Pat Benson: NBA All-Star Voting

One of my favorite guilty pleasures is my love for NBA All-Star Weekend. Ever since Vince Carter dunked his elbow in to the rim in the 2000 Dunk Contest, I knew watching the event would be an annual tradition for me. Over the years All-Star Weekend has gotten a bad rap because of the silly festivities and repetitive competitions. Most people struggle to get past the recycled dunk contests and friendly exhibitions. My advice would be to take it for what it is, pure entertainment and a celebration of basketball culture.

No other professional sports league throws a party like the association. Celebrities like Kevin Hart and Drake act as ringmasters for the circus of events. Sneaker companies like Nike, Jordan, and Adidas use it as a coming-out party for new products. Players who have used twitter to beef with each other finally get to compete with or against each other. Fans get to see all of the world’s best players in the same place at the same time.

Under the steady hand of Commissioner Adam Silver, the league no longer competes Eastern Conference versus Western Conference. The top two vote getters have to select their teammates from a pool of other leading vote getters. This playground-esque selection will happen live on television this year rather than behind closed doors like last year’s inaugural selection process. So today I would like to share my All-Star Ballot with you the good people of Chattanooga.

Eastern Conference Front Court Selections:

First, Giannis Antetokounmpo. The “Greek Freak” has used his ridiculous length and athleticism to terrorize the league. He has the second-best player efficiency rating (PER) which has boosted the Bucks to second best record in the league.

Next, 76ers big man Joel Embiid. For someone who picked up basketball late in life, and spent nearly two seasons rehabbing from injuries, his game is poetically beautiful. Embiid’s eclectic assortment of post-moves speaks louder than any of his social media trash talk.

Third and final forward, Kawhi Leonard. After an acrimonious breakup with San Antonio he was dealt north of the border to the league-leading Toronto Raptors. The “Klaw” has converted the Raptors into championship contenders, causing Toronto fans to sit back and laugh at their doubters.

Eastern Conference Back Court Selections:

Point Guard Kyrie Irving has lit up the league since returning from knee surgery last spring. Although the Celtics are struggling to make their depth a strength, he has still managed to exceed his career averages so far this season.

Lastly, Ben Simmons on the Philadelphia 76ers. His play has brought comparisons to Magic Johnson, despite having not attempted a single 3-point attempt this season. Simmons aversion to shots beyond the arc have become my favorite meme of the season. But if you’re not a big basketball fan, you probably recognize him as Kendall Jenner’s boyfriend.

Western Conference Front Court Selections:

The best post player in the league, Anthony Davis. The “’brow” is currently in basketball purgatory aka the middle of a contract with New Orleans. The Pelicans will continue to fight off poachers who want their generational big-man, all while Davis averaging eye popping points and rebounds on a nightly basis.

Moving further west, 2x Finals MVP – Kevin Durant. K.D. has had an ample amount of drama this season, and even more impressive play. Nobody knows if he will stay in Golden State after this season, or will he leave and mercifully return competitive balance to the league.

This is the longest a column has ever gone without mentioning my final forward, LeBron James. King James took his talents to Tinsel Town and is responsible for making my favorite team a playoff contender again. At 34 years old, only injuries can keep Lebron from catching Kareem Abdul Jabbar in all-time points scored.

Western Conference Back Court Selections:

In a conference so deep with guards, James Harden still is the easiest first pick. His scoring has been historic, his dribbling has been dangerous, and his free throw attempts have been astronomical. Harden’s unorthodox play style feels like a videogame cheat-code. 

Much to my chagrin, I have to include Steph Curry. (I wanted to vote for DeMar DeRozan who has been on a revenge tour this season, hell-bent on making every opponent pay for the sins of the Raptors.) But that should speak to how exceptional Curry’s 2018-2019 campaign has been. He has erased all doubt who runs the Warriors. His real plus-minus is top 5 in the league and shooting stats are unworldly.

Full disclaimer, I will most likely vote multiple times to try and get some of my favorite players on the teams as reserves (Kyle Kuzma, Pascal Siakam, DeMar DeRozan). I can’t wait until NBA All-Star Weekend kicks off on February 15. Remember to vote online before January 21st and then let me know how your ballot looks compared to mine. The NBA season is hitting its groove and I could not be more excited.

Pat Benson is a fixture at local high school sporting events. He has been a sideline reporter, P.A. announcer, and radio personality. Tweet him @Pat_Benson_Jr. 

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