Blatant Show Of Disrespect

Zydrunas IlgauskasThe NBA released their initial list of All-Star fan voting results this afternoon. Among the starters, there weren’t really any surprises. In the East, you have Allen Iverson, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, and Dwight Howard. In the West, you’ve got Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Amare Stoudemire, Tim Duncan, and Yao Ming. Pretty much chalk.

Some may find it a little surprising on first impressions to see Dwight Howard leading the NBA in total votes, but when you look a little closer at what’s going on here, you’ll see that fans feel there is no alternative to voting for Dwight Howard at Center in the East. In the West, Yao has Shaq, Bynum, and Okur stealing a decent number of votes. In the East, Howard has no rival. But if you look closer at the fan voting in the East, you’ll see something unbelievably disturbing.

Take a look at the results for Centers in the Eastern Conference:    

  1. Dwight Howard (775,933)
  2. Samuel Dalembert (116,708)
  3. Rasheed Wallace (88,885)
  4. Jermaine O’Neal (75,324)
  5. Al Horford (45,284)
  6. Ben Wallace (40,799)
  7. Andrew Bogut (36,479)
  8. Zydrunas Ilgauskas (28,022)
  9. Kendrick Perkins (24,777)
  10. Emeka Okafor (15,323)

That’s right, Zydrunas Ilgauskas is eighth in voting for centers in the East. You even have one guy who doesn’t play center (Ben Wallace) getting more votes to play center in the All-Star game than Big Z. If you took everyone who voted for Z, you could barely fill up Quicken Loans Arena. 28,000 votes for the guy who is by far the 2nd best center in the East this season. It’s a disturbing show of the lack of respect Big Z has among NBA fans, and it’s really unfortunate more fans can’t appreciate Ilgauskas and the things he can do on the court.

Now, to be certain, Dwight Howard is the best center in the NBA. It’s not even close. He has no rival. He deserves to be the leading vote getter, and he deserves to start. But lets make the argument for why Z deserves to be the 2nd leading vote getter among Eastern Conference centers.

First of all, despite being 10th amongst centers in the East in minutes per game (a result of both Mike Brown consciously wanting to limit his minutes in the regular season and the huge blowouts the Cavs have had this season, thus reducing the need for Z to play in the 4th quarter), Ilgauskas is still 2nd among centers in points per game at 14.8 ppg. He is 2nd among all centers in the entire NBA in PER at 23.44, just 4 points behind Dwight Howard.

Right now, Z is at 14.8 ppg, 7.6 rpg, and 1.2 bpg. Look at some of the guys who are ahead of him. Samuel Dalembert (5.8 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 1.3 bpg), Rasheed Wallace (12.9 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 1.4 bpg), Jermaine O’Neal (12.6 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 1.7 bpg), Al Horford (11.2 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 1.6 bpg), and Andrew Bogut (10.9 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 1.0 bpg). Out of those guys, the only guy to play fewer minutes per game than Zydrunas is Dalembert, and yet Bogut is the only one to average more than 0.5 rebounds per game higher than Ilgauskas. None of them average more than 0.5 blocks per game above him. And yet Z averages more points per game than all of them. His efficiency rating is higher than all of them.

A new thing people like to do is add up points, assists, and rebounds as a way to measure and compare players across positions like LeBron, Kobe, and Chris Paul. Well, what happens if we add up points, rebounds, and blocks for these centers? The list looks like so:

  1. Dwight Howard – 37.5
  2. Emeka Okafor – 24.1
  3. Zydrunas Ilgauskas – 23.6
  4. Rasheed Wallace – 22.3
  5. Andrew Bogut – 22.3
  6. Jermaine O’Neal – 22.2
  7. Al Horford – 20.9
  8. Kendrick Perkins – 17.9
  9. Samuel Dalembert – 15.0
  10. Ben Wallace – 12.1

This list looks pretty dramatically different from the corresponding list of votes. But what happens when we normalize these numbers for minutes by adjusting them to a per 48 minute basis? Take a look:

  1. Dwight Howard – 50.8
  2. Zydrunas Ilgauskas – 43.6
  3. Jermaine O’Neal – 36.6
  4. Andrew Bogut – 34.9
  5. Jermaine O’Neal – 34.4
  6. Al Horford – 31.2
  7. Rasheed Wallace – 30.8
  8. Kendrick Perkins – 30.8
  9. Samuel Dalembert – 28.5
  10. Ben Wallace – 24.8

No matter how you look at it, I find it hard to comprehend how a player like Zydrunas Ilgauskas, having easily the best and most efficient season of his entire career, can be so low in voting despite outplaying everyone else at his position in the Eastern Conference this season other than Dwight Howard.

I realize none of this really matters because the fans vote for the starters only, so this really only affects Dwight Howard, and he is without doubt the deserving starter at center. But this is more about respect, or a lack thereof, for one of the genuine great guys in the NBA having a great season. It’s about a player having such a great season at this later stage of his career getting some recognition for his accomplishments. It’s about the fans showing a little bit of knowledge about the voting process.

Maybe I’m reading too much into this. Who knows why fans vote the way they do. There are many possible reasons for this. Some are legit, some are not. Maybe it’s just that Cavalier fans lack the passion to show their support for one of their own. Or, maybe it’s just that Cleveland fans have more knowledge about the game in general and thus vote for the most deserving guys rather than cast homer votes down party lines. No matter what the reason for these results, it’s an absolute joke that Ilgauskas is eighth in the Eastern Conference among centers. He deserves better from NBA fans.

  • Boomhauer

    The biggest joke is that Yi is 3rd in voting for Eastern Conference forwards. Maybe Z needs more exposure in China since they seem to have a lot of power over who starts in the All-Star game.

  • AMC

    Rock – I wouldn’t read anything into this. Boomhauer makes an excellent point about Yi – so much of the voting is done overseas. Z just doesn’t have a lot of exposure globally (outside of Lithuania that is), and he doesn’t get a lot of publicity nationally either. The All Star game is a friggin popularity contest.

    If you want to know how Z is thought of amongst people who study the game, I listened to the NBA Today ESPN podcast yesterday and they had Bill Walton on who literally waxed poetic about Z for like 5 minutes, stating that he would most definitely be on the All Star team as the reserve center.

  • Yeah, I really do think there’s no way he’s left off the team as a reserve center. It just makes me mad as a Z fan that so many fans are ignorant about the kind of season he’s having.

  • P@

    You hit the nail on the head, Rock. Z doesn’t get any hype outside of Cleveland because he’s from a small country in eastern Europe, unlike Yi who comes from a country with a couple billion people. Z’s not a media darling. Nobody in New York knows who he is, and the nature of New Yorkers is to jump on the media bandwagon and vote for whoever the media hypes (which is silly, but it’s better than being a homer). NYC is voting for Dwight Howard, sure, but they’re also voting for ‘Sheed (because he’s in trouble so often, so he’s on Sportscenter) and Jermaine O’Neal (because he was a big name on Sportscenter in the offseason due to trade possibilities). Dalembert is the recipient of all of the city of Philadelphia’s votes because that city is full of homers… if you’ve ever met a sports fan from Philly, you know what I mean. I hope Z gets selected by the East’s coach for the AS game because it would cause several million voters to go, “Who the heck is that guy? I thought LeBron was the only player on the Cavs?”

  • ryan

    the fact that they vote this early in the season shows that this is just a popularity contest. atleast wait until after december. when is the all star game mid-feb?

  • Gabriel

    agreed agreed agreed. Z is more deserving than all these other shmucks. howard should definitely start, but z should be the first reserve.

  • I don’t want Z to be an allstar this year, he can use that weekend to rest up for our run to the #1 record in the NBA.

    Granted, this is disrespectful, but the vast majority of the country views the Cavs as a one-man-show. Add to this the fact that Ben Wallace is taking away votes from Z (he’d be the 5th leading vote getter with all of Ben’s votes), and you have the perfect storm of reasons why Z is lagging in the standings.

  • wendigo

    i think the biggest joke is how many votes gilbert arenas has…

    and delonte + mo are unlisted, i think mo should at least get back up consideration at PG

  • CJG

    The simple fact is that All-Star voting amounts to NOTHING more than popularity. I say this fully acknowledging that part of being popular in the NBA is being good, but as we see here, being great and but not a superstar means you still get over looked. It’ll be a major loss, Z is fantastic.

  • No respect I tell ya…

  • kiddicus

    I can honestly say that I’ve never voted for a single player nominated for an all-star game in any sport. I feel personally responsible for Z not getting his fair share.

    Sorry big guy.

  • TampaBrett

    We all know the fans voting is ridiculous every year. Simple popularity contest that’s all. It sounds absurd, but I think you should have to take a test on the current season to get a chance to vote as a fan.

  • I seriously doubt that Samuel Dalembert could beat Zydrunas Ilgauskas in any contest in life, except MAYBE Bulletball, or Bulletball Xtreme.

    BRB, Insulin….

  • Chip

    How in the hell is Dalembert second?

    Rasheed I can kind of understand, big name (big mouth…whoops, sorry), not having a bad year, though his team is down a bit.

    But Dalembert…his team is a friggen disappointment, with him being a part of the problem.

    He’s a Center with a FG % less then Ben Wallace, and he scores about as much to boot. He picks up…half a rebound more per game, playing near the same amount of time as Z.

    I don’t understand. I could see many people from whatever city voting straight up for Dwight Howard, since he really has no competition in the east. Are there THAT many Philly fans, and are they THAT ignorant? I really have no experience on the matter, but it just baffles me still.

    Makes me want to hear one of them say with a straight face, “Yes, Dalembert is All-star material this year.” and WHY.

  • Z just doesn’t have the type of game or name recognition that casual fans notice. How do you think Ben Wallace is getting more votes than him? I am sure he will still make the team as a coaches reserve, but being a good player doesn’t mean as much in All-Star voting as flash or fan popularity, or else Vince Carter wouldn’t be a 6 time all-star.

  • I saw this in the paper this morning, Rock! It truly upset me and made me sick to my stomach…dude, Ben Wallace is ahead of Z? Greg Oden is fifth among centers in the West, ahead of Al Jefferson and Andris Biedrins? The peeps here in Portland are beyond pissed that Brandon Roy is 10th and barely making a peep when he’s averaging 20.8 points for one of the league’s biggest surprises.

    The All-Star voting is a joke. I mean, Yi Jianlian is third amongst forwards. One surge and he could be your starting East forward alongside LeBron instead of KG.

  • Todd

    “Now, to be certain, Dwight Howard is the best center in the East. It’s not even close. He has no rival.”


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