NBA ALL STARS -- Selections, Snubs and the stats
The NBA has released the All Star Rosters for the 2005-06 season, so let's see how the selections match up with the 82games "Roland Ratings".
Again, the 'Rolands' are more of a placeholder right now until we finalize and switch over to the more sophisticated player ratings we're developing (likely to be re-branded as the "82games" ratings), but the current incarnation does capture a player's own production, contrasted with his counterpart on the floor for the opposition, as well as the on court versus off court plus/minus team influence.
In looking at the fan choices, you'd say that Yao Ming is questionable only if you place a strict emphasis on a guy being healthy, but given the shortage of true centers, Yao's a no brainer. Instead, the better argument can be made that Kevin Garnett should have been a starter at a forward spot over Tracy McGrady. Neither the Timberwolves or Rockets are setting the world on fire as a team, but KG has been better in both individual production and on/off team influence, although T-Mac has a better on court plus/minus per 48 minutes (at +2.6 to Garnett's +1.7).
In terms of snubs, the obvious choice if you overlook the minutes played issue is Manu Ginobili who has been his usual outstanding and under-appreciated self, posting a massive +12.8 rating that's tied for 5th in the NBA.
The coaches did a good job on the reserves though, going with a perhaps unpopular but very much deserving choice in Ray Allen. While the backup center spot is always a stretch, Gasol is a fine choice (we have him playing 38% of the Memphis minutes at C), although Camby warrants consideration but comes up short in our minds.
The only real debate is taking Shawn Marion over Andrei Kirilenko or Josh Howard. AK-47 is a phenomenal player and frankly better than Shawn in our opinion, but it is hard to knock the amazing season the Suns are having, and Marion does have a much better on court plus/minus rating of +5.8 per 48 minutes to +0.4 for Kirilenko. Furthermore, as ace scribe Kevin Pelton may write about shortly, this season Marion has not seen much of a dropoff at all in his play in the minutes he's on court without Nash (in contrast to last year).
Our dark horse pick of Howard didn't stand much of a chance, but Josh is seriously under-rated at this point, and a big part of Dallas' best in the west 39-10 record at this moment.
Verdict: we'd take Kirilenko over Marion, but not by much, so good job coaches and fans!
With the Eastern Conference, we have one big beef with the fan voting: Jermaine O'Neal by no means deserves to be a starter, and doesn't even make the squad for us. He gets some sympathy perhaps for the whole Artest fiasco, but the team has actually played a fraction better when Jermaine's off the court, which combined with an excellent but not incredible production makes this a false choice.
Vince Carter isn't beloved at this point, and rightly so after his tank job in the first part of last season in Toronto to force a trade (gee a -8.3 on/off rating is a bit of a giveaway that he wasn't trying, particularly on the heels of his +9.4 rating in 03-04 for the Raptors, his +10.9 for the Nets in 04-05, and his +18.0 this year).
So if you want to factor in good deeds/karma, instead of rewarding absolute performance, you should end up taking Paul Pierce for Jermaine's spot (a good citizen and great player despite the constant trade rumors swirling around him) since we unfortunately can't make the stretch of calling the very starter worthy Chauncey Billups a forward! We believe though that you have to evaluate the player solely on his in-season performance, and so Vince makes the cut for us (Bill Simmons' excellent diatribe on Carter notwithstanding).
This is where it gets messy...a strange thing happened on the way to the all star game: the coaches decided to reward the mighty Pistons by putting four of the five Detroit starters on the roster! We applaud the Pistons' excellence, their emphasis on team play, and their unselfishness, but really folks, there's no guarantee they'll end the season with a better record than Dallas or San Antonio, certainly won't win 70 as was the talk earlier, and are no sure thing to win the title.
It's true that a team with five excellent players focused on winning above all else can hold down some of the personal stats. What kind of numbers would the Detroit five post if they were say in more of a Kobe-role? Hard to tell, but the coaches have definitely snubbed some fine efforts here.
We haven't always been huge Michael Redd fans, as in past seasons his plus/minus and team influence have left something to be desired (even ranking as the worst defensive SG in the league last year by Dan Rosenbaum). This season though it's night and day -- Redd is playing tough defense and unlike some players who get the big contract and get too full of their "superstar selves", he is intent on making the Bucks a winner.
At the center spot Alonzo Mourning was remarkable subbing for Shaq, but we'll admit that Ben Wallace is along with Billups the heart and soul of Detroit and a worthy choice for the backup center.
Then you get to Rasheed Wallace who has always been a very positive on/off influence guy, but doesn't quite match up on a stats level based on his own "per difference" production. You've got a range of choices for a replacement -- Richard Jefferson who has been excellent, but perhaps a little too dependent on Jason Kidd and Vince Carter to make it on his own, Dwight Howard, Gilbert Arenas, heck even Rasheed's own 'mates -- Hamilton (if we kick him off for Redd) and Prince. Ah, but our choice is the man in LeBron's shadow, Zydrunas Ilgauskas who as a real and rare center posts big numbers that no one notices because James' box score lines are so stupifying! How about a center who shoots .514 with range and .866 from the line!
Verdict: the coaches went overboard on Detroit love, and many players can feel duly snubbed. If Detroit falters in the second half and doesn't even the reach the Finals, the coaches will look remarkably foolish.
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