The early returns from the 2013-14 NBA All-Star voting are in courtesy of an official release from NBA.com, and there's one universal trend as LeBron James, Kevin Durant and... Kobe Bryant rise to the top of the polls: Popularity matters far more than what has happened on the basketball court.
So basically, it's the same as it's ever been, just with different names. If voting ended today, the starting lineups would be as follows:
|Point Guard||Shooting Guard||Small Forward||Power Forward||Center|
|Eastern Conference||Kyrie Irving||Dwyane Wade||Paul George||Carmelo Anthony||LeBron James|
|Western Conference||Chris Paul||Kobe Bryant||Kevin Durant||Blake Griffin||Dwight Howard|
Let's run through each section of the voting, starting with the Eastern Conference frontcourt and finishing with the Western Conference's guards.
Eastern Conference Frontcourt
This is the most acceptable of the four groupings, as the fans got it almost perfect.
LeBron James and Paul George definitely deserve to be the two leading vote-getters (both in this section and in the Eastern Conference as a whole), and that's exactly what happened.
It's the Carmelo Anthony selection that's a little more questionable, as the New York Knicks superstar has struggled with his shot and been unable to lead his team to a successful record. Roy Hibbert (No. 4) would be a more deserving candidate, and you could make a convincing argument for Andre Drummond (No. 11) or Luol Deng (No. 9) as well.
Eastern Conference Guards
Now here's an interesting group of players.
Few players have actually managed to distinguish themselves among the field of Eastern Conference guards, but there are two egregious selections here.
Derrick Rose wasn't very good at all during his return from an ACL tear, and he's since gone down with a torn meniscus. How exactly does 15.9 points per game on 35.4 percent shooting translate to a top spot in the voting?
Popularity, which is also the explanation for Kyrie Irving's presence in the above tweet. The Cleveland Cavaliers floor general has struggled with his shot throughout the season, and he's failed to take that next step forward.
In terms of merit, John Wall should be rising to the top, but that's not how it works.
Western Conference Frontcourt
Not many surprises here.
Kevin Durant was both the leading vote-getter among Western Conference frontcourt players and the conference as a whole, and he deserves to be. In fact, he's 100k votes clear of the field.
Dwight Howard is the proper selection at center, and it's Blake Griffin who emerges as the most questionable pick. Griffin has played fantastic basketball throughout the 2013-14 campaign, showing off an expanding arsenal of moves on offense while actually trying on defense, so he's a solid selection.
That said, Kevin Love (No. 4) and LaMarcus Aldridge (No. 8) are both having better seasons.
Western Conference Guards
Now we get to the worst of all. With the exception of Chris Paul's presence in the starting lineup, nothing really makes sense.
Kobe Bryant will eventually start looking like an All-Star, but let's allow Hardwood Paroxysm to take it away:
At the time of the voting, Kobe had played two games, and the Los Angeles Lakers had lost both of them. I suppose he's been incredibly motivational from his seat on the bench.
Additionally, Jeremy Lin should be nowhere near the top four. He's had a good year as he's alternated between a starting and bench role for the Houston Rockets, but can you make a convincing argument for him over Damian Lillard (No. 10), Tony Parker (No. 7), Russell Westbrook (No. 6) or James Harden (No. 5)?
It just goes hand-in-hand with the frustration that we always feel after the fan vote, which is a necessary evil.
This year is no different than any other.