With the NBA’s All-Star weekend slowly approaching, the first returns for fan voting were released yesterday. Although these votes now only have partial influence over the All-Star game starters, these results often provide great insight into the current landscape of the league’s most beloved hoopers. While a majority of the time NBA fans do a solid job of voting for the best-of-the-best, at times there are some true gems that get overlooked. Here are my initial reactions to the NBA All-Star fan voting first returns:
Klay Thompson Recency Bias
You don’t need to be a basketball genius to tell that Klay Thompson has been killing it as of late. With 54 points in a win against the Hawks earlier this week, Klay has shown glimpses of past dominance prior to his devastating stretch of injuries. However, his overall performance this season, along with the Warriors’ 9th place standing in the Western Conference, is not deserving of the fifth guard spot as seen in the fan voting. In his past All-Star seasons, Klay averaged 47.1% from the field and 42.4% from three, compared to 41.5% and 38.5% respectively this season. The Warriors haven’t struggled nearly as much without Steph Curry as many expected, much to Klay Thompson’s credit, but this potential play-in team doesn’t seem to deserve another all-star in addition to Chef Curry himself.
Paolo Banchero’s Bright Future
After what seems like a lifetime of mediocrity (if that), Orlando Magic fans finally have something to get excited about. Paolo Banchero – clear Rookie of the Year front runner – is not only receiving the much-deserved recognition from Orlando faithful but the rest of the NBA community as well. Earning the 8th front court spot in an absolutely loaded Eastern Conference is no easy task, especially with MVP candidates such as Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo leading the pack. In addition to leading the current rookie class in points per game, Banchero also is second in assists per game and third in rebounds per game, illustrating his well-rounded dominance. While an All-Star roster spot might be a tad bit of a stretch this season, it’s not unreasonable to think that Banchero will be a perennial all-star for years to come.
The Growing Recognition of Small-Market Stars
For decades, small-market NBA franchises have struggled to attract and keep superstar-level players because of their geographic locations, amongst other factors. But, these fan voting results depict a positive shift for small cities with larger-than-life talent. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, fourth in voting amongst Western Conference guards, is a perfect example of a flat-out stud carrying a team like the Oklahoma City Thunder to relevancy. While some small-market players like Tyrese Haliburton and Lauri Markkanen are still criminally underrated, as seen in their positions on the voting results, it’s nice to see an All-Star ballot that isn’t completely dominated by players from the teams that always get featured on national television (Except for the Lakers who somehow have both Russell Westbrook and Austin Reaves on this list).
*Statistics from Basketball-Reference and Statmuse*