With the N.B.A. All-Star Game a little more than a month away, more than 11 million votes have already cast to send fans’ favorite players to New Orleans.
But even as fans are voting more enthusiastically than they did in 2016, their power is diminished this season. In 2017, for the first time, players and the news media will also have a role in choosing the All-Star starters.
That means that the players who will fill out the starting lineups in February will most likely be more logical choices than if the selections were strictly left to fans.
For instance, if fans had their way after one week of voting, Dwyane Wade would be an All-Star starter. Wade is having a solid season. But his statistics are not even as good as those of his Chicago Bulls backcourt partner Jimmy Butler, let alone someone like Russell Westbrook, who is averaging a triple-double for the Oklahoma City Thunder and whom fans neglected to vote in as a starter in the West in the first wave of voting.
Affection for Wade looks reasonable when compared with the support Golden State’s journeyman center, Zaza Pachulia, has received. Pachulia, who is averaging 5.3 points and 5.7 rebounds a game, was the second-most popular frontcourt player in the West, receiving more votes in the first week than stars like Kawhi Leonard of the San Antonio Spurs and Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans.
It’s not the first time Pachulia, who hails from the republic of Georgia, has been a front-runner: Last season, while on the Dallas Mavericks, he nearly became a starter when a campaign spearheaded by his countrymen won him 768,112 votes.
“I’m not surprised at all,” he said this year upon learning that his fans had turned out again.
The players and the news media should be able to keep Pachulia out of the game, which, perhaps, will prevent Charles Barkley from blowing his top, the way he did last year.
The last day to vote for the All-Stars is Jan. 16, so support Pachulia, or whomever, while you still can. Let’s get into some games.
Have a question or a suggestion for this column? Send an email to NBAweek@nytimes.com, or bother me on Twitter: @Jonesieman.
Game of the Week
Boston at Atlanta, Friday, 8 p.m., ESPN
In the East, where teams seem to rise and fall on a weekly basis, the Atlanta Hawks have won six straight games, soaring into the fourth spot in the conference, even as a trade has left the future of the franchise in doubt.
Atlanta has seen surprising productivity out of the fourth-year man Tim Hardaway Jr. who, after averaging 10.3 points in December, is up to 19 points a game in January, and shooting 65 percent from behind the 3-point line. Hardaway’s sudden emergence may have helped Atlanta feel more comfortable in parting with the sharpshooter Kyle Korver, whom it traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers last week in exchange for Mike Dunleavy, Mo Williams and a future first-round draft pick.
Now, with rumors that they may be looking to trade their star big man Paul Millsap, some fans are wondering whether the Hawks have given up on this season, and are already looking to rebuild.
If Atlanta is deconstructing its current roster, the demolition really began with the loss of Al Horford, who, after nine seasons in Atlanta, decamped for Boston during the off-season.
With Horford’s help, the Celtics have held steady in the third spot in the East. They’ve won eight of their last 10 games and are in the midst of a four-game winning streak. But they’re 0-3 against the top teams in the conference, having lost two games to the Cavaliers and another to the Toronto Raptors.
Boston visits the Raptors on Tuesday, before flying down to Atlanta to face the Hawks for the first time this season. Given all that’s up in the air in Atlanta, it’s hard to predict what we’ll see from the Hawks on Friday.
Three Others to Watch
Memphis at Oklahoma City, Wednesday, 8 p.m. ESPN
Last week, Memphis showed once again that it can beat any team in the league, taking down the Warriors for the second time this season. Memphis has beaten Cleveland, Houston and Oklahoma City as well. (It has yet to play the San Antonio Spurs and has lost to the Los Angeles Clippers.) But the Grizzlies, as good as they can be, occasionally have trouble keeping up with high-scoring teams, and the Thunder’s no-joke offense should test Memphis on the road.
Chicago at Knicks, Thursday, 8 p.m., TNT
After briefly dropping out of the playoff picture in the East, the Bulls have fought their way back. They are in the seventh spot, though the Wizards, the Bucks and the Knicks are trailing close behind. But the Knicks are having a tough 2017. They were 3-7 in their last 10 games entering Monday night and have shown themselves to be embarrassingly porous on defense.
League Pass Game of the Week: Cleveland at Utah, Tuesday, 9 p.m.
By adding Kyle Korver, the Cavs have only increased their ability to punish teams from behind the 3-point arc. Cleveland has yet to lose a significant game, and is most often challenged by sneaky good teams. The Jazz fit the bill — they’ve become one of the most exciting squads in the N.B.A., and remain competitive in the West, even as the Houston Rockets and the Clippers are asserting their dominance.
Friday’s loss to Memphis had fans of the Warriors — and even some of their players — despairing.
“Our fourth-quarter offense has been atrocious,” Draymond Green said after the game.
Green isn’t exaggerating. The Warriors, even though they have the league’s best offense, often struggle to score in the final period. And that’s partly because their vaunted attack, predicated on passing, becomes a lot less fluid in the fourth quarter, even when their four superstars — Green, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson — are on the floor.
According to a statistical analysis by ESPN’s Micah Adams:
“With that big four on the floor, 66 percent of their attempts in the first three quarters have come directly off a pass. That number drops to 57 percent in the fourth quarter and overtime, invariably leading to more difficult shots.”
That’s something we’ve seen from a team featuring Durant before. When the superstar was on the Thunder, Oklahoma City’s offense would often stagnate late in games, as he and Russell Westbrook took turns dialing up isolation plays.
During its rise over the last couple of seasons, Golden State has made its name on ball movement. It’s frustrating to see the Warriors lose that aspect of its identity late in games. And with its second, and final, regular-season game against Cleveland taking place next week, Golden State should be focused on ensuring that the ball starts moving again late in games.
That’s all for now. See you next week.
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