The pressure is off Kevin Durant. LeBron James and Steph Curry — not the Warriors’ other MVP player — finished as the top fan-vote-getters in the Eastern and Western conferences, respectively. As a result, they will serve as captains for the two teams under a reformatted selection process for February’s NBA All-Star Game in Los Angeles. (According to the league, captains have to choose from the pool of eight other starters, as chosen by a compilation of fan, media, and player votes, before picking any of the reserves selected by coaches.)
Captain huh? Really Appreciate all the votes from the fans, media and players! Honored to be an All-Star. TGBTG! pic.twitter.com/rOpLsUx47T— Stephen Curry (@StephenCurry30) January 18, 2018
James finished with 2,638,294 fan votes (about 108,000 more than Giannis Antetokounmpo), while Curry finished with 2,379,494 (141,000 more than KD).
Joining LeBron as starters representing the East are Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, Kyrie Irving, and DeMar DeRozan. In addition to Curry, the West will send Durant, James Harden, and Pelicans duo Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins.
Antetokounmpo led the entire NBA in fan votes in the first returns released by the league on January 4, but was ultimately passed by LeBron in time for the second release. However, the Greek Freak still finished ahead of James in both the media and player vote among East frontcourt players.
Irving finished first and DeRozan second in all three voting categories among East frontcourt players, but Knicks big man and fellow unicorn Kristaps Porzingis finished ahead of Embiid in player voting. That said, Porzingis, who finished fourth among East frontcourt players, can probably especially appreciate Embiid finally making good on the shot he called in 2014.
This is the truth... I was trying to get with this famous girl and she said " Come back when you're a All Star" bruhh pic.twitter.com/CFBnRqnKMA— Joel Embiid (@JoelEmbiid) August 17, 2014
Durant finished first among all three voting bodies in the West frontcourt. His Warriors teammate Draymond Green finished second among fan voters, but didn’t drum up enough support among players (seventh) and media (sixth) to surpass Cousins (fourth among fans and media, third among players). Davis finished second in the West frontcourt among players and media, and third among fans. (Of note: The Pelicans are only 23–21.)
The West backcourt was pretty straightforward … aside from the appearance of Manu Ginobili, a 40-year-old who hasn’t made an All-Star team since 2011, finishing second among fans. Curry finished first among West backcourt players with fans and players, but was second to Harden with media. Harden finished third with fans, second with players, and first with media.
Notably absent from the starter pool were last season’s MVP, Russell Westbrook, and a dark horse MVP candidate this season, Jimmy Butler. Butler’s Wolves have won 14 of their past 20 games, and are just one game behind the third seed in the West. But the surprisingly rigid voting ballot — which allowed for two backcourt players and three frontcourt players from each conference — left Butler, a nominal shooting guard, on the outside looking in. Westbrook, meanwhile, has declined only slightly from his triple-double pace of last season, but the Thunder as a whole have been worse than expected after acquiring Paul George and Carmelo Anthony in the offseason.
The pool of All-Star reserves that Team LeBron and Team Steph will get to choose from will be selected by the coaches and announced on Tuesday. (The full rosters will be announced next Thursday.) But that’ll be it as far as a window into the voting process goes. The NBA, despite public clamoring from media, fans, and even players, won’t televise the draft for the two teams. Given that this new plot twist was supposed to add new excitement to a stale, uncompetitive matchup, this makes little sense. (We all know Kevin Love is getting picked last, guys.)