The first returns from the 2014 NBA All-Star Balloting presented by Sprint have been officially released over at NBA.com. With 40 days left to cast ballots, Paul George has, thus far, received the second highest vote total in the Eastern Conference with 489,335 votes, behind only reigning MVP and league-leading vote getter, LeBron James with 609,336 votes.
If voting were to close today, George and James would be joined by reigning scoring champion, Carmelo Anthony (424,211) in the frontcourt, along with Dwyane Wade (396,279), and Kyrie Irving (365,712) in the backcourt as the Eastern Conference starters at the 63rd All-Star Game to be held in New Orleans on Sunday, February 16, 2014.
Impressively, potential DPOY candidate, Roy Hibbert finished fourth, thus far, in the Eastern Conference frontcourt balloting with 208,369 votes - just one spot below the cut for the starting line-up. Notably, in accordance with the league's new voting method implemented last season that designates players simply as members of the ‘backcourt' or ‘frontcourt', the Eastern Conference starting line-up, as currently projected, will be without a true starting center. Rather, LeBron James will likely act as the starting five against fellow Western Conference frontcourt starter, Dwight Howard.
Evidently, fans, once again, have seemingly prioritized popularity, name recognition, and individual production over win totals when casting their All-Star ballots this season.
According to the conference standings, there are only two squads currently above .500 in the East - the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat. Nevertheless, if fan voting remains unchanged, Anthony from the 14th placed New York Knicks and Irving from the 9th ranked Cleveland Cavaliers will travel to New Orleans as starters in February, while Roy Hibbert (4th in votes), Chris Bosh (5th in votes), and David West (not finishing in the top 15) will have to wait to possibly be selected as reserves.
The same is also true in the Western Conference where Kevin Durant is currently projected to be the only starter representing one of the three top ranked teams (Portland, San Antonio, and OKC). While LaMarcus Aldridge (8th), Damian Lillard (10th), Russell Westbrook (6th), and Tony Parker (6th) will all likely be forced to watch TNT to see if the coaches will add them to the Western Conference roster, Kobe Bryant, only just now returning from his debilitating achilles injury, will be announced at the 63rd All-Star game as a starter alongside Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Dwight Howard, and Kevin Durant.
In the end, each year the voting returns seem to continually highlight the need for the NBA to revise its All-Star selection process in order to put more emphasis on stats, production, and winning, rather than just rewarding fame and visibility.
Be that as it may, in the case of the Pacers' vote getters, their high returns should be applauded as they are both a testament to individual achievements and team success.
In the span of just one year, Paul George has gone from relatively unknown to a possible MVP candidate. In 2013, PG, as a member of the backcourt, finished 10th in the All-Star Game voting with 80,060 votes behind the likes of Ray Allen, Raymond Felton, and Jason Terry. Now, coming off an impressive run in the Eastern Conference Finals and leading his team to a league-best, 19-3 record, his vote total of 409,275 is second amongst every other player in his conference - an increase of nearly 84%.
The same goes for Roy Hibbert. At this time last year, members of the media were questioning if he could live up to what they deemed as a ‘bloated' contract. Subsequently, he finished outside the top 15 in fan votes and was also kept off the reserve roster in favor of several other Eastern Conference centers including Brook Lopez, Joakim Noah, Chris Bosh, and Tyson Chandler. This year, he is widely considered to be the frontrunner for DPOY, and no other starting center in the East finished with a higher vote total.
The national attention garnered by the Pacers' early season success has also translated into a higher vote total for George Hill. In 2013, the Pacers' point guard's name was nowhere to be found amongst the top vote getters in the East. Now, as the floor general of the East's top squad, he currently sits at 8th in the first returns with 42,536 votes.
Therefore, as previously expressed here on Indy Cornrows, it should be noted that although the selection process remains imperfect, being selected to the All-Star game does, in fact, matter greatly to many of the league's players.
Being announced as an All-Star in New Orleans on February 16, 2014, is a dream for the individual recognized and, hopefully, a reflection of a team's success.
It certainly seems like an honor that, at least, some members of the league's top ranked team deserve to obtain - if fans will comply.
Keep getting out the vote Pacers' fans.
In order to send the Pacers on the All-Star Ballot to the 63rd annual All-Star game, fans can place votes daily over at NBA.com or the NBA Game Time App. Fans can also submit their picks via texting, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.