When the voting came out for All-Star starters — a mid-season fan-oriented event — the best team in the NBA had no representation. All five Western Conference starters came from teams chasing the Suns for the last two years:
F: LeBron James — Lakers — 9th in West
F: Nikola Jokic — Nuggets — 6th in West
F: Andrew Wiggins — Warriors — 2nd in West
G: Stephen Curry — Warriors — 2nd in West
G: Ja Morant — Grizzlies — 3rd in West
Who’s missing? How about anyone from the 1st seed in the West, Phoenix Suns?!!?
If you ask Devin Booker, though, he doesn’t care if he’s a starter or not.
“I appreciate it, but I’m not worried about that anymore,” Booker said. “I’m in a different phase of my career.”
Reserves will be named next week, almost certainly to include Booker and Chris Paul.
Let’s review the results...
The Phoenix Suns have the most wins in the league this year, most among West teams in the 2021 playoffs and most in the league the last two years total. Yet, votes for Phoenix Suns players lagged significantly behind voting for some other players.
Fans vote for dunks, flashy plays and big markets. They don’t vote for mid-range shooters and generally could care less about team success. They vote players from their favorite team. The larger the fan base, the more votes you get.
Fan votes counted 50% toward the final ranking of players, with media (25%) and players (25%) each getting half as much credit as the fans. This is a fan event, and letting fans get the majority vote for starters in the All-Star game is the league’s nod to the folks who generate revenue.
GMs vote for their ‘Executive of the Year’. Coaches vote All-Star reserves, Rising Stars teams, and their own ‘coach of the year’. Media votes All-NBA, All-Defense, All-Rookie. Players vote have their own awards, too.
All the fans get for themselves is a majority vote on All-Star starters. Sometimes that brings really, really strange results, but the league doesn’t care because they balance the fan vote with the other 50% going to a combo of media and players.
To wit, among fan voting for West players:
- Four Warriors — Stephen Curry, Wiggins, Klay Thompson (who’s played for TWO weeks in the last two years) and Draymond Green — ranked among the top 11 players in total fan votes this year for Western Conference players
- Overall, 8 of the top 11 vote-getters in the West came for players on California teams (Warriors, Lakers, Clippers)
- 2 of the other 3 have a large international fan base (Slovenia, Serbia)
- Only Ja Morant broke the mold — he’s all American AND in a small market (Memphis). Big kudos to Ja!
This brings us to All-Star Starter Andrew Wiggins, of the 18.1 points (ranked 38th in the league), 4.2 rebounds (119th), 2.1 assists (117th) nightly stat line. Yes, the same Wiggins who is one of the most disappointing No. 1 overall picks in league history.
Wiggins is a beneficiary this year of being the second best scorer (fans love scoring!) on a team with one of the biggest fanbases in the world, thanks to recent memories of the Warriors’ 5-year Finals runs.
Wiggins got the 3rd most votes among fans for a Frontcourt position (5th most overall), but he would not have made the starting lineup unless media and players voted for him too. Fact is, he got votes for All-Star starter from both factions.
- 46 players voted Wiggins as one of the top three frontcourt players in the West (5th-most player votes)
- 4 (FOUR!!) media members had Wiggins as a starter (6th* most among media overall)
*The 100-ish voting media only named 8 frontcourt players at all this year to be one of the three All-Star starters. Four of those got 20+ votes from media. The other four got 5 or fewer votes, one of whom was Wiggins.
- Deandre Ayton finished better than he could have expected. In fan voting, he got over 600,000 fan votes (10th in Frontcourt votes, 18th in overall votes). But even bigger news is that he got 42 player votes — which is only 4 behind Wiggins and more than Karl-Anthony Towns got from fellow players. DA finished 6th in player voting in the Frontcourt.
- Mikal Bridges got 16 player votes (rank: 15th in Frontcourt) and more than 194,000 fan votes (rank: 18th in Frontcourt).
- Jae Crowder got 10 player votes (rank: 18th) and more than 36,000 fan votes (rank: 39th)
- Cameron Johnson got 3 player votes (rank: 35th) and more than 76,000 fan votes (rank: 59th).
- JaVale McGee got 6 player votes (rank: 23rd) and more than 50,000 fan votes (rank: 32nd).
- Frank Kaminsky got 2 player votes (rank: 42nd) and more than 7,000 fan votes (rank: 70th).
- Jalen Smith, Dario Saric, Abdel Nader and Ish Wainright all got at least a few fans votes.
Among media, none of them selected any Suns players for starter in the Frontcourt.
Here is where it gets better for the Suns, but not perfect.
Stephen Curry and Ja Morant swept the 1 and 2 spots across all fans, media and player voting. In exactly that order too. Curry got the most votes among guards (2rd overall) from fans while Morant got the second most among guards (4th overall). Media and Players felt exactly the same way.
Curry gets all the votes because he deserves them, despite poor shooting this season. No shooter has ever been as dangerous as the former MVP and three-time champ because of his constant off-ball movement to free himself from his defender. You just can’t face guard him and take him out of the offense.
Ja Morant has ascended this year into something like another Derrick Rose, who once won the league MVP as a 21-year old. There’s no other player like Morant, and he’s the clear No. 2 among the three voting factions of media, players and fans.
Devin Booker and Chris Paul ranked as the 4th and 5th best guards overall in the West, across all the player, fan and media voting.
Booker finished 3rd among players while Chris Paul finished 3rd among media. Both will almost certainly be voted by NBA coaches as the top two reserves in the West for the All-Star game.
That should make them locks for a team that will likely have 6-7 guards from the West.
Other Suns of note: Cameron Payne got one player vote and more than 1,000 fan votes, and Landry Shamet, Elfrid Payton and Chandler Hutchison all got a few votes from fans too.
All-Star reserves will be voted by coaches this weekend, and will be announced to the world next Thursday on February 3.
Expect to hear Devin Booker and Chris Paul named to the team.
This would be Booker’s 3rd All-Star selection, but would only be the first time the coaches picked him. The prior two times, he was passed over by coaches and later picked as an injury replacement by the league office.
This would be Chris Paul’s 12th All-Star selection.
Could the Suns get a third All-Star?
The Warriors will almost certainly have 3 All-Stars (Curry, Wiggins and likely Green). The Bucks might too (Giannis and probably Middleton and Holiday). There’s even a small chance Miami will (Adebayo, Butler and maybe Lowry?).
So why not the league-best and reigning Western Conference Champion Suns?
There’s a teeny tiny chance Deandre Ayton will be named at some point as an injury replacement in the West because many of the reserve frontcourt guys are injured.
- Draymond Green will likely be voted to the team by coaches, only to immediately be replaced by someone the Commissioner chooses.
- The same could be true of Paul George.
- Rudy Gobert is just now nursing a calf injury. Who knows how long that will take to heal.
Those would likely be the next three bigs picked for the game because three ranked 4th, 5th and 6th in Frontcourt voting among fans/media/players.
If all three miss the game, its conceivable that Adam Silver will pick the next three bigs in the voting results, who are Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Davis and... Deandre Ayton.
Of course, Silver doesn’t have to pick by position. He could simply name three more guards to replace the injured bigs named by coaches.
We’ll see soon enough.