The NBA finally announced the 10 players who will start the 2017 NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans on Thursday. Fans, players and media members all had a say in the starters for the first time in the event’s history.
Overall, the results were pretty good. The new system helped weed out some clearly undeserving players, such as Zaza Pachulia of the Golden State Warriors and Dwyane Wade of the Chicago Bulls, assuring us a better on-court product for the Feb. 19 exhibition.
But not all of the starters were the most deserving candidates in their respective conferences. Let’s look at the results, decide which starters weren’t the best choices and then come up with three snubs who were more deserving.
After a weighted vote that gave 50 percent of authority to the fans, 25 percent to the players and 25 percent to media members, here are the starters, according to NBA.com’s Twitter account:
NBA.com has the full results listed here. But below is the placing for each starter with each of the three voting factions, as well as their weighted averages. There was a two-way tie for second place in the Eastern Conference backcourt voting and a three-way tie for first in the Western Conference backcourt voting, but all ties were broken by placing in the fan voting.
DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors
DeMar DeRozan is having a breakout season and is scoring the ball quite well for the second-seeded Raptors. He does deserve to be an All-Star this season.
But as a starter? That’s a bit much.
The 27-year-old swingman ranks just No. 114 in the league this season in ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus and last among the All-Stars beginning the game in New Orleans next month. He’s a clear defensive minus who doesn’t do much more than score. His puts the ball in at a decently efficient clip (with a 55.6 true shooting percentage, per Basketball-Reference.com), but not as efficiently as some others competing for his spot.
One interesting thing to note is that DeRozan fared better with all three voting segments than teammate Kyle Lowry. Lowry is the best player on the team statistically, by this writer’s personal eye test and from the general sentiment of those who follow the Raptors closely.
Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers
Like the situation with DeRozan, it’s not an absolute travesty that Kyrie Irving made the cut here. He was going to make the team whether he got the starting nod or not, and rightfully so.
But again, we come back to some one-dimensionality issues here with Irving that make him not totally ideal for one of the starting spots. He’s not a good defender, he isn’t that great of a playmaker and his shooting efficiency is above average but not elite.
It is a bit surprising that Irving fared as well as he did in all three voting groups, but people might have been partially thinking in terms of how exciting they could make the All-Star game. Uncle Drew’s handles are the best in the league right now, so he should give us some nice highlights dribbling the ball in the Big Easy next month.
Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Stephen Curry’s season would be worthy of the “All-Star starter” distinction in many years. He fares well in many statistics, both traditional and advanced, and plays for the best team in the league.
But there’s a certain fellow in Oklahoma City who lost to Curry on a tiebreaker despite having a resume that blows the two-time defending MVP’s 2016-17 performance out of the water.
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
The new voting system is a much better way to get players who are both deserving of the honor and who are fan favorites as starters into the All-Star game. However, it did fail to reward one player who was absolutely deserving and a fan favorite this season: Russell Westbrook.
Westbrook is the first player to average a triple-double since Oscar Robertson did so during the 1961-62 season, with numbers of 30.6 points, 10.6 rebounds and 10.4 assists per game. He’s also keeping his Thunder competitive in the Western Conference—Oklahoma City is on a solid 47-win pace despite losing Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka from last year’s team.
However, Curry’s popularity with fans gave him the edge here, even though Westbrook was the top vote-getter among players and media members. The powerful point guard will be even more motivated to show his worth throughout the rest of the season after this slight from fans.
Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors
Let’s do a quick statistical comparison between Kyle Lowry and the Eastern Conference’s two starting guards, shall we?
Lowry is a far more complete player than both DeRozan and Irving, as he gets it done as a defender and uses offensive possessions very efficiently as a shooter and passer. Lots of people don’t realize that he’s in Steph Curry’s league as a shooter—the two-time All-Star is averaging 3.3 made three-pointers per game on 44.2 percent from downtown this season, both career highs.
Instead, the 30-year-old floor general will have to settle for a reserve spot this season. If he doesn’t get that respect from coaches, it’ll be one of the biggest snubs in All-Star history.
Isaiah Thomas, Boston Celtics
Yes, Isaiah Thomas is one of the worst defenders in the NBA. At just 5’9″ and 185 pounds, there’s not much he can do about it.
But Thomas has taken the NBA by storm this season in every other facet of the game. He’s averaging 28.7 points and 6.0 assists per game for the 26-16 Celtics, who have shown a lot of improvement on the offensive end in 2016-17.
According to NBA.com, Thomas also leads the league in fourth-quarter scoring (10.1 points per contest). Despite being the clear-cut No. 1 option on his team, he remains super-efficient shooting from almost every area on the floor and turns the ball over just 2.4 times per game, a very small number considering his point and assist totals.Read more NBA news on BleacherReport.com