Zaza Pachulia is a great dude. I interacted with him in the Dallas locker room all last season, and he’s as professional as they come. For those reasons, it would have been amusing if Pachulia ended up as an All-Star starter. But even Pachulia will admit he didn’t deserve a starting nod, especially when All-Star appearances matter for players making a case for the Hall of Fame.
The new All-Star Game voting — which is weighted 50 percent for fans and 25 percent each for media and players — worked. Under last year’s system, Pachulia would have been an All-Star starter this season. He was very nearly voted in last year, after all. But despite Pachulia earning the second-most votes in the Western Conference front court, the media and player voting made sure that he wouldn’t be on the roster.
That’s great. The new rules worked exactly like they were intended, and a totally undeserving player (still love you, Zaza!) didn’t make it into the top-five. As we move to a second season using this format, however, there are two small tweaks the league can make.
1. Have tiebreakers decided by player or media voting
Russell Westbrook is leading the league in scoring and averaging a triple-double. There’s no universe where he shouldn’t be starting the All-Star game for the West, but instead, Stephen Curry and James Harden will represent the Western Conference back court.
Once the voting came out, we realized Westbrook, Curry, and Harden actually ended up tied. The fan voting had Westbrook third, but he was first in both the media and player voting. All three had a composite score of 2.0, but the tiebreaker was decided by the fan vote.
The NBA should trust the media and the players to get it right, more than the fans. They got it right on Westbrook, but because the tiebreaker fell to the fan vote, there was nothing that could be done. Letting fans vote is important to the league, and it isn’t going away anytime soon, so it will always add an element of popularity that ignores who is actually deserving. Still, the more the league removes the influence of the fan vote, the more often we’ll have All-Star starters who warranted their selection.
2. Don’t let players vote for themselves
The player vote was a huge success, with 324 players participating. (There’s about 450 in the league as a whole, of course.) However, as the voting came out, it became pretty clear that players weren’t banned from voting for themselves.
My favorite part of the NBA All-Star voting: the players that voted for themselves ... err... players that got one player vote! pic.twitter.com/euBCdae9Hj— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) January 20, 2017
Every name on those lists has only one vote. Who, besides Isaiah Whitehead, would have voted for Isaiah Whitehead? Is anyone not named Wesley Johnson really voting for Wesley Johnson? All these players got a vote: Jon Leuer, Kyle O’Quinn, John Lucas III, Gerald Green, Ian Clark, Georgios Papagiannis, Bryn Forbes, and Patrick Patterson. Unless there’s widespread “I’ll vote for you if you vote for me” going on around the league, it seems pretty clear that players were voting for themselves.
Enough players voted that it ultimately didn’t matter, and the players who deserved to start the All-Star Game got the overwhelming number of votes. But to avoid ridiculous tallies like this, just ban players from voting for themselves. That’s an easy fix, and while it won’t totally solve random votes, it should mostly do away with them.