Half-way into the 2013-14 season, AGR has only posted one article, so make sure to leave us off of your NBA Blogs All-Star ballot. We are going to do our best to make a second-half push, and we’ll start it out with a good, old-fashioned read on our All-Star picks.
Like most seasons, this year’s selections aren’t easy. In the East, there is a dearth of quality players to select from. In the West, there are too many. Imagine if players like Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Brook Lopez, Al Horford, and Eric Bledsoe were healthy! Picking All-Stars is always a near impossible task. But we’ll try, even if we fail.
Before we announce our starters and reserves, we’ll show y’all who the fans voted in, for better or worse.
East Starters (IRL): Kyrie Irving, Dwyane Wade, Paul George, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony.
West Starters (IRL): Stephen Curry, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, Kevin Love.
All in all, not so bad. Kobe’s presence is a glaring mistake, given that he’s played in only six games so far, but beyond that the fans did alright. Here’s how the All-Star rosters would look in a perfect world, i.e., if AGR was in charge of selecting the teams.
The Starters (two guards, three frontcourt)
Guard #1, John Wall: JW2 has probably been the best point guard in the East this year, with Kyle Lowry also making a solid argument for that title. He has flashed his much improved jumper, which is translating to a career-highs in 3pt% (31.8%) and FT% (83.9%), but perhaps a bit too much (career low free throw rate). All you need to know is this: He is second among East guards in VORP and his team’s point-differential is 13.7 points per 100 possessions better when he’s on the court than when is off.
Guard # 2, Kyle Lowry: Lowry is having a career year in Toronto, which has been overshadowed by his fit with Toronto and the fact that, well, he plays in Toronto. Between his stingy defense and his three-point accuracy/volume (39.7% on 6.1 3PA per game), his game is complete and efficient. He has the second most Win Shares of all NBA guards (behind only Chris Paul); he also leads East guards in VORP. He’s not quite as vital to his team’s offense as Wall, which might explain why his on-off numbers aren’t as impressive (NetRTG of 1.4).
Frontcourt #1, Paul George: George has been the best player on the best team, but that doesn’t capture how good he’s been. He’s been a beast on both sides of the ball. He’s fourth in the league in WS as well as VORP. George’s ascension into superstardom deserves more space than this, so we’ll leave it at this: He’s now a top-five player in the league, and perhaps the best player after LBJ and KD.
Frontcourt #2, LeBron James: Despite leading the league and posting a career-high in TS% (66.1%), James is having a down year. His increased scoring efficiency has been accompanied by regressions in defense, rebounding, passing, and turnovers. It’s safe to say that he’s coasting until the playoffs. That said, he’s been the clear-cut second best player after Kevin Durant. What else did you expect from the King?
Frontcourt #3, Roy Hibbert: Hibbert’s traditional stats might not look like that of a typical All-Star starter, but that can happen as a rim-protecting center. He’s this year’s front-runner for DPOY, which can be seen in his team’s historically great defense, his league-leading DRtg, his third-best Blk%, and his stingy protection of the cup (opponents shoot only 41.6% at rim when Hibbert is there).
The Bench (two guards, three frontcourt, two wildcards)
Guard #1, Dwyane Wade: Between reduced minutes and games, the Miami Heat guard is having a down year. Like LeBron, he’s accompanying career-highs in scoring efficiency with otherwise underwhelming stats (that is, by Wade standards). Still, in a weak Eastern Conference, he’s more than deserving of an All-Star nomination.
Guard #2, Lance Stephenson: Many people’s midseason pick for MIP, Lance “Born Ready” Stephenson had been one of the league’s best stories this year. He has combined electric play with effective play, which explains why he is second in WS and third in VORP among East guards; he also leads the league in triple doubles so far.
Frontcourt #1, Joakim Noah: Like last year, the Bulls are a playoff team competing for homecourt advantage without Derrick Rose; like last year, Noah is the primary reason why. Among players in the East, he ranks fifth in WS and seventh in VORP; given his defensive prowess, these stats are underselling his value.
Frontcourt #2, Carmelo Anthony: To say the Knicks are underperforming is an understatement–they have been a flat-out embarrassment this season. Don’t blame Melo, though. He ranks fourth in WS and sixth in VORP among all Eastern Conference players, which can be attributed to his career best numbers in rebounding, blocks, and turnovers.
Frontcourt #3, Chris Bosh: Like Hibbert, Bosh is a player whose impact isn’t always captured by traditional stats. ESPN’s Tom Haberstroh pointed out Bosh’s defensive value; specifically, his league-best pick-and-roll defense and his plus-minus value. It’s easy to forget about Bosh given his high-profile teammates, but he’s been more than productive enough to earn a spot on the All-Star squad.
Wildcard #1, Paul Millsap: The Hawks have barely suffered despite a season-ending injury to Al Horford, and Millsap is the main reason why. He has been underrated going back to his college days, but this could (and should) be the year that his production is recognized with an All-Star selection.
Wildcard #2, Kyrie Irving: Uncle Drew got off to a slow start, but has come around in the middle-third of the season, so far. His defense and his team’s production, however, have remained underwhelming. Irving needs to find ways to make his teammates better and stifle opposing guards, but his talent and production make him a solid All-Star pick.
Notable snubs: Andre Drummond, Arron Afflalo, Anderon Varejao, Al Jefferson, Luol Deng, DeMar DeRozan, David West
The Starters (two guards, three frontcourt)
Guard #1, Chris Paul: CP3 has been his typical dominant self–he is second in the West in VORP despite having missed a fifth of his team’s games. We could name a dozen stats justifying his position as a starter, but it’s simpler than that: he’s the best point guard in the game and a top-three point guard of all-time. He’s the starter.
Guard #2, Stephen Curry: Most saw it coming in last year’s playoffs, but now we all know: Steph Curry is a certified superstar. He and his fellow starters have the most formidable starting lineup in the league (they have the best NetRTG of the 26 lineups that have played at least 200 minutes), and Curry’s been a major reason why. He’s fifth in VORP and eighth in WS league-wide. His primary competition for the spot is James Harden, and Curry has been better so far this year.
Frontcourt #1, Kevin Durant: Durant has been this year’s MVP, and it’s not even close. He’s improved his defense, turnovers, and passing, giving him an insurmountable lead in WS and VORP. His squad is best in the West despite missing Russell Westbrook nearly the entire season. If he keeps it up and wins a ring, too, it will be one of the greatest regular seasons of all time.
Frontcourt #2, Blake Griffin: After Durant, Western frontcourt decisions become tricky. Griffin, Love, Aldridge, Davis, Howard, Nowitzki, and Cousins are just a sample of All-Star worthy big guys. Griffin gets one of the spots for his improved defense and versatility; moreover, he’s held the Clippers together in CP3’s absence. His All-Star-appropriate monster-dunks will be an added bonus.
Frontcourt #3, Kevin Love: Some might prefer to see one of the other aforementioned big-men in this spot, but Love’s consistent dominance vaults him to starter-status. He trails only KD and LBJ in Win Shares; VORP tells a similar story. Some argue that his team’s disappointing record should preclude his starterdom, but the Wolves’ point differential suggests that they’re a better team than their record shows. In fact, the Wolves’ SRS (which is a point differential that factors in both pace and strength of schedule) pegs them as the league’s sixth-best team.
Western Conference Bench (two guards, three frontcourt, two wildcards)
Guard #1, Damian Lillard: The second-year point guard is quarterbacking the league’s most surprising contender with veteran poise and Curry-like marksmanship. His stats back up the eye-test–among guards in the West, he is fourth in WS (while ranking 13th league-wide). He is shooting 7.1 threes a game and making them at a 42% clip. That, combined with his absurdly low turnover rate, is part of the reason the Blazers have the league’s best offense.
Guard #2, James Harden: Harden can be a polarizing player given his apathy on defense, but his All-Star status is’t debatable. Despite his non-existent D and questionable shot selection, he finds himself 11th in WS league-wide. Some contend that a team with Harden, Howard, Chandler Parsons, and a crew of strong role players should be doing better, but the team is still coalescing in a loaded West. If not for Harden, who knows where they’d be.
Frontcourt #1, LaMarcus Aldridge: Aldridge is having a career year, posting some of his best numbers in assists, rebounds, and turnovers. Because of the Blazers’ success and his stellar play (ninth overall in WS), his name has entered the MVP conversation. That might be a stretch–LA’s teammates deserve more credit than they’re given for the team’s success–but there’s no doubt he’s an All-Star.
Frontcourt #2, Dwight Howard: Dwight’s offensive and defensive numbers are down from his Orlando days, but a lesser Dwight is probably still good enough for the title of “best center in the league.” His Rockets are only an average defensive team, but they remain championship contenders given their strong showings against the league’s best teams. As his team continues to gel, don’t sleep on the Rockets come playoff time.
Frontcourt #3, Dirk Nowitzki: Many wrote off Dirk and the Mavs going into the season, citing their offseason moves as impulsive and wasteful. Now, his team his firmly in the playoff hunt. Leave it to Dirk to make it work. While he might not be worthy in terms of WS (20th league-wide) or VORP (22nd), his plus-minus numbers are strong and he’s shooting the ball as well as he has in years, partially due to his rededication to letting it fly from deep.
Wildcard #1, Anthony Davis: Picking Davis for this spot is difficult–he’s missed time due to injury, his team has disappointed, and his plus-minus numbers are rocky. But his gross production in spite of those injuries, combined with his highlight-centric style, make him an appropriate pick. He ranks 16th in WS, which is mighty impressive considering a) he’s played fewer games than everyone above him except Chris Paul, and b) WS is a stat that typically favors players on good teams.
Wildcard #2, Goran Dragic: It’s difficult not to reward a Sun, given the team’s surprising success this season. Both Bledsoe and Dragic have been revelations this season, providing valuable versatility, unselfishness, shooting, and defense. Dragic has held the team together in the face of EB’s injury; on the season he ranks 18th in WS. His handle and clever passing should add to the show in New Orleans.
Notable Snubs: Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, DeMarcus Cousins, David Lee, Mike Conley, Isaiah Thomas, Klay Thompson, Monta Ellis, Nic Batum, Serge Ibaka, DeAndre Jordan, Ty Lawson, Nikola Pekovic, Zach Randolph, Kawhi Leonard, Wesley Matthews, Chandler Parsons, among others.
What do you think of the our All-Star picks? Who was the biggest snub and most undeserving starter? Comment on the article or e-mail us at AGRbasketball (at) gmail (dot) com. Don’t forget to follow @AGRbasketball on Twitter and to like us on Facebook.