Miami Heat center Joel Anthony got a pleasant surprise when the NBA released its All-Star Game Ballot Wednesday. Along with perennial Heat All-Stars Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh, Anthony is on the ballot, one of 12 centers in the NBA's Eastern Conference.
On the one hand, it is not surprising that Anthony is getting this recognition. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is constantly praising Anthony's contributions to the team on defense, often saying that statistics do not reflect the value he adds to the Heat.
But on the other hand, the All-Star ballot is often a popularity contest judged by the fans, and fans prefer their All-Stars to put up gaudy stats – which Anthony does not. He is averaging 3.3 points per game so far this season, along with 4.7 rebounds and 0.8 blocks.
In six games this season, Anthony has only attempted 15 field goals. Both Wade and James have blocked more shots despite giving up six and two inches in height to Anthony, respectively.
Perhaps this is a sign that the league is beginning to show some respect to "The Warden," as his teammates nicknamed him last season.
Or perhaps, with 12 out of 15 Eastern Conference teams having centers included on the ballot, it was simply a numbers game, and Anthony was deemed to be better than the bottom three in the Eastern Conference.
Regardless, Anthony should probably hold off on planning a trip to Orlando for All-Star weekend. Inclusion on the All-Star team is practically guaranteed for Wade, James and Bosh, but Anthony has to compete with Orlando's Dwight Howard, who has made the All-Star team in each of his previous five seasons.
Fans can place their All-Star votes at NBA.com. Balloting closes on Jan. 31, and starters for the Feb. 26 game will be announced on Feb. 2.