steals and block per game while playing with three other All-Stars and a miniscule usage rate. The players voted him 9th, which is probably punishment for certain incidents both on and off the court. I guess I’m more lenient. I’ve also never been kicked in the nards, so that may be why.

Backcourt Reserves

Steph Curry, GSW
Klay Thompson, GSW

Do the Warriors really deserve four All-Stars? Here’s a list of players with the best Net Rating who’ve played in 30 games or more. Look at those names, and you tell me.

Wild Cards

Mike Conley, MEM
Rudy Gobert, UTA

Conley is playing as well as ever despite injuring his back and missing only nine games. He’s got the highest Cajones Rating in the NBA, send that man in. The final spot was a tossup between Gobert and his teammate, Gordon Hayward. They’re pretty much equally responsible for the rise of the Jazz and worthy of the spot. I just can’t get over Gobert’s defending. The percentages his opponents shoot combined with his minutes played is just unparalleled. He gets the slight nod.

Honorable Mentions

Damian Lillard, Hayward, C.J. McCollum, Eric Gordon, DeAndre Jordan, Karl-Anthony Towns, Chris Paul’s thumb, Blake Griffin’s knee

EAST

Frontcourt Starters

LeBron James, CLE
Giannis Antetokounmpo, MIL
Jimmy Butler, CHI

This one isn’t quite as easy as the frontcourt from the other side of the country, but it’s pretty much the same deal. Both LeBron and Giannis should be considered locks in my eyes. LeBron is obvious. He ought to have a tenured spot on the East starters list at this point. The dude’s pretty darn good. Milwaukee should be trash without Khris Middleton, but the Greek Freak simply decided “nah.” He’s a 6’11” point guard who does everything on offense but shoot threes and limits his opponents to just 44% shooting despite essentially guarding every position every game. I say he’s in.

The third spot is a little more up for grabs, but once again I think the real life starters are actually correct. Once again Butler has been given a weird, disorganized team by his organization. It’s possible he’s contributing to that dysfunction, sure, but he’s also the one doing the most on the court to get through it.

Backcourt Starters

Kyle Lowry, TOR
John Wall, WAS

The guard spots in the East are a real packed house, so there are plenty of starters you could go with and not seem crazy. But Lowry should be recognized as a better player than his teammate Demar DeRozan, because he is. A simple look at the Net Rating shows you he’s at 9 to DeRozan’s 5. His efficiency is higher and usage lower, and he holds together bench units despite Toronto’s lack of depth. That backcourt is like the cast of Arrival: Jeremy Renner is there and he’s awesome, but we all know who’s really in charge. DeRozan is Renner; Lowry is Amy Adams.

Author’s note: I promise you I can give no higher praise than compare you to Amy Adams.

The Wizards were 2-8 at one point. Was that partly John Wall’s fault? Of course. Now Washington is 25-20 and knocking on home court in the East. Is that also Wall’s fault? You bet. He’s part of another great backcourt duo, but he just does a little bit more of everything. He’s calmly averaging a double-double with a 23/10/5 line, and the offense craters by nearly 10 points per 100 possession when he’s off the court. He’s keeping the dream of this Wizards team alive.

Frontcourt Reserves

Kevin Love, CLE
Paul George, IND
Paul Millsap, ATL

God bless Ty Lue for finally figuring out how to get Kevin Love actually involved in Cleveland. He’s getting the most shots since he arrived and making them at a higher clip than the previous two seasons. It may not be enough for LeBron, but it’s enough for me.

The next two are both excelling in less-than-ideal situations. George has a new coach and a bunch ill-fitting role players as new teammates. The Pacers have become stagnant hovering around .500, but George just puts the ball in the hoop as well as anybody. Indiana is still afloat mostly because of that. Millsap has openly been on the trading block for months and just saw a fellow starter traded away. Since the Kyle Korver trade, Millsap has let Atlanta to a 7-3 record without a drop in production. More than ever, his team, like George’s, can’t survive without him.

Backcourt Reserves

Isaiah Thomas, BOS
DeMar DeRozan, TOR

The “King of the Fourth” stuff is awesome. What Thomas is actually doing in the fourth quarter is even more awesome. But this is the part where I start to become a grump. I want him to play better defense. Thomas is at or near the bottom of pretty much any defensive statistical category you can name. This is why I can’t get on board with the outrage about IT not starting. He’s incredible at scoring while surrounded by a bunch of sasquatches a foot taller than him. He’s an All-Star, this is where he belongs.

We went over DeRozan already, he’s Jeremy Renner. We’re good here.

Wild Cards

Kemba Walker, CHA
Kyrie Irving, CLE

This is my area to be grumpy about how Kyrie Irving isn’t that good. He’s very good, just not All-Star starter good. In fact, look at the comparisons between Irving and the other Wild Card I’ve selected. Per 100 possessions, Walker Charlotte Ranger (All-Star campaigns work!) is as good or better than Irving in pretty much every major category. Meaning they’re both super freaking good. And credit Kyrie for having more highly visible late-game heroics, but both of these dudes are ballsy to the max in the final minutes. I love ‘em both and I’m happy to put them in.

Honorable Mentions

Kristaps Porzingis, Bradley Beal, Dwight Howard, Avery Bradley, Jabari Parker, Andre Drummond

Honorable Mention With Distinction

Joel Embiid is a ray of sunshine in this cold, cruel world. He’s likely the next superstar we have in the NBA. He’s a two-way player that’s a throwback and a futurist at the same time. He’s a lovely and fun person I can’t get enough of.

He has also played in 30 games and averaged 25 minutes in those games. I’m sorry, it’s just not enough to be an All-Star. Being on the court every day (or close to it) is part of being a star. I understand it’s not Embiid’s choice and it’s all for the better and the team is preparing for his future, but those aren’t considerations in All-Star voting. At least for me. Would he put up similar numbers playing a full season with regular minutes like the rest of the All-Stars have done? We can’t know, an issue big enough to nullify his inclusion. For now, Embiid is the Rookie of the Year, and almost assuredly a future All-Star. There’s nothing wrong with that.

*All stats via nba.com/stats

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