We consistently underrate how incredible technology is. With a few clicks I can schedule a stranger to pick me up and drop me off, using my voice I can get the weather, news and more read back to me, and I can unlock my phone with just my face. Technology continues to solve more and more problems with the only downside being how hard is for everyone to keep up.
This past round of NBA All-Star voting has proven that the technology the league has introduced into the process has passed them by and reform needs to happen. To recap let’s bring everyone up to speed on the history of the All-Star voting process.
In 2013 the league introduced social media (Facebook and Twitter) to accompany the traditional online fan voting or text voting options. Votes were counted for the 60 applicants selected by the media who made up the ballot until in 2015 when the voting was opened up to any NBA player in an attempt to encourage more fan participation. After realizing the power they had just given the fans, the league added in a player and media vote in 2017 that accounted for half of the total scoring to not let those unworthy simply waltz into an All-Star Game. Seems like a good fix right? You want the fans to participate but you also don’t trust the fans so you give the players and the media a vote to balance out potential fan stupidity. Problem solved? Nope – instead we quickly learned that the players are just as bad at this process as the fans are. Whether ironically or not several players who have no business even being in the All-Star conversation received votes including Tyler Zeller, Mo Williams, Mike Miller and Alex Len. Who? Exactly. But there’s still the media vote to fix everything then right? Unfortunately not the case. The media vote over the past two years has been heavily concentrated towards the top tier talent, meaning it’s real purpose is to confirm that the best five players are in fact the starters. While this check is helpful for the LeBrons and Durants of the world it is leaving the middle of the pack All-Stars left in limbo and at the feet of the head coaches who select the All-Star Reserves.
Expanding fan voting to social media has had an interesting effect on the returns. While initially there was not a lot of movement beyond the top vote getters trending upward, the public really got behind the ease of social media voting the past year two years. In 2017 10 players received over 1 Million votes as opposed to 3 in 2016, 4 in 2015 and 2014, and 5 in 2013. But this year that number jumped to 13 players with 5 players receiving over 2 Million fan votes. While the names at the top of the ballot have remained relatively consistent this surge of votes has really affected the players at the margins. In years past it has been Damian Lillard, but this year names like Andre Drummond and Devin Booker became the next victims of the system. A system we have complete control to correct.
Drummond and Booker both hit the double-double in their uphill battles to be All-Stars. First, both play for teams in smaller media markets (Detroit and Phoenix) and second, both men play on (very) bad teams. This helps explains why Booker received nearly an eighth of the fan votes as fellow blogger and Spurs legend Manu Ginobili with double the stat line. Booker also received a million less fan votes than All-Star Klay Thompson, who benefits from playing on a championship winning team even though Devin has a better stat line. Drummond finished higher in player voting than both Kevin Love and Al Horford, who received All-Star votes, but even with his better stats Andre got less fan votes and will be watching the big game from the sidelines.
With the explosion of votes this year, the continued issue of snubs, and head coaches not knowing what they are doing, the sacredness of an All-Star nomination is officially at risk. Just like when Yoda burned the sacred Jedi texts to break Luke out of his obsession with them (Spoiler Alert) it’s time for the NBA to throw out the past and look to the future to protect the best All-Star Game of any of the four major sports.
The NBA keeps meticulous stats and analysis on players. As crazy as this sounds couldn’t we use this to determine without a doubt who the All-Stars are year in and year out? Okay, okay I hear you and you’re right. I am crazy. Lets forget I brought it up and get to the real ideas.
The easiest change for the NBA to make from a PR perspective would be to include a former player and media member committee to the process. Behind closed doors a committee can have the honest conversations and make the not-so-tough decisions that the league can’t have in the open. Do people (Myself included) love Joel Embiid? Yes! Does he deserve to be an All-Star when he hasn’t ever been healthy? No! Let the regular process work as it does currently then send the results to the committee to make the final decisions so the fans can make their case with votes and then the professionals can do the rest.
No More Coach Reserve Picks
While there is occasionally controversy over who should and shouldn’t start in the NBA All-Star game, the majority of the criticism usually falls in the reserve selections where Coaches make the decisions. While in theory this makes sense as the coaches have either been coaching for or against these players, why not test out giving this responsibility to the media or a formula of fan, media, player and coach selections? I don’t want to name any names but until I see Doc Rivers’s personal voting ballot I will personally believe and am exclusively reporting that he votes for his son every single time.
Bring Back the Ballot
We used to control this madness by limiting just who fans could vote for and by all accounts we can do it again. Instead of letting 19 year old Sacramento Kings rookie Harry Giles, who has not played a minute this season, to receive 3,200 fan votes, forcing fans, players and media alike to vote for people off a pre-populated list that has been determined by any of the multitude of stats that teams and media alike record for every player. Additionally let’s limit who is eligible by who was and wasn’t healthy the first half of the season. If fans start complaining about their player not being on said list the answer is simple – your favorite player isn’t going to be an All-Star because he’s not that good of a player or he’s injured. Better luck next year.
Whatever the solution, fix or tweak is, it needs to happen soon. Let’s make the All-Star Game great again.