If you’re an NBA fan, you may have heard the name Zaza Pachulia before. The long-time Atlanta Hawks center has played brief stints with the Orlando Magic, Milwaukee Bucks, and Dallas Mavericks over his 13 seasons in the NBA before landing with the Golden State Warriors this year.
He starts for the Warriors, which is an accomplishment in and of itself on that star-stacked teams, and he has played relatively consistently, averaging about five points and six rebounds a game for the defending Western Conference champs.
He’s good; not an All-Star; and by no stretch of the imagination should he ever be construed as worth of starting an NBA All-Star Game. According to the vote returns Thursday, however, he’s behind only teammate Kevin Durant in terms of worthiness in the West, beating out everyone else, including Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis.
Pachulia hails from the country of Georgia, and the 6’11 big man is a national hero in the basketball-loving country. He can thank their online ballot stuffing for his No. 2 standing in total votes in the West. The same thing happened last season, however, Kawhi narrowly defeated the big man in final votes.
“Every single Georgian should be proud because their efforts have been felt, right?” said Pachulia. “I never asked anybody to vote for me last year. That’s the beauty of it. That’s the special part of it.”
Zaza is part of the reason the NBA changed the voting system for the All-Star Game. No longer do fans have absolute say (because of ballot stuffing countries). The rankings are now determined 50 percent by fans, 25 percent by the media, and 25 percent by the players themselves. The total number of votes doesn’t matter, only the average of their rankings.
For example, if Zaza finishes second among fans, thirtieth among the media, and twenty-second among players it works out as follows:
2 + 2 + 30 + 22 = 56 / 4 = 14.
Of course, the media and players will probably place Zaza pretty low to counterbalance the fans.
So, while Zaza won’t be starting for the West, there’s still a chance he makes the team. I wouldn’t bet on it, though, unless the media is controlled by Georgia as well.