Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The All-Star Debate Reconvened

by Jason Jones

Some of you are familiar with my call of change toward any and all All-Star game voting. It is my moderately sized dream that All-Star game roster be decided solely by statistical production as opposed to any other means. An All-Star game roster should not reflect a roster of “potential future hall of famers”, unless said roster also reflects players who have put up the best numbers THIS year not over the last few years. Recently, John Hollinger of had written a piece on a similar topic. His “East All-Stars: Slim Pickings When Selecting Subs” has mentioned some details I do not agree with, and I hope you agree with me.

"Best" in this case is hazily defined. I look at it in the big-picture kind of way -- not necessarily who is having the best season, although that's certainly important, but who are the best players, period. That, in turn produces a series of criteria for being on the team:-John Hollinger

This is the crux of my entire argument. The All-Star rosters SHOULD reflect only the best player of this particular season and only based on the numbers they have put up THIS season, Hollinger disagrees. I say, the All-Star rosters should reflect statistical production in a “current season vacuum”. Last year and the year before that should have absolutely no bearing on the proceedings.

Hollinger’s first point I do agree with, “Small Injuries Don’t Matter”

To summarize, if a player has better numbers than another but missed a small amount of time with an ankle injury (“say 12 games”) then the first player should not be penalized for a small injury. I can get behind that thought, because as he mentions, Elton Brand should not be considered (likewise, Gilbert Arenas). Signed, 1997 Anfernee Hardaway who played only 19 games in ’97 and was still voted an NBA All-Star.

The second point is what made me respond here. History Matters.

“If Player A and Player B are having comparable seasons, but Player A is playing way better than he ever has before while Player B has played at this level the past three seasons, I'm taking Player B every time.”

This should disqualify Hollinger from polluting sports fans minds forever. History should play zero part in the evaluation process.

-Al Jefferson PF (MIN) 20.6 PTS, 12.3 REB, 1.3 BLK


-Jermaine O’Neal (IND) 15.8 PTS, 7.4 REB, 2.0 BLK

If we left it up to Mr. Hollinger, according to his article, he would not hesitate to select Jermaine O’Neal. Jermaine is a quality player, but by saying what he’s saying, it sends the message that it does not matter what a guy does if he hasn’t been there before. I find it hard to believe any fan, much less most of them would agree Jermaine O’Neal should get the nod over Jefferson because he has been to more All-Star games. This is the kind of analysis that belongs in Hall of Fame discussions, not All-Star Game discussions. This is the famous “double-edged sword” angle. If we go with who’s been there more, how do the new guys get in if they’ve never been there before. Are we supposed to wait until the current guard of players retire, then look around with our thumbs up our asses, assuming who would have been there before had we not been so pig headed? HISTORY HAS ZERO TO DO WITH IT!

The third point deals with winning, “.500 is not a magical All-Star maker”.

I agree with this one as well. Remember, All-Star nods are not and should not be reflected in the team’s Win column. As much as I’ve hated it in previous years, it should effect MVP voting. You should not have a losing record and be heralded as the leagues best player. Just think, lets use a hypothetical player, we’ll call him John Johnson. If John Johnson is on the flat out worst team in the league, but he has a stats line that reads: 38 PTS, 18 REB, 12 AST, 3 STL, and 3 BLK a game, you mean to tell me he doesn’t belong in the All Star game? That is hogwash. Those are probably the best numbers ever put together by the half way point in history. Now it is hypothetical, but the point remains. This player should not be penalized because the rest of his team and maybe coaching staff is worthless. It’s a far-fetched analogy, but it is translatable. In varying degrees, if Johnson gets in shouldn’t anyone get in based on their performance and not the teams? The All-Star game is a reward for exceptional individual performance, not team. Needless to say, he would not be in the running for the MVP.

Yet, and this one is beautiful, Hollinger continues this point with, “The Parliament Argument or The Electoral College Argument. Since Boston has the best record they have to have three All-Stars" or "Portland has to have representation on the All-Star team. “But we should be talking about the actual players instead of how many All-Stars their constituencies deserve or how a certain team needs representation”. Clearly I agree with this line of thinking. This is exactly why the Detroit Pistons had not gotten any All-Star nods during their recent run until 2006. In an era when most All-Star players register 23-28 points a game or at least 7 in any second tier category (i.e. rebounds or assists) as a bench mark statistic, is it any surprise a team that boasts 3 or 4 player who all average 15-19 points a game are not in? Times have changed slightly in the last couple years, but the point remains. The All-Star appearances by the Detroit Pistons clearly supports Hollinger’s points. I like this example because it clearly illustrates how consistent the Pistons have been over their current run of success. Since 2001, they have been the most consistent team lead by 4-5 of the most consistent players in the same amount of time. However, if you deny Hollinger’s idea that the best players in the game based on talent and popularity should get in even if they have not performed on par statistically, then read the Pistons' statistical findings below. Then we will show the actual 2006 NBA Eastern Conference All-Star Game Roster and compare it to the roster that should have been on the court. If you believe as I do, in that an All-Star bid is an individual achievement based on THIS year's statistical production, then you will find the following interesting and clear as day.

The Following Stats Reflect Only the Years They Were Pistons

Chauncey Billups

2006-17.0 Pts, 3.1 Reb, 7.2 Ast

2005-18.5 Pts, 3.1 Reb, 8.6 Ast

2004-16.5 Pts, 3.4 Reb, 5.8 Ast

2003-16.9 Pts, 3.5 Reb, 5.7 Ast

2002-16.2 Pts, 3.7 Reb, 3.9 Ast

Richard Hamilton

2006-19.8 Pts, 3.8 Reb, 3.8 Ast

2005-20.1 Pts, 3.2 Reb, 3.2 Ast

2004-18.7 Pts, 3.9 Reb, 4.9 Ast

2003-17.6 Pts, 3.6 Reb, 4.0 Ast

2002-19.7 Pts, 3.9 Reb, 2.5 Ast

Tayshawn Prince

2006-14.3 Pts, 5.2 Reb, 2.8 Ast

2005-14.1 Pts, 4.2 Reb, 2.3 Ast

2004-14.7 Pts, 5.3 Reb, 3.0 Ast

2003-10.3 Pts, 4.8 Reb, 2.3 Ast

2002-03.3 Pts, 1.1 Reb, 0.6 Ast

Rasheed Wallace

2006-12.3 Pts, 7.2 Reb, 1.7 Ast

2005-15.1 Pts, 6.8 Reb, 2.3 Ast

2004-14.5 Pts, 8.2 Reb, 1.8 Ast

Ben Wallace

2005-07.3 Pts, 11.3 Reb, 1.9 Ast

2004-09.7 Pts, 12.2 Reb, 1.7 Ast

2003-09.5 Pts, 12.4 Reb, 1.7 Ast

2002-06.9 Pts, 15.4 Reb, 1.6 Ast

2001-07.6 Pts, 13.0 Reb, 1.4 Ast

2000-06.4 Pts, 13.2 Reb, 1.5 Ast

The beauty of this is, the Pistons made the playoffs in;

2006-1st in the Central Div, Lost Conf Finals

2005-1st in the Central Div, Lost Conf Finals

2004-1st in the Central Div, Lost NBA Finals

2003-2nd in the Central Div, Won NBA Finals

2002-1st in the Central Div, Lost Conf Finals

2001-1st in the Central Div, Lost Conf Semis

Best individual seasons:

Chauncey Billups: 2005, 18.5 / 3.1 / 8.6 (All-Star appearance: ’06, ‘07)

Richard Hamilton: 2006, 19.8 / 3.8 / 3.8 (All-Star appearance: ’06, ‘07)

Tayshawn Prince: 2004, 14.7 / 5.3 / 3.0 (All-Star appearance: 0)

Rasheed Wallace: 2004, 14.5 / 8.2 / 1.8 (All-Star appearance: ‘06)

Ben Wallace: 2002, 6.9 / 15.4 / 1.6 (All-Star appearance: ’03, ’04, ’05, ‘06)

You’ll notice that in all of the shuffle, Billups, Hamilton, R. Wallace, B. Wallace all put up quality numbers in 2006. It is a great achievement to have 4 players contribute the way the Pistons of 2006 did. It may be a by product, but as they say, “Those are the Breaks”. It may not be fair, but the math is just working against them. They were and still are a strong defensive minded team. Good defense sometimes means less possessions in a game. Then 61 of the 96 points scored on average per game came from Billups, Hamilton, Prince (not in All-Star contention), R. Wallace, B. Wallace (who only averaged 7.3 pts a game). Divide that out and each member averages 15.25 points a game. If the Pistons want more run as a team who produces All-Star players, maybe they should conduct themselves in a manner that would produce All-Star like statistics. The only drawback is not winning as much. I think they will take their division titles and playoff appearances over All-Star bids. As for the actual 2006 NBA All-Star Eastern Conference Roster, there were some votes extended due to popularity and other non statistical reasoning. When relating it to the 4 Detroit Pistons, I believe the voting populous put them in as a way to rationalize their success. It’s a lot like Fred Taylor making the Pro Bowl. His stats did not merit it, but because he put up solid numbers over time, it was treated like a Lifetime Achievement Award, not a Pro Bowl invite. I went through and pulled all of the major stats for every player in the Eastern Conference. Then took the top 25 at points, top 25 in rebounds, and top 25 in assists, then cross referenced all of it together to come up with a an Eastern Conference All-Star roster comprised completely by statistical analysis. The numbers is parenthesis are some of those stats crunched as reference points in the remainder of this discussion.

Actual East All-Star Roster_____________Roster Based on ONLY Stats

G Allen Iverson (24/3/7)________G Gilbert Arenas (28/5/6)

G Dwyane Wade (27/4/8)_______G Allen Iverson (24/3/7)

G Gilbert Arenas (28/5/6)__________G Jason Kidd (13/8/9)

G Richard Hamilton (20/4/4)________G Dwyane Wade (27/4/8)

G Paul Pierce (25/6/4)_____________G Joe Johnson (25/4/4)

G Chauncey Billups (17/3/7)_________F Lebron James (27/7/6)

F Lebron James (27/7/6)________F Vince Carter (25/6/7)

F Jermaine O’Neal (19/10/2)_____F Paul Pierce (25/6/4)

F Chris Bosh (23/11/3)_____________F Chris Bosh (23/11/3)

F Vince Carter (25/6/7)____________F Jermaine O’Neal (19/10/2)

F Rasheed Wallace (12/7/2)_________F Dwight Howard (18/12/2)

C Shaquille O’Neal (17/7/2)______C Shaquille O’Neal (17/7/2)

C Ben Wallace (7/11/2)_____________C Eddy Curry (20/7/1)

Bold = indicates starters

A few notes…Allen Iverson, Dwyane Wade, Gilbert Arenas (even though with almost 29 pts a game, he almost didn’t make it), Paul Pierce, Lebron James, Jermaine O’Neal, Chris Bosh, Vince Carter, and Shaquille O’Neal all were on both rosters. D. Wade, L. James, and S. O’Neal are the only consensus starters. They had voted Allen Iverson a starter over Gilbert Arenas. Allen Iverson had 24 pts a game while Gilbert Arenas had almost 29. Allen Iverson registered 7 assists while Arenas managed a close 6. In the not so guard friendly category Iverson had 3 rebounds to Arenas’ 5. Statistically, it was close but Arenas gets the nod going +4, -1, and +2…That’s a +5 in favor of Gilbert Arenas who went on to light up the playoff stage with Lebron not A.I. The other major disparage was at the starting power forward position. They had Jermaine O’Neal while I contest it should have been Chris Bosh. Jermaine O’Neal put up 19 points and Chris Bosh had 23. J. O’Neal grabbed 10 rebounds a game to Bosh’s 11. In the unselfish category, O’Neal had 2 assists to Bosh’s 3. That again goes in favor of my choice +4, +1, and +1 for a net gain of +6 in favor of Chris Bosh. Some of the other differences also make statistical sense.

Jason Kidd over Chauncey Billups, +3 in favor of Kidd

Joe Johnson over Richard Hamilton, +5 in favor of Johnson

Dwight Howard over Rasheed Wallace, +11 in favor Howard

Eddy Curry over Ben Wallace, +8 in favor of Curry

No fan is going to vote the biggest member of the worst trade in NBA history to the All-Star game over the Defensive Player of the year no matter what the stats, especially if that would be deemed a victory for Isaiah Thomas. Howard/R. Wallace fits Mr. Hollinger’s claim that if player A is having his best season and player B is on par within his own previous season’s, he takes player B. One problem with that theory. What if player A (Dwight Howard) is a #1 pick, is in his second season, and just so happens to be improving daily until the point that he is a no question starter in the All-Star game? And what if player B is an aging head case, who’s ceiling couldn’t sniff that of player A? Point is, Hollinger is wrong on this one, it is Dwight Howard by a mile…or, more like +11 statistically. Richard Hamilton may be the most consistent mid range jump shooter in the game. Fact of the matter is, he still is an equal offensive option on a team that splits 96 points almost equally by 5 players. Joe Johnson is the biggest name and biggest talent on a cellar dweller. Joe Johnson is the clear cut #1 scoring option on his team. Besides, +5 says Johnson belongs and Rip doesn’t. The closest margin of victory for my squad is that of Jason Kidd vs. Chauncey Billups. Kidd loses ground in points, as if there’s a lack of scoring in any All-Star game, but he makes it up in assists. This is a point I would like to think all NBA fans could get behind serious or casual. If Shaq comes down with the rebound and the other team clears out. Then Lebron, Wade, and Pierce are spread out in their running lanes, who do you want pushing the break? Billups or Kidd? Young Kidd or old Kidd, it doesn’t matter. For this era and this generation of basketball, there is no one you should want pushing the fast break more than Jason Kidd. Not to mention statistically he’s just better, even if it is somewhat close.

After all of that, it comes down to a simple concept that I have uttered many times over and it does not matter what sport we are discussing. It works for all sports alike. “Fans should not vote on All-Star rosters, because the will inevitably get it wrong”. There should be no voting. All-Star game participants should be determined the same way NFL playoff teams are determined. By cold hard statistics; after that there should be tiers of tie-breakers. This should not be done by the coaches, players, sports writers or anyone else. It could be done by a computer (one of the few sports details that should be left to a computer-BCS). This way there is no debate as to who gravy-trained and who got snubbed. If voting for something is necessary to keep the fans' attention, let them vote for the Starters.

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