Thunder power forward Serge Ibaka was not selected as a Western Conference reserve player for the 62nd NBA All-Star game next month in Houston, but don't blame fan voting.
Whenever a worthy player fails to make the All-Star team, fault always begins with fan voting. Because if fans fail to vote for a conference's proper starting lineup, one or more deserving reserve is going to be squeezed out as a result.
Fans vote for the starting five and coaches selected the seven reserves from their own conference.
Fans voted for point guard Chris Paul and Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers, Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard of the Los Angeles Lakers and Thunder forward Kevin Durant as the Western starters.
Western coaches this week selected center Tim Duncan and Tony Parker of the San Antonio Spurs, Houston's James Harden, Golden State's David Lee, Memphis' Zach Randolph, Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge and Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook as the reserves.
As is the case every year, a player of All-Star quality does not get chosen as an All-Star. The top Western players not chosen this season were Golden State's Stephen Curry, Los Angeles Clippers' Jamal Crawford, Memphis' center Marc Gasol and Ibaka.
Howard is the most undeserving Western starter. Had Duncan, Lee or Aldridge been voted as a starter, it would have opened a reserve spot. However, it's doubtful Ibaka was the top player not chosen (reserve balloting is not made public).
Though Ibaka is having a career year in points (14.0), rebounds (8.3), field-goal percentage (.560) and free-throw percentage (.757), Curry is widely viewed as the Western player most worthy of being selected, followed by Crawford, Gasol and Ibaka.
Having two teammates chosen as All-Stars also could have hurt Ibaka's chances.
However, Ibaka's noted failure in making this year's team could help him in the future because players previously viewed as overlooked often gain extra consideration.
Only 23, Ibaka has quickly gained notoriety and respect throughout the league.
- He's been a participant in the NBA slam dunk contest, where he was viewed as being underscored.
- He led the league in blocked shots the previous two seasons and ranks second this year.
- He finished runner-up to All-Star Tyson Chandler for NBA defensive player of the year last season.
- On ESPN.com's list of the Top 25 players under age 25, Ibaka was No. 7, ahead of No. 8 Kevin Love, No. 9 Brook Lopez and No. 10 Curry. Durant was No. 1 and Westbrook was No. 2, followed by Griffin, Harden, Derrick Rose and Kyrie Irving.
Accomplishments such as these will only strengthen Ibaka's chances at becoming an All-Star if his performance is deemed worthy.
Also beneficial is Ibaka staying with the upstart Thunder, with whom he agreed to a four-year, $49-million contract extension last August.