Inside NBA TV officially announced the NBA 2017 All-Star starters tonight. Incredibly, Mr. Triple-Double – Russell Westbrook misses the cut ultimately due to fan votes.
Although Russell Westbrook took the top spot from media and players votes the tie went to the fans who placed him third. As soon as the NBA 2017 All-Star starters were announced my phone blew up for two reasons.
1. Russell Westbrook who is the reigning 2-time All-Star MVP the past two seasons, and is doing something not seen in the NBA in 55 years will not start!
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2. Toronto Raptors backcourt of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry (who is having an MVP type season) were completely shafted by their peers.
DeRozan did ultimately make the starting list, but there is enough fodder in place for all 3 players to use as motivation.
Here’s a more detailed break down of how the voting worked and why the players selected won out.
All images taken on my phone while watching Inside the NBA
With salt still present in an open wound from the loss at Oracle last night, OKC Thunder guard, Russell Westbrook once again was bested by Stephen Curry.
Perhaps more harsh is his 2 former OKC Thunder teammates, who are each putting up numbers worthy of keeping them n the regular season MVP conversation will start. The irony is Westbrook has proven his loyalty time and again, but ultimately his fan appeal wasn’t strong enough to beat out Harden or Curry. Is this the cost of playing for a small market team or simply the world-wide appeal of his counterparts?
It sure feels like a slight, but it could be worse (as you’ll see below) because at least the media and his peers ranked him first. If there is any solace perhaps it comes in the form of Mr. “I’ll put my elbows in your face, slap your face and stand over you because the Big Kiwi isn’t here” Pachulia not making the cut.
It sure feels like a terrible decision, that years from now fans will look back upon staring at Russ’ historical season and wonder how it was possible Westbrook didn’t get the start?
Having experienced the All-Star Weekend last year in Toronto, I can tell you the least exciting event of the 3 days is the actual big game on Sunday. Fans missed out on what could have been a glorious opportunity to see how Westbrook, Durant and Harden would have dealt with being forced to play together on the court as starters. I elaborated on that amusing fact here.
Looking at most pundits projected lists the fact is, it seems almost inevitable the 2 Golden State starters will become 4 when Thompson and Green join them (or 1/4 of the West’s lineup) and logically will play together most likely with Anthony Davis.
The West backcourt will feature the Warriors, Stephen Curry and the Rockets, James Harden, while the frontcourt is comprised of the Warriors, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard of the Spurs and host town/team Pelicans big man Anthony Davis.
As per NBA TV here is how the voting broke down in the Western Conference:
For Westbrook ultimately his absence in the All-Star starting unit comes courtesy of the fans. See below for a further explanation.
Fans voted Curry and Harden as the starters. Ranking third was Westbrook along with Klay Thompson and Chris Paul in fourth and fifth. The fans frontcourt selections were Durant, Zaza Pachulia and Leonard as their starters with Anthony Davis and Draymond Green fourth and fifth.
Pundits got it right voting definitively for Westbrook (1st), Harden (2nd as their starting unit while Curry, Paul and Thompson were a distant third through fifth. Their frontcourt was designated as Durant, Leonard and Davis (who will start) with Cousins and Gasol fourth and fifth.
Zaza Pachulia as predicted was noticeably absent from the media (and player) lists.
Just like the Media, Westbrook’s peers also ranked him first with Harden second. Curry picked up more votes in this category but was still a distant third. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum rounded out the top 5 in the player backcourt votes.
Players voted for Durant, Leonard and Davis as the starting frontcourt with Cousins and Gasol fourth and fifth respectively.
How the voting worked is players were awarded a point based on their position, ie. the top vote recipient in each category received one point by position so the goal was to have the lowest number. Each of the categories are added together with fan votes doubled given their 50% value. Once added that number was divided by 4 to determine each players total with the lowest number taking top place.
As per NBA: within each of the 3 voting groups, players will be ranked in order of their finish, the the rankings will be combined. If players finish tied, fan votes will be used as the tie breaker.
Example of how votes were tallied:
For example since Kevin Durant was ranked first in every category he received a single points in each category but since the fan vote is worth 50% that number is doubled giving him 4 points which was divided by 4 (the 4 portions) to get an overall score of 1.
Westbrook was ranked third so his numbers looked like this
3 (fans) + 3 (doubled) + 1 (media) + 1 (players) = 8 divided by 4 = a total of 2 points
Likewise Steph Curry numbers were 1 + 1 (fans) + 3 (players) + 3 (media) for an identical 8 points divided by 4 and total of 2 points.
Finally, James Harden ranked second with fans 2 + 2, and was also second in player and media votes for another 4 (2 +2) points. Coincidentally this amounted to a total of 8 divided by 4 for 2 points.
Since all three guards had 2 points it meant the fans top two picks of Curry and Harden ousted Westbrook from the starters list.
Like the West there was little shifting in the East where it was a foregone conclusion LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jimmy Butler would form the front court.
The only real question was – would both (equally deserving with an edge to Kyle Lowry) Toronto Raptors guards get the start? Would only one make it or would the splitting of votes between the pair result in neither making the starting line-up.
In the end the result was DeMar DeRozan will get the start and be joined by Kyrie Irving (though I’d argue he was fifth on the list of deserving backcourt members).
How the votes broke down:
As per NBA TV here is how the voting broke down in the Eastern Conference:
Fans accounted for 50% percent of the votes. In this case the fans vote became relevant for the selection of one player (see below). Fans selected Kyrie Irving and Dwyane Wade to start. DeRozan, Thomas and Lowry ranked third though fifth. The frontcourt voted on by the fans was James, Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid with Kevin Love and Jimmy Butler (who unlike Westbrook benefited from media/player votes) ranking fourth and fifth.
Pundits ranked Thomas and DeRozan as starters with Irving, Lowry and Wall third through fifth. Their frontcourt featured James, Antetokounmpo and Butler with Love and Embiid fourth and fifth respectively.
The Process loses out to Butler:
Examining each of the frontcourt talents here’s how Butler pushed ahead of Emiid:
Embiid: 3 (fans) + 3 (doubled) + 5 (media) +6 off the player list shown but a minimum of 6 = 17 (or greater) divided by 4 for a total of = 4.25
Butler: 5 (fans) + 5 (doubled) + 3 (players) + 3 (media) = 16 divided by 4 for a total of = 4 Player Vote:
The most interesting votes of the night in the Eastern Conference came courtesy of the players who ranked Irving and Thomas first and second with DeRozan, Wall and Lowry third through fifth. From my perspective this was the greatest shade thrown out on the night as neither Raptors backcourt star placed first or second. But mostly for the shade thrown at Lowry.
My hope is Lowry uses this as motivation for the remainder of the season. Lowry is one of only four players scoring 22 points or more, grabbing 5 or more rebounds and dishing 7 or more assists. The other three players are LeBron, Westbrook and Harden.
However, unlike those 3 players Lowry is scoring the 3-ball at over a 44% efficiency. Combining those figures offers a stat line only achieved once prior in the Association – Steph Curry’s first MVP season. So, the fact players placed him in fifth will hopefully inspire the Bay Street Bulldog the remainder of the season and more importantly when he hits free agency this summer and these players begin to make calls to lure him to their teams. Totals:
images taken on my phone while watching Inside the NBA
As much as it’s disappointing Westbrook didn’t make the starting unit, one need only point to Pachulia to see how fans can vote based on popularity. But to be shafted by your peers is another story entirely. Lowry’s peers are saying we don’t regard you as highly as the four players in front of you, and the top 2 players they selected pale in comparison (Wall being the exception) defensively.
With all due respect to Lowry’s backcourt partner, DeRozan – one need only examine the top performing offensive and defensive lineups to see the effect Lowry has for his team. Lowry ranks among the Associations best whether on court with starters or reserves. Whereas, when he hits the bench the numbers dive.
Furthermore, Lowry ranks fifth in both VORP – Value over replacement player, as well as in Win Shares. The closest Eastern Conference backcourt players in those categories are John Wall (VORP) who ranks 15th and Thomas (win shares) who ranks 10th.
And as for those who’ll point to Thomas’ fourth quarter scoring look at the person sitting in third and guess who you’ll find Kyle Lowry.
As much as Thunder fans may be upset Westbrook didn’t get the start, ultimately the onus was on those of us who are fans and didn’t get him the votes.
No doubt Westbrook will be the first name every coach selects. Despite that fact, I’m still a little salty, and not because their won’t be drama. Rather, because Westbrook stood a chance at garnering an unheard of three-peat as All-Star MVP and most assuredly that opportunity is now lost. Grab your salt shaker and join me if you feel my pain.
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Moving forward the next task in the All-Star process falls upon the coaching staffs who will select the remaining 7 players to form the reserves.