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If anyone anticipating the first wave of fan voting released Thursday for the 2022 All-Star Game was looking for a surprise, they’d be disappointed.
The usual suspects and vote leaders have already surpassed 2,000,000 votes: LeBron James, Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo. That’s to be expected.
The player who owns fourth quarters and is getting plenty of flowers right now isn’t far behind: DeMar DeRozan, again, nothing unusual in this case.
• List of first returns for All-Star voting
Perhaps the only mildly interesting development is the popularity of Paul George, who’s fourth in the Western Conference voting, and only because the Clippers’ star is injured and might not be healthy enough to play in Cleveland next month.
As it is, Durant and Curry, former teammates with the Warriors a few years ago, have a decent chance at being captains for the two squads. That qualifies as drama, right? They won a pair of championships during the Warriors’ dynasty and then Durant opted to sign with Brooklyn as a free agent and hitched his basketball fate with Kyrie Irving instead. Curry and Durant are also, at the moment, strong candidates for Kia MVP; Curry became the all-time career leader in 3-pointers made while Durant has carried the Nets without Irving for all but one game.
Curiously, the Warriors and Nets are favorites to emerge from their respective conferences this summer, but that’s a development for another day and time.
While Curry’s popularity evidently remains strong, and certainly helped by the Warriors’ standing in the West, there’s still a reasonable chance that LeBron collects more votes and once again claims All-Star captaincy in a last-minute comeback rally, much like he did five years ago when he and the Cavs shocked the Warriors for the title.
If that happens, then it’ll probably be deserved. LeBron is simply enjoying an unfathomable 19th season at age 37, ranking among the league leaders in points and assists while shooting a career-high percentage in 3-pointers. He remains must-watch TV as he pushes the envelope in a battle against Father Time that he will eventually lose, but not this season.
Likewise, the popular push for Giannis shows no sign of waning since winning his first NBA title last summer. Giannis is within striking distance of Durant in terms of votes and, in a curious twist, the Bucks are also gaining on the Nets in the standings.
The love shown for DeRozan demonstrates the kind of season he’s having for the Bulls. DeRozan has the highest fourth-quarter scoring average in the NBA because the Bulls are turning to him in the time of need and he’s delivering in the clutch; witness his recent back-to-back buzzer-beaters. He’s also among the league scoring leaders and has the Bulls pushing hard for best record in the East in what qualifies as a turnaround season in Chicago. DeRozan has been an All-Star before, but never in the mix for highest vote-getter among guards. He’s almost half a million votes ahead of James Harden, a former MVP, among East guards.
There are some interesting player positions in the voting. Ja Morant is enjoying a breakout season of sorts in Memphis and has never been an All-Star, yet is third among West guards. The former No. 2 overall pick has the Grizzlies in contention in the West. Given how he has flourished of late, there’s a good chance he rises and perhaps challenges Luka Doncic for No. 2 in votes.
Likewise, Jarrett Allen of the Cavs is enjoying a career season and voters have noticed, placing him sixth among East frontcourt players; Allen has never finished in the top 10 in his career but he and the Cavs are serving notice in the league. Among the top five vote getters so far who haven’t been All-Stars before are LaMelo Ball of the Hornets and Andrew Wiggins of the Warriors.
Then, the head-scratchers: Klay Thompson, who hasn’t suited up yet, is fourth among West guards; Irving, with one game played, is sixth among East guards; and Carmelo Anthony, coming off the bench for the Lakers, ranks in the top 10 among West frontcourt players.
Once the captains are determined by virtue of popular vote, they’ll choose sides for the game, regardless of conference, from the pool of eligible players. All-Star starters (two guards, three frontcourt for each conference) are selected by a combination of fan (50%), media (25%) and player (25%) voting. Then, head coaches vote on the reserves.
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Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.
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