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Zaza Pachulia is again at the top of NBA All-Star Game voting for some reason

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Pachulia pulled the second-most votes among Western Conference frontcourt players.

NBA: Utah Jazz at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA released its early balloting results for the 2017 NBA All-Star Game, and Golden State Warriors center Zaza Pachulia is the surprise name near the top of the ballot, yet again. Pachulia has the fifth-most votes in the Western Conference and would be named a starter if Thursday’s voting returns were final.

Pachulia already has nearly 440,000 All-Star votes, placing second in the Western Conference frontcourt behind only Kevin Durant and ahead of guys like Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis, and DeMarcus Cousins. He has more votes than Blake Griffin, Marc Gasol, Karl-Anthony Towns, and LaMarcus Aldridge combined.

The Sacramento Kings took to Twitter to get DeMarcus Cousins the fan votes they feel he’s been heisted of.

This is the second year Pachulia has run up the score in All-Star voting.

Last season, the European big man enjoyed fan love from his home country of Georgia and social media support from Vine star Hayes Grier. He was just over 14,000 votes shy of being named an All-Star starter.

Now in his 14th NBA season and first with the Warriors, Pachulia is averaging 5.2 points and 5.8 rebounds in 17.7 minuter per game. Yet somehow, despite an underwhelming statistical effort, he has more votes than several MVP candidates.

That’s because in the past, fan voting has allowed things that shouldn’t happen to happen.

The early balloting results are just the returns from the fan votes, which were accepted via Twitter, Google, NBA.com, and the NBA app.

In the past, fan voting solely accounted for All-Star starting lineups. It’s why Kobe Bryant was a starter while his career continued to decline, and why Yao Ming’s name appears twice among the 10 leading vote-getters in All-Star history. Fans voting in the starters was a tradition the league held intact since the 1975-76 season.

But commissioner Adam Silver changed that.

The NBA did away with autonomous fan voting this season. Now, players and media members level the playing field to account for 50 percent of the vote. Reflected above is the fan vote, which Pachulia has decisively won.

We won’t know when the official vote, media and players included, is officially reflected until after fan voting closes on Jan. 16.

So even though Pachulia’s run amok in All-Star votes already, odds are it’s just a mirage until the rest of the balloting factors play in. And with fan voting having lost its power, the Warriors big man’s window to make an All-Star team may have closed.


Other All-Star voting takeaways

  • Clippers center DeAndre Jordan did not crack the top 10 in All-Star votes, and Chris Paul is nursing a hamstring injury and currently sits fifth among West guards with nearly 174,000 votes. Blake Griffin ranks ninth among Western Conference frontcourt players. The point: There is a scenario in which the fourth-seeded Clippers see no All-Stars this season.
  • The Knicks could possibly have three All-Stars with Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis, and Derrick Rose each garnering a good amount of fan support in early balloting returns. New York is 16-19 and 10th in the East.
  • Cleveland’s big three of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love could start for the East.
  • If media and players vote more for Russell Westbrook (501,652) and James Harden (519,466) than Stephen Curry (523,597), we could see the old Oklahoma City trio reunited as All-Star starters.
  • Dwyane Wade has 88,986 more votes than Jimmy Butler.
  • Joel Embiid isn’t too far behind Love for a starting frontcourt spot in the East.
  • John Wall only has 87,000 votes. Irving has more than 543,000.
  • Westbrook is trailing both Harden and Curry in All-Star votes. If he goes on to win the Most Valuable Player award, it could be the first time a league MVP wasn’t named an All-Star starter since Dirk Nowitzki won the award in 2007.
  • Manu Ginobili earned 65,000 All-Star votes.
  • Melo could be an All-Star reserve for the first time in his career.