A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

My NBA All-Star Picks (given the fans’ voting)

with 5 comments

The fans’ final choices for the NBA all-star game are in. They are:

Western Conference

Guard: Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul

Forward: Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant

Center: Yao Ming

Eastern Conference:

Guard: Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade

Forward: LeBron James, Amare Stoudemire

Center: Dwight Howard

Immediate reaction: Yao, of course, is completely undeserving but at this point it’s just expected that this will happen, and since he’s injury, it’s hard to be bothered by it. The Anthony choice is more annoying because he will play, and he’s not worthy of even being a reserve. Here’s hoping he gets traded to the East, because competition is so weak there his inclusion won’t seem odd.

Other than that, choices seem fine.

My choices for the reserves:

Western Conference:

Guard: Manu Ginobili, Steve Nash, Russell Westbrook, Deron Williams

Forward: Pau Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki

Center: Nene

Replacement: Tim Duncan

Snubs on my mind: Lamarcus Aldridge, Rudy Gay, Blake GriffinKevin Love,  Paul Millsap, Lamar Odom, Tony Parker, David West

My thought process:

First let’s get out of the way that Nene’s only making the team because in the past the NBA has been strict about having a true center as backup center. So don’t compare him with the forwards.

My two mandatory backup forwards had to be Nowitzki and Gasol. I’ve seen some people rate Love ahead of Gasol, but as much as I’m a fan of Love, I don’t see how there’s a real debate here.

The first big decision point here where I run afoul of conventional wisdom is in giving both of my wild card spots to guards, and specifically Steve Nash over Love, Griffin, or any forward. In all honesty though, this wasn’t much of a debate. People are going nuts over Love and Griffin’s PER, but Nash’s PER is almost as good at Love’s despite the fact that PER systematically underrates distributors (and if you look at Hoopdata’s superior APER stat, Nash is 4th in the league well ahead of Love).

Now remember that Nash always had impact well above the box score numbers and that hasn’t changed. His Phoenix Suns may have a losing record (though still better than the Clippers or Timberwolves), but when he’s in the game the team is a winning squad. His +/- numbers look fantastic once again this year, while Love & Griffin’s are merely competent.

Nash probably won’t be named an all-star this year, but that’s simply wrong. He clearly should be.

Next we have to pick the replacement for Yao, and here’s where I most strongly deviate from the norm: I pick Duncan. First off there’s the matter that while you can fudge a center into a forward here, it’s really best to pick someone who actually plays like a center. None of my “snubs”, here can really do that. Then there’s the matter that the Spurs have been the best team in the league and to this point I’ve only pick one of their squad to make the all-star game despite the fact the team operates as an ensemble. Kind of begs for another Spur to be added. Last, people will talk about the big numbers other guys put up, and Duncan’s pedestrian numbers, but consider the context. The Spurs are a beautifully run team, with Duncan clearly sacrificing his own numbers like crazy. You think there’s anyway Popovich would pick any of the “snubs” over Duncan for his team right now? Doesn’t it seem a little crazy to insist that the last member of an all-star squad should be picked because he can put up big numbers when he’s the best player on a team full of bad players?

Last, what if Melo gets traded? Or, essentially the same question: What if the fans weren’t so misguided about Melo and he wasn’t taking an all-star spot away from more deserving players? Who would get that last spot?

I go back and forth on this, but right now I’ll go with West. No one seems to have realized this, but with Paul’s decrease in volume numbers this year came West’s ascendancy as the team’s lead scorer, and his best ever statistical year. The gap between the importance of Paul and West for the Hornets is smaller than it’s ever been since Paul’s hit his prime. All while the Hornets now look to be legit contenders for at least a 2nd round spot in the playoffs. For the moment at least, I’ll take that over the big number guys on lesser teams.

Eastern Conference:

Guard: Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo

Forward: Carlos Boozer, Chris Bosh, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce

Center: Al Horford

Snubs on my mind: Raymond Felton, Danny Granger, Joe Johnson, Josh Smith

My thought process:

I actually agonize over the East a lot less than the West although that 12th spot is a very close call. And that 12th spot went to Boozer. Just going over the debatable spots:

Bosh doesn’t get nearly enough credit. Yes his volume numbers are down, why is this a problem? He joined a team with LeBron and Wade, what were you expecting? It’s true that the Heat haven’t destroyed the league, but they’ve still done quite well, and they’ve done this with Bosh as probably their most indispensable part. Don’t believe me? Don’t believe the +/- statistics that, go read the interview with Heat coach Spoelstra. Look, he’s not as good of a player as LeBron or Wade, but he’s really doing exactly what you’d hope for, and competition is not exactly fierce in the East.

Ray Allen isn’t a consensus, and that’s pretty silly. Boston has arguably been the most impressive team in the league despite a ton of injuries. It’s obvious now that you can’t put any one Celtic up for MVP, but that they’ve got an incredible foundation, and part of that foundation is Allen being able to blend in with the other big talents by turning into a Reggie Miller-esque mover without the ball. This is simply not something you can expect from other guards who put up bigger volume numbers when they have the ball in their hands all the time. Again, we should consider with lesser all-stars how they would do on a stacked team, and Allen’s a guy who can squeeze himself into a valuable niche in addition to doing the volume thing.

So last, Boozer, why Boozer? I don’t feel strongly about this pick at all. He’s missed time, and the Bulls were good without him (though not AS good). Look at those “snubs” though. These are Mo Williams level guys. If we absolutely have to give one an all-star nod sometimes, that’s not the end of the world. They are not however really elite players in this game, so if a true all-star level guy misses some time, I’m still inclined to pick that guy over these also rans.

5 Responses

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  1. No consideration of Bogut? (not in the least suggesting that Horford’s a bad choice)


    January 30, 2011 at 3:00 am

  2. Y’know he was worth putting in the snub category. Obviously I think you’d agree that Horford gets the backup center spot over Bogut, but then that 12th spot was totally up for grabs and the other snubs don’t have a clear edge over him.

    In the end, I’m just not as sold on Bogut’s impact as Boozer’s at this point. A guy who has all his impact on defense can still be a superstar, but a guy like that on a weak team that desperately needs offense is not desperately impressive.

    Matt Johnson

    January 30, 2011 at 6:32 pm

    • Fair enough. He (and the rest of the Bucks) have been offensively putrid this year, although injury (both for Bogut and the Bucks) has been cruel. I can see taking Boozer, absolutely, although I think the gaping defensive difference makes it a close decision.

      Having said that, I think Bogut can reasonably contend with Dwight for the DPOY (in a vacuum, team-records-be-damned sort of way), especially in terms of limiting a direct opponent’s production. 82games has some pretty good stats on that (opp eFG%, PER, even the hoary old Opp PPG all favour Bogut). An interesting additional stat in which he outperformed Dwight was the number of blocks recovered by the player’s own team as opposed to gentleman-in-the-fourth-row-and-sideline-ball type of block.

      I’m rambling a bit. Good picks in any case.


      February 1, 2011 at 1:18 am

      • I certainly agree that Bogut’s a DPOY contender.

        I’ll also admit Boozer’s known for being bang-head-against-wall bad on defense, which makes the comparison with Bogut interesting and not obvious in its conclusion.

        Matt Johnson

        February 1, 2011 at 10:12 am

  3. […] announced, and Steve Nash‘s name wasn’t on the list. I said I expected as much when I made my all-star picks, and gave the gist of my thoughts for why this was crazy. I want to go into them more clearly here, […]

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