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Fixing the NBA All-Star Game: An Overhaul of the Voting System


Jayson Tatum guarding Jaylen Brown in the all-star game

With the NBA All-Star Game around the corner, the same talks that happen every year within NBA circles are happening.


Fans and experts are debating over who is starting, who made it, and who was snubbed. Once people start looking into how each player made it, people start to question the whole system.


People ask so many questions every year about the current system, so I figured, instead of just talking about it, I want to come up with solutions to fix the current all-star system.


The current system has 24 total players, 12 from each conference. The starters are selected on a 50% fan vote, 25% player vote, and 25% media voting. The seven reserves are selected by the coaches. For injury replacements, those are selected by the commissioner, Adam Silver.


While I think the current system is solid, it is very subjective and a bit wonky with how the fans and outside sources can skew voting. It’s also interesting how the coaches get to decide on seven players, while the other five are decided by three different sub-groups (albeit the most important five players).


I think a few tweaks are necessary to make the system more straightforward and sensible.


The Lakers bench in 2010

Increasing Roster Size


The first simple yet crucial change I would make to the current system is increasing roster size from 12 each and 24 total to 15 each and 30 total. Before going into how I would choose the players, I feel it’s necessary to increase the players chosen to not only make my proposal more straightforward but also deal with the problem of players being snubbed.


That could in theory still lead to snubs (people will always argue someone was snubbed) but at least the snubs become smaller names, and therefore, would lead to fewer snubs and less controversial snubs.


With the current talent level of the NBA so high, increasing the size should only be beneficial. The main argument against this change is playing time (240 total minutes/15 players = 16 minutes per player), but a lot of the star players don’t even care that much about how much play time they get in the all-star game. The only ones who really care are the players there for the first time and players gunning for game MVP.


Nikola Jokic is the player that jumps to mind for me. He will consistently be voted a starter for years to come, but his skillset and mentality don’t translate well to the game. If he only got to play ten minutes or less, I don’t think he’d care that much.


I think the real reason players want to be all-stars is not to play in the game, but just for the recognition. Being there is enough for most players in my opinion. So why not allow more players to earn the recognition and enjoy what comes with being an all-star?


Positions


Another small but significant change I would make is to how players are chosen by position. Currently, three frontcourt players and two backcourt players are chosen as starters, and the bench is balanced based on those position groups as well.


I would remove those groups entirely, and just have the top 15 players chosen regardless of position. That would reduce controversy, as if a year feels guard heavy for example, then players can’t be snubbed due to the position they play

.

With the NBA becoming more and more positionless as it evolves, the all-star game should evolve along with it.


Choosing the Players


Now that we’ve established roster size and positionless voting, the next thing I want to change is the overall system of how to decide who plays in the game. Part of the reason I decided to make the roster size 15 each was to make it so each group associated with player voting chooses five players, or essentially a starting lineup of their own. I also think positionless voting helps to ensure the best players will be chosen.


First, a big change I would make is having the starters be decided after the 15 players are chosen. I think that is important because the system of deciding starters and reserves shouldn’t be separate. That is how we ended up with Andrew Wiggins as an all-star starter two years ago.


To decide the 15 players, five players from fan voting should be chosen, five from player voting should be chosen, and five from media voting should be chosen. Obviously, there would be overlap, so it isn't as simple as choosing the top five vote getters from each group. To account for that, I propose a snake draft is conducted based on the voting. What I mean by that is, in this hypothetical situation, the top player from the fan voting would be the first player chosen, then the top player from the player voting, then the media voting. If there is overlap, then the next player down the list is chosen. Then the order would reverse.


Here's a visual to show what I mean using this year’s all-star voting:


Eastern Conference snake draft in this proposed system

Each list consists of 15 players to ensure that 15 players are chosen. Starting with the Eastern Conference, the green represents who was chosen, and the numbers represent the order they were chosen. The yellow means they were already chosen. The red means they weren’t chosen.


Here is the same thing but for the Western Conference:


Western Conference snake draft in this proposed system

Now that the 15 players have been chosen for each conference, the next step is to decide who starts. In this scenario, the coaches will get to decide who the five starters for each team are after seeing the 15 players chosen.


As with the current system, the coaches can’t vote for their players, but they can vote for any of the 15 players to start if they want to. If the coaches wanted, they could vote not to have LeBron James start despite him being the top pick. That would be a bit extreme, but it would be allowed. I also think any lineup combination should be allowed. If for whatever reason the coaches want five guards or five bigs to start, then that should be allowed.


Sticking with coaching, the power that the coaching staff coaching each team would have is deciding playing time, just as they currently do. However, with bigger rosters, that responsibility is even more important.


Finally, for injury replacements, Adam Silver would still choose.


LeBron James in the 2023 NBA All-Star Game


Final Words


What I think is best about this system is it evens out the power and reduces the impact of subjectivity. As you can see from the lists I threw together, each group votes differently. That mainly shows towards the bottom of the lists once they get beyond the obvious names.


The fans really loved Alperun Sengun, so he made it on, despite getting much less love from the players and media. De’Aaron Fox and Devin Booker got a lot of love from the players, so they made it on. Rudy Gobert got extra love from the media along with Domontas Sabonis, so they made it on.


In the east, the players were huge in getting LaMelo Ball on. If people disagree with these players due to the disparity in popularity, then the coaches have the power to play those players much less. Everyone involved has their own individual power that is significant to the game.


I also think it’s hard to say anyone was snubbed in this scenario, besides maybe Karl Anthony Towns and Julius Randle, but otherwise, I think this system is very fair.


Another thing I wanted to look out for is how the positions turned out. In the east, 8 frontcourt players were chosen while 7 backcourt players were chosen. In the west, 9 frontcourt players were chosen, while 6 backcourt players were chosen. Given the voting system I used to make these lists was based on the players being separated by frontcourt and backcourt, that may contribute to the numbers being relatively even, but I do think it’s promising that the numbers are different in each conference.


Overall, I think larger roster sizes and positionless rosters allow for less controversy with snubs and ensure the best players make it. The voting system plus the snake draft makes things more even and fair, and the coaches deciding who starts allows for players who get extra love, whether from fans, players, or media, to make the game without the controversy of being undeserving of starting the game. The fans should be rewarded for spamming votes on Alperun Sengun, but if no one else thinks he deserves to be there, he won’t start and will concede playing time to more deserving players.


With this system, Andrew Wiggins would have made the All-Star Game in 2022 still, but wouldn’t have started, which is what should have actually happened.

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