After 30 games, 17 of them at home, the Toronto Raptors lead the NBA in attendance at 334,624, but their fans just aren’t getting the job done in the All-Star voting. In the early All-Star ballot returns, Toronto doesn’t have any players even close to being voted into the big game.
The NBA makes it easy for fans to vote. Not only can fans vote on-line at NBA.com – they can vote by text message and social media using the player’s first and last name plus #NBABallot. Any dedicated fan base in the Association should be able to get a favorite player a starting job in February’s big showcase, if they are willing to put out the effort.
Selecting the NBA All-Star starters is a pure popularity contest. Anyone that believes otherwise just isn’t looking at the results. NBA fans in local markets should be pumping up the results for their own team’s players without exception.
So why is the best player on the best team in the Eastern Conference with the highest attendance in the NBA after 30 games so far behind in the All-Star balloting?
Toronto fans are supporting their team at the Air Canada Centre and as the Cavaliers and Pistons can attest, the Raptors are getting boisterous support on the road as well. Raptors (23-7) star point guard Kyle Lowry (182,896 votes) trails the 14-17 HEAT’s 32-year-old Dwyane Wade (265,917 votes) and John Wall (299,209 votes). The 21-8 Wizards are legitimately fighting it out with Toronto for top spot in the East and Wall is having a great season, but it would take beach-sand-covered blinders to make the same comparison for Wade and Wade even leads the 18-11 Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving (237,365) in the voting.
In a popularity contest like NBA All-Star voting, it is on the Raptors fans to get their players into the game – they need to step up and can’t look to TNT, ESPN or NBA TV to help promote their players stateside. It can be like pulling teeth to just get a Raptors team mention in the US as the focus remains on the Bulls and Cavaliers with regular tire-pumping for the Wizards’ Wall. Canada’s team is not the team of choice to televise in the States – first place or not.
LeBron James (552,967 votes) leads the East with almost twice as many votes as the next top vote-getter. He also leads the East in scoring and remains in the league MVP conversation. There shouldn’t be any arguments here. However, the next forward on the list is Carmelo Anthony (265,170 votes) from the 5-27 New York Knicks. Anthony is second in Eastern Conference scoring, but there must be a forward having a bigger impact and a more meaningful influence somewhere? How long should being a great scorer on a terrible team get a player an All-Star starting job? Nikola Vucevic leads the East with 18 double-doubles and the Magic have won more than twice as many games as the Knicks, but he only has 33,296 votes.
Pau Gasol is having a renaissance with the Bulls and is third in voting among forwards in the East, but after Gasol, there isn’t much justification for not throwing your support behind one of your own team’s player as the third choice. In Toronto, why not give Jonas Valanciunas (52,318 votes so far) some love?
The Raptors DeMar DeRozan was selected as an All-Star by the coaches last season and he has 51,946 votes despite missing the last 14 games with a groin strain. Sixth man Lou Williams has 15,329 votes (9th place among Eastern conference guards) suggesting at least some Raptors fans are making significant extra effort?
In the West, the first place Warriors guard Stephen Curry (549,095) leads all vote-getters, but in a case of pure nostalgia, a rapidly aging Kobe Bryant on a weak Lakers team, shooting 37 percent on the season, is second among guards with 521,542 votes. James Harden is leading the NBA in scoring by almost 2 points per game and Houston is 21-7, but the top offensive threat this year only has 336,998 votes as fans in the West prove the point that All-Star voting is only a popularity contest. Kobe over Harden, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook or Damian Lillard is a wistful vote at best.
Anthony Davis (524,623 votes) leads the Western Conference voting among forwards and is having a massive statistical season on a .500 team. Blake Griffin (307,908) is having a strong season, but he is benefitting from being in Los Angeles over players like LaMarcus Aldridge (152,253 votes) in Portland. In third, Marc Gasol is having a career year in Memphis (227,554 votes), but he probably needs Kevin Durant (191,881 votes) to remain sidelined for a while yet.
Players in bigger markets like Los Angeles and New York will always have an All-Star voting advantage unless their local fans go above and beyond their usual level of interest and effort. Even Aldridge’s 16 double-doubles and 22.9 point 10.6 rebound averages can’t overcome the size of the market he plays in without extraordinary fan support.
The early NBA All-Star voting returns should be a wake-up call for the fans of the first-place Toronto Raptors. Kyle Lowry has been leading his team to win-after-win, but that hasn’t been enough to get the big US media conglomerates to start promoting him. It’s up to the Raptors growing fan base to get the job done if they want to see their team’s star player starting in the All-Star Game.
Raptors Ready To Be Road Tested Against The NBA’s Best
Then it’s off to mile-high Denver on the back-to-back to face the 12-15 Nuggets. The toughest tests are likely to be against the second place Trail Blazers (22-6) on December 30 and the first place overall Warriors (22-3) on January 2nd. The road trip ends in Phoenix on January 4th against the 15-14 run-and-gun Suns.