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When the NBA announced last month that NBA players themselves and “a panel of basketball media” would now be included in the voting process of the annual All-Star Game — a move that reduced fans’ input in deciding the starting lineup from 100 percent of the process to 50 percent, with players and media each accounting for 25 percent of the vote — most viewed it as an attempt by the league to eliminate ballot-stuffing initiatives like Zaza Pachulia nearly getting a starting spot last year thanks to Wyclef Jean, a Vine celebrity and a strong showing from the Republic of Georgia. Based on the first round of fan-vote returns, which the NBA released Thursday afternoon, it looks like an awful lot of folks out there still want to see Zaza in the midseason showcase:
Yep: after the first week of fan voting for the 2017 NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans, the 32-year-old native of the Republic of Georgia — now averaging a crisp 5.2 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 17.7 minutes per game as the starting center for the Golden State Warriors — has received the second-most votes of any Western Conference frontcourt player, trailing only teammate Kevin Durant. The people — most likely, the people of the Republic of Georgia — have spoken, and they are saying, in as loud a voice as they can muster, “PACHULIA!” (And, when they grow weary of that, “NOTHING EASY!”)
Only seven players in the NBA have received more votes than your man Zaza Pachulia: overall top vote-getter LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers teammate Kyrie Irving; fellow Warriors Durant and Stephen Curry; leading MVP candidates James Harden and Russell Westbrook; and emerging international superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo. That’s it. Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis, Draymond Green, DeMarcus Cousins, Kevin Love, Dwyane Wade, Klay Thompson — Zaza’s killin’ ’em all.
Coming on the heels of another famously contentious recent bit of balloting, Pachulia’s placement has led to some jokes:
Democracy’s a funny thing, isn’t it?
Before everyone loses their minds, let’s remember, again, that the fan tally will account for only 50 percent of the total All-Star vote, with ballots cast by NBA players for their peers and by a panel of about 75 media members each accounting for 25 percent of the final vote. Player and media voting will begin next week, according to the NBA:
After all votes are tallied, players will be ranked in each conference by position (guard and frontcourt) within each of the three voting groups – fan votes, player votes and media votes. Each player’s score will be calculated by averaging his weighted rank from the fan votes, the player votes and the media votes. The five players (two guards and three frontcourt players) with the best score in each conference will be named NBA All-Star Game starters. Fan voting will serve as the tiebreaker for players in a position group with the same score.
Andrew Lynch of FOX Sports got some further clarification on how the “weighting” will play out:
… which, unless players and media members decide that Zaza belongs in the top three, means the fans’ efforts will all but surely fall short again, as they did last year, and that what we see today won’t necessarily determine which five players are on the court at Smoothie King Center for the opening tip on Feb. 19.
But then again …
… oh, man, what if it does? The will of the people must be respected!
Five other items of note from the first round of fan voting:
• The projected Eastern Conference starting frontcourt — LeBron, Giannis and Love — features two point guards, zero centers and is freaking fascinating;
• Legit All-Star candidate Kemba Walker slotting in below former Charlotte Hornets teammate Jeremy Lin, who has missed 21 games for the Brooklyn Nets due to injury;
• Russell Westbrook — the dude who’s averaging a triple-double — wouldn’t start for the West if voting ended today;
• Philadelphia 76ers rookie Joel Embiid is a scant 30,000 votes behind Love for the final spot in the East’s frontcourt mix, meaning he’s very much in the running for the accolade that he believes will secure him a date with his famous crush;
• No, for real: Zaza has more than two times as many votes as Boogie, more than three times as many votes as Karl-Anthony Towns, and more than four times as many votes as LaMarcus Aldridge. This is amazing!
The full first round of fan voting results is included below. Fan voting will conclude at 11:59 p.m. ET on Jan. 16. The starters for each team will be announced on Jan. 19; the reserves selected by the East and West coaches will be announced one week later, on Jan. 26; and the whole thing will get underway on Feb. 19 in the Big Easy.
1. LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers: 595,288 votes
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks: 500,663
3. Kevin Love, Cavs: 250,347
4. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers: 221,984
5. Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks: 189,817
6. Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls: 189,066
7. Kristaps Porzingis, Knicks: 184,166
8. Paul George, Indiana Pacers: 138,332
9. Hassan Whiteside, Miami Heat: 72,628
10. Jabari Parker, Bucks: 64,141
1. Kyrie Irving, Cavs: 543,030
2. Dwyane Wade, Bulls: 278,052
3. DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors: 253,340
4. Isaiah Thomas, Boston Celtics: 193,297
5. Derrick Rose, Knicks: 129,924
6. Kyle Lowry, Raptors: 128,940
7. John Wall, Washington Wizards: 87,360
8. Jeremy Lin, Brooklyn Nets: 59,562
9. Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets: 52,122
10. Avery Bradley, Celtics: 32,822
1. Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors: 541,209
2. Zaza Pachulia, Warriors: 439,675
3. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs: 341,240
4. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans: 318,144
5. Draymond Green, Warriors: 236,315
6. DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings: 202,317
7. Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves: 125,278
8. LaMarcus Aldridge, Spurs: 101,724
9. Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers: 100,524
10. Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies: 97,370
1. Stephen Curry, Warriors: 523,597
2. James Harden, Houston Rockets: 519,446
3. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder: 501,652
4. Klay Thompson, Warriors: 293,054
5. Chris Paul, Clippers: 173,830
6. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers: 117,857
7. Eric Gordon, Rockets: 76,609
8. Manu Ginobili, Spurs: 65,832
9. Andre Iguodala, Warriors: 64,247
10. Zach LaVine, Timberwolves: 53,642
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