Last week the NBA unveiled the ballot for the 2014 All-Star Game.
Five players from the Houston Rockets made the cut.
Fans can vote for Jeremy Lin, James Harden, Chandler Parsons, Dwight Howard and Omer Asik to represent the Rockets in New Orleans.
Just like last year, the fans vote for two back court players and three front court players. Voting can be done through mobile apps, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, text message or through NBA.com
Fans vote for the starting five of each respective conference, while the coaches’ vote then fills out the bench.
James Harden and Dwight Howard are locks to make the roster but will the fans vote them to the starting lineup?
Like it did with Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady, will the votes from Asia make the difference for Houston’s candidates?
Will Kobe Bryant take himself out of the race because of his injury?
What about Howard’s rocky relationship with the fans?
Let’s start with that last one.
It was not too long ago that Howard set the record for most votes to an All-Star game with 3,150,181. He beat Yao’s 2005 record of 2,532,958 votes.
But after the Dwightmare and in-decisions, which even affects James Harden, Howard doesn’t have as many fans.
Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin are virtual locks for the first two front court spots.
That leaves one spot for fans to vote Howard or his main competitors: Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Love.
Duncan is fresh off a Finals loss that went seven games. Nowitzki is playing like his old self this season, and Love is a budding superstar quickly increasing his mainstream recognition.
Anthony Davis is the host city’s best player, the Gasol brothers are well known internationally, and a random name like DeMarcus Cousins or Kawhi Leonard could catch fire.
But China alone has over four times the population of the U.S., so even a small following over there could make the difference.
Jeremy Lin’s jersey ranked second in jersey sales in China in 2012-13 among Western Conference players. Bryant, Durant, Griffin and Chris Paul also rank in the top 10, essentially making them all locks to be starters.
Lin and Harden have to battle it out with Bryant, Paul, Stephen Curry, Tony Parker, Russell Westbrook and Ricky Rubio.
Rubio is in the race because he was also in the top 10 in Chinese jersey sales, and he has a global presence, as well as Parker.
Paul, whose Clippers are in the second largest media market in the country, should get one of the back court spots partly because of his national commercials.
The only way Harden (or Lin) makes the second back court spot is if Bryant voluntarily pulls himself out of the race. Even though he’s been injured, the fans will still vote him in. That mean’s it’s up to #24 to drop out (and it’s Kobe so he probably won’t.)
Howard has Houston’s only shot of being voted to the starting lineup outright, but his relationship with fans is a real concern. Now that most of Los Angeles doesn’t like him, as well as half of basketball fans out there, it may depend on the overseas’ votes for Howard to make the starting lineup.
There are seven bench spots.
When it comes to the coaches’ vote, the Rockets haven’t been off to a good enough start so far for Chandler Parsons to make it.
Omer Asik obviously was a ballot-filler, but Parsons could make it if Houston marches up the conference standings. He’s already a coach’s favorite and plays hard, but a winning record is more important.
Duncan, Love, Nowitzki and LaMarcus Aldridge are legitimate candidates for a bench spot. Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and David Lee are potential contenders who have made it in recent years. And Andrew Bogut, Andre Iguodola and Kawhi Leonard certainly have a chance.
Parsons (or Asik) probably won’t be listed ahead of any of those players on a coach’s list, but Howard is undoubtedly up there if the fans vote him out.
After Paul and Kobe, there are numerous talented guards in the Western Conference: Parker, Curry, Westbrook, Rubio, Damian Lillard, Monta Ellis, Mike Conley, Klay Thompson and Eric Bledsoe.
Based on talent, Parker, Curry, and Westbrook should make it. Based on record (so far), Lillard should make it too. Harden is in the same stratosphere as these players, but is Lin?.
The Pelicans pretty much have to have a player on the All-Star roster because they are the hosting team. It should be Anthony Davis – he’s clearly better and more popular than Eric Gordon, Jrue Holiday or Tyreke Evans.
If we assume the starting lineup is Paul, Bryant, Durant, Griffin and Howard, then the bench should be Parker, Westbrook, Harden, Aldridge, Love, Curry and Davis. Even if a player or two gets injured, there’s no way Lin, Parsons or Asik will be chosen as a replacement over Randolph, Duncan, Leonard, Thompson, Rubio or Lillard.
Two players making the All-Star team from one city is rare, but three even more so. The Rockets candidates, particularly Lin, will need a lot of international votes if they want to have a chance to make the roster.
Regardless, Houston should be sending two players to New Orleans; and if the Rockets improve their record they will also improve their chances of having more players make the All-Star team.
Voting ends January 13th.