A Call for an All-Star Game Reform

If you have yet to hear, the All-Star selections were made last night. Below are the rosters for the game.

Eastern Conference Starters: Pascal Siakam (TOR), Trae Young (ATL), Kemba Walker (BOS), Joel Embiid (PHI). Captain: Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL)

Eastern Conference Reserves: Bam Adebayo (MIA), Domantas Sabonis (IND), Ben Simmons (PHI), Jayson Tatum (BOS), Kyle Lowry (TOR), Khris Middleton (MIL), and Jimmy Butler (MIA).

Western Conference Starters: Anthony Davis (LAL), Luka Doncic (DAL), Kawhi Leonard (LAC), James Harden (HOU). Captain: Lebron James (LAL)

Western Conference Reserves: Rudy Gobert (UTA), Brandon Ingram (NOP), Nikola Jokic (DEN), Damian Lillard (POR), Donovan Mitchell (UTA), Chris Paul (OKC), and Russell Westbrook (HOU).

I know what you may be thinking. Where is Devin Booker? How about Bradley Beal? No Zach Lavine or Paul George? Your eyes are not deceiving you as none of those names are on a roster. But yes, you do see Chris Paul, Nikola Jokic, and Domantas Sabonis. Bradley Beal averages more points per game than every player in the Eastern Conference not named Trae Young. Devin Booker is right behind Beal in that department by 1 point. Yet Sabonis, who is 47th in the league in points per game is going to play in this game.

The argument I am presenting is not that points mean everything, it is also not an argument that Sabonis has not deserved his recognition for having a breakout season in Indiana. What I am saying is that every year, there seems to be too many snubs. Here is my call to change that.

No fan vote on starters – Any chance a professional sports league has to create engagement with their fans, is certainly to be taken advantage of. However, I am not sure it should be to this extent. Tacko Fall, who has only gotten minutes in only 4 games this season was 6th in All-Star voting for the frontcourt positions in the Eastern Conference. He was well above Andre Drummond, Domantas Sabonis, and Bam Adebayo. This nonsense did not just apply to the Eastern Conference. In the Western Conference, Lakers guard Alex Caruso who averages 5.5 points per game, had more votes than Devin Booker and Ja Morant. Only one thing to say about that…

Remove conference restrictions – We have known that for the past decade of NBA basketball, that the Western Conference is deeper than the Eastern Conference. Prime example, this season the Nets are sitting in the last playoff spot in the conference with a 20-26 record. The Grizzlies are sitting in that same spot in Western Conference with a 24-24 record. This has been a common trend in the NBA for the past decade. Feel free to go back and compare records of teams that finished in the 5-8 spot in each conference over the decade and the difference is astounding. The All-star game should be cognizant of the state of each conference and adjust accordingly. If there are better teams are in the Western Conference, it would then be harder to be an all-star in that conference (note why Mike Conley was somehow never an all-star in Memphis.)

In the 2017-18 season, the NBA decided to remove the Eastern Conference vs. Western Conference layout. It could have partially been because the Western Conference won 13 of the previous 17 match-ups. Therefore, in an attempt to make the game more competitive they decided to have team captains and the two players with the highest amount of all-star votes get to pick their team, regardless of conference. It seems as though if the conferences play no effect into who is playing for which team, there is no point being served in keeping the conferences a factor in the selection process. An NBA all-star should not be defined by conference, rather this game should simply be played by the best 24 players in the league. Period.

Remove Position Restrictions – This point essentially reemphasizes the point above. In the modern era of basketball, we have small forwards playing as point guards. We have power forwards who serve as 3-point specialists. We have players that can legitimately guard and play all positions on the court. Therefore, why take a traditional approach on a sport that has been continuously breaking its own traditions and standards? Taking a look at the scores of these games in the past 5 seasons, which were 178-164, 148-145, 192-182, 196-173, and 163-58, it shows that players are scoring at will regardless who is “guarding” them. The games have essentially become one big, long highlight reel of the league’s best players shooting, alley-ooping, and dunking. So, what does it matter how many frontcourt or backcourt players are on each team? Let the team captains worry about that when they are drafting players and just watch the BEST players in the league have fun out there.

Cash Prize to Victors – This game has lacked any sort of competitive spirit since recent memory. Similar to the pro bowl, this game has lacked a real compelling reaosn to watch the game and that has in turn, led to people not watching it at all. Last year, the game tied an all-time record low for ratings. Both the MLB and the NFL had significantly higher ratings in their all-star games. Some sort of award that holds some weight for the winners of the game, might be what this game needs to be spiced up some more.

Change has been long overdue of NBA all-star weekend. Although there have been attempts made, they have proven to be futile. Perhaps implementing some of the changes above could fix that.

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