The four best players in the Eastern Conference are Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant, Joel Embiid, and Jayson Tatum, in some order. Unfortunately, one of those players is going to be coming off the bench in the 2023 All-Star Game while a less deserving player starts because a silly rule in the voting process.
The NBA determined that the league has to start two guards and three frontcourt players from each conference. Then the league determined what position each player plays on the ballot. Some of these positional designations don’t make much sense — like DeMar DeRozan being listed as a guard for Chicago despite logging 0 percent of his minutes at either backcourt spot this season according to basketball-reference. Instead, DeRozan has spent 59 percent of his time at small forward, 39 percent of his time at power forward, and two percent of his time at center. That’s just one example — there are similar cases all over the ballot.
On the Eastern Conference ballot, all of Antetokounmpo, Durant, Embiid, and Tatum are listed as front court players. That means one of them will come off the bench while a less deserving player starts. Here’s the look at the latest vote — which would have Embiid coming off the bench.
Update: The All-Star Game rosters are out, and Embiid will come off the bench.
Lakers' LeBron James and Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo lead in the NBA's third and final fan voting update for the All-Star Game: pic.twitter.com/5NfWF2WbHs— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) January 19, 2023
Fans aren’t solely responsible for picking the starters. The starters are determined by 50 percent fan vote, 25 percent media vote, and 25 percent player vote. There’s a good chance Embiid still starts even if he comes in fourth in the final fan vote, but that only means someone else deserving is coming off the bench.
Maybe rules like this one made more sense when players were more tied to positions, but at this point the game has been “positionless” for at least half a decade. Most players alternate between different positions within games. These days, the best player on the team usually plays with the ball in their hands, making them the de facto point guard even if they are defending another position.
Take Tatum, for example. He’s second on the Celtics in assists this year, and easily has the highest usage rate on the team at 33 percent. On so many possessions, Tatum is Boston’s offensive initiator and is acting like a guard.
Do we really need to sit a deserving player because of the ‘sanctity’ of positions? C’mon. While one of Antetokounmpo, Durant, Embiid, and Tatum comes off the bench, someone like Kyrie Irving, Tyrese Haliburton, or Jaylen Brown is going to start. That’s ridiculous.
This is what the Eastern Conference starting lineup should look like for the All-Star Game in Utah:
- Joel Embiid
- Giannis Antetokounmpo
- Kevin Durant
- Jayson Tatum
- Donovan Mitchell
This is easy, but the NBA’s arcane rules make it impossible. There has to be a better way for this system to work. Here’s one idea: just eliminate positions altogether.