Warriors forward Kevin Durant will be joined by his new point guard, but not his old point guard, in the All-Star Game starting lineup.
The NBA announced the 10 All-Star starters on Thursday, and Golden State’s Stephen Curry beat out Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook for one of the starting spots in the Western Conference. Westbrook must now be voted by the coaches as an All-Star reserve even though he leads the NBA in scoring and is on track to become the first player since Oscar Robertson in 1962 to average a triple double.
Durant will be joined by Curry, Rockets guard James Harden, Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard and Pelicans forward Anthony Davis on the West’s starting squad.
LeBron James, the overall leading vote-getter, headlines an East squad that also includes Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving, Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan, Bulls forward Jimmy Butler and Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The NBA altered its voting process for the starters this year by adding a media panel and a player vote. In previous years, voting for the starters was conducted entirely by a fan vote on social media. This year, the fans counted for 50% of the vote, with the media representing 25% and the players representing the final 25%.
Antetokounmpo is the only first-time All-Star selection among the 10 starters. However, the Bucks forward is one of four players, along with Harden, DeRozan and Butler, to be voted in as starters for the first time.
The 2017 NBA All-Star Game is set for Sunday, Feb. 19, in New Orleans. The game was originally slated for Charlotte but was later moved due to a dispute over North Carolina’s HB2 bill.
SI.com made its selections for the All-Star Game starters earlier this week, with James, Butler, Antetokounmpo, Durant, Harden and Leonard all earning the nod. SI.com preferred Westbrook over Curry, Toronto’s Kyle Lowry over Irving, Washington’s John Wall over DeRozan, and Golden State’s Draymond Green over Davis. However, Curry, Irving, DeRozan and Davis were all included on SI.com’s reserve selections.
Here are three quick takeaways from the All-Star Votes:
1. Blame the fans for Westbrook not starting
Westbrook’s snub was easily the biggest story from the All-Star starter announcements given his outstanding individual numbers and his ability to lead Oklahoma City onto firm ground in the West’s playoff chase in his first season without both Durant and Serge Ibaka. Interestingly, both his fellow players and the media panel voted him above both Curry and Harden as the top overall guard in the West. In other words, Westbrook would have been a starter had he beaten out either Curry or Harden in the fan vote. Unfortunately for Westbrook, his 1.576 million votes, which ranked seventh overall, weren’t enough to overcome Curry (the West’s leading vote-getter at 1.848 million) or Harden (1.771 million), leaving him as the odd man out.
2. Kyle Lowry was the most egregious snub
Although Westbrook has a strong case to start and was selected as one of SI.com’s starters, Curry and Harden aren’t exactly chopped liver. Curry, a two-time MVP, remains an incredibly efficient weapon for the West’s best offense and the NBA’s best team, one that’s on track for 70 wins. And Harden, like Westbrook, is putting up ungodly numbers as a do-everything lead guard for a Rockets team that is currently above the Thunder in the West standings. There are cases to be made for all three.
The same can’t be said for the East’s backcourt, where Kyle Lowry was passed over by both Kyrie Irving and his Toronto teammate DeMar DeRozan. While the East’s backcourt crop included five All-Star caliber point guards, Lowry should have been the easy No. 1 pick given the Raptors’ No. 2 seed, his strong impact numbers, and his central role in driving the East’s top offense. The sad part: Everyone shares in the blame for this snubbing. Lowry finished fifth among East guards in the fan vote, fifth among his fellow players and fourth among the media. How did everyone get this so wrong?
3. The NBA’s new voting process worked
Although the voting formula and various rankings were quite confusing given the addition of the player and media components, the new method did succeed in removing the least deserving fan-sponsored candidates from the conversation. At the top of that list was Warriors center Zaza Pachulia, who would have earned a starting spot under the old system by virtue of finishing second among the West’s frontcourt players in fan votes. Instead, his weak placement by the players and media dropped him to sixth overall, ensuring that both Leonard and Davis (both much, much more deserving candidates) would claim starting nods.
The new system also dropped Dwyane Wade and Joel Embiid out of starting spots in the East. Wade’s vote total was inflated by his long-term popularity and name recognition; he shouldn’t have started on the merits. In Embiid’s case, his clever use of social media helped drive his fan vote total, even though he has played far fewer minutes than the other deserving candidates. In both cases, the system promoted more deserving players -- DeRozan and Butler – so the new framework should be viewed as a win.