After Zaza Pachulia – a limited role player – narrowly missed starting the 2016 All-Star Game, the NBA revamped its system for picking All-Star starters. Fans no longer got full autonomy. Instead, the fan vote counted 50% with media and players each got their own 25%.
The new formula came just in time. In 2017, Pachulia finished second among Western Conference frontcourt players in fan voting. But he ranked just 12th in the player vote, and no media voted for him. What would have been Pachulia’s starting spot went to Anthony Davis, who finished fourth in the fan vote. Of course, coaches didn’t pick Pachulia as a reserve, either.
The NBA had ended an era.
No more Allen Iversons and Kobe Bryants cruising into All-Star berths well after their primes. No more Yao Mings rendering All-Star debates meaningless with a massive hunk of votes from China. And definitely no Zaza Pachulias making a mockery of the process.
But yes to Andrew Wiggins.
The surprise name among the 2022 All-Star starters, Wiggins broke through a setup seemingly designed to block popular-vote candidates like him.
Wiggins is the first All-Star starter selected under the new voting formula who might not have been a reserve otherwise. That’s really the crux of the intrigue. After the All-Star draft, nobody really cares who started or came off the bench in the exhibition. All-Star selections, not starts, shape legacies.
Fans are generally considered the least-credible All-Star-voting bloc. Even by other fans, a large majority of whom voted for someone other than Wiggins. If Wiggins “stole” a spot that “should” have gone to someone more deserving, people care.
Not only did the media pick Gobert over Wiggins by a 65-4 margin, the media voted Green over Wiggins 20-4. Players also voted both Green and Gobert ahead Wiggins.
But fans get the most sway, and only the rank within each category matters. Degree of difference doesn’t.
With four media votes, Wiggins ranked sixth in the category – only two spots behind Gobert and one spot behind Green. Wiggins ranked fifth with 46 player votes. Those passable showings cinched Wiggins’ All-Star spot.
We’ll never know whether Wiggins would’ve been named a reserve by Western Conference coaches (whose selections are deemed credible). LeBron, Jokic, Green, Gobert and Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns look most deserving. That leaves one West frontcourt spot that could have been up for grabs.
Wiggins would’ve factored into a debate that included Lakers big Anthony Davis, Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram, Suns center Deandre Ayton, Mavericks big Kristaps Porzingis, Timberwolves forward Anthony Edwards, Grizzlies wing Desmond Bane, Clippers wing Paul George and the possibility of considering Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, Suns guard Devin Booker or Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell a forward.
Instead, Wiggins just claims his All-Star berth now.
Mostly thanks to fans.
A few other observations from the All-Star starter voting:
- The other contested race: Eastern Conference guard next to the Bulls’ DeMar DeRozan. Fans and media preferred Hawks point guard Trae Young, who got the nod. But players gave the edge to the Bulls’ Zach LaVine.
- In the final race that at least could have presented a little drama – Western Conference guard next to the Warriors’ Stephen Curry – Grizzlies guard Ja Morant swept second place among fans, media and players.
- What a rough year for Lakers guard Russell Westbrook. Ranked sixth by fans, he received just three player votes – 26th at his position. D.J. Augustin got four player votes.
- Though never cracking the previously released leaderboards, Lakers guard Malik Monk finished 10th in fan voting at his position. He got six player votes, for what it’s worth.
- Players showed plenty of faith in a few of their young peers. Hornets forward Miles Bridges (ninth among fans, no media votes) ranked fourth at his position with 46 player votes. Cavaliers guard Darius Garland players (ninth among fans, two media votes) ranked fifth at his position with 45 player votes. Suns center Deandre Ayton (10th among fans, no media votes) ranked sixth at his position with 42 player votes.
- The No. 60 pick in last year’s draft, Georgios Kalaitzakis really took Mr. Irrelevant to the extreme. Kalaitzakis, whom the Bucks waived in December, is record as having zero media votes, zero player votes and zero fan votes.
Here’s each players’ rank in all three categories (number of votes in parentheses). The ranks were added, with fans counting double, then divided by four to produce a “score” for selecting starters. Fan vote served as tiebreaker.
Eastern Conference guard
Eastern Conference frontcourt
Western Conference guard