The Fans Select the All-Stars

Posted on January 30, 2007 by


The voting for the NBA’s all-star game has concluded. And the starters for the 2007 game are as follows [Wins Produced and Wins Produced per 48 minutes in parenthesis].

  • Western Conference
    • Kobe Bryant, Guard (7.4; 0.241)
    • Tracy McGrady, Guard (4.3; 0.174)
    • Kevin Garnett, Forward (11.5; 0.351)
    • Tim Duncan, Forward (9.6; 0.329)
    • Yao Ming, Center (4.2; 0.216)
  • Eastern Conference
    • Dwyane Wade, Guard (8.1; 0.293)
    • Gilbert Arenas, Guard (6.4; 0.185)
    • LeBron James, Forward (9.0; 0.258)
    • Chris Bosh, Forward (4.7; 0.209)
    • Shaquille O’Neal, Center (-0.5; -0.213)

With the exception of Shaq, who only played four games this season (and was obviously hurt), all of these players are above average (average WP48 is 0.100) this season.

A Study of Fan Voting

It’s important to note that these players are selected by the fans, and it’s not clear how much weight fans place on current season performance (or how fans evaluate performance) in voting for these players.

Thus far I have not seen a specific study examining what factors explain fan voting for the NBA All-Star game. There was a nice study in Economic Inquiry of fan voting for baseball’s All-Star game by F. Andrew Hanssen and Torben Andersen. The Hanssen-Andersen work [Has Discrimination Lessened Over Time? A Test Using Baseball’s All-Star Vote] appeared in 1999 and explicitly studied the level of racial discrimination by fans in baseball. These authors found that fans did discriminate in 1970, but that behavior had disappeared by the mid-1990s.

Beyond the issue of race, these authors found that baseball fans considered such factors as current season performance, career performance, past playoff participation, team performance, and the popularity of the team. One suspects that the same collection of factors would be relevant to NBA voters.

Looking at Wins Produced

What if fans, though, only considered performance in the current season? And let’s just say that the performance metric considered was Wins Produced? And let’s say that only performance in the first 41 games was considered relevant? Well, if you can go along with all these statements, then — as the following tables indicate — the starters in this game would be somewhat different.

Table One: Evaluating the Western Conference All-Stars in 2007

Table Two: Evaluating the Eastern Conference All-Stars in 2007

In the Western Conference the starters would be include Steve Nash and Manu Ginobili at guard, Garnett and Dirk Nowitzki at forward, and Marcus Camby at center. For the Eastern Conference the starters would be Wade and Chauncey Billups at guard, James and Emeka Okafor at forward, and Dwight Howard at center.

Those would be the starters if we only considered players who finished in the top ten in voting. If we consider all NBA players, then David Lee of the New York Knicks would edge out Okafor. Lee, who appears on a quest to save the job of Isiah Thomas, had produced 9.8 wins and posted a WP48 of 0.386 through the first 41 games. In other word, Lee is currently one of the ten most productive players in the game. And Isiah doesn’t even start him.


Although Lee is playing very well, he is not quite the league’s Most Productive Player (MPP). For the past four seasons the MPP has been Kevin Garnett. So far this year, though, Jason Kidd is leading the way. If this continues, this will be the second MPP title for Kidd (he was also the MPP for the 1998-99 season). Kidd does benefit from playing for a generally poor team, but the effect is not so large that it would erase the difference between him and Garnett (who also plays on a bad team), Nowitzki, or Nash.

Of course MPP is not the same as MVP. Aju Fenn and I have a working paper (that we need to finish) that examines the media’s voting for the Most Valuable Player. The three factors that appear to matter most are scoring, assists, and team wins (and scoring tends to trump assists).

If we consider these three factors, the leading MVP candidates should be Nowitzki and Nash. Both of these players generate points and/or assists for the two best teams in the league. If the vote only considered Eastern Conference players, then LeBron James and Gilbert Arenas would be the top candidates.

Unfortunately for James and Arenas, the Western Conference does exist. Consequently, a third MVP for Nash is very much a possibility.

– DJ