The All-Star starting lineups are supposed to honor the best of the best in the NBA.
But who are the best of the best of the best in NBA history?
That's the question at the heart of this analysis, as we're attempting to pinpoint the greatest starting lineup in All-Star Game history. It's a tricky one, because legacies and reputations change in years after the lineup came together and thus alter our perception of the starters at the time they all came together.
Lineup score takes away the haze.
To calculate it for any given starting lineup, all you have to do is add together the win shares per 48 minutes of each of the five players. After all, that's hypothetically the amount of wins that group would contribute if they spent an entire game on the court together.
But the beauty of this is that win shares per 48 minutes capture how effectively a player was playing that season. Reputation and subjectivity are taken out of the equation.
Here's an example of how it works, given the expected starting five for the Eastern Conference, based on the latest voting returns:
- Kyrie Irving, 0.113 win shares per 48 minutes
- Dwyane Wade, 0.151
- Paul George, 0.244
- Carmelo Anthony, 0.155
- LeBron James, 0.27
That adds up to a lineup score of 0.933, which would rank the 2014 Eastern Conference at No. 31 among the 123 starting lineups in NBA history that have available win-share data. Meanwhile, the Western Conference, thanks to the stupidity of putting Kobe Bryant in the starting five, checks in at No. 95.
I can pretty much guarantee you'll be surprised as we count down the top 20 starting groups in All-Star Game history. It's rather difficult to divorce perception from reality when looking at individual seasons in the lengthy history of the Association.
Note: All statistics, unless otherwise indicated, come from Basketball-Reference.