By Saransh Sharma, Nikhil Pradeep, & Anish Dhondi
The NBA All-Star Game has a severe problem currently, but it has nothing to do with the game itself. It instead has to do with the fan & coach-controlled voting for players who get the opportunity to play in the game. Sure, some years snubbed players are understandable due to the stacked conferences and players merely being too hard to choose between, yet the past few years have been the complete opposite, with star players who have outperformed one or multiple selected All-Stars snubbed. The thing that is important to note is that every year, there are multitudes of players that are chosen to be All-Stars. With only 12 spots per conference, the selections are difficult, but some are just dumbfounded nonetheless. Here are our takes on how to improve the All-Star Game voting to have fewer snubs and avoid trolls from dominating the voting (such as Klay Thompson nearly being an All-Star despite playing 0 games):
Saransh’s Solution: Have Current Players Vote & No Conferences
Similar to the ‘NFL Top 100’ voting, the NBA should randomly select NBA players currently playing to compile their All-Star Teams, separated by starters and reserves, as well as by conference. Each player would then select 12 players per conference, and they are limited as to how many players from their team they can select to limit ‘troll voting’ by the players. As we have seen, current players such as LeBron James, CJ McCollum, Damian Lillard, and Luka Doncic all voiced their frustrations with players being snubbed. Devin Booker this season, who is an All-Star replacement for Anthony Davis, falls into this category. Also, even Luka Doncic believed that he should not have been selected as a starter, and Damian Lillard should have been instead. Many of the All-Star caliber players in the NBA have tons of respect for each other and see each other players’ games in ways that fans, and even in some cases, coaches, simply cannot. This goes for one of this season’s biggest All-Star snubs, Trae Young. Many coaches around the league have expressed that they do not believe Trae Young is a point guard or that he has the chance to be an elite NBA player because of his lack of size, his shooting and shot selection, and his defense. That should not matter for an All-Star Game as it is a game of enjoyment, but many coaches do not view it that way.
Another big emphasis that should be taken into account is realizing how much certain players impact their teams. For example, Jimmy Butler missed much of this season with COVID-19, yet when he is playing, the Heat are 14-7 (66.7% win percentage), did not make the All-Star team. DeMar DeRozan, another All-Star snub, is leading an underrated Spurs team in the Western Conference to a 16-12 record (5th in the Western Conference). While I do not believe that players on winning teams specifically should be on the All-Star team or not, fans, coaches, and the media have to realize that these players have huge impacts on their team when it comes to winning and losing games, therefore emphasizing player and team records more into choosing the All-Star rosters.
This goes hand-in-hand with the last change that the NBA needs to make for the All-Star Game, which is to have the league remove conferences for the All-Star Game, therefore getting the 24 best players into the game. This would allow a player like Devin Booker or Trae Young to get in over a player like Nikola Vucevic or Julius Randle, whom while they both had great seasons (24.4 PPG, 11.6 RPG, & 41.0% 3PT shooting for Vucevic, having career-high scoring seasons & 3PT-shooting season), he would not be selected over Devin Booker due to the removal of conferences, who is averaging 24.9 PPG on a career-high 49.7% on FGs, and leading the Suns to the 4th seed in the Western Conference (21-11), while Vooch’s Magic are 13th in the Eastern Conference (13-21).
Nikhil’s Solution: Team Central Selection & Subsequent Player-Wide Voting
The NBA’s selection criteria for the All-Star game has been inherently flawed for a while, but in fairness, it has mainly been due to the increasing amounts of player movement within teams. James Harden leaving Houston and teaming up with KD and Kyrie is not something that should be possible in a fair league and tips the balances as far as All-Star voting is concerned. All three are very clearly All-Stars, but this eats up a lot of space for other deserving players to make the rosters. This, combined with clear and rather obvious ‘snubs’ from the rosters and starting spots, such as the case of Damian Lillard and Luka Doncic for the starting guard spot in the Western Conference, makes for a speculative sort of circumstance for voting in general and is usually not representative of what the majority thinks. Thus, a credible, albeit not preferable method of choosing All-Stars could be to preliminarily pick three candidates from each team, and have another subsequent player vote among those selected.
The basic premise of the method is each team selects 3 members of the roster to be selected for All-Star eligibility, and from there a similar player-centralized vote as suggested in Saransh’s solution would be implemented to select the final rosters for each conference. The only downside to this would be the absence of the fan vote but in all honestly, the fan vote has only served to blur the credibility of the entire All-Star voting process, having selected Zaza Pachulia and an injured Klay Thompson as top ten selections in years past. By implementing these such sanctions within the process, it streamlines the eventual outcome and as a result, produces rosters that are seemingly all-inclusive and fair.
Anish’s Solution: Make Fan Vote Worth Less & Remove Conferences
The NBA’s All-Star Game is important to players as it serves as a vital accolade to their careers. That said, the players who truly deserve the spot on the teams must be named All-Stars. In the current day system, fan vote only really has a factor on All-Star starters, and they’re given the 50% for voting while the 25% goes to players and media each. What was flawed this year was between the tiebreaker in the Western Conference between Damian Lillard and Luka Doncic. For many years team success has always been a factor in deciding who’s having a better season and this season Lillard has been winning more with the injured Blazers roster. Now the problem for voting comes where fans voted Luka Doncic (50% of the vote) and Damian Lillard wins in the other 2 categories that add up to the other 50%. The NBA decided to give the tiebreaker to Luka Doncic which tells me the fan vote has too much power. Fans and social media nowadays turns everything into a meme as players like fan-favorite Alex Caruso, or even Klay Thompson, who has not and will not play a game this season due to his ACL injury. Despite that, he proceeds to receive more votes than CJ McCollum, who suffered a foot injury but was averaging 26 PPG prior.
As much as we want to see fan input, I believe tiebreakers should be through the other 2 categories because if players (who play and know the game) and the media (whose job is to report on the game) think one guy is better than the other, how do they not win that tiebreaker? My other problem is with the conferences there’s a lack of balance all around. Currently looking at the standings in both the West and East you can see the West is much harder. Teams in the West who are barely playoff contention would be Top 5 seed in the East. With a divide shown this strong, the West has better players, but the NBA picks the same number of players from both sides. You can see the unbalance even looking at the All-Star starters as the East has 2 All-Star starters who aren’t even in playoff contention even in the East with Bradley Beal and Jayson Tatum (KD replacement). While in the West we see that the Spurs hold a Top 5 seed and somehow don’t have a single All-Star… The NBA needs to do something to counteract this imbalance that has been between the conferences for years to avoid more snubs in the future.