Monday 18 December 2017 / 08:38 AM

RUSS SHOULD BE AN ALL-STAR STARTER

As the deadline finally passed for the ballots in the All-Star game, the NBA got a nice glimpse into the biggest match-up before the Finals as the votes were announced for the All-Star starters.

And while most of the selections came as no surprise, one glaring omission was on the list – and it’s sparked a fierce debate around basketball circles. Namely, the selection of Steph Curry as the starting guard for the West. Not to say Curry isn’t All-Star caliber; he certainly is. But one name was curiously not named as a starter for the team: Russell Westbrook.

That’s right, Mr. Triple Double, and the point guard having the best season statistically since Oscar Robertson will be sitting on the bench for the All-Star game.

As the voting comes out tomorrow from the reporters to cement the players that will fill out the bench – and Russ will surely be on that list – there’s a serious problem with Westbrook missing the starting line-up in two different ways.

First, the Thunder linchpin has clearly outplayed Steph Curry for the metrics of the All-Star game. An NBA All-Star is defined by the NBA as, “a competitor having a statically spectacular season.” This isn’t to say that Curry isn’t having a great season (one just a notch below the historic one he had a year ago), but Russ is having the best statistical season for a point guar since 1960s icon Robertson, and that’s hard to argue.

Westbrook trumps Curry in almost every category, from scoring, assists, rebounds, steals and blocks. He’s also ahead in PER and +/-, with Curry only sitting ahead of Westbrook in shooting percentages. And, of course, wins. But we already have a metric that weights wins and losses: the MVP. Westbrook’s team shouldn’t disqualify him from starting over Curry.

But as much as we can debate about ‘Brodie’s’ stats over Curry’s, it was never about the stats. The truth of the All-Star voting that worked against Westbrook is one the NBA created by design.

See, the NBA crafted the way the All-Stars were selected to be inclusive, heavily on fan votes. And in that fan voting, we learned something that the league already knew: not many people like Westbrook. As angry as that may make an avid NBA follower like me, it’s not hard to see why fans don’t like him.

Sure, he’s a ballhog. His personality leaves some to be desired, and we’re not even sure his own teammates like him. He’s brisk with reporters, and his developed feud with Kevin Durant didn’t go in his favor.

But he’s also the most efficient player in the NBA. He’s averaging a triple-double and is single-handedly pulling a team full of complimentary pieces to a record eerily similar to the one they had with KD just a year ago.

And the thing is: it doesn’t matter if you like him. The purpose of the system is that the fans can participate and actively push what they want. That’s all well and good, but it means that the fans owe it to vote based on what a player produces.

Put another way: Russell Westbrook isn’t a likeable dude, fine, but you should vote for the dude to be an All-Star. The NBA is one of the pioneers in fan interaction, and they weigh fan interaction heavier than any of the four major sports leagues in the US. And that’s because they respect their fans; Adam Silver repeatedly claims that the NBA has “the most knowledgeable fans in sports.”

But this week, that credibility took a hit, when we voted against a guy because we might not want to have a beer with him or buy his jersey.

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