The NBA All-Star Weekend is approaching, with the teams being announced next week, and the game to be played February 18th (NZT). After mild Kiwi hype last year about Steven Adams’ potential selection, that hype has grown significantly this season based on three rounds of fan voting returns. In each of those rounds, Adams has finished sixth in the Western Conference frontcourt voting, with the same quintet (LeBron James, Luka Doncic, Paul George, Kevin Durant and Anthony Davis) ahead of him.
Given that each conference picks twelve players to go to the All-Star Game, that must mean he’s looking good right? Well, not necessarily.
For one, fan votes only matter for the starters, and even then, they now only count for half the vote (thanks in part to the nation of Georgia hijacking voting to almost select the thoroughly undeserving Zaza Pachulia in 2016). The remaining half of the votes come from NBA coaches and media. There will be three frontcourt starters selected from the West, with the likelihood being that James, Durant and either George or Davis get those spots.
The other two starters are guards (lock in James Harden and Stephen Curry), which then leaves seven reserve spots. Those are selected solely by NBA coaches, with the fan vote no longer a factor. Two of the reserve spots are for guards, three for frontcourt players and the last two spots are wildcard spots, with position irrelevant. So, the question therefore is “will Steven Adams be selected for one of five reserve spots?”
There’s no doubt that Adams is having a career year. He’s blossomed into a bona fide third star at the Thunder behind Russell Westbrook and Paul George, averaging career highs in points, rebounds, assists and steals to help the Thunder to third (at time of writing) in a torrid Western Conference playoff race. The fact he’s even part of the conversation is testament to his continued improvement, although his fan voting results may owe just as much to his popularity off the court as it does his success on it.
It will be the coaches who decide if that’s enough though. I think it’s probably safe to assume that Damian Lillard and Russell Westbrook (despite a historically bad shooting year) pick up reserve spots, while Jrue Holiday is another strong candidate for either a guard position or one of the wildcard spots. Whoever misses out on a starting spot between George and Davis will be selected as well, while Nikola Jokic (who’s been just behind Adams in fan voting) is a certainty given his stats and the Nuggets’ success. That effectively leaves two spots, or three if one of Westbrook or Holiday misses out.
THE OTHER CANDIDATES:
Rudy Gobert (14.9 points, 13.1 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 0.9 steals, 2.1 blocks)
Karl-Anthony Towns (22.4 points, 12.2 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.0 steal, 1.9 blocks)
Luka Doncic (20.0 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.3 blocks)
LaMarcus Aldridge (20.8 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.5 steals, 1.2 blocks)
DeMar DeRozan (21.4 points, 6.1 rebounds, 6.4 assists, 1.0 steal, 0.5 blocks)
Statistically, it’s hard to see how Adams gets in ahead of any of those guys.
Steven Adams (15.3 points, 10 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.8 blocks)
That’s before we even consider others such as Tobias Harris, Mike Conley, Klay Thompson, De’Aaron Fox, Draymond Green, Jamal Murray, Danilo Gallinari, Buddy Hield and Donovan Mitchell.
So while all us Kiwis would love to see Adams in the All-Star Game, the fan voting results and certain sections of the media are giving us false hope. Continued improvement next season could help his cause, but the West is littered with viable candidates. Unfortunately, Adams likely misses out.
PREDICTED WESTERN CONFERENCE ALL-STARS:
G: James Harden, Stephen Curry
F: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Paul George
G: Damian Lillard, Russell Westbrook
F: Anthony Davis, Nikola Jokic, Karl-Anthony Towns
WC: Rudy Gobert, Jrue Holiday
Follow Ryan on Twitter