The 2022-23 NBA All-Star Weekend, set to be in Salt Lake City, Utah, is just over a month away.
The All-Star Game rosters, composed of 24 combined players — 12 apiece from the Eastern and Western Conferences — will, once again, be an incredibly difficult brain exercise for voters to navigate.
For starters (no pun intended), one of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant, Jayson Tatum and Joel Embiid — four of the best players in the East — won’t be starting in the All-Star game with only three available frontcourt starting slots. That same issue plagues the Western Conference in the backcourt, though not as drastically. There’s a world where Ja Morant doesn’t get the starting nod aside from Stephen Curry, who leads the West in voting despite battling injury much of the year, and Luka Doncic, another MVP candidate in his own right.
One player who rightfully deserves All-Star consideration, but doesn’t even crack the top-10 of the Eastern Conference frontcourt names, is Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo. Here were his comments regarding fan voting, via Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald.
“I’ll leave fan voting to fan voting,” Adebayo said. “There are guys that shouldn’t even be on that list. But it’s fan voting. That’s what it is and you got to live with that. I mean, right now I’m in a position where it’s based off the coaches in the East.
Adebayo’s comments not only describes that downfalls of fan voting, but underlines a marketing issue for the franchise and its fanbase.
In the age of digital media, sports media marketing is far easier than, say, 10 years ago — when the medium began bursting onto the scene. And fan voting isn’t the end-all, be-all for All-Star candidates, so there’s still an avenue for the 25-year-old star to make it. Fan-voting only accounts for 50 percent of the votes for All-Star starters specifically, while the coaches end plucking the reserves once the starters are all set in stone.
Though there’s multiple frontcourt players in the East ahead of Adebayo that (probably) shouldn’t be ahead of him, such as Nic Claxton, Paolo Banchero, Kyle Kuzma and Julius Randle, who are all having very good seasons, respectively.
That’s not intended to be a knock on those players. Claxton is having a remarkable breakout year for a Brooklyn Nets squad that’s surged up the Eastern Conference standings after their torrid start under former head coach Steve Nash; Banchero is having a historically good rookie season — perhaps the best we’ve seen since LeBron James — and is the undoubted frontrunner for rookie of the year; Kuzma is averaging 22-8-4 and could potentially be a top-flight trade candidate for any team in need of a starting power forward (I can think of one!); Randle is arguably having a better season than his 2020-21 campaign, when he was named an All-Star and made the All-NBA team.
Lakers' LeBron James and Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo lead in the NBA's third and final fan voting update for the All-Star Game: pic.twitter.com/5NfWF2WbHs— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) January 19, 2023
Adebayo, himself, is another player having a phenomenal statistical season, arguably the best of his career; Miami would be sunk without him. He’s averaging a career-best 21.6 points — a mark far greater than his 15.9 points in 2019-20, when he made his first All-Star game — and 10.2 rebounds per game, shooting 54.0 percent from the floor and 79.8 percent from the free-throw line.
Miami is 9.9 points better per 100 possessions when Adebayo’s on the floor versus when he’s not in non-garbage time situations, per Cleaning The Glass. That figure ranks in the 93rd percentile amongst all bigs. Adebayo’s statistical markings has made the center discussion behind back-to-back MVP Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid far more interesting.
From the Los Angeles Lakers and Nets perspectives, they’re the two biggest media markets in the United States, with the former having arguably the league’s most popular fanbase worldwide. When fan favorites — like Austin Reaves — or household names, a la Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook, are going to command votes, whether it’s deserved or not.
But when promising talents from fanbases in considerably smaller markets (i.e. Sacramento, Indiana) are doubling, tripling and even quadrupling votes of Adebayo, eyebrowns will be raised.
In all fairness, the Heat’s social media team made a last-ditch effort to promote he and Tyler Herro. But ultimately, it didn’t look like it prompted enough of the fanbase — which at times, has been very critical of Adebayo’s game — or others to vote for either one of them. Not to mention, the Heat aren’t the most popular franchise nationally; they keep all the drama that fuels the fire in-house and don’t play the most visually appealing brand of basketball.
That said, Adebayo is the straw that stirs the drink for Miami, who’s a top-6 seed at 27-22. Above all else, he’s been the biggest reason why Heat — and basketball — fans should tune into games each night. From his continued aggression, to his playmaking, to his unrivaled defense in-space against every archetype of player — he is slowly, but surely becoming the face of the franchise.
Jimmy Butler has commanded most of Miami’s national spotlight, and rightfully so. He’s also a superstar talent who’s put Miami on his back in the biggest moments. Though Butler has missed 15 of Miami’s 49 games because of injury; it’s worth mentioning that plenty of other stars league-wide have missed time, too, so it’s not super surprising.
Adebayo, one of the NBA’s most underrated stars, has been the MVP of this team this season. He’s not necessarily incorrect when he says certain players shouldn’t be on the list. And that’s not a slight to the players voted into the top-10, either. While not the end of the world when he’s not cracking the top-10 of fans voting when it’s not end-all, be-all, but there’s certainly room to criticize his vote total, even though it’s a popularity contest.
I’m going to be [upset] about if they tell me somebody else has played better than me this year considering I’m leading the NBA in paint points and I’m one of the reasons why we’re winning,” Adebayo said. “So for me, it’s just that fan voting is fan voting. I’ll let that be. But when it comes to coaches voting, that’s when I feel like I deserve to be in it.”