NBA All-Star Fan Voting is a joke.
Don't get me wrong, the fact that the fans are getting involved is great. It shows that the NBA has as big of a following as ever, and people from all over the world want to see their favorite player in the all-star game. I get that.
But as a basketball fan (a sad Phoenix Suns one at that), looking at the voting returns have been disappointing. Luka Doncic and Derrick Rose have both been fun to watch and you could make a case for them being all-stars, but them being starters over players like Kevin Durant and James Harden because they have more votes is insane. Same can be said for Dwyane Wade, who is in his final season and another all-star game would be a nice sendoff, but he shouldn't start over Kemba Walker and Bradley Beal. And don't even get me started on how players like DeMarcus Cousins, Lonzo Ball, and Vince Carter rank in the top 10 of their categories.
I understand that the fan vote only makes up for half of the total vote, but personally, the all-star game should be held for the players who deserve to be in the game and have played extremely well this season. I just don't agree with most of the votes, and that's okay because people can vote for whoever they want. The only thing I or anyone else can do is vote so your choices can play. That's what I did, and below you'll see a list of players who I believe are deserving of all-star selections this year and why I chose them. (Some reasons will be longer than others.) Let's kick things off with the Eastern Conference selections.
Giannis Antetokounmpo- He's probably having his best year yet and is continuing to show improvement. In an MVP-like season, he's a no-brainer as a starter.
Kyrie Irving- The Celtics may be under-performing to many, but Kyrie is not the person to blame, as he leads the C's in points, assists, steals, and PER while shooting 41% from three and 51% from the field. Another easy selection.
Joel Embiid- Not only has Embiid been arguably the most dominant big man in the NBA this season, he has played 45 games this year, 4th most on the Sixers. The Process returns to the All-Star game.
Kawhi Leonard- After the dramatic off-season, Kawhi has fit in seamlessly with the Raptors and Toronto continues to be one of the best teams in the league because of his presence. It's good to see Kawhi back on the court, and it'll be good to see him in the All-Star game as well.
Kemba Walker- Walker has never picked a better time to break out over the last few seasons with his contract expiring this year, and he is torching the league more than ever. Highlighted by a 60 point performance against the 76ers, Walker's 25 points and 6 assists per game have single-handedly kept the Hornets afloat in the playoff race, and Charlotte will be able to watch their star play the All-Star game in their hometown.
Bradley Beal- The Wizards have actually been playing better basketball of late, and similar to Kemba, Beal is the reason why the Wizards are in any sort of playoff hunt. He's having a career year, setting a career high in most major categories and has pulled off some epic performances as well. He may not be with the Wizards once the All-Star game rolls around, but he definitely deserves to be in the game.
Blake Griffin- It was easy to forget how dominant Blake Griffin was the past couple of years, as he was riddled with injuries. He's reminding everyone this year with the best season of his career, averaging 26 points and 8 rebounds per contest while also shooting more threes and making them at a higher percentage. Griffin adapted to the new style of play throughout the league and proved a lot of doubters wrong, including me.
Nikola Vucevic- Much like Kemba Walker, Nikola Vucevic could not have picked a better time to break out before his pay day. I've always thought Vooch was underrated and was overlooked as a talented big man, and this year he's set career highs in almost every single category, most notably averaging 20 points and 12 rebounds. This hasn't translated into many more wins as the Magic sit at 11th in the East, but Vucevic has been as dominant as ever and regardless of team record deserves his first All-Star nod.
Ben Simmons- Simmons is putting up numbers this year that we have almost never seen before from a guard. Simmons is averaging 16.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 8 assists per game in 2018-19. The only other guard to do that in the past 30 years? Russell Westbrook. Other than Westbrook, only Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson, and Wilt Chamberlain have done this, and Simmons only trails Wilt in FG% by a mere 2%. Sure, he may be over-sized for his position and can't hit a three if his life depended on it, but his numbers are All-Star worthy without a doubt.
D'Angelo Russell- This is the year where we finally see the leap of improvement from D'Lo. Russell has improved in all of his shooting percentages dramatically while taking almost 3 more shots per game, and also setting career highs in points and assists with 19.2 points and 6.4 assists. What's even more impressive is that the Nets have a winning record and D'Angelo is proving himself to be a great leader and is shedding the negative reputation right before our eyes. He's growing into the star we all hoped he would be, and Brooklyn's future is becoming much brighter.
Jimmy Butler- There might not be more drama surrounding one player this year than Jimmy Butler, and he seems to be creating a murky reputation. Nonetheless, he is still a top player in the league today and has helped the Sixers since his arrival in November. His numbers have slipped a little bit, but that is due to him playing around four less minutes per game in Philly, but per 36 minutes he has averaged a consistent 21 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists. He also has helped the defense out since his arrival and has the Sixers at 4th in the East, another big reason why he deserves the final spot.
Domantas Sabonis- So this one might be a stretch, but the Pacers are sitting at third in the Eastern Conference, so they need a representative. Victor Oladipo looks like he just suffered a season-ending injury, and there are no other star impact performers on the team, so why choose a player who doesn't even start on his own team? Well, he's in a situation just like Simmons, as there is only one other player in NBA history that has put up at least 15 points and 9 rebounds in the short amount of time that Sabonis plays. That player was Harry Gallatin who achieved this in 1957 with the New York Knicks while playing 27 MPG. Sabonis is only playing 25 minutes, and if you averaged these numbers over 36 minutes, his averages skyrocket to 21.4 PPG and 13.7 RPG. Now those are definitely all-star numbers. Indiana is paying Thaddeus Young and Myles Turner big bucks to produce, but Sabonis is arguably doing more with less minutes, and is now considered the major driving force behind this playoff team. In a thin East, Sabonis can make the cut.
Honorable Mentions: Some players that missed the cut were Zach LaVine, Pascal Siakam, Eric Bledsoe and Khris Middleton. John Collins was a very tough cut, but injuries played a big part in the cut against him, although he does make the Hawks a much better team when he is on the court.
LeBron James- It's LeBron James.
Kevin Durant- It's Kevin Durant.
Stephen Curry- Curry could be doing the Bird Box Challenge and be an all-star.
James Harden- He's in the middle of one of the most dominant stretches we've ever seen by an NBA player, so he's a lock.
Nikola Jokic- He's spearheaded the Nuggets to one of the top teams in the West and could see some MVP votes as a result of that. He's revolutionized the Center position and is a double-double machine, and should be a lock as an all-star.
Anthony Davis- This could be the best basketball we've ever seen from AD, which is crazy to think about. The Pelicans may be on the outside looking in, but Davis is doing everything he can to keep them in playoff contention.
Paul George- It seems like PG13 made the right decision when he signed with the Thunder in July, as he has posted career highs in just about every category possible. He looks a lot more comfortable with Oklahoma City this year and his name has even been thrown around in MVP discussions. Easy choice.
Damian Lillard- At one point he was known as an all-star snub, but those days are long gone. Lillard is averaging a menacing 26 points and 6 assists for the Blazers, and is likely leading them back to the postseason once again in April. He's been overshadowed by bigger names, but he's shooting the ball at an impressive clip and is a proven top 10 scorer in the NBA.
Karl-Anthony Towns- The year started off rough for Towns amid all of the Jimmy Butler drama, but he's been having a very good season. His shooting numbers are down this year but he is still putting up almost 23 points a night along with 12 rebounds, and has improved defensively as well, setting career highs in blocks and steals. The Timberwolves are not in the playoff picture yet, but Towns (along with Derrick Rose) is keeping them alive in the playoff hunt.
Jrue Holiday- Yes, the Pelicans rank 26th in the NBA in Defense, but without Jrue Holiday, this team would be dead last. The duo of Holiday and Anthony Davis has been one of the best in the NBA this season, and Holiday deserves credit for the big role he's played this season. He's been one of the best point guards in the NBA this season, averaging a career high 20.8 points and 8.1 assists per contest, and has also played tremendous defense over the course of the year, which strengthens his case as an all-star. Hopefully the rest of the Pelicans can pick up the pace after the all-star break, because it would be a shame to see Holiday's and Davis' seasons go to waste.
Rudy Gobert- The Jazz have started to come alive as of late, and Rudy Gobert is the integral part of this success. He is the prime leader of the 4th-best defense in the NBA, and is shooting a whopping 65% from the field. He may not shoot a single shot from outside the paint as a traditional center, but he is one of the best defensive players in the league and does deserve a spot in the big game.
Russell Westbrook- It's been an interesting year for Russell Westbrook. The Thunder are 3rd in the Western Conference behind Golden State and Denver, and Westbrook and Paul George have a lot to do with that. Westbrook is averaging a triple-double for the third straight season and has a league-leading and career high 10.6 assists per game. However, Westbrook has also shot the ball horribly this season, shooting 41% from the field, a putrid 24% from three, and a dismal 65% from the free throw line. But then again, he is averaging 2.4 steals on the defensive end, another career-high and league-leading stat. On the downside, he has been very inefficient this season and does give up a lot of turnovers. There are also many other players who deserve all-star spots, which makes Westbrook's case harder. Ultimately, it's tough to overlook the type of performance Westbrook has given us this year, and even though the shot isn't falling, he still manages to get into the All-Star game once again.
Honorable Mentions: This is why I hate having to only choose 12 from each conference, because so many more players from the West would have made the cut, but rules are rules. DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge were both tough cuts, as well as De'Aaron Fox, Klay Thompson, and Danilo Gallinari. I really wanted to put Tobias Harris in, but he just barely misses the cut. While I do think he is overhyped, Luka Doncic does deserve consideration for the year he's been having. My toughest cut was Devin Booker, as Holiday and Westbrook managed to squeak by him, but D Book definitely deserves to be an All-Star. If he is in the Eastern Conference, him and Harris are both locks.
Advanced Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.