David Stern has made it no secret that basketball is a global game, and the NBA is the brand that is going to deliver it. There’s an emphasis on overseas play and marketing, a grab for dollars that the head office believes will be crucial to the sustained growth of the league. It should come as no surprise, then, that the All-Star ballot’s primary selector is dollars, not dimes.
Researching the historical presence of Damian Lillard in the NBA, while the season is still young, makes this painfully obvious. As a rookie guard, Lillard is tied for 15th all-time in three point shooting, first in three pointers made, 25th in assists per game, and first in points per game. I’ll continue.
In the last decade, the only rookie point guard to make the All-Star ballot was Derrick Rose. Measured against the Memphis product, Lillard has a better win share, defensive rating, assist average, three point percentage, three pointers made, and points. As a testament to his efficiency, he even has better minutes-adjusted numbers than Rose.
So what is going on here?
In examining the list of Western Conference guards for the 2013 NBA All-Star ballot, it’s the markets that jump off the page. Of the teams with the most players listed on the ballot, here are their corresponding Nielsen TV market ranks: 2, 5, 6, 10, 20.
The exceptions? Memphis (two players, market 48) and Oklahoma City (two players, market 45) are two favorites to make the playoffs and Western Conference title contenders.
Of the players on the ballot that have either not played or missed significant time, the market trend continues: Billups (2), Nash (2), Rubio (15), and Gordon (53). The last selection comes as no surprise considering the NBA is fervently trying to keep the Hornets in Louisiana.
The NBA doesn’t need Damian Lillard on the All-Star ballot. Portland has a firm fanbase, a cashflow, and support that doesn’t look to be ending any time soon. Portland is a bad team with little impact on outlying fanbases. Unlike San Antonio, Portland isn’t going to make the playoffs this year. Despite playing in market 22, if Lillard isn’t at the All-Star game the viewers in Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, and China won’t be missing him.
All-Star games are not to showcase the best talent a sports league has to offer. Indeed, that’s what the entire Association is for. These exhibitions are meant to exhibit; to showcase the most marketable talent a league has to offer. And on impact, arguing over the All-Star game is fruitless. Complain as you want, but the roar after the game bemoaning its shallow depth of meaning will be no less deafening.
Portland fans shouldn’t be worried about Damian Lillard not making the All-Star game. Lucky as they are, they get to watch him in every other game of the season. I’d cast my ballot for that choice any day.
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