The NBA All-Star Game voting first returns are in, and a couple of Los Angeles Lakers made a surprise appearance within the top 10 at their positions. While neither is expected to make the team, Lonzo Ball is currently eighth among Western Conference guards with 120,817 votes, while Kyle Kuzma is ninth for frontcourt players with an impressive 184,338 votes.
This year’s All-Star voting is very different from year’s past, where fans voted in the five starters from each conference and then coaches filled in the rest of the roster. Starting this year, fans still vote for the starters, but their selections only count for 50 percent of total. Players get a 25 percent say and the media rounds things out with 25 percent of their own.
The reason for the change largely stems from a number of questionable fan decisions, such as last year when Golden State Warriors center Zaza Pachulia came dangerously close to being named a starter for the West despite extremely modest production.
With All-Star appearances now being a factor in a star player reaching a higher salary tier, the decision was made that the starting five simply couldn’t be left entirely up to the fans.
As such, even if Lakers fans launched a massive campaign to push Ball and Kuzma into the top five, it’s unlikely that they would actually make the team since the media and players would almost certainly use their votes elsewhere.
That said, it’s still impressive that Ball and Kuzma were able to land so high up their respective lists. Ball has over a 32,000-vote lead over Minnesota Timberwolves star Jimmy Butler, while Kuzma has a similar lead over San Antonio Spurs big man LaMarcus Aldridge.
If nothing else, this shows the power of player for the most popular team in the league. It also has to be something of a surprise that, despite the Big Baller Brand promotional machine, Kuzma has received over 63,000 more votes than Ball.
While Ball’s early shooting struggles are certainly a factor, and perhaps there is a bit of a backlash against his father’s promotional tactics, it’s also an indication of just how good Kuzma has been this season despite being selected with the 27th pick in the NBA Draft.
The All-Star Game is being held in Los Angeles at the Staples Center on Feb. 18.
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