The NBA has no greater hype man than Daryl Morey. Philadelphia's president of basketball operations once claimed that James Harden was a better scorer than Michael Jordan. Between Harden and Joel Embiid he finds ways to insert himself into the MVP conversation almost every year. But with the NBA announcing this year's All-Star starters on Thursday, he took things in a new direction. Embiid missed the cut in the crowded Eastern Conference front-court race, and Morey blamed the media's concentration of reporters with ties to Boston.
"Completely hosed once again," Morey said on 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia. "This time, to your point, the perpetrators of the crime were the shameless media, who most of them have recused themselves because they don't want the vote on something that affect players' paychecks.
"But the shameless Boston media is way overrepresented. They haven't recused themselves, and they shoved Joel low enough so that he's not an All-Star starter. It's crazy."
The NBA makes sure that every market is represented in voting for every honor, but the national media does tend to skew towards the east coast, and many notable reporters do have ties to Boston. However, Morey's argument immediately loses steam due to the fact that the media technically voted Embiid as a starter. There are three front-court spots available per conference. Embiid finished third among media voters and player voters. Where he lost out was with fans, who voted him fourth.
What Morey is essentially arguing is that Jayson Tatum, who finished first in media voting, only made the cut because of a Boston media bias. Tatum finished fourth among player votes and third among fans. Whether or not Tatum should have beaten out Embiid is ultimately subjective, but it's worth noting that Tatum has played in 12 more games than Embiid. In such a close race, that likely played a part for several voters. It's also worth pointing out that if the NBA had used its old system of letting fan votes determine starters unilaterally, Embiid still would have missed out.
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If there's something to be criticized here, it's the league's positional mandate. Basketball is an increasingly positionless sport. Virtually everyone would agree that Embiid, Tatum, Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo are four of the Eastern Conference's five best players. All of them but Antetokounmpo can shoot, so they could fairly easily coexist on a court together. Yet the NBA insists on starting two guards per conference rather than just picking the best five players. The same problem played out in All-NBA voting last season, as Embiid finished second in MVP voting, but still couldn't earn All-NBA First-Team honors because Nikola Jokic plays his position.
That is the issue that actually needs to be explored here, not some Boston-centric media conspiracy. The race between those four stars for three starting slots was close enough that almost any justification could be offered to leave one of them out. Embiid got unlucky likely because of the games he's missed. It's unfortunate, but that's a flaw in the system, not the voters that populate it.