The 2023 NBA All-Star rosters are here, and as always, there is plenty to be debated. Sports Illustrated senior writers Chris Mannix and Howard Beck give their thoughts on the reserves, the final rosters as a whole and whether there needs to be changes to the selection process.
Chris Mannix: Alright Beck let’s … get … outraged! The reserves for the NBA All-Star game are out and there’s certainly a few debatable choices. Let’s start with the Eastern Conference–what do you think of the coach’s picks?
Howard Beck: Quick disclaimer: I don’t believe in “snubs,” and I don’t believe in whining about who didn’t make the All-Star teams. There are almost always more deserving players than there are roster spots. That’s what makes it an honor! So settle down, people.
O.K., all that said, I do think there were a couple surprises tonight. With the season the Bulls are having, I didn’t expect to see DeMar DeRozan make his sixth All-Star team. To be sure, DeRozan is having another great season. But the coaches are the ones who are always insisting (publicly) that winning should matter in these things. I also wonder: If they’re going to set aside the team record (which is fine), why DeRozan over, say, Pascal Siakam?
Winning clearly was a factor in the coaches voting in Jrue Holiday, a great two-way player who often gets overlooked because of his relatively modest stats. But the same description applies to Jimmy Butler, who was left off.
What really stands out—and again, this speaks to the depth of talent in the league—is that James Harden (10-time All-Star) and Trae Young (a two-time All-Star who seemed there to stay) were both left off.
What stands out to you? Are you aggrieved? Outraged? Apoplectic?
Mannix: Er, none of the above? I’m with you on DeRozan. He’s had a fine season, averaging 26 points per contest while continuing to be the rare elite scorer without a reliable three-point shot. But the Bulls stink and DeRozan isn’t having the kind of season where you had to put him on the team. I’ve heard some clamor for James Harden, but his games played (34) probably hurt him. I would have gone with Trae Young. Young is polarizing, isn’t he? Young’s peers ranked him 12th on the players' ballots. 12th! This is a guy averaging 27 and 10 on a playoff team! And the players think LaMelo Ball is better than him. Yeesh.
I do think they selected the wrong Knick. Julius Randle has had a fantastic bounce-back season but I think part of the reason is because Jalen Brunson is there. Brunson is posting comparable, efficient numbers and has been a steadying influence on a team that badly needed one. But it’s far from a snub. Pascal Siakam could have made the team—as noted by several statheads, Siakam is the first player in NBA history to average 25 points, eight rebounds and six assists and not make the cut—but the underachieving Raps season probably cost him.
The West was interesting. Paul George in, Anthony Edwards, De’Aaron Fox, Aaron Gordon (among others) out. Thoughts?
Beck: So, one observation before I get to the West choices. It seems that neither the fans (in choosing starters) nor the coaches (reserves) cared much about games played/missed. Zion Williamson was voted a starter, despite missing 22 games (and counting). Paul George got a reserve spot despite missing 30 percent of the season to date. Same for Jaren Jackson Jr. (And yet, games missed presumably was the reason for Anthony Davis, Devin Booker and Harden being left off? Shrug emoji.)
The other issue is the ballot still being position-specific. Coaches had to choose two guards, three frontcourt players and two wild cards. But there were more deserving guards than bigs in the West this year. I’d have eliminated PG13 and JJJ based on games played. So that would open a spot for Gordon. And I’d have found a way to get Fox in there, too. You?
Mannix: PG was puzzling. Statistically he’s been solid but the 37 games played should have been more of a factor. I really wanted to see Gordon make it. He’s not putting up elite numbers—or even George numbers—but he’s had a career-best season on the Western Conference’s best team. He’s been a sturdy defender and a reliable three-point shooter with an eFG% above 60%. And, again, the Nuggets are winning.
Anthony Edwards deserved to make it, too. His numbers are identical to George and he’s the catalyst for a team that somehow, some way has clawed its way into a tie for fifth in the conference. He’s also played all 54 games. That has to count.
So play commissioner for a day: What would you do to fix the All-Star selection process? Positionless starters is easy, and I think that’s coming. Positionless reserves? Expand rosters to 15? Choose the best 24—or 30—players regardless of conference?
Beck: The ballots should absolutely go positionless. Let's just get the best 24 players there, period. It’s an exhibition game, no one plays defense, and no one cares whether it looks like actual basketball. So who really cares if one team has, say, two traditional centers, and the other team has none?
I understand the arguments for expanding to 13 players per team, or even 14 or 15. But I’d favor sticking with 12 per team. The scarcity of positions makes it a true honor. If you got left off, maybe you just weren’t good enough. The true greats will make it more often than not. Besides, it’s hard enough to get 12 players into the game. Bigger rosters just means more players making five-minute cameos. For what?
I do think it’s time to reform the voting process (again). My old colleague Ric Bucher made a great point on this: Why do we have different voting groups for the starters (fans/media/players) vs. the reserves (coaches)? And why are we choosing starters separately, at all? We end up with two 12-man rosters, all of whom are simply labeled “All-Stars” for the history books. No one remembers or cares who started, just that they made it.
Bucher’s proposal (which I endorse): Split the vote among the four blocs (fans, media, players, coaches), each accounting for 25%. And have everyone fill out a full, 12-man ballot per conference. That eliminates the sort of unnecessary/manufactured controversy we had this year, where voters had to choose three starters among Kevin Durant, Jayson Tatum, Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo, all of whom were deserving. If we used a 12-man ballot, all four would have made it, without the silly drama of Embiid being “snubbed” when we all know damn well he’s going to be picked as a reserve. The 12-man ballot gives voters some flexibility (as would eliminating position requirements).
Are you with me and Bucher on this? Plenty of room on the bandwagon!
Mannix: I tend to agree with you (and Bucher). It’s odd that the starters are divvied up between fans, players and media while the reserves fall under the umbrella of the coaches which, if we’re being honest, usually delegate the voting to members of their staff. I would like to see All-Star roster size mirror the size of regular NBA rosters (15) but I do see the value in the exclusivity of it.
I’m in. The full 12-man roster voted on by players, coaches, media and fans.
That will undoubtedly solve all the problems and we’ll never have discussions like this again.