Fans vote on the NBA All-Star Game, and fans are often, as a general group, not all that informed. With no offense meant to our friends overseas, the international influence of fan voting may also be problematic.
In the United States, we're inundated with nationally televised games and our sports media obsesses over the sport. This is not so in many of the countries from where All-Star voting is opened up to.
There is no "deserves to start the All-Star game" validity if a guy didn't get the votes. That's the system.— Zach Harper (@talkhoops) January 18, 2013
So what would occur if the All-Star game selection was more analytical? What would it look like if players were merely selected on the basis of their performance this 2012-13 season? The answer is that it would look largely the same, but also different.
In win shares—a metric that doesn't reward shooting as much—Chandler's .242 average beats out Bosh's .192. I also believe Chandler to be the better defender, for what that's worth.
At point guard, I'm going with Kyrie Irving over Rajon Rondo. Irving leads all Eastern Conference point guards in PER and win shares. Though I don't believe that the fans are foolish for selecting Rajon, Irving has more of an individual statistical case. Rondo's not far from the top spot.
I hate going with Dwyane Wade as my second guard, as he's had a down year. But nobody else is really close in the East.
So the Eastern Conference starting lineup looks like this: Kyrie Irving, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler.
I would, however, correct fans on voting Dwight Howard into the game. Setting aside how it's ridiculous for this underperforming Lakers team to boast two All-Star starters, plenty of frontcourt players have been better than Howard this season. Marc Gasol doesn't have better offensive statistics, but he's been dramatically better than Dwight on defense.
Gasol gets consideration for my starting spot, as does David Lee on the surprising Golden State Warriors. But in the end, it's old reliable Tim Duncan. Duncan leads all centers in PER and he's been a defensive stalwart for the again-successful San Antonio Spurs.
So, the Western Conference as it stands: Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, Tim Duncan.
The reserve spots are harder to fill, especially in the Eastern Conference, where there are so few superstar players. Chris Bosh is so close to beating Tyson Chandler out metric-wise that he should get in easily.
Kevin Garnett combines enough defense with his offense to warrant a selection. The same can be said for Joakim Noah, who also gets a nod. Brook Lopez rounds out the big-man rotation with the highest PER among centers.
For the guard spots, Rajon Rondo and Deron Williams have both put up a PER of over 18. In making the case for Jrue Holiday, I have to note that the 25th-ranked Philadelphia offense argues against his point guard influence.
I'll have to go Jrue here, though he feels like the least bad choice (as opposed to the best). By claiming above a 19 PER in more minutes, he beats up efficient supersubs like Ray Allen and Jason Kidd.
The Eastern reserves would be: Kevin Garnett, Joakim Noah, Brook Lopez, Chris Bosh, Rajon Rondo, Deron Williams and Jrue Holiday.
In the Western Conference, we have so much more to choose from. David Lee is the most offensively versatile big man and has posted All-Star level numbers in win shares and PER. And the aforementioned Marc Gasol gets in based on how good Memphis has been on defense this season.
James Harden is close to Kobe Bryant in PER and win shares—he's a shoo-in. The same goes to Russell Westbrook, who's improved his passing significantly since Harden left to Houston. Tony Parker is another obvious add, as he's having one of his best seasons.
This is when Dwight Howard's name finally gets called, on account of his offensive efficiency and minutes played. This isn't a great year by Howard's standards, but it should be enough for him to edge out reserve competitors.
Finally, if his ankle holds up, Stephen Curry should get the final spot. He's leading the league in three-point percentage and posting a career high in win shares. If healthy, he would get the trip to Houston.
Therefore, the Western reserves, as listed: Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Tony Parker, Stephen Curry, Marc Gasol, David Lee, Dwight Howard