Kaman and Gordon and the Ballot - Some Reactions

Of course we're not the only ones who dissected the All Star Game ballot yesterday.  It's interesting to see what other people had to say about it after it came out.

J.E. Skeets on Ball Don't Lie singled out the most obvious snub, the center who was inexplicably left off despite a stellar early season performance, while his own teammate made the ballot at the same position.  That's right, Skeets is most upset about Joakim Noah of the Bulls, averaging 11 points and 11 rebounds at the time.  Nary a mention of Chris Kaman, averaging 22 points and 10 rebounds.  The commenters at BDL stepped up and let him know that he missed the boat on that one.

Chris Tomasson of Fanhouse was most surprised to see power forward Amare Stoudemire listed at Center, and assumes that Stat will be the runaway starter at the position.  I myself was curious where Amare would end up on the ballot, and he certainly has the name recognition and reputation to win the popular vote.  However, I'm not convinced that the Lakers association won't still carry Andrew Bynum to the top spot.  Tomasson rightly highlights the snubs of Kaman and Eric Gordon, and like me is more surprised at Gordon's absence, given the nature of the way the ballot is constructed.

Most interesting of all is the analysis from Marc Stein, one of the six journalists on the panel that created the ballot along with "Mike Breen (ABC/ESPN play-by-play man), Eddie Sefko (Dallas Morning News), Doug Smith (Toronto Star and president of the Professional Basketball Writers Association), Marc Spears (Yahoo! Sports) and Ian Thomsen (Sports Illustrated)".  As someone who was there, Stein is able to provide valuable insight into the process.  He starts with a couple of facts that we had already surmised - each team must have at least three players on the ballot, and the ballot was finalized in early October, long before the season started, for printing purposes.  While the lead time constraint remains an anachronism in a process dominated by electronic voting, it's constraint nonetheless.

Stein recognizes that Kaman and Gordon are major omissions, dedicating two of his first three bullets to the two Clippers.  Of Kaman:

The biggest omission in the West has to be Clippers center Chris Kaman, whose spot essentially went to teammate Marcus Camby. The consensus here was that the Clips, coming off a 19-win season, didn't merit two centers in a 12-man category. Camby's veteran status nudged him ahead of Kaman, who has since reeled off a streak of six 20-point games that ended Monday.

Of course, it's not Marcus Camby that is taking Kaman's spot.  In fact, if you consider them both centers, Kaman and Camby are clearly in the top five of Western Conference C's statistically so far.  So the problem isn't Camby - it's really McDyess.  Spencer Hawes is there because of the three minimum for Sacramento.  McDyess is a 35 year old who hasn't averaged in double figures since he was 26.  The idea that McDyess would deserve starting center votes is ludicrous.

Stein points out, as I did yesterday, that none of these omissions amount to much, since none of these players would win the vote even if they were on the ballot.  He worries more about the exiled Allen Iverson being on the ballot, since his name recognition conceivably could move the needle.  Taking a step back however, it's truly sad that we're being so cavalier about Kaman's absence.  While it's obviously early, the simple fact is that Chris Kaman has the skills and the production to deserve to start in the All Star Game in the west - as of this moment in time, he clearly should be the starter.  Dismissing his absence as a non-issue because everyone knows he wouldn't win the vote, regardless of the basketball reality, is a sad commentary on this entire farce of a process.

Of Gordon Stein says:

Regular Clips-watchers are also undoubtedly wondering why Al Thornton is on the ballot and Eric Gordon is not. It was a positional issue. Forward slots were harder to fill in the West, creating an opening for Thornton.

This I get.  There are a lot of great guards in the West.  And Ramon Sessions is taking up a spot as one of Minny's three.  But if it's me, I leave off the injured Tracy McGrady, and I would certainly have Gordon on the ballot before Leandro Barbosa.  To suggest that Eric Gordon is not among the top 24 guards, even in the stacked Western Conference, is insulting.  (Interestingly, this bullet provides an easy solution to the Kaman problem, not the Gordon one.  List Camby as a forward, Kaman as a center, omit Thornton.)

This all raises a different issue.  Teams like the Timberwolves and Kings and Nets and Knicks and Bucks have marginal players on the ballot (Sessions, Spencer Hawes, Courtney Lee, Chris Duhon, Hakim Warrick) because there is so little talent on the roster that someone has to be listed to meet the minimum requirements.  But the Clippers won fewer games last season than most of those teams, with a roster chock full of seemingly deserving names.  Stein admits that the Clippers' 19 win season kept Kaman off the ballot - but the shame of the situation is that the team has been (and may continue to be) so bad.  Looking at the rosters, we all know why Minnesota and New Jersey and New York are bad.  We can see that Sacramento should be terrible, and yet they are now at .500.  These Clippers have plenty of talent, as evidenced by the All Star ballot controversy.  So why aren't they any good?

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