SACRAMENTO, Calif. – It wasn’t a surprise that NBA fans voted retiring superstar Kobe Bryant as a Western Conference All-Star starter despite his struggles this season.
The oddity is that if Bryant were listed at guard, the position he played for the majority of his career, instead of in the frontcourt, Zaza Pachulia of the Dallas Mavericks would have been voted a West starter.
That’s one of the reasons Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, who scored a career-high 56 points Monday in a 129-128 double-overtime loss to the Charlotte Hornets, told Yahoo Sports recently that the All-Star starter balloting system should be changed for the All-Star Game on Feb.14.
As it stands now, fans are asked to vote for three frontcourt players (regardless of position) and two guards per conference as starters.
“It’s disrespectful to big men,” Cousins told Yahoo Sports. “It’s not really fair. But that’s how it is.”
Cousins was named the Western Conference Player of the Week on Monday and has averaged 27.6 points and 11.4 rebounds this season. When asked what changes he would make to All-Star voting, Cousins was quick to respond.
“There definitely wouldn’t be fan voting,” Cousins told Yahoo. “You can’t base it off of who is on TNT and ESPN every night. Of course, it’s going to be most winning teams’ [players], the most popular players [selected]. The other guys that play for the Milwaukee Bucks, and in our case the Sacramento Kings, who are playing just as good basketball, will never be seen. I don’t think it’s fair.”
Cousins has a strong chance Thursday of being named one of the seven West All-Star reserves, chosen by the conference’s head coaches. But it may not be a slam dunk.
“If it were all about talent, he’d be the first big man picked,” a Western conference head coach told Yahoo Sports. “The only question is: Will enough people look past his reputation to give him a chance?”
The deadline for coaches to vote for All-Star reserves is Tuesday, and they must select two guards, three frontcourt players and two wild cards.
The Kings are 20-24, but have won five of six games and are 19-16 with Cousins.
“My play speaks for itself,” Cousins told Yahoo. “If it was about play, I don’t think there would be a question. There are a lot of politics involved. Popularity has a lot to do with it. … There is a lot of stuff out of my control. That’s just the card I am dealt.
“I’m comfortable with the coaches picking and I believe they will make the right choice. They are more aware and more knowledgeable of who is an All-Star in this game.”
Here are Yahoo Sports’ projected All-Star reserves and the bubble candidates. Keep in mind it is not uncommon for as many as four players to be selected as All-Star replacements because of injury.
PROJECTED EAST RESERVES
Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls, guard
Butler is perhaps the best two-way shooting guard in the NBA.
John Wall, Washington Wizards, guard
Wall is nearly averaging 20 points and 10 assists per game and is playing better than any other point guard in the East.
Chris Bosh, Miami Heat, frontcourt
Bosh could be a sentimental and deserving pick by the coaches after missing the second half of last season with severe blood clots.
Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons, frontcourt
The NBA’s leader in rebounding is a double-double machine and is the league’s best rebounder.
Paul Millsap, Atlanta Hawks, frontcourt
Atlanta deserves at least one representative given its respectable record. Millsap is the best candidate as its leading scorer and rebounder.
DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors, wild card
The Los Angeles native could be the Raptors’ second All-Star, joining Kyle Lowry. Might he return home to the Lakers as a free agent next summer?
Isaiah Thomas, Boston Celtics, wild card
Thomas could claim the last East roster spot because he is one of the NBA’s top 10 scorers and has been the biggest key to the Celtics’ success.
Projected East bubble
Pau Gasol, Chicago, frontcourt; Al Horford, Atlanta, frontcourt; Kyrie Irving, Cleveland, guard; Reggie Jackson, Detroit, guard; Brook Lopez, Brooklyn, frontcourt; Kevin Love, Cleveland, frontcourt; Kemba Walker, Charlotte, guard; Nikola Vucevic, Orlando, frontcourt; Hassan Whiteside, Miami, frontcourt.
PROJECTED WEST RESERVES
Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers, guard
The West coaches love Paul and he’s the key for the Clippers playing better with Blake Griffin sidelined.
Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors, guard
The only shooter in the NBA better than Thompson is his teammate, Stephen Curry. Thompson also is averaging more than 20 points per game the past two months.
DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings, frontcourt
Cousins is viewed as the top center in the NBA and his dominant scoring, versatile offensive game and rebounding won’t be ignored.
Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans, frontcourt
The Pelicans are one of the league’s most disappointing teams, but Davis is still viewed as one of the top overall players in the NBA.
Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors, frontcourt
Green is the heart and soul of the NBA champs, has improved his game and leads the league in triple-doubles.
James Harden, Houston Rockets, wild card
The Rockets are the most disappointing team in the West, but Harden gets the nod as the NBA’s second-leading scorer.
LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs, wild card
Aldridge snags the last spot over Portland guard Damian Lillard because of the Spurs’ record and his willingness to sacrifice for the team.
Projected West bubble
Danilo Gallinari, Denver, frontcourt; Marc Gasol, Memphis, frontcourt; Andre Iguodala, Golden State, frontcourt; DeAndre Jordan, L.A. Clippers, frontcourt; Damian Lillard, Portland, guard; Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas, frontcourt; Rajon Rondo, Sacramento, guard.