The NBA Has A Zaza Problem

The first returns of the All-Star balloting has created an uproar. Zaza Pachulia is starting in the All-Star game for the West (as of now). Anthony Davis is trailing far behind in votes and is not starting. It is ridiculous to contemplate much less consider so laughing is the perfect antidote. Zaza is adding 5.2 points to the Warriors offense and is a last option on offense while Anthony Davis is scoring 28.6 points a game, not to mention pulling in 12 rebounds. Davis is the centerpiece of everything Pelicans.

Pachulia and Davis are not peers. They are not in the same league, hemisphere, category. One-on-one Pachulia couldn’t stop Davis one time out of a hundred. Paculia is an average center at best, with average skills but he works hard and thrives in a team concept when he is not the focus. He is prospering because of who he is playing with, not because of what he is capable of.  Davis, on the other hand, is a star, a superstar in training, gifted at scoring inside and out, a shot blocker, rebounder and offense facilitator. He has elite talent. So how could this happen?


The way the NBA selects their starters is skewed towards popularity of established fan bases, the ones that are on t.v. 24-7. That would be the Warriors and the Cavaliers. The NBA likes to sell the All-Star game as the fans game. It is not. Fans are priced out the game altogether. The All-Star game is a corporate event for sponsors who support the league. Because fans are priced out, the NBA tosses them crumbs by letting them pick the starters.

There was bound to be a brain freeze. A few years ago, many thought it would be Jeremy Lin and the Asian vote. It wasn’t. 2017 might be that year.

Last year when Kobe Bryant was the highest vote getter it was tolerated because of his service. He may not have earned an All-Star vote that particular year but he helped build the league, primarily internationally. It was his swan song so he got to slide in without too many critics throwing shade. But Zaza isn’t Kobe. He isn’t deserving of a lifetime achievement award. Zaza is lucky.

The salary cap prevented the Warriors from adding Kevin Durant without getting rid of someone. That someone was Andrew Bogut and so here Zaza is, the Bogut replacement, a chance for a title and all he has to do is stand up straight while the heavy lifting is done by Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Shaun Livingston, Andre Iguodala. Did I leave anyone out? Zaza an All-Star? It is a joke.

There are two more returns to come in and the numbers can change. Kyle Lowry usually comes in with a massive push late. Last year, Draymond Green was leading in the early voting and Kawhi Leonard came in late to get the starter’s nod. But if Zaza is indeed an All-Star the NBA has a problem. It’s a perception problem and a New Orleans problem.

First, perception. The NBA is a league in which conspiracy theories abound. So here are a few. The refs want to keep Draymond out. How does Zaza get 200,000 more votes than Draymond Green? Unless the NBA is just sick and tired of Green’s antics. Here’s another one. The NBA wants an international player to start on the All-Star team. The game is too global to have each All-Star game year in and year out Americans only now that Dirk is on the downside of his career. The NBA has long pined for an All-Star game that pits America vs. the World. That is still a long ways away. Zaza gives them a chance to acknowledge their international partners. Finally, it is Warriors bias. 5 Warriors on the All-Star team and at some point in the game playing at the same time? The NBA would love it.

The New Orleans problem is much more serious to the league because it raises the question of integrity.  Anthony Davis may get shafted by Zaza in New Orleans when he is having an All-Star year and deserves to be a starter. It creates a false impression that the NBA does not reward achievement. Sure, Davis would be voted on by the coaches. But having Zaza taking a spot from someone who deserves it and who has worked hard for it would be a stab in the NBA’s collective we have the best league heart.

More to the point, the locals aren’t going to be very hospitable when Zaza’s name is announced during the introductions. There has never been an All-Star player booed. This may be a first. It would be a national television embarrassment.

Many think this is just a one time thing and the next two vote returns will be close to normal. But there is an anti-establishment crowd that will continue to vote for Zaza because they want to see the NBA fall on their face trying to explain it. Of course Warrior fan will continue to vote for Zaza because that’s what Warrior fans do.

If nothing else, Zaza being a starter would change the All-Star rules immediately and finally revolutionize the process. For years, players have been longing to eliminate fan voting altogether. Charles Barkley has often said, “fans are stupid.”

Zaza as a starter? Barkley has a point.


photo via llananba