All-Star voting shows: The NBA is tough crowd

AP Photo/Jim MoneLos Angeles Lakers' LeBron James lays up to score as Minnesota Timberwolves' Jarred Vanderbilt looks on. James leads all players in All-Star voting.

NBA players are apparently not easily impressed — even by other NBA players.

LeBron James and Kevin Durant were the only two players to appear on more than 50% of the ballots cast by their playing peers in All-Star Game starter balloting this season, based on a review of the numbers released by the league.

James appeared on 56% of the ballots, Durant on 55%.

They wound up as the leading votegetters from fans as well for this year’s game, which is set for March 7 in Atlanta. As the fan-vote leaders, James and Durant were picked to serve as the playing captains in the game and draft teams that will be unveiled March 4.

The other eight starters — Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Nikola Jokic, Kawhi Leonard, Bradley Beal, Kyrie Irving, Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo — were announced Thursday as well, along with James and Durant. The 14 reserve spots will be announced Tuesday after NBA head coaches cast ballots.

Antetokounmpo appeared on 47% of player ballots, Curry on 45%, Embiid and Jokic both on 44% and Beal on 42%.

Leonard got 28% support from players, Irving 26% and Doncic just 15%.

Doncic got the second guard spot from the Western Conference over Portland’s Damian Lillard. The NBA’s weighted system — where fan voting counts for 50%, media voting 25% and player voting the remaining 25% — had them both tied for second behind Curry.

Doncic got the nod because he got more fan votes; Lillard, however, more than doubled his support among players and media. Lillard got 34% support from players, and 64% of the media voters chose Lillard compared with 30% for Doncic.

The All-Star voting system was changed after 768,112 people voted for Zaza Pachulia in 2016 and nearly made him a starter. Pachulia’s “candidacy” was fueled by social-media influencers and many votes from the former Soviet republic of Georgia, his homeland.

As part of those changes, players got to be part of the process.

Not all of them take it seriously.

This year, a record 310 players got at least one vote to be a starter, either from themselves or another NBA player. That’s 18 more than the previous record, set last year, and 21 more than the player total from 2019.

Of those 310 players, 108 of them got exactly one vote.

Many players who haven’t even appeared in a game or scored this season got multiple votes. Among the eye-raisers: the Los Angeles Lakers' Kostas Antetokounmpo got 10 votes despite not yet scoring this season; Memphis' Justice Winslow got two votes even though he has not appeared in a game for more than a year; and Toronto's Patrick McCaw got a vote despite not playing yet this season while dealing with a knee injury.

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