NBA 2023 All-Star Voting: Who's Too High and Who's Too Low in First Returns?

Andy Bailey@@AndrewDBaileyFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 6, 2023

NBA 2023 All-Star Voting: Who's Too High and Who's Too Low in First Returns?

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    Derrick Rose, New York Knicks.
    Derrick Rose, New York Knicks.Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Feeling and expressing outrage over the results of NBA All-Star fan voting has become an annual tradition.

    And this year, the league (or its fans) gave us tons of reason for that outrage.

    In the end, it may not matter. Reducing the value of the fan vote (and giving a say to players and the media) could save the process, but that doesn't always happen.

    Last year, for example, a K-pop-driven voting surge (yes, you read that right) made Andrew Wiggins an All-Star starter when he was, at best, a fringe All-Star.

    And with these selections being tied to contract bonuses and legacy conversations, annoyance over the process is legitimate, especially when you see results like these.

    NBA Communications @NBAPR

    LeBron James and Kevin Durant lead their respective conferences in the first fan returns of <a href=";ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NBAAllStar</a> Voting presented by AT&amp;T. <br><br>Fans account for 50% of the vote to decide All-Star starters. NBA players and a media panel account for 25% each. <br><br>The next fan update is Jan. 12. <a href=""></a>

    There's simply no justification for much of the above, and we'll show you why below (often consulting popular catch-all metrics from around the internet along the way).

Too High in the East

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    Derrick Rose
    Derrick RosePhotos by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

    Paolo Banchero (No. 8 among East frontcourt players)

    Paolo Banchero's career is off to a great start. He's averaging 21.0 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.0 assists, but he's posting a well-below-average three-point percentage, the Orlando Magic are better when he's off the floor and the catch-all metrics suggest he's outside the top 100 players in the league this season.

    That's a far cry from being one of the eight best forwards in the Eastern Conference.

    Still, this one isn't egregious, and it seems pretty safe to assume that Banchero will make some All-Star teams during his career. But this is supposed to be an in-season honor.

    LaMelo Ball (No. 7 among East guards)

    In terms of his individual averages, LaMelo Ball has an argument to return to the All-Star Game. He ranks in the 83rd percentile in Dunks and Threes' estimated plus-minus and is averaging 23.7 points, 8.1 assists and 4.1 threes.

    At a certain point, though, availability should mean something. And Ball has played in far fewer than half his team's games, which is why he ranks in the 68th percentile in estimated wins (the cumulative variant of estimated plus-minus).

    Derrick Rose (No. 9 among East guards)

    This one doesn't need much explanation. Derrick Rose has appeared in 26 games and is averaging 12.9 minutes and 5.8 points.

    This is worse than being "too high" on the list. It should be seen as an indictment on the entire process, even if he eventually falls out of the picture.

Too Low in the East

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    PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 2: Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers dribbles the ball during the game against the New Orleans Pelicans on January 2, 2023 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2023 NBAE (Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)
    David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

    Joel Embiid (No. 3 among East frontcourt players)

    This comes down to how you feel about the debate between Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo. The former tops the latter in a number of catch-all metrics, is scoring more (and far more efficiently) and is leading his Philadelphia 76ers to a better point differential than the Milwaukee Bucks.

    Embiid has been closer to being the best player in the East than he has to being the third best frontcourt player this season.

    Tyrese Haliburton (No. 8 among East guards)

    If you sort every qualified player in the NBA by the average of their ranks in various catch-all metrics, Tyrese Haliburton comes in eighth overall. And there isn't a single Eastern Conference guard ahead of him.

    The basic numbers paint the picture of an All-Star too. Haliburton is averaging 20.6 points and 10.2 assists while leading the Indiana Pacers to a surprising above-.500 record.

    Jalen Brunson (Not ranked)

    This one's wild. Jalen Brunson is averaging 20.8 points and 6.5 assists in the league's biggest media market. The New York Knicks are in the playoff hunt. And Brunson isn't even in the top 10 among Eastern Conference guards (while his teammate, Rose, is ninth).

Too High in the West

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    TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 18: Andrew Wiggins #22 of the Golden State Warriors arrives ahead of their NBA game against the Toronto Raptors at Scotiabank Arena on December 18, 2022 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)
    Cole Burston/Getty Images

    This section is ridiculous. And honestly, the idea that LeBron James is still the best player in the league (which is what's suggested by his league-leading vote total) is just the tip of the iceberg. He's no longer that, but James starting for legacy reasons is fine, and there are only so many nits you can pick.

    Andrew Wiggins (No. 5 among West frontcourt players)

    History is repeating itself with Andrew Wiggins, who's actually been better than he was in 2021-22 (his scoring average, rebounds per game and effective field-goal percentage are all up), but he's only appeared in 22 games. The Golden State Warriors have played 39.

    Anthony Davis (No. 3 among West frontcourt players)

    This one isn't as bad, because Anthony Davis' numbers (27.4 points, 12.1 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 2.1 blocks and 1.3 steals) when available are absurd, but he's only played in three more games than Wiggins.

    Of course, the understandable response to that might be that Stephen Curry has only played one more game than AD, and he's not on this slide. The differentiator is Golden State's record with Curry in the lineup (14-12) compared to L.A.'s with Davis (11-14) makes Curry's projected All-Star starting spot more justified.

    Kevon Looney (No. 10 among West frontcourt players)

    Kevon Looney is awesome. Much of what the Warriors do wouldn't be possible without his willingness to focus on rebounding, make the extra pass and convert scoring opportunities when he gets them.

    But this is the All-Star Game, and Looney is averaging 6.7 points and 8.4 rebounds for a team that's hovered around .500 all season.

    Russell Westbrook (No. 6 among West guards)

    Russell Westbrook's raw numbers are fine. He's putting up 14.5 points and 7.7 assists, and he's nobly accepted a bench role after spending most of his career as one of the game's most ball-dominant players.

    However, in terms of the number of points he's scored compared to what a perfectly average shooter would on the same shots, Westbrook is the second-least efficient scorer in the league.

    Austin Reaves (No. 9 among West guards)

    My goodness, people. If the Rose placement wasn't enough to convince you that the voters aren't taking this seriously, I present to you Austin Reaves.

    Rose at least has some legacy points as a multi-time All-Star and former MVP. You can maybe see why diehard fans he made in the early portion of his career might be clinging to his relevance.

    But Austin Reaves is a second-year player averaging 10.8 points with a barely above-average three-point percentage for a sub-.500 team.

    Jordan Poole (No. 10 among West guards)

    Jordan Poole is averaging 20.6 points, but he's well below average in the same shooting metric explained for Westbrook. And the Warriors' point differential per 100 possessions is 10.3 points worse when Poole is on the floor.

Too Low in the West

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    Domantas Sabonis
    Domantas SabonisAlex Goodlett/Getty Images

    Domantas Sabonis (not ranked)

    Domantas Sabonis is averaging 18.7 points, a league-leading 12.4 rebounds and 6.7 assists for a Sacramento Kings team firmly in the playoff hunt.

    If you sort every qualified player by the average of their ranks in several catch-all metrics, he comes in at No. 11 overall. The only Western conference frontcourt players ahead of him are Nikola Jokić and Anthony Davis.

    Not even cracking the top 10 is wild.

    De'Aaron Fox (not ranked)

    Sabonis wasn't the only King snubbed by this first batch of results. Starting point guard De'Aaron Fox is going for 23.9 points and 5.9 assists while shooting 50.4 percent from the field.

    If Sacramento keeps winning at its current rate, it probably deserves at least one All-Star. Fox and Sabonis both have strong cases.

    Aaron Gordon (not ranked)

    Jokić is obviously the driving force of the Denver Nuggets' success, but tradition has often given the top team in the West at least two All-Stars. And Aaron Gordon has undoubtedly been Denver's second-best player this season.

    Gordon is averaging 17.1 points while posting a career-high 62.6 effective field-goal percentage and generally taking on one of the Nuggets' toughest defensive assignments.

    Lauri Markkanen (No. 7 among West frontcourt players)

    Compared to much of the rest of the list, including players ahead of him like AD, Lauri Markkanen has been a borderline ironman. He's only missed three games, and his historic scoring efficiency has sort of snuck under the radar (probably because of all this season's other gaudy stat lines).

    Markkanen is averaging 23.9 points with a 66.9 true shooting percentage. Prior to this season, Stephen Curry was the only player in league history to match or exceed both marks for a full season (and he did it twice). Jokić and Durant are on pace to join this unofficial club too.