Damian Lillard Edged Out By Luka Doncic In All-Star Starters Vote Due To Tiebreaker

by Casey Holdahl
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Damian Lillard did all he could do. The rest of us? Maybe we could have done just a little bit more.

The 6-3 guard in his ninth season out of Weber State, averaging 29.8 points on 45 percent shooting, 7.7 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 1.1 steals while leading the Trail Blazers to a 18-10 so far this season, good for fourth-best record in the West and the fifth-best in the NBA, finished tied with Dallas guard Luka Doncic for second in voting for All-Star starters for the 2021 All-Star Game.

But Lillard lost out on the fan vote, which is the tiebreaker for All-Star starters, to Doncic, and thus, will have to wait to be selected as a reserve for the exhibition, which will take place in Atlanta on March 7.

The Trail Blazers haven’t had a player voted in as an All-Star starter since Clyde Drexler in 1994, and when starters were chosen solely by fan vote, the chance of that changing was slight seeing as how Portland is one of the smaller markets in the NBA. But the league changed the voting rules a few years ago, with fan vote making up 50 percent of the tally while players and media each got 25 percent of the vote. Under those rules, players like Lillard performing at an MVP-caliber level but playing in small markets have an outside chance.

But even though Lillard was the overwhelming favorite over Doncic among the players and media -- Dame received more than twice as many player votes (131-58) and media votes (64-30) -- Doncic’s 3,335,042 fan votes outpaced Lillard’s 2,848,663 votes, and since fan vote is the tiebreaker, Doncic got the nod to start alongside Stephen Curry, Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James and Nikola Jokic.

The announcement was made on Thursday’s edition of TNT’s “Inside The NBA.” It did not go over especially well with the crew.

“I still think Damian Lillard should be a starter,” said Shaquille O’Neal. “Based on what Chuck and Kenny always say, who has the better record and all of that, he’s actually playing better. Luka has more assists, but nobody is as feared in the game like the Damian Lillard guy. I’m sure he’s not upset about it, but time in and time out he’s been pushed off this list. So I would’ve liked to see him as a starter.”

Kenny Smith echoed those comments.

“In a popularity contest, Luka’s going to win,” said Smith, in reference to Doncic’s strong support in his native Slovenia. “But like Shaq said, the most feared man in basketball right now is Damian Lillard... He's one of the Top 5 basketball players in the world. You can't even start in your conference if you're one of the Top 5 basketball players in the world? That doesn't make sense to me as well.”

Oddly enough, Lillard actually lost ground on Doncic in the last week of fan voting -- he was behind 389,396 vote last week and lost by 486,379 votes -- despite leading the Trail Blazers on a six-game winning streak, a run which included a victory versus Doncic and the Mavericks in which Lillard scored 34 points while making the clutch, go-ahead three-pointer to win the game.

While Lillard deserved to be an All-Star starter, he’s a stone cold lock to be named as a reserve via coaches vote when the remainder of the teams are announced on February 25. And considering the debate earlier in his career was whether he deserved even that much, getting to the point where he’s being now snubbed for All-Star starter spots feels a little like progress.

But next time, vote earlier and more often. And tell your friends and family to do the same. Dame deserves it.


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