Kristian Winfield: Imperfectly perfect All-Star process ensures NBA always wins

Kristian Winfield, New York Daily News on

Published in Basketball

NEW YORK — It’s like the tweet Kevin Durant sent and then deleted: “Everyone can’t go.”

As usual, the NBA announced its All-Star starters and reserves, and as usual, there’s mass panic about who made it and, more importantly, who didn’t. That, in and of itself, is a win for a league that makes money, just like everyone in the entertainment business, on the attention people spend on its product.

The All-Star voting process is imperfectly perfect, after all, are there really any egregious omissions from the year’s event? All of the league’s premier and healthy faces have been voted into the March 7 event in Atlanta, with the exception of Hawks star Trae Young, who still must prove he can win games, not just hit deep 3s.

But that should be the standard for everyone, not just Young. Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic, for example, is an All-Star for the second time, taking his game to new heights and setting a career-high scoring output (23.9 ppg). The Magic, however, have a worse record than the Hawks.

Meanwhile, the Pacers were not awarded an All-Star despite owning the Eastern Conference’s fourth-best record. Domantas Sabonis, who is averaging career-highs across the board, was easily deserving of a spot. Sabonis’ omission is the most glaring: The Pacers deserve an All-Star more than the Magic

There’s also the league’s conundrum: Which teams deserve three All-Stars? The Nets will send Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving as All-Star starters and James Harden as a reserve. The three are all well-deserving of All-Star nods.

But the Nets didn’t have the best record in the league, let alone in their conference, when the reserves were announced. The Utah Jazz, Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Clippers and Lakers each had more wins and fewer losses than the Nets at the time rosters were announced.


Newsflash: A record doesn’t make an All-Star. And as we learned from Young’s snub, nor does singular talent, and no team has three better players at their disposal than the Nets do in their three stars.

Sorry, Tobias Harris. You’re having an exceptional season, but it doesn’t make you an All-Star over Jayson Tatum, Ben Simmons or Julius Randle, who has single-handedly revitalized the Knicks thanks to the team’s deft hire of Tom Thibodeau as head coach. The same can be said of Mike Conley, the Jazz point guard and perennial All-Star snub, who will always be one of the league’s most overlooked and underrated players. But he is not an All-Star because, well, he’s not an All-Star, even if the Jazz have the best record in basketball.

Expanding the number of All-Stars won’t help: You can expand the teams to 50 players each, and the 51st will feel slighted and have a snub campaign. There is one solution the league could explore: Put its All-Star money where its positionless mouth is. Nobody really cares if you have three frontcourt players or four backcourt players. Twos are playing the five, fives are running the point, and the All-Star game should reflect the league’s versatility.

Even still, people are going to find a reason to complain about their favorite player not being named. You can’t complain that Devin Booker should be an All-Star, then in the same breath, as he’s named a replacement for the injured Anthony Davis, be mad that Conley didn’t get in.

As Durant said, everyone can’t go, and it’s an imperfectly perfect system that ensures the NBA will always win during the All-Star break.

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