The Coaches Select the All-Stars

Posted on February 5, 2007 by

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The fans voting for the All-Star game tells us who the fans wish to see start the mid-season classic. Now the coaches have told us who they believe “deserve” to be reserves in the All-Star game.

A few days ago I reviewed the starters chosen by the fans. In this discussion I noted that fans probably consider a variety of factors beyond what a player did in the first half of this season. Consequently, it’s not surprising when a player like Shaquille O’Neal is voted in as a starter despite only playing four games this year.

We might expect the coaches to be more interested in rewarding players who played well this season. Therefore we would expect that the reserves chosen by the coaches would generally be among the top players from the first half of 2006-07.

To see if this true, let’s examine the top 30 players– ranked in terms of Wins Produced – from the first half of the NBA season. To construct this list the 438 players who played in the first half of the season were ranked in terms of Wins Produced and NBA Efficiency. We will review the following table five players at a time.

Table One: The NBA’s Top 30

Of the top five, only one player – Kevin Garnett – was selected by the fans. The coaches, though, corrected this oversight, selecting the remaining four as reserves. So if we consider the First Wins Produced Team, the coaches and the numbers are on the same page.

When we look at the Second Team, we see that once again the fans only took one player – Tim Duncan. The coaches, though, only selected Dwight Howard and Shawn Marion. Marcus Camby and David Lee were snubbed.

In the next five – the Third Team — we see the fans selecting three: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Kobe Bryant. The coaches, though, ignored both Emeka Okafor and Manu Ginobili. So that makes two more snubs.

Moving on…. except for Chauncey Billups and Caron Butler – two players selected by the coaches – the Fourth and Fifth teams were completely ignored by both the fans and the coaches. And the sixth team includes Gilbert Arenas – selected by the fans – and Amare Stoudemire – selected by the coaches. But the remaining three were also ignored.

If we put all this together, there are fifteen players selected to the All-Star game who were ranked in the top 30. This means that there are nine players – four by the fans and five by the coaches — who were selected but ranked outside the top 30. Who were these nine players?

Table Two: The NBA All-Stars in 2007

From Table Two we can see that in the Western Conference there are four players – Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady, Tony Parker, and Allen Iverson – who ranked outside the top 30. If Wins Produced was the sole measuring stick employed by fans and the coaches, these players would be replaced by Camby, Ginobili, Kevin Martin, and Elton Brand (or if you needed another point guard, Chris Paul) . Interestingly, neither Martin nor Brand finished in the top ten in All-Star votes received at their respective positions.

In the Eastern Conference there are five players – Shaquille O’Neal, Chris Bosh, Jermaine O’Neal, Vince Carter, and Richard Hamilton – who were not in the top 30. Again, using Wins Produced, these players would be replaced by Lee, Okafor, Luol Deng, Ben Wallace, and Andre Iguodala. 

NBA Efficiency and the All-Star Selections

Of the nine players selected who ranked outside the top 30 in Wins Produced, five of these ranked outside the top 50. Obviously Shaq, who only played four games in the first half, ranked quite low in both NBA Efficiency and Wins Produced. But Ming, McGrady, Hamilton, and Iverson also failed to crack to the top 50 in Wins Produced. In terms of NBA Efficiency, though, all players selected for the All-Star game – again except for Shaq — were ranked in the top 50.

The two biggest differences in what we see from NBA Efficiency and Wins Produced among the All-Stars is seen with respect to Iverson and Hamilton. Each of these players is among the league leaders in scoring. But when we look at Wins Produced per 48 minutes (WP48), both hover around the average mark of 0.100. Why? Neither is extremely efficient at scoring. Beyond scoring, Hamilton doesn’t offer much else. Iverson provides assists and steals, but also leads the league in turnovers. When we put the entire picture together for both players, we see the positives and negatives blend together to paint the picture of an average player. It’s important to remember that average is not “bad.” “Bad” is below average. Average is also not “good” or probably what people have in mind when they think about players playing in the All-Star game.

It is worth noting again — as mentioned in The Wages of Wins and in this forum — two stories offered about NBA Efficiency. First, abundant scoring will result in high marks in NBA Efficiency even if the scoring is not done very efficiently. And secondly, NBA Efficiency tends to be highly correlated with player evaluations in the NBA. So it’s not surprising to see this story told one again when we look at the selections of Iverson and Hamilton to the NBA All-Star game.

I would add that it’s possible that coaches are simply selecting additional players that the fans might wish to see. And if that’s the objective, then perhaps we should expect to see selections match the rankings offered by NBA Efficiency. In other words, an All-Star game with Iverson might have higher ratings than one with Ginobili, Martin, or Paul. Although I acknowledge this issue, I think the numbers tell us that Ginobili, Martin, and Paul are each having a better season than Iverson. So it is possible that Iverson might generate better ratings, but if the value of a player’s performance is the issue, Iverson should not be heading to Las Vegas.

A Few More Stories

The first half data is capable of telling at least two more stories. The selection of the Rookie All-Star teams also has a few surprises. Also, I plan on looking at the most over-rated and under-rated players from the first half. Before I get to these stories, though, I want to comment on yesterday’s Super Bowl. Hopefully my Super Bowl comments will be posted tomorrow.

– DJ