Opinion: Blazers’ Damian Lillard deserved NBA All-Star starter spot over Mavericks’ Luka Doncic

Any time you say one player should be an All-Star starter, you must be willing to say another player shouldn’t be.

In the case of Thursday’s NBA All-Star starter announcement, there was one major snub: Portland’s Damian Lillard should have been named a starter instead of Dallas’ Luka Doncic.

That’s not saying Doncic isn’t an All-Star. He is. He’s just not a starter this season.

The breakdown is simple.

Lillard is averaging 29.8 points (third in the NBA), 7.7 assists and 4.4 rebounds and shooting 45.1% from the field, 38.4% on 3-pointers and 93.3% on free throws, all while leading the Trail Blazers to an 18-10 record, good for fourth place in the Western Conference. The Blazers score 120 points and allow 115.1 points per 100 possessions with Lillard on the floor.

Doncic is averaging 29.1 points (fifth in the NBA), 9.4 assists and 8.6 rebounds while shooting 47.5% from the field, 33.5% on 3s and 79.5% from the foul line. Doncic is tied for the league-lead in triple-doubles with seven. Dallas scores 116.4 points and allows 115.1 points per 100 possessions with Doncic on the floor. The Mavericks are 13-15 and in the 10th place in the West.

Lillard is having a better season for a better team.

This is not anti-Doncic.

It is pro-Lillard.

The fans titled the vote in Doncic’s favor. All-Star voting is three-pronged and weighted, with fan voting accounting for 50% of the results and players and media 25% each, and ties are determined by fans.

Let’s look at backcourt voting in the West. Golden State’s Steph Curry was No. 1 in fan, player and media voting.

It was the second backcourt spot up for grabs. Doncic was No. 2 in fan voting and No. 3 in player and media voting. Lillard was No. 2 in player and media voting and No. 3 in fan voting. The weighted score for each player totaled 2.5 points.

Since fans decide the tiebreaker, Doncic got in as a starter. The Mavericks star had 3,335,042 fans votes, nearly a half million more than Lillard’s 2,848,663.

Lillard fans are a vocal bunch, often complaining that he doesn’t get enough credit for what he does. His supporters were irate on social media following the announcement. Maybe they should have voted more. But it’s clear Doncic has a loyal following, too, perhaps bolstered by his worldwide appeal.

The NBA gives more weight to the fan vote because the league views the game as an event for the fans. In explaining why the league is even playing an All-Star Game this season, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver cited fans.

“All-Star is the No. 1 fan engagement event the of entire season for the league,” Silver told TNT’s Inside the NBA crew. “It’s been a 70-year tradition.”

The coaches will do the right thing and vote Lillard onto the All-Star team when reserves are announced on Tuesday. So all will almost end well. Lillard will be on the team, he just won’t be a starter.

Just wait until the reserves are named. There will be some snubs there, too, with upset players, coaches and fans.

Follow Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt.

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