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May 25, 2022

The All-NBA voting system needs to change

Sixers NBA
Joel-embiid-sixers-heat_051122_USAT Jason Vinlove/USA Today Sports

Joel Embiid has been batting through a ton of pain these last two weeks...

The dude who led the NBA in scoring and finished second in MVP voting certainly had a tremendous season. Due to his standing as the league's most proficient scorer and his de facto "second-best player in basketball" honors, that would make this player an easy choice for the All-NBA First Team, right? 

Well, that isn't the case for Joel Embiid. For the fourth time in his career, Embiid found himself on the All-NBA Second Team:

It has never been more clear that the voting process for the All-NBA squads is a sham. The antiquated ideas of positions has evaporated in basketball in the 21st century. Some teams play ultra small. Some teams play ultra big. Big men run offenses and point guards defend power forwards. Small forwards protect the rim. This is the evolution of an NBA where players are bigger and faster than ever before and can do things previous generations of talent simply could not. 

Is LeBron James a one, three or four? He plays all of those roles. Luka Doncic spends time at the one, two and three. Why does where a random NBA media member decides a guy plays factor into an equation that can make a player lose out on millions and millions of dollars?

If the five best players in a given NBA season were all point guards, one is going to get relegated to a Third Team selection. As history looks back, that's going to be an inaccurate view of how an NBA season transpired. 

That brings things back to Embiid. For the second-consecutive season, Embiid is a top-two player in the league, as evident by those MVP runner-up finishes. In a year where he an unparalleled dominant scorer, a huge defensive presence and a locker room figure that weathered the storm of the Ben Simmons saga, he becomes an afterthought with yet another All-NBA Second Team nod. 

Context matters!

Embiid, once more, lost out on the First Team nod and the MVP award to Denver's Nikola Jokic. He wouldn't have been my pick, but whatever. I get the rationale. Even if Jokic is the choice for someone, Embiid has to be right there behind him! I'm not advocating for Embiid to be on here over Jokic. That would be just as absurd as Embiid being stuck on the Second Team. It's abundantly obvious they both should've been First Team selections. 

The voting system is just flawed. As can be seen on those voting results above, Embiid actually received more All-NBA voting points than First Team pick Jayson Tatum. If he had a higher total, why is he on the Second Team? This isn't a knock on Tatum as much as it is a knock on the system the NBA has employed, one that factors into players' future contracts and earnings and shapes the story of seasons yesteryear. 

Look at the 1995 NBA season. David Robinson won MVP and was the All-NBA First Team center. Shaquille O'Neal led the league in scoring with 29.3 points per game and was on the Second Team. Hakeem Olajuwon, who would go on the smoke the Admiral in the postseason and win back-to-back Finals MVP awards, was given the nod for the Third Team center spot. In reality, all three of those guys were top-five players that season! O'Neal making the leap from star to super-duper star goes underappreciated. Olajuwon's consistent brilliance flies under the surface. 

Olajuwon is probably a top-15 player in history and was named All-NBA First Team center "only" six times because he played in an era with O'Neal and Robinson. I'd wager he was a top-five player on the planet for way more than just six seasons!

Call it sour grapes from a Philadelphia "media member" if someone wants to. I don't particularly care. If I was the deputy sports editor of NOLAVoice or MiamiVoice or PortlandVoice, I could clearly tell that Embiid was one of the five-best NBA players both this season and last and realize this system makes zero sense for modern basketball. 

As long as the basketball world keeps complaining that the most unguardable big man since Shaq gets to the free throw line too often, I have severe doubts that the NBA will change these rules to appeal to Embiid's case. That's a damn shame. 


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