by Julian Spivey
When the NBA All-Star starters were announced on Thursday, Jan. 19 there was immediate controversy over the fact that Oklahoma City Thunder point guard and likely MVP front-runner Russell Westbrook wasn’t voted in as a starting guard for the Western Conference.
Houston Rockets guard James Harden and Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry were voted in as starters, with many believing Westbrook should’ve been in Curry’s place.
There’s really no doubt that Westbrook should be in the West’s starting lineup for next month’s All-Star Game as he’s averaging a triple-double for the season thus far. However, his snub doesn’t mean the All-Star voting system is broken, as many critics have said in the last few days it is.
In fact, the All-Star voting system has never been better.
People are complaining about the voting system this year, which is a weighted system where the fans, media and players all have a say in the All-Star Game starters. The fans account for 50 percent of the vote, the media 25 percent and the players 25 percent. But, never in the history of the game would Westbrook have been voted in. In previous years, the starters were selected solely by the fan vote. The fans had Curry and Harden as the top two guards. In fact, this weighted system that debuted this year kept the Western Conference starting lineup from including Warriors center Zaza Pachulia from being selected as a starter. Surely, we can all agree that alone makes this a better and fairer system?
Westbrook’s omission from the Western Conference starting lineup came down to a tiebreaker in the new voting system. Westbrook was ranked No. 1 in the media and players ranks, but No. 3 in the fan rank. Curry was voted No. 1 in the fan rank, but No. 3 in both the media and player ranks. Harden was voted No. 2 in all three ranks. The weighted score for all three players was 2.0. The method for deciding a tie goes to the fan voting, which had Curry and Harden with more votes than Westbrook. This tiebreaker system also resulted in Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan making the Eastern Conference lineup over Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas.
Essentially Westbrook being less likable than Curry and Harden has kept him from a starting All-Star berth he deserves, which has bugged many fans (though obviously if it bugged them enough he’d be starting in the first place) and those in the media. But, here’s why the tiebreaker is fine by me. All-Star Games are great honors for athletes, but they essentially were created in every sport for the fans. This is why fan voting for All-Star lineups exists in every professional team sport. If the fans would rather see Curry start than Westbrook that’s what they should get.
The NBA’s new All-Star voting system is easily the best system I’ve ever seen for selecting lineups, because it gives the fans a large say, but also allows for things like the entire country of Georgia voting non-stop for Pachulia to be eliminated by the media and players using more objectivity. It is unfortunate that the league’s best player this season didn’t receive an honor he deserved, but he’ll still be an All-Star and really that’s what matters in the long run.