This week the NBA released the early 2018 All-Star Game voting. For those that don’t know, fan voting attributes to 50% of the overall tally for the All-Star game in 2018. A 25% share of voting by players and media members make up the remainder.
The format of the 2018 game will change however, as the Eastern and Western conferences will be dissolved to provide an avenue for players to play on teams regardless of conference. The top voted players in both Conferences will act as Team-Captains and select players from there.
In terms of numbers, the NBA has indicated that there will be two 12-player teams.
Let’s take a look at the voting so far: (Source – NBA.com)
*Players in bold denote cut-off point
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL) 863,416
2. LeBron James (CLE) 856,080
3. Joel Embiid (PHI) 433,161
4. Kristaps Porzingis (NYK) 359,459
5. Kevin Love (CLE) 221,969
6. Al Horford (BOS) 120,016
7. Jayson Tatum (BOS) 98,586
8. Andre Drummond (DET) 85,374
9. Enes Kanter (NYK) 83,102
10. Dwight Howard (CHA) 57,730
1. Kyrie Irving (BOS) 802,834
2. DeMar DeRozan (TOR) 259,368
3. Victor Oladipo (IND) 251,886
4. Ben Simmons (PHI) 210,085
5. John Wall (WAS) 175,990
6. Dwyane Wade (CLE) 165,163
7. Isaiah Thomas (CLE) 87,680
8. Kyle Lowry (TOR) 85,070
9. Bradley Beal (WAS) 71,079
10. Jaylen Brown (BOS) 51,562
1. Kevin Durant (GSW) 767,402
2. Anthony Davis (NOP) 393,000
3. DeMarcus Cousins (NOP) 356,340
4. Draymond Green (GSW) 325,612
5. Paul George (OKC) 291,495
6. Kawhi Leonard (SAS) 212,650
7. Carmelo Anthony (OKC) 194,239
8. Karl-Anthony Towns (MIN) 188,240
9. Kyle Kuzma (LAL) 184,338
10. LaMarcus Aldridge (SAS) 153,599
1. Stephen Curry (GSW) 735,115
2. James Harden (HOU) 602,040
3. Russell Westbrook (OKC) 438,469
4. Klay Thompson (GSW) 359,442
5. Manu Ginobili (SAS) 231,460
6. Chris Paul (HOU) 174,343
7. Damian Lillard (POR) 148,622
8. Lonzo Ball (LAL) 120,817
9. Devin Booker (PHO) 91,562
10. Jimmy Butler (MIN) 88,009
ANALYSIS – Eastern Conference
Locks: Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Joel Embiid, Kristpas Porzingis
It is unlikely at this point in the voting that any of these will be caught. There is two weeks to go in the fan voting window, and these names are the most likely to make it.
Analysing these picks, Giannis is having one hell of a season, only behind LeBron and Harden for total points scored overall in the league this season. He deserves to be at the top of the pile. LeBron is also a given, with his efficiency rating through the roof this year. Kyrie is anchoring the Celtics’ impressive run this season while being consistent throughout. Joel Embiid is living up to the moniker of the Sixers’ franchise player and rather similarly Kristaps Porzingis with the New York Knicks.
Likely: Kevin Love, DeMar DeRozan, Victor Oladipo, Ben Simmons, John Wall
Kevin Love is being overshadowed by LeBron James (Shock) in having an underrated season averaging 19.6 PPG and 10 rebounds, a deserved selection. Both DeRozan and Oladipo are carrying their teams offensively both featuring in the Top 10 in the NBA for PPG.
An appearance for Ben Simmons would be a surprise. A solid year for the rookie but if he is chosen in place of the likes of Bradley Beal, it may cause a few dissenting opinions. John Wall has had his season hampered in parts by injury and stats prove he should be the #2 Washington Wizard featured in the guard lineup, but his unselfishness and highlight plays are proving his worth for contention.
Surprises: Ben Simmons, Dwayne Wade, Isaiah Thomas, Dwight Howard
Three guards give an air of surprise in the East. Simmons, as mentioned above, has had a great rookie season, so his inclusion wouldn’t be the biggest of shocks. He should be in contention for the fifth or sixth guard spot. Dwayne Wade and Isaiah Thomas may be the result of the Cavs widened fan base overhauling the vote. Thomas, has only featured in 1 game this NBA season. Wade had a rough start to the season, finding it difficult to bolster the Cavaliers’ starting lineup, then moving to the bench as an effective role-player. As mentioned before, Bradley Beal should run Wade and Thomas close on the voting, and deservedly so. Kyle Lowry is a player that isn’t having his best season in a Raptors jersey, but will be there or there about’s in the voting.
Then we have the case of Dwight Howard. Howard’s presence in the Top 10 may show the shallowness of the Eastern Frontcourt. In the mix with the likes of Enes Kanter, the competition is not high calibre by any stretch of the imagination. Not a slight on Kanter, who is playing well this season, but, maybe that is enough said.
Notable misses: Kemba Walker
You would be scraping the barrel to include the likes of Chicago saviour Nikolas Mirotic, or Aaron Gordon (who started the season impressively). Even Otto Porter Jr may be worth mentioning.
But no one spells a miss more than Kemba Walker. Given the fact the Top 6 Guards features Dwayne Wade, it would feel hard done by for Kemba not to be in the mix. Not even featuring in the Top 10 is a shame. The unimpressive Hornets may be to blame here, but his +/- rating may suggest he should be judged independently.
ANALYSIS – Western Conference
Locks: Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Draymond, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Klay Thompson
It’s easy to see why the West is considered the better conference.
All these players were probably in All-Star contention before the season started. Durant and Curry deservedly topping the Guard and Frontcourt polls given the GSW’s #1 Power Ranking spot in the league. There’s not much more to say to prove the others worth in contention. Anthony Davis’ #2 spot may be a little high, but he probably deserves to make it regardless. Boogie Cousins has been the better Pelican this year, but Davis’ inclusion in the mix this year was inevitable.
Likely: Paul George
This is as short as this list gets.
The Western Conference is unsurprisingly very competitive, and the voting resembles that. Aside from the suggested ‘Lock’s’ above, it could be very close between the remaining Top 10 list-makers. Paul George is the one player that will more than likely make the cut. He has boasted excellent defensive attributes this season and has been an integral part of the Thunders’ resurgence in the West as of late.
Surprises: Lonzo Ball, Carmelo Anthony, Manu Ginobili, Kawhi Leonard
Yes, you read that correctly. Lonzo Ball features at #8 in the Western Conference Guard voting. A part of me wants to see Lonzo make the All-Star game just for the backlash that will likely ensue. But, another part of me can’t bare anymore Lonzo Ball hot-takes.
I’m not a Lonzo Ball hater, I think that with the right development and maturation, he will become an important player for the Lakers in the long-term. But his inclusion in the Top 10 is a little premature. Similarly, Carmelo Anthony is not having his best season debuting with OKC, and this would be hugely surprising if, after the player and media votes, he makes the cut. It took him awhile to fit in to Westbrook’s dominant ball handling game, and he has reserved himself to being an ancillary to the Westbrook driven offence.
However I am all in on the Manu Ginobili bandwagon. Greg Poppovich and his rotational coaching may not give Manu much shine. But Manu has provided some memorable moments so far this year, most notably: the game winner against the Celtics, the game winner vs the Mavericks, and how could we not forget the pass that ended up in a basket this week. Manu for the All-Star Game, get tweeting.
Kawhi is a bit of an odd one given his inactivity this year. I’m going to take it many fans didn’t watch much NBA this season. He hasn’t returned to full minutes after the famous Zaza step-injury incurred in the Western Conference finals earlier this year. Several other would be hard done by if Leonard makes the cut. Having said that, there’s still two months before All-Star weekend, and knowing Kawhi he’ll likely prove his inclusion in that short period of time.
Notable misses: Nobody
This deserves some sort of elaboration.
There are some guys out there who are having career seasons. The likes of Steven Adams for OKC, Clint Capela for Houston, Lou Williams for the Clippers and Gary Harris for the Denver Nuggets. All great players, but probably not All-Star worthy.
There may be room for an Eric Gordon vs Chris Paul debate, or maybe a debate for both of them, but this week has proved that Eric Gordon can’t fill the void of MVP candidate James Harden. The Rockets have racked up several losses since Harden’s departure, which doesn’t bode well with Gordon. But then again, who could fill the shoes of ‘The Beard’ effectively?
The West is so stacked, that I think the fans got this one right. I’d probably have LaMarcus Aldridge a little higher in the voting, and maybe Jimmy Butler in for Manu (sheds single tear) but that’s about it.
I hope you enjoyed my first NBA article for the Atlantic Sports Press. Stay tuned to the website for more NBA articles.
Featured image source – AGONAsport.com