NBA All-Star Player-Voting Needs Guidelines
If you genuinely think Carmelo Anthony and Ryan Anderson deserve any NBA All-Star votes, then I have some oceanfront property in Boise for sale that is just lovely this time of year.
Don’t get me wrong -- I don’t believe that all voting must be done for the best players starting on the best teams. Voting for bench players like Dwyane Wade or Derrick Rose to the All-Star game may have drawn criticism, but these two (among others) earning reserve spots makes sense. Wade’s current season is his swan song, so it’s understandable that fans would want to see him in one more All-Star game. As for Rose, if you’ve paid any attention to his performance this season, you would see that his play merits both Sixth Man of the Year and Most Improved Player consideration. Fans appreciate players who earn redemption.
That those two each finished second at their positions in the respective fan votes is eminently reasonable. Remember: ‘fan’ is short for ‘fanatic’ -- fans are intense and often subject to the whims of media narrative and misplaced passions. They’re going to vote for who they like. When it comes to the players, though, there must be a higher standard. They are inside the game, and should have insight unavailable to the average fan; it shouldn’t be that difficult to vote for ten other players who are legitimately having All-Star caliber seasons.
While it might seem unnecessary to decode the voting approach of the players, All-Star selections have real consequences. This isn’t a life or death decision or even as important as the collective bargaining agreement (CBA), or Bird rights, but it does impact how the league is viewed. While the NBA is very popular, it is getting a reputation for favoring certain players; this would be a way for NBA commissioner Adam Silver to address it directly. Furthermore, selections to All-Star teams impact the perception that fuels All-NBA teams, which impact whether or not teams can offer ‘Supermax’ contracts, which in turn can influence a player’s free agency choices. The distribution of the league’s best players depends on it.
Changing how players vote for the All-Star Game
There are some easy solutions for players to start taking All-Star voting seriously, and it begins with how you incorporate it into their responsibilities. We talk about ‘NBA Careers’ - this needs to be part of the job.
The average fan may not realize it, but all incoming draftees participate in the Rookie Transition Program, a week-long symposium designed to help new NBA players acclimate to the league. In recent years their catchy acronym has been ‘Be a PRO - professionalism, responsibility, and opportunity’ -- what’s more professional than using those attributes to recognize their colleagues who are worthy of recognition, and asking those same colleagues to do the same for you? It would be easy to emphasize the importance of serious voting to players from the moment they entered the league.
For everyone else who isn’t a rookie, it can easily be included in media training. Professional athletes regularly receive guidance on proper interactions with the media, from the team and often from their representation as well. Especially if the league was instituting a real policy concerning voting, it would be easy to convene a one-time-only session to disseminate the new rules. The guidelines would be something simple, such as:
All-Star votes must go towards players who have played at least 51 percent of the season so far
Votes must go towards at least five different teams per conference
A player cannot vote for more than two teammates on their ballot
A player cannot vote for himself
Players will fill out the ballot as a part of their required service to their communities and the league
Why there may be player pushback
Putting guidelines on the All-Star ballot might be viewed as taking some of the fun out of it, but if it’s properly framed, there shouldn’t be too much dissatisfaction. When DeMarcus Cousins, who has barely played a half a dozen games this season, receives over a dozen votes from other players, it makes a mockery of the system, and lowers the NBA as a product.
It might be considered to be taking voting too seriously if the above guidelines were to be included in the upcoming collective bargaining agreement in 2021. But teams could choose to include it, and if passed the public would never know, per section L (Disclosure Rules) of the current CBA in place.
At the end of the day, this could turn out similar to the 2005 debate about the dress code. At the time, it was seen as a seeming overreach of an over-serious league power structure. Now, as players have used the code to become fashion icons in their own right, it has contributed to the league reaching new fans and new heights. Bringing legitimacy to the All-Star voting can do the same.