A tradition well-debated then quickly forgot about during the NBA season is who deserves to start in the All-Star game. However, it’s rare to have someone who almost unanimously is seen as an odd choice. That’s the case this year with Golden State’s Andrew Wiggins, who was named a starter in this year’s All-Star game.
First-time NBA All-Star as a starter in the West: Golden State's Andrew Wiggins.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) January 28, 2022
As The Athleic‘s Shams Charania noted, not only is Wiggins starting, but this is his first All-Star selection… after eight years in the NBA. This is some 2020 stuff. The icing on the cake would be Jimmy Garoppolo winning Super Bowl MVP — you heard it here first folks.
Really though, it’s a strange occurrence. A former No. 1 overall pick in year eight who was deemed a bust (by first overall pick standards) with “empty stats” getting his first All-Star nod. Starting, nonetheless! Good for Wiggins though, he did earn the nod. However, there’s a few pressing questions. Does he deserve to be starting? How did we get here? Let’s tackle the latter.
How did he get in?
The All-Star voting system is broken up where every party gets a say. The fans’ vote counts for 50 percent of the total, while players and media count for 25 percent each. For the Western Conference frontcourt, Wiggins finished third in fan voting, fifth in player voting, and sixth in media voting.
That gave him a weighted total of 4.25, barely edging out teammate Draymond Green (4.75) for the starting role. Green finished sixth in fan voting, third in player voting, and fourth in media voting. Not too shabby for Dub Nation.
Without a doubt, Dub Nation played a role in helping Wiggins finish third in fan voting. He also benefits from being Canadian, as countries often rally behind players who have a legit shot at getting in the game. Just ask Zaza Pachulia.
However, it was the Warriors’ relationship with K-pop star BamBam that really pushed him over the edge.
With BamBam tweeting this on January 7th, every retweet, like, and reply garnished two total votes for Wiggins as the NBA ran a “every vote counts double” promotion for the day. It totaled 69,000 likes, 39,000 retweets, and 3,000 replies. The tweet ended up being Thailand’s #1 trending topic.
A good push from an unlikely source.
Many people are calling for the NBA to go over the voting system, as there’s a strong argument Wiggins should not be starting. Namely, that the All-Star voting should be completely position-less as that’s the trend the NBA has seen take over for years now.
Why Wiggins should be starting
The argument as to why Wiggins should be starting is quite simple. Firstly, he’s a major cog for the Warriors who currently hold the second best record in the NBA at 36-13. That’s extremely important, as if he put up the numbers he is now on a bad team, that would make an All-Star appearance at all debatable. Players such as Trae Young — who’s on the 11th seeded Atlanta Hawks — can get away with that because of his mind-boggling statistics.
The name of the game for Wiggins has been efficiency and choking defense. Wiggins is currently shooting 48 percent from the field and 41.2 percent from deep. The latter trails Grant Williams and Patty Mills by only 1.3 percent for sixth in the entire NBA.
Wiggins isn’t too shabby on defense either. He’ll often draw the toughest perimeter assignment for the night every game. That’s very noteworthy. However, aside from those points, there isn’t much else that stands out.
Why Wiggins shouldn’t be starting
Wiggins has played amazing this season, and the basketball world should be excited for him and his family. However, things like this will cause debate, and is no personal attack on Wiggins… unless you’re on Twitter, then maybe it’s personal.
Wiggins is arguably the fourth maybe third best player on his own team when they’re at full strength. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson hold one and two respectively, with Green being the toss-up with Wiggins for the third spot. That ultimately doesn’t matter for who represents the Western Conference in the frontcourt, though it explains the general outcry of the selection.
The main competition Wiggins faces in the Western Conference frontcourt is Green, Paul George, Rudy Gobert, and Karl-Anthony Towns. Other players worth mentioning are Brandon Ingram, Deandre Ayton, and Anthony Davis. However, I’m going to focus on the previous four.
Here’s where Wiggins per-game averages rank among those four players (five including him): 18.1 points (third), 2.1 assists (last), 4.2 rebounds (last), 0.9 steals (fourth), and 0.6 blocks (fourth). His percentages? 48.3 percent from the field (fourth), 41.2 percent from deep (first), and 66.2 percent from the line (fourth).
Other players’ cases
The player to player debate versus Wiggins gets juicy. Unfortunately though, George is eliminated from true contention as he hasn’t played consistently since November and will be out until potentially March due to an elbow injury.
That leaves the big men. Green and Gobert (who finished fourth in player voting and third in media voting) make their case based mostly on defense; though Green has more all-around play and Gobert is a dominating force down low.
Green has long been the glue guy for the Warriors dynasty, and this season he’s only reaffirming that. Aside from averaging over seven assists and rebounds per game, Green is a force to be reckoned with on the defensive side of the ball. He averages over a steal and a block per game, and the advanced analytics love him. He’s first in defensive box plus/minus (4.7) and defensive rating (99.2) in the league.
Gobert on the other hand, has been having a career year for the fourth seeded Utah Jazz. He’s averaging a career high 16 points per game and leads the NBA in rebounds per game with 15.1. He also leads the league in field goal percentage (70.7), rebound percentage (25.2), total rebounds (633), total screen assists (277), and true shooting percentage (72.8).
Gobert also excels in other advanced statistics. He places top ten in block percentage (seventh), defensive rating (fourth), defensive win shares (tied for first), offensive win shares (second), and player efficiency rating (seventh).
As for the other center, Karl-Anthony Towns, he’s been playing out of his mind. He’s averaging 24 points, nine rebounds, four assists, one block and one steal per game while shooting 51 percent from the field, 40 percent from three, and 81 percent from the line.
Obviously, those aforementioned players are all deserving of a starting spot in the All-Star game. In addition, as previously mentioned, there’s been calls to turn the voting system position-less just as many basketball game plans have. Should Luka Dončić, Devin Booker, and Donovan Mitchell have a starting spot? Yes. However, they’re not going to jump Curry or Ja Morant for the guard spots. Should one of them start over Wiggins? Perhaps. Can they? No. The backcourt/frontcourt voting system doesn’t allow them to. Funny enough, Dončić and Booker each had a weighted score of 4.25 from voting, which would tie with Wiggins.
Something similar happened in the Eastern Conference, as DeMar Derozan got a starting guard spot despite not playing guard for almost the entire season. However, we as fans can’t do anything about that. Perhaps Adam Silver and the NBA will, with the growing pressure, look into it but for now there’s nothing that can be done for this All-Star game.
Should Wiggins be starting in the All-Star game? Probably not. However, he is, and there’s nothing you or I can do about it. Again, I want to state that I’m truly happy for Wiggins who’s bounced back from adversity — as you should be too. At the end of the day, this is something that will shine on Wiggins’ resume but not stain anyone else’s.