On Thursday, the 2017 NBA All-Star Game starters were announced on television, showcasing the 10 starting players for the Eastern and Western Conference squads. Among the lineups are plenty of fan favorites on both sides, but also two major snubs, both of which came at the point guard position. However, since the starting lineups are based on the fan voting, it may not be as big of a surprise. So which players will be suiting up and starting in the 2017 NBA All-Star Game when it arrives next month?
According to an ESPN report, Russell Westbrook was left out of the starters for the Western Conference starters in this year's All-Star Game. The Oklahoma City Thunder guard has been racking up triple-doubles like no player in NBA history, but didn't receive enough of the popular vote to start. Instead, the West's frontcourt will consist of Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry and Westbrook's former teammate, James Harden, who is now with the Houston Rockets.
Joining Curry and Harden for the West's starters will be Kawhi Leonard of the San Antonio Spurs, Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans, and Kevin Durant of the Warriors. As it stands, the Warriors own a league-best record of 36-6, while the San Antonio Spurs are 32-19. Oklahoma City is still a factor in the playoff picture near the season's midway point, with a record of 25-19 placing them in the No. 7 spot right now for the Western Conference standings.The news of Westbrook not making the team comes just a night after he and the Thunder had a dramatic matchup against the Golden State Warriors. During the game, there were several "chippy" moments, including Durant having some words with Westbrook, a hard foul by the Warriors' Zaza Pachulia on Westbrook, and a post-game order from Westbrook to his teammate to not talk to an opposing player.
Just as Westbrook was omitted from the starters, an Eastern Conference star who has been playing consistently well was also seemingly snubbed. The Boston Celtics' Isaiah Thomas was also left out of the lineup due to the way voting ended up. Thomas was among the East's reserves last year but failed to make the starters this year despite leading his team in scoring and assists. According to CBS Local, the last time a Celtics player started for the East was in 2013 when both Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett were on the Eastern Conference's starting lineup.
Instead, the East's frontcourt this year will feature Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving and Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan. The Raptors star edged out Thomas due to a tie-breaking procedure in this year's voting system. Joining DeRozan and Irving will be Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jimmy Butler of the Chicago Bulls, and LeBron James of the Cavs.This year's votes for the All-Star Game starters consisted not only of fan voting through various methods, but also included media and current players voting. Fan votes accounted for 50 percent of the overall vote, while the media and current players accounted for 25 percent each. LeBron James led all players in fan voting with 1.9 million total votes.
James talked about being the leading vote getter and what it means to him.
"I think from the standpoint of people enjoy the way I play the game, they respect the way I play the game and at this point in my career I'm still doing something right. Makes me proud, makes my family proud and my support system, so it's cool in that sense."As with most All-Star Game voting, there's also the question of popularity overtaking actual success and top stats over the course of the season. Based on the way voting went for the NBA, it's no surprise that there are two Golden State Warriors and two Cleveland Cavaliers players on the starting lineup. However, it is especially surprising to see Westbrook, a guy who has been leading the league in scoring left out. The Celtics' Isaiah Thomas is currently fourth on the scoring leaders with 28.7 points per game, while DeRozan is a spot below him, averaging 28.2 points per game.
It was noted that Westbrook finished first in the media vote and current players vote, but that he finished in a tie with Curry and Harden in the overall points tally. The tie-breaker was done via the total fan votes, which helped Curry and Harden get the edge for the starting spots over Westbrook.
It was also noted that if the older voting format was still in place, it would have meant Chicago Bulls star Dwyane Wade, Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid, and Golden State Warriors center Zaza Pachulia would all have spots in the starting lineups.
All of these players are likely to be named as 2017 NBA All-Star Game reserves when those players are announced next Thursday. For now, the debate will rage on about whether or not the voting system needs to be tweaked again, or if ultimately it doesn't matter all that much who starts the game, and who starts on the bench.
Sports fans, how do you feel about the starting lineups for the Eastern and Western Conference in this year's NBA All-Star Game? Were any players robbed due to the way the voting works, and should the voting system be changed next year?
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