We’re 1/3 of the way through the season which means it’s time to stuff the online All Star ballots. There will probably be retired people and terrible people and mediocre people elected to the game, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t vote. It’s your patriotic duty.
pt/reb/ast/stl/blk (blk omitted if negligible). Statistics gathered from basketball-reference.com, thenbageek.com, espn.com, and nba.com. Except the ones I made up. Stats as of Jan. 31
Starter: Rajon Rondo 15.0/5.1/9.4/1.7
Backup: Derrick Rose 22.6/3.6/7.8/0.9/0.6
Bonus: Jose Calderon 10.3/3.4/8.5/0.6
Rajon Rondo has Rose in every category but points, but Rose is in the top 10 in both PPG and APG. Aren’t those extra points worth the 1.5 less rebounds and assists?
Believe it or not, Rondo—whose jumper has such a terrible reputation—is outshooting Rose as measured by FG%, 3FG%, and only 1% behind in True Shooting %. For instance, it’s not really helping the Bulls that Rose continues to launch 4.7 3-points per game at less than 30% accuracy. Rondo wisely stays away from 3-point land. Sometimes less is more, which is a big part of why Rondo and Allen have been able to keep dragging Boston towards the playoffs.
Starter: Ray Allen 15.3/3.1/2.4/0.8
Backup: Dwyane Wade 20.1/4.0/5.4/2.2/1.5
Shooting guard is not pretty this year. In the West we have someone who had trouble convincing his team he’s a starter, in the East we have someone who’s missed a bunch of games, in both, we have a past-their-prime veteran, and in both, we shooting guards who can’t shoot 3-pointers.
The veteran takes the starting role in the East as Ray Allen’s ridiculous accuracy earns him the top spot. If there’s not a great shooting guard candidate, might as well pick someone who shoots well. Allen is of course 1st in 3FG% and 2nd in TS%. 57.1% from deep is pretty good, and while 20 games is a small sample size, it’s also about 1/3 of a season and the All-Star break approaches. While Boston waits for Pierce and Garnett to get things together it’s all on Allen and Rondo to keep it together.
Wade in a down year is still better than many in a down year for shooting guards, and seems to be on a higher level after his return from injury. Even better, he’s not shooting any 3’s this year (career 29%, career 5 per 48min). Racking up that number of rebounds, steals, and blocks from the 2-spot is pretty sweet. He’s also 2nd in points and 4th in assists on a per 48 minute basis, among shooting guards. With Miami finally running more* and sticking LeBron in the post, Wade will only continue to grow comfortable with his fellow members of the 3 Best Friends.**
Starter: LeBron James 29.2/8.3/7.1/1.8/0.8
Backup: Andre Iguodala 12.9/6.6/5.0/1.9/0.5
LeBron is the MVP through 1/3 of the season. He’s drawing comparisons to Oscar Robertson’s stats, while playing on a top-tier team, while also plays intense defense. If asked he can lock down shifty point guards all the way down to strong power forwards. He’s 1st in the NBA in Wins Produced with 6.0 (0.383 WP per 48). 2nd place is 5.2 and only 5 are above 3.5. He’s literally leaps and bounds above the competition.
Everything you can say about LeBron’s defense goes for Andre Iguodala, too. He’s 4th in Defensive Rating, the highest rank for a non-PF/C, and is also 4th in Wins Produced with 4.3 (0.282 WP48). With the 76ers’ starting and backup centers both injured, Iguodala similarly covers everything from mirroring PGs to knocking rebounding specialists clear out of the camera frame. Iguodala’s recent 10-10-10 triple-double epitomizes his all-around game. He’s also possibly the most underrated player on this list, since he leads the league in “unjustifiably booed at home during a double-double with excellent defense for missing foul shots” (63.1 FT%).
If you haven’t seen enough evidence yet that Iguodala belongs, let’s put him side by side with his likely usurper, Carmelo Anthony.
Andre Iguodala 12.9/6.6/5.0/1.9/0.5
Carmelo Anthony 23.7/6.6/4.4/1.2/0.4
Andre Iguodala 45.1 FG% 37.3 3FG% 54.0 TS%
Carmelo Anthony 40.4 FG% 31.6 3FG% 51.1 TS%
Andre Iguodala 0.282 WP48 108 O Rtg 92 D Rtg 19.0
Carmelo Anthony 0.074 WP48 102 O Rtg 101 D Rtg 21.1
In other words, by virtually every statistical measure, Iguodala is better, with one exception: he scores less points. Of course, Carmelo Anthony scores his points by shooting way more shots at a worse percentage.
Besides, Iguodala knows how to party well enough to have some fun at the All Star game.
Starter: Ryan Anderson 16.1/7.1/0.7/0.9
Backup: Kris Humphries 12.8/10.6/1.0/0.8/0.9
Bonus: Anderson Varejao 9.9/11/1.7/0.7/1.4
Usually, you don’t want your All-Star power forward to only be an average rebounder. So how does Ryan Anderson post 0.258 WP48? It’s all about efficiency. Anderson is throwing up an insane amount of 3’s, which is actually a good thing when you make them at 41.7% (11.2 3-point attempts per 48 minutes!). That kind of outside weapon is essential to keep help defense away from Howard. Another small note is that Anderson literally never turns the ball over. 3.5% of his possessions end in turnovers. 2nd place is 5.9%, No one else is below 7.1%. In other words, he’s twice as good as the third best player at protecting the ball.
Humphries was one of the best rebounders in the NBA last year and hasn’t stopped in 2012. He’s 7th in the NBA in RPG. Varejao is still (to the other team) an annoyingly energetic rebounder (5th) and a thief. If Cleveland and New Jersey are dumping at the trade deadline, these two are the kinds of cheap pickups^ that complete championship teams.
Starter: Dwight Howard 20.0/15.3/2.0/1.3/2.0
Backup: Tyson Chandler 10.7/10.2/1.1/1.1/1.3
This was a a really close call, believe it or not. Howard’s 20/15 speaks for itself, not to mention the steal-and-a-half and 2 blocks. He’s also 4th in FG%, 1st in RPG, 7th in BPG and 5th in Defensive Rating. Howard also draws his usual league-leading free throw attempts, with 252 (44 above second place). Players are visibly terrified of going anywhere near the paint against Orlando because of the efforts of a single player. It’s amazing how many drives you’ll see circle back around like an airplane in a holding pattern, until someone gives up and shoots a 17-footer. (Unfortunately the Orlando offense isn’t much more visually appealing at times.)
Tyson Chandler is a defensive specialist. He’s picking up his rebounds, blocks, and steals. But do you know who is leading the NBA with an Offensive Rating of 141.1, 13.7 better than 2nd place? That would be Tyson Chandler. Chandler’s earning 2.32 points per shot. If only he were allowed to shoot the ball more than 5 times per game. No, really, that’s not an exaggeration. There’s a chance a February game will be forfeited after 9 Knicks are ejected during an intra-team fight over the ball. The Knicks are also relying on the distribution of the statistical worst player in basketball. Toney Douglas has helped the Knicks with negative 1.4 Wins Produced thus far this year, an impressive amount. It takes effort to do that much damage in less than 24 minutes per game. Chandler, by the way, is 2nd in the NBA with 5.2 WP, which is enough to save him from Chris Bosh’s 20 PPG and not much else.
Starter: Chris Paul 17.4/3.7/8.5/2.5
Backup: Steve Nash 14.3/2.3/9.9/0.6
Bonus: Kyle Lowry 14.6/6.4/8.0/2.0
Chris Paul remains the reigning king of the point guards. Bill Simmons’s next edition of The Book of Basketball^^ certainly has a highly ranked addition to the “What Ifs” chapter after the absurd trade veto shenanigans. He’s tied for 1st in SPG while 3rd in Offensive Rating and shooting his usual high percentages. He’s posting a .280 WP48.
Steve Nash is still getting it done in Phoenix. Maybe he can get a 1 year run with a contender, as it’s just a shame for him to go out down there with not a lot of help. Of course, if the Suns trade him for picks they’ll probably just sell the picks for cash so that really wouldn’t be worth it. Nash’s 9.9 APG is good for 1st in the league, but even better, his 56.7 Assist % is 11 points better than 2nd place. He’s also scoring on great percentages.
Lowry’s line is good for 7th in the league in APG and SPG, and your extra guard isn’t coming at the SG position. I can’t put Westbrook in despite all of his points. With only 5.8 APG vs 3.9 turnovers, he’s not really playing the point guard role, and he’s certainly not a better shooter than anyone listed here. (The strange part is he continues launching 2.2 3’s a game at 25%, and this isn’t a fluke year.). Scoring more points by taking many more shots (45.9 FG%, 52.5 TS%) doesn’t do it for me if there’s not a lot of other benefits. (Especially when Durant and Harden could be taking those shots at their much higher rates of efficiency.)
Starter: James Harden 16.4/4.1/3.3/0.8
Backup: Kobe Bryant 30.2/5.6/6.2/1.2/0.4
At first glance, you might think there’s something wrong with starting the guy with lower per game numbers in every category. But it’s all about how you got those numbers. Kobe Bryant’s taken 33% more shots than the 2nd place person in the NBA in field goal attempts. One aspect about that which is not so good is he’s taking 5 3-pointers a game at 28%. At the opposite end of the spectrum, James Harden is getting 1.67 points per shot and is 2nd in Offensive Rating thanks to his excellent 65.4 TS%. To be clear, Kobe is literally doubling Harden’s field goal attempts, which makes the scoring total much less impressive. Harden’s doubling Kobe’s WP48 (0.267/0.137).
Kobe’s doing an excellent job getting to the line, shooting 162 free throws (2nd place among guards is 132), which is great since he shoots them at 84.2%.
Starter: Kevin Durant 26.8/7.9/3.2/1.2/1.3
Backup: Shawn Marion 16.7/9.3/1.9/1.7/1.2
Bonus: Gerald Wallace 13.3/7.1/2.3/1.5/0.6
Kevin Durant is having another excellent scoring year, putting in the 3rd best PPG on the 9th best TS% at 61.3%. All 3 are grabbing an excellent number of rebounds and blocked shots, and Durant and Marion are also swiping the ball at a very good clip.
Starter: Kevin Love 25.5/13.5/1.6/1.1/0.5
Backup: Paul Millsap 17.1/9.4/1.9/1.6/0.8
Kevin Love has become a bigger part of the offense this year, while only giving up a little efficiency. He’s scoring 1.42 points per shot thanks to over 40% 3FG% on 6 3-pointers per 48 minutes, and drawing 10 foul shots per 48 which he makes at 80%. Think about it: how is he 1. a dominant rebounder 2. who also hangs around the 3 point line 3. while drawing tons of fouls? It’s like he’s in 3 places at once! 4th in PPG, 2nd in RPG, and omnipresence certainly earn him dibs on MVP-of-the-West.
Paul Millsap is shooting efficiently, rebounding, and stealing. At 0.271 WP48 he’s also having a great year. I put him in over LaMarcus Aldrige for a few reasons. First, unlike Anderson in the East, I couldn’t let Aldridge’s points in while sweeping the lack of rebounds under the rug on an efficiency argument. But more directly, Millsap actually scores more points per shot than Aldridge thanks to a little bit better shooting percentages, and on a per 48 minute basis the point per game differential is pretty small. I’ll take the rebounds and steals. Blake Griffin also puts up a lot of points and actually rebounds very well (he better with those hops), but he scores those points surprisingly inefficiently given the dunk hype. My eyes tell me he’s been told to take too many jumpers to “open up the defense” or something. I think that’s Chris Paul and Mo Williams’s jobs. 31% of his shots come from outside the paint, which seems like a high number, although that doesn’t rule out that he dunked the ball from there. He made 36% on those shots, which probably rules out that he dunked it on most of them.
Starter: Andrew Bynum 16.3/12.2/1.2/0.5/1.9
Backup: Deandre Jordan 8.4/8.8/0.2/0.7/3.1
Andrew Bynum’s 16/12 with 2 blocks is a crowd-pleaser (3rd in RPG, 9th in BPG), but what’s a coach-pleaser is a shot-blocking, rebounding big man who only fouls 3 times per 48 minutes. For comparison Jordan is whistled 5 times per 48, Howard 4.2, and Chandler 3.9. Staying on the court, as opposed to being ejected for tackling JJ Barea, is a good thing.
DeAndre Jordan may foul a fair amount but 8/8 with 3 blocks (BPG 2nd in the league) in 30 minutes is pretty good. He does it efficiently, scoring his points on 67% FG% and 1.64 points per shot. At 0.242 WP48 there’s more than enough production to warrant one of the dunkers from Lob City making the trip to the All Star game. And more than enough words to warrant ending with video evidence.
*I have been calling for the team with the fastest SG, SF, and C in the league to run more. Fortunately, Coach Spoelstra had an epiphany while attending a football practice this off-season.
**Actually, the rest of the team is playing really well this year too. Chalmers continues to improve, Haslem is healthy, Miller is healthy, Antony’s improving…
^I may or may not have been very upset that Humphries was not signed by my team. This may have become sheer madness when he posted approximately 42 rebounds against my team.
^^“A Quick Influx of Cash”