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NBA PM: Replacing Kevin Love, Wild Wild West

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Who Will Replace Kevin Love? The Voters Should Decide.

Oh the irony.

After taking quite a while to develop synergy and chemistry with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love has finally emerged as the All-Star player he once was with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Only problem? He won’t be able to participate in the annual classic.

Earlier this week, Love underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee and is expected to be sidelined for approximately the next six weeks. With Serge Ibaka having been traded to the Toronto Raptors, things promise to be somewhat interesting with the Raptors nipping at the heels of the Cavaliers for supremacy atop the conference (assuming they can pull themselves out of their recent slump).

Aside from that, though, and aside from the questions that will continue to be asked revolving around whether the Cavaliers would be well served by engaging the New York Knicks in a swap featuring Love for Carmelo Anthony, the most immediate question that Love’s injury brought forth was who Commissioner Adam Silver would name as his replacement in Sunday’s All-Star game.

Bradley Beal is the name many have mentioned as the most deserving replacement, while others have mentioned Hassan Whiteside and Carmelo Anthony as dark horse frontcourt candidates. Kristaps Porzingis has also received mentions, as he and Anthony finished as the runner-ups in voting.

Still, at the end of the day, the decision is Silver’s and Silver’s alone.

That’s a bad thing.

Since having taken over for David Stern in February 2014, Commissioner Silver has done an exemplary job of running the NBA. Earnings are through the roof and a lockout that many thought was inevitable has been avoided. Donald Sterling is no longer an NBA owner, players are playing fewer back-to-back games and, most recently, the NBA announced a partnership with Gatorade that may help cement the NBA’s newly anointed “G-League” as the best minor league in pro basketball.

When Stern spoke with Basketball Insiders in a one-on-one interview in August 2015—about 18 months after Silver took over—he had nothing but positives to say about his former Deputy Commissioner’s job performance.

Indeed, Silver stepped right in and immediately addressed a few issues that people have been complaining about prior to his installation. And through the early goings of his tenure, he has proven to be many things that Stern was not perceived to be—even-tempered, fair and impartial among them.

With Silver having tweaked the NBA’s All-Star selection system to incorporate votes from the players and media in determining who will be All-Stars, a very simple question needs to be asked and answered: Why in the world does the Commissioner still have the authority to unilaterally name the replacement of an injured player who cannot participate in the game?

It’s almost as puzzling as the league’s decision to go with three “frontcourt” players in the All-Star game, but still have a center position designated on the All-NBA teams.

If the All-Star game truly is about the fans, it would probably make the most sense to have the runners-up serve as the injury replacements. And based on what we have been hearing, it sounds as though that’s exactly the way that things will end up.

Still, though, the authority to name the injury replacement is one that is reserved to the Commissioner. If the goal, however, was to make the All-Star process incorporate more voices, Silver should step up and announce that moving forward, the injury replacement will be based on how the voting ended up. At this point, it doesn’t make sense for that right to be reserved by the Commissioner, and frankly, it flies in the face of who Silver has proven himself to be through the early goings of his tenure.

In such an instance, Kristaps Porzingis—who will already be in New Orleans to participate in the Rising Stars Challenge—would have already punched his ticket for Sunday’s big game.

Fair is fair, Mr. Commissioner. Do the right thing. Name Porzingis the replacement for Love and then announce that moving forward, the replacement will be named automatically.

Still The Wild, Wild West

For years, the Western Conference has been regarded as a dog fight. This year, it remains so, only toward the bottom of the conference.

Entering play on February 15, as the Denver Nuggets sit in the eighth seed out West, we can’t help but be baffled at the fact that they are only 3.5 games ahead of the 12th seed, which happens to be the New Orleans Pelicans. Jostling with the Sacramento Kings, Portland Trail Blazers and Dallas Mavericks, there appear to be five teams battling for one final playoff spot out West. With less than 30 games remaining in the regular season, this trade deadline will be quite interesting.

The Nuggets are believed to still be shopping while the Kings would be served well by finally giving DeMarcus Cousins a taste of the playoffs. The Blazers committed more than $300 million in salaries this past offseason and may not even make the playoffs, while Mark Cuban tries to figure out where his franchise is heading in the twilight of Dirk Nowitzki’s career.

Meantime, the Pelicans are still desperately trying to recapture the mojo they had when they qualified for the playoffs back in 2015.

All five teams have the incentive to want to qualify for the playoffs, meaning that quite a few deals are likely on the horizon. With the deadline coming up on February 23, there’s just over a week to go.

Things will only get more interesting.

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About Moke Hamilton

Moke Hamilton

Moke Hamilton is a Deputy Editor and Columnist for Basketball Insiders, covering the NBA and international basketball.

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