COMMENTARY | Removal of the center position from the 2013 NBA All-Star ballot has been well documented. It is a slap in the face to players such as Dwight Howard, Tyson Chandler and Marc Gasol--three of many who excel at the position. Making the case against potentially not having a starting center in the game even stronger has been the play this season of Cleveland Cavaliers center Anderson Varejao, and most notably, Joakim Noah of the Chicago Bulls.
In the absence of Derrick Rose, Noah has stepped his game up tremendously. He was never a slouch on the basketball court, but as evidenced by his recent 30 point, 23 rebound effort against the Detroit Pistons, Noah is playing some of the best basketball of his career. He is clearly one of the top centers in the entire NBA. In spite of this, there is a distinct possibility that he will not be voted into the starting line-up for February's All-Star game in Houston.
The new selection format allows fans to vote for two guards and three frontcourt players from each conference as starters. This may not sound like much of an issue, but keep in mind that a "frontcourt" player could be anyone that plays the forward or center position. Amongst the latter, Noah would be near the top of a short list. But if the choice is now between him, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Josh Smith, he could easily be the odd man out.
Indeed the game has changed. Players are quicker, smaller and more versatile. Mostly gone are the days of the traditional, back-to-the-basket big man. However, devaluing the center position by banishing it from All-Star games seems like a stretch. Not only does it appear to be an overreaction, but it can keep deserving centers such as Noah out of the contest.
There are not very many centers in the NBA worth mentioning. So, the argument of big fish in a small pond is understandable. It presents the question that if you are the best of only five or six good players, how good really are you? The fiasco that was Jamaal Magloire being selected as an All-Star in 2004 is often referenced. This is why many are intrigued by the notion of simply having the 12 best players from each conference chosen, less dependent on position.
Aside from Blake Griffin and the aforementioned Howard, most of today's biggest NBA stars are wing players. So, this change should naturally increase the star power of the All-Star game as the more methodical, less exciting big men can not compete in a popularity contest. Can we really evaluate Noah against a small forward in determining who is better and more deserving of an All-Star nod? The two are certain to have completely different, non-comparable playing styles. Eliminating the center position eliminates the criteria for selecting one. And naturally, they will appear on the roster less frequently.
This is not to suggest that a player such as say, Greg Monroe be automatically selected to the team because the starting center sprained an ankle. There could be adjustments made that only apply to replacements. But in the case of starters and initial selections to the All-Star team, Noah and other worthy centers should get their fair shot.
A fair shot is not simply being afforded the possibility of selection, but the opportunity to have your skills measured against other players at your position. Maybe Noah is one of the top-12 players in the Eastern Conference. Perhaps excluding the center position from the voting process will not make a difference, and the best centers in the league will still make their respective All-Star teams. But common sense and the obvious opening for the contrary to occur would suggest otherwise. Because if this change will not make a difference, why do it?
Acamea Deadwiler is a Chicago-area native with several years experience covering the NBA, including the Chicago Bulls, for Examiner.com. She has also been featured in Bounce magazine, SLAM Online, and various other publications. Follow Acamea on Twitter @AcameaLD.