The most interesting part of last week's Ben Simmons should've gotten a starting spot over Kemba Walker in the East, but count me out on that. Kemba has fallen off some, but he was so unbelievably brilliant for a good part of this season that the spot should be his. Throw in the fact that the game's in Charlotte, and it's a no-brainer for me.was the breakdown of the voting among fans, media and players. There weren't really any surprises in my book. I've heard some people saying
What I do have a problem with is how one particular part of the voting went down in the West. It didn't affect the actual starters, so it's easy to overlook, but enlarge the fine print of the tweet below and you'll see that the players -- you know, the ones who "really understand what's going on out there" -- voted Derrick Rose ahead of Damian Lillard.
LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo are officially this year's NBA All-Star captains. The remaining NBA starters are Steph Curry, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Paul George, Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, Joel Embiid, Kawhi Leonard. Here's a breakdown of the fan/player/media voting: pic.twitter.com/e68C64jTT4— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) January 25, 2019
If you don't know how this somewhat convoluted voting system works, the All-Star starters are determined using a weighted system in which the fan votes count for 50 percent, while the media and players' votes count for 25 percent each. You can see the fans also voted Rose ahead of Lillard, but that's understandable. Fans are suckers for good stories, and Rose, so long as we're talking strictly basketball, is a great story.
I am legitimately shocked by how well Rose has played this season -- particularly how well he's shot from 3-point land. I would've bet everything I own that Rose would never sniff almost 42 percent from deep, which is what he's shooting entering Monday. I'll fully admit I thought he was finished years ago. Stupid me. Rose has been great -- he's averaging 18.6 points per game and nearly five assists. He's one of the leading candidates for Sixth Man of the Year.
But for the players to vote Rose ahead of Damian Lillard is complete and utter nonsense. It's embarrassing, to be honest. Lillard, once again, is averaging over 26 points a game to go with 6.2 assists and 4.5 rebounds. The numbers aren't even close, nor is the value. Once again, Lillard has the Blazers in the top four of the murderous Western Conference. All the guy does is win with a roster that only a handful of players in the world could do as much with. Rose, to state the obvious, is not one of them. He's not even a starter on the freaking Timberwolves. Now, in the players' eyes, he's a more worthy All-Star starter than Damian Lillard?
It's a well-known thing how revered Rose is among NBA players. A lot of these young guys grew up watching a version of Rose that we'll never see again, a version that was so athletic and explosive it's hard to put into words. Even the guys his age were awestruck by him, and that isn't something that happens to the greatest athletes in the world very often. So they love the guy. Always will. Which is fine.
But this Lillard disrespect has got to stop. It's not just this one symbolic slap in the face -- it happens time and again. He's made the All-Star Game three times, but for years he lived at the tail end of the conversation. In 2016, Lillard was named second-team All-NBA but didn't even make the All-Star team. Being in the Western Conference, it's understandable, if unfortunate, that he's never started an All-Star Game, but to outright snub him of a spot or leave him residing on the bubble to squeak in with one of the last spots is a joke.
Lillard should be in the thick of the MVP conversation every year for what he does with this Portland roster (again, far more than what other "superstars" do with their situations), yet he's never realistically a candidate. Whenever it's been time to select the best of the best for Team USA, Lillard's on the outside looking in. In 2014, he was passed over for Kyrie Irving and ... you guessed it ... Derrick Rose, who was coming off a season in which he had played just 10 games. In 2016, Lillard, who was clearly a superstar player by this point, was excluded again. Here's what Lillard had to say about the snubbing at the time:
"Any time I go into a situation I want to have a real opportunity. If I'm going to invest myself in something, I want to have a real opportunity in that. Last time I did that, I felt the decision was already made before the decision was made. Whether I played good or bad, I felt like it didn't matter."
Here are the guards who wound up making that team: Kyle Lowry (Lillard's better), Klay Thompson (he may have been better suited for his defense, but Lillard's still better), Kyrie Irving (far more debatable that people will have you believe) and Jimmy Butler (close, but Lillard's better). You can debate all these, of course. But at this point, you can't debate that Lillard doesn't get the unequivocal superstar respect he should. That is just a fact.
Just for fun, let's look at Irving, who might be even more revered among NBA players than Rose. On a clearly more talented team than Lillard has in Portland, Irving has the Celtics at No. 5 in the East. There is no debating how brilliant Irving has been this season, or how brilliant a player he is overall. That's not the point. The point is that Irving has been the clear-cut No. 1 guy on a contending team two times in his career: Last season, when the Celtics went to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals without him, and this season, in which the Celtics are currently underachieving by almost all standards.
Just to restate: Lillard, by contrast, once again has the Blazers -- always everyone's favorite preseason pick to fall out of the playoffs -- in the top half of the Western Conference. Lillard scores more than Irving. From an off-the-dribble-threat and range standpoint, he affects the game more with his 3-point shot. He's nearly as good a finisher. Again, Irving is great, but he's not nearly as much better than Lillard as the conversation around those two would suggest. Not even close. I'd call them pretty damn even.
While we're at it, let's take a look at Anthony Davis, who has reportedly (side note: If you're the Blazers, you could throw a pretty sweet offer at the Pels built around CJ McCollum and maybe a Zach Collins to take a two-year run with Lillard and Davis, but that's another story for another day). For now, Davis is still on the Pelicans, where he has Jrue Holiday (better than McCollum) and Julius Randle, who's having a great season and is arguably better than Portland's third-best player, Jusuf Nurkic.
There is no way you can objectively look at the Blazers and Pelicans' respective rosters and not conclude they're pretty even, if New Orleans isn't actually a bit more talented on paper. Yet New Orleans isn't sniffing the playoffs and has spent much of the season as the worst team in the West outside of the Suns, who barely count as an NBA team.
Let me tell you something: You will never see a prime-Damian Lillard-led team at the bottom of any conference. Ever. You certainly would never see Lillard registering basically a .500 record with a healthy and dominant DeMarcus Cousins next to him, which is all Davis was able to do during their tenure together. Yet Davis is basically talked about like a superhero -- which he is, but again, that's not the point. The point is that Lillard is a superhero, too. This should not be an argument.
The funny thing is, earlier this season I was Russell Westbrook ahead of Lillard, too, but I suppose I can at least listen to that logo. But Derrick Rose? Come on, fellas. If you're going to constantly tell these nerdy reporters that you're the ones who "know better" then actually be better than that.on Kemba Walker and probably asked 10 or 15 players to name some of their most underrated stars in the league, and EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM named Lillard. And then they go out and vote Derrick Rose ahead of him? Frankly, it's kind of ridiculous that they voted