Why It Makes Sense for NBA to Dump Center Spot from All-Star Ballot

Dan FavaleFeatured ColumnistOctober 24, 2012

May 22, 2012; Miami, FL, USA;  Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert (55) reacts in the 4th quarter of game 5 in the 2012 NBA eastern conference semi-finals at the American Airlines Arena. The Miami Heat defeated the Paces 115-83. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE
Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Finally, the NBA got it right.

According to David Aldridge of NBA.com, the league is attempting to resolve what has become known as the "Duncan Dilemma" by reinventing the way All-Stars are selected:

The league will announce Wednesday a change to its All-Star ballot that will, for the first time, allow fans to vote for three undefined "frontcourt" players instead of having to vote for two forwards and a center. With more and more teams playing smaller than in the past, the definition of "center" was becoming increasingly difficult—not to mention finding enough quality big men for whom to vote.

For years, for example, the Spurs have listed Tim Duncan as a power forward, even though everyone on Earth knew he was their starting center. And so when it came to All-Star balloting, Duncan would take up a forward spot in a very crowded field of Western Conference stars instead of his logical spot in the middle. This was good for Duncan, who surely would have made his 13 All-Star teams anyway, but it often cost another forward a shot.

What does this mean?

Well, for once it seems the NBA isn't hell-bent on missing the mark on fresh implementations. After watching the Association swing and miss in their attempt to adequately penalize flopping and exude their penchant for going too far by instituting a 90-second limit on pregame rituals, it's comforting to know they're actually capable being constructive.

Because dumping the center position from the All-Star ballot makes sense. It works.

As Aldridge notes, Tim Duncan is the perfect example of a power forward turned center who stands to eat up a forward spot on the roster. Yet he's not the only example.

The NBA's teams are continuing to embrace the art of small-ball, continuing to utilize what we have come to know as position-less lineups. That means, now more than ever, there are plenty more players just like Duncan.

Chris Bosh of the Miami Heat stands out the most. Though he is preparing to handle center responsibilities on a full-time basis, he is still considered a power forward.

A big deal? At first glance, no. In the scheme of the All-Star selection process, though? Yes.

Suppose we watch Bosh carry his 2011-12 averages of 18 points and 7.9 rebounds on 48.7 percent shooting—production that earned him an All-Star spot—over to 2012-13 and we deem it worthy of yet another All-Star selection. What then?

Bosh would be voted in as a forward, because that's what he's listed as. It doesn't matter that he will have spent the entire half-season at the 5, he is still considered a 4 and would be voted in as such.

But not anymore. The NBA has embraced position-less basketball by creating a position-less frontcourt. If we decide to vote a player like Bosh, Duncan or even Kevin Garnett in, they'll no longer be a center taking up a forward spot.

Which makes this new rule important for another reason—it decreases the occurrence of All-Star snubs. Let's just refer to this as the Roy Hibbert effect.

Even amid the Dwightmare, Dwight Howard certainly deserved his place amongst the stars last February. But did Hibbert, or was he merely the best option to fill that second center requirement?

If your inclined to go with the latter, I'm inclined to hug you.

Hibbert is a skilled big man, but he's a noticeable athlete among a thin pool of talent to begin with. Centers, especially capable ones, are hot commodities because they're so rare. So, why force us to devalue said rarity by requiring that two be recognized every year?

Exactly. Because I can say with the utmost of certainty, Hibbert—again, while talented and promising on both ends of the floor—is not All-Star material. Not yet; perhaps one day, but not right now.

Can we honestly say that if not restricted by the confines of the previous All-Star blueprint that Hibbert would have been chosen over Josh Smith?

Absolutely not. The same goes for Marc Gasol out west, who, while fundamentally sound, maybe doesn't earn a 2012 All-Star selection if his brother Pau Gasol is still eligible.

Yes, this rule potentially ruins a talented big man's opportunity to play on the league's most star-studded of stages, but it opens the door for many more deserving athletes, especially the ones who are affected by selections playing out of position.

Most importantly, though, it goes a long way toward ensuring the correct players will be seen suiting up in Houston in 2013.

That makes this latest twist not only good, but great.

For a change.