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If I was in charge of the NBA - the All-Star Game

We all struggle with what to write about right now, during the dog days of the lockout. There's only so much Sap vs. Al vs. Favors that can be discussed.

So I'm just dabbling with crazy ideas.

Of course, I'll never be in charge of the NBA. I don't know I'd even really want to (I don't want to be a principal—in charge of my school). Responsibility, epic-decision-making. It's just not me. But it's fun to come up with this stuff anyway.

So anyway, this is the first post in a series. The series may have one post, or fifty. Who knows what I'll get to. But here's what you'll get today:

How Yucca would change the All-Star Game

First, let's see where this thinking came from.

I was reading the Sports Guy a bit ago. I still do sometimes. Old habits—even if he's lost my interest with his obsession with reality shows and pop culture. I suppose that if Bill Watterson can walk away from Calvin and Hobbes, Simmons can walk away from writing about sports and being a fan.

Anyway, Simmons recently set out his proposed CBA to fix all the financial woes of the NBA. As he is wont to do, his proposal actually turns out to be fairly lucid and intelligent. Sure, he doesn't give a damn about teams and fans outside of Boston or the other big markets, but several basic ideas are pretty good.

One of his proposals links player salaries directly to All-Star bids and All-NBA team honors. I won't go into the details—go to his article and read them on your own if you like. But the basics is so many consecutive All-Star and All-NBA honors make a guy a superstar, a star, etc., and their pay is adjusted accordingly.

The problem, as Simmons admits, is that the naming of All-Stars would have to be totally changed. Otherwise stupidity like Allen Iverson being an All-Star over Manu Ginobli in 2008 (when Manu may have been better than the SG who won MVP)—stupidity like this becomes a travesty.

But the question is ... how can it be made better? How can All-Star selection become as meaningful as it ought. And it ought to be meaningful. After all, careers are remembered, in part, by All-Star selections—no matter how stupidly those selections are sometimes handed out.

The genius of Joe Posnanski

The answer came from the best sports writer alive today — Posnanski at SI. He was talking about baseball, as he is wont to do. He is, after all, a baseball guy above all else.

Anyway, he rants a bit about the baseball All-Star game. He has a couple complains, but one of the biggest is that Pirates centerfielder Andrew McCutchen was named to the All-Star team ... until he was pegged as a last-second injury replacement. And it was kind of stupid. He's the overwhelmingly best player on a team fighting for first place in their division (after 18 years of losing, losing, losing)—I mean, when the All-Star rosters have 31 players, when every team has to have a representative, how can a guy who is by far the best player on a contending team not be an All-Star?

And Posnanski, in his wisdom, made an obvious suggestion: let fans vote the All-Stars. No, not the traditional way of all MLB fans voting for the starters. But let each team's fans vote on that team's representative. Then the managers can fill in the rest.

And it's brilliant. Every team gets at least one All-Star anyway. And wouldn't the die-hard fans know better than anyone else who the best and most deserving player on their team is? And so what if every team votes for an outfielder. There are 16 more spots with which to fill out the roster.

The Posnanski method, applied to the NBA

So here we go: the Yucca All-Star system: fans register to vote and can only vote for one player from their team. We can vote for one Jazzman every year, and that's it. Who would we vote for? Pistol in the early days. AD or Griffeth from the early 80's. The Mailman or Stockton from mid-80's to 2003. AK in '04 and '05. Either AK or Memo in '06. Boozer or Deron in '07. Deron from '08-'11.

That's not a bad list at all, is it? The right guys getting named at the right times. No Boozer All-Star bids in '08 when Deron was obviously the best player on the team (second team All-NBA that year). Maybe even no Booze in '07, since it was pretty up-ing-the-air whether Deron or Boozer was the best that year too.

So suddenly Deron would have had 4-5 All-Star selections and two All-NBA honors in his first six seasons. That's pretty much what he deserved, wasn't it?

But there are two major problems:

  1. There are 15 teams in the WC, but All-Star rosters only have 12 players—the same number as every NBA team's active roster. So every team can't have a nomination.
  2. What if a team has two or three deserving players. Do they get short-changed just so the T-Wolves or Clippers get a representative even in their worst of years? Is it fair for Stockton or Malone be passed over so that Big Country Reeves can represent the Grizzlies?

I spent a ridiculous amount of time worrying about these problems. But finally I had a solution. The solution. The solution that would change everything for the awesome.

Each conference gets 24 All-Stars. 15 chosen by the fans of each team, and 9 more chosen by ... each conference's GM's (who will put a lot more time, thought, and research into who is deserving than the coaches will).

Now there's a new problem. 24 players is ridiculous for the roster of a single team. Everybody will get to play 10 minutes. It's stupid.

But what's the big criticism of the All-Star game? It's just glorified streetball. All style, no substance. No defense. So let's celebrate the game's streetball, driveway, and churchball roots.

There won't two teams of 24 players. There will be eight teams of 6 players each. Teams are selected randomly, names drawn out of a hat. These eight teams play a single-elimination tournament. The games are to 21, using classic scoring—a shot's worth 1, beyond the arc is 2, no free throws, you have to win by two. There are no coaches, no refs (players call fouls themselves), and players rotate in and out among themselves. Rotations follow simple rules: if the 6th guy wants to come in and calls you out, you have to go out. When you check yourself back in, you can't go in for the same guy who just called you out—it has to be someone else.

And one more wrinkle: prize money increases the further your team of 6 goes in the All-Star tourney. Not big enough that a player gets pissed at his teammates when they lose in the first round, but big enough to make them want to win.

So the Yucca method isn't an All-Star game. It's the All-Star tournament, and it would be entertaining as hell. The first round (four games) would be on Saturday. In between those games will be the dunk contests, three point shooting contest, etc. On Sunday will be the two semifinal games and then the All-Star championship game. To keep the guys who lost on Saturday entertained, they would do half-time style entertainment (like the $1,000,000 full-court shot, some of the less dangerous Bear-inspired stunts, etc.).

The biggest winnners—the blogging community

Here's where things would get really cool. Think about all the Al or Millsap debates from last year. Now imagine Deron was traded after November. Suddenly Al and Millsap become the only two realistic All-Star possibilities.

Now imagine those debates. We won't be talking about small redistributions of shots, we won't be just be debating who should be the main post scorer (stuff we have no control over anyway) — we'll be debating who will be the team's All-Star. And the debate will matter, because WE ARE THE ONES CHOOSING THE ALL-STAR.

The fan debates would matter. Because that crummy team would only get one guy to the All-Star game there will be nobody else named by the conference GM's.

And what's even better—we're guaranteed to see our All-Star play more than a token 3 minutes. And if things work out he could play a main role in 2-3 games.

But are we getting too many All-Stars?

That's a decent question. With the number of All-Stars doubling, does that give us too many? Especially if salaries are tied to All-Star appearances?

First of all, remember that in Simmons' idea just one All-Star appearance doesn't bump anyone up to a star paycheck. It has to be both multiple appearances and consecutive appearances (like three straight). So let's look at a terrible team and see what who would be their All-Stars.

I give you the Clippers, and the past 12 years of suck. Each year I'll go through and identify who would probably be the team's All-Star(s). I'm also assuming that teams with multiple selections are playoff teams, so that eliminates the Clips for all but one year.

2000 :: Lamar Odom

2001 :: Lamar Odom

2002 :: Elton Brand

2003 :: Brand or Corey Magette (they're close, and I don't know who fans would have favored). Probably Brand

2004 :: Again Brand or Magette

2005 :: Brand or Magette

2006 :: Brand and Sam Cassell (the team's one winning year, I'll give them two All-Stars)

2007 :: Elton Brand

2008 :: Chris Kaman

2009 :: Z-Bo, Al Thornton, or Eric Gordon

2010 :: Kaman or Eric Gordon

2011 :: Blake Griffin

So, in the end Elton Brand would have received between three and six All-Star bids. Possibly six straight. Because he only got one All-NBA nomination, this would have, at most, bumped Brand up to a star paycheck. So let's compare Elton's best-case scenario with what really happened.

Best case: 6 All-Star games, star paycheck

Reality: 2 All-Star games, superstar paycheck

My conclusion: obviously my method will give more All-Star nods to the borderline type guys. No question. But combining it with Simmons' idea for salaries, it will actually put these borderline type guys in the pay range they ought to be in.

The conclusion

Most borderline stars, the best players on bad teams will only get a couple All-Star opportunities. How long will Millsap and Al be the best players on the Jazz? Two years tops? We won't be artificially boosting guys into a realm (and paycheck) they ought not be in. All-Star selections will make more sense, our debates at SLC Dunk will have greater urgency and importance, and the All-Star tournament would be a freaking blast to watch.

I don't see a down side.

They Yucca All-Star plan would kick butt.