The Advanced Stats 2014 NBA All-Star Teams
John Wall may have been snubbed from the All-Star starting lineup and the Team USA roster, but he's not going to have the same thing happen when we reveal the Advanced Stats 2014 NBA All-Star Teams.
For that matter, neither are any of the players who deserve to be selected.
Kobe Bryant isn't going to appear here. The starting lineup won't be selected according to the popularity of the players populating the Association.
It's all about the numbers, and they'll be analyzed devoid of context. The strength of a team doesn't matter. Neither does the record of a team, the supporting cast that adds or relieves pressure or the ability to create highlights.
Numbers in a vacuum determine who makes the roster and who sits at home to watch our hypothetical game.
Additionally, players actually have to play in order to receive a nomination. Guys like Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook, who would certainly make the team if healthy, aren't going to gain entry because they'd just have to be replaced later on. CP3 might play in the midseason classic, but that's not enough of an assurance, especially because the Western Conference backcourt is so tightly packed.
Get out your calculator and familiarize yourself with stats like PER, true shooting percentage, offensive rating, defensive rating, win shares and win shares per 48 minutes, because they all matter.
They—along with all other advanced stats that have merit—are actually all that matter.
Eastern Conference Backcourt: John Wall
Team: Washington Wizards
2013-14 Advanced Stats: 20.0 PER, 52.2 TS%, 106 ORtg, 104 DRtg, 4.3 WS, 0.131 WS/48
John Wall's passing is what does the trick here.
Not only is the dynamic Washington Wizards point guard one of the league leaders in assists per game, but he's also right near the top in secondary assists per contest. The combined effect is a sensational 20.4 points created by assist each outing, and that's a mark that leaves Wall trailing only Chris Paul, Kendall Marshall, Ty Lawson and Stephen Curry.
Notice which conference all those guys are in?
In fact, there are only three Eastern Conference guards in the top 10: Wall, Brandon Jennings and Kyle Lowry.
Only two of those point guards are posting all-around performances on a nightly basis, and Wall is certainly one of them. Lowry is the other (we'll get to him in a bit), but Jennings' shot won't fall.
Wall is a shoo-in starter, especially given the utter futility of the backcourts in the East. The complete—or near-complete—players are few and far between.
Eastern Conference Backcourt: Kyle Lowry
Team: Toronto Raptors
2013-14 Advanced Stats: 20.0 PER, 58.2 TS%, 121 ORtg, 104 DRtg, 7.0 WS, 0.209 WS/48
Kyle Lowry has been absolutely phenomenal for the Toronto Raptors, especially since the trade that sent Rudy Gay to the Sacramento Kings.
Given more ball control, Lowry has turned into a full-fledged bulldog on both ends of the court. His relentless physicality wears down the opponent, and every aspect of his game has been quite impressive in recent days.
The defense is particularly impressive, as he's put up a 104 defensive rating that's right in line with Toronto's overall mark. With the energy he expends, that's more impressive than it would be otherwise. Additionally, his two defensive win shares trail only George Hill and Lance Stephenson among backcourt players in the Eastern Conference.
Not only has Lowry been an elite scorer—16.4 points per game with a 58.2 true shooting percentage—but he's also been a terrific distributor, a plus rebounder at the point guard position and a solid defender.
Lowry might not get much recognition and could be a snub on the real All-Star team, but his all-around contributions earn him a starting nod here. If anything, he'd deserve the spot if there were only one backcourt bid handed out.
Eastern Conference Frontcourt: LeBron James
Team: Miami Heat
2013-14 Advanced Stats: 28.7 PER, 65.9 TS%, 121 ORtg, 105 DRtg, 8.8 WS, 0.266 WS/48
Well this one's pretty obvious.
LeBron James—despite scoring 26 points per game, which leaves him trailing only Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony—is leading the NBA in true shooting percentage. He's an absolutely dominant player around the rim, and his knack for getting to the stripe and draining three-pointers only helps his cause.
But it's not like LeBron is just a scorer, even if he's been among the best in that category throughout the Association. His passing is elite, his rebounding is quite solid, and his defense—while it's slipped a bit—is still fantastic.
There really isn't a hole in LeBron's game. The eye test can't find one, traditional stats can't find one, and the advanced metrics certainly can't either.
Eastern Conference Frontcourt: Paul George
Team: Indiana Pacers
2013-14 Advanced Stats: 22.4 PER, 58.9 TS%, 112 ORtg, 95 DRtg, 7.6 WS, 0.233 WS/48
With Paul George, it has to start on the defensive end of the court.
The Indiana Pacers are so dominant that each of the top three defensive ratings in the NBA belong to players who make up the team's historically excellent point-stopping unit:
However, George earns this nomination over Hibbert because he's the more talented player in other areas. Oh, and he leads the NBA in defensive win shares.
In terms of win shares per 48 minutes (which brings offense back into the equation), George trails only four players in the entire Association. LeBron James is the only one of the elite quartet who plays in the Eastern Conference, though, which makes this a rather easy selection.
Thanks to his improvements as a shooter and ball-handler, the young swingman's offense is all the more valuable in 2013-14, but he could still stand to improve as a distributor. Despite his reputation as a burgeoning point forward, George is creating only eight points per game with his assists, a mark that leaves him in the same territory as passing luminaries like Beno Udrih, J.J. Barea and Carmelo Anthony.
But that's really the only flaw at this point. And quite frankly, George might deserve an All-Star bid if he sat down at half court every time the Pacers possessed the ball.
He's that good on defense.
Eastern Conference Frontcourt: Carmelo Anthony
Team: New York Knicks
2013-14 Advanced Stats: 24.6 PER, 55.1 TS%, 112 ORtg, 108 DRtg, 5.7 WS, 0.171 WS/48
When you score 62 points in a single game while taking only 35 shots, it's going to look pretty damn good regardless of the metric you use to evaluate that performance.
And that applies to Carmelo Anthony's season as a whole.
He's generally knocked for being inefficient and failing to pass, but that's really not true this season. 'Melo has made a conscious effort to involve his teammates, but he's been forced into "hero ball" styles of play when they either swing the rock back to him or consistently fail to hit their shots.
Anthony has actually created 6.5 assist opportunities per game. Problem is, his teammates have turned only 3.1 of those into actual dimes each contest. That's a conversion rate of just 47.7 percent, and that's not going to cut it when trying to swing 'Melo's reputation in the opposite direction.
As ESPN New York's Ian Begley wrote, "But one of the underrated aspects to the Knicks' success has been Anthony's passing."
He was referring to the team's brief stretch of successful basketball in early January, but Anthony has actually passed the ball well all season.
Oh, and he's pretty good at the whole scoring thing.
Eastern Conference Backcourt Reserves
The Eastern Conference backcourts have been so weak during the 2013-14 campaign that only one player is earning a nomination to the reserves.
In this Advanced Stats All-Star Team, positions don't really matter. I'm not concerned with evenly balancing the backcourt and frontcourt; I'd rather identify the most deserving players. If that means selecting one guard and six big men, so be it.
Based on the picture above, you can probably guess who earns the bid: Dwyane Wade from the Miami Heat.
Even though he's missed 13 games—of which the Heat have only won seven—Wade has been ultra-valuable while on the court. He's put up the No. 14 PER in basketball, which ranks fifth in the Eastern Conference, and he's shot more impressively than ever before.
The 2-guard is knocking down a career-best 53.7 percent of his shots from the field, thanks primarily to a shot selection that is better than ever before.
Even with a baker's dozen of missed games, Wade has still emerged as the class of the Eastern Conference backcourt reserves. Then again, he's the only one in that category.
Reserves: Dwyane Wade
Biggest Snub: Kyrie Irving
Eastern Conference Frontcourt Reserves
Talk about a packed group.
First, we have the stellar defenders: Joakim Noah and Roy Hibbert.
The latter has been arguably the best rim protector in basketball. While anchoring an Indiana Pacers defense that deserves to be called one of the all-time greats, Hibbert has faced 9.7 shots per game at the rim and held opponents to only 40.5 percent shooting there.
No player in the NBA—with the slight exception of Larry Sanders and Brook Lopez, who have combined to play in fewer games than Hibbert—comes close.
Noah isn't far behind, though, giving up 44.1 percent shooting at the rim, which is the No. 6 mark among all players facing at least six shots per game.
Bosh, even while serving as the No. 2 option for the Miami Heat when Dwyane Wade has been injured, is playing some of the most efficient basketball imaginable. Thanks to the development of a consistent three-point stroke, he's posted a career-best true shooting percentage of 61.3.
And that's while averaging 16.8 points per game.
Big Al, meanwhile, has been better than ever on defense and is still dominating from the left block for the Charlotte Bobcats. While posting the second-lowest turnover percentage among qualified players in the NBA, Jefferson is nearly averaging a 20-10 line, and he's doing so while making a lot of trips to the charity stripe.
Believe it or not, we're not done yet.
Andre Drummond has developed into a rebounding machine for the Detroit Pistons, and he's not too shabby on the defensive end of the court while playing to his strengths and nothing else on offense. Then there's Paul Millsap, who's basically a Swiss army knife for the Atlanta Hawks now that he's added a three-point stroke to his wide variety of skills.
OK, you can take a deep breath. We're done.
Reserves: Chris Bosh, Andre Drummond, Roy Hibbert, Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Joakim Noah
Biggest Snub: Anderson Varejao
Western Conference Backcourt: Goran Dragic
Team: Phoenix Suns
2013-14 Advanced Stats: 21.4 PER, 59.3 TS%, 118 ORtg, 108 DRtg, 5.6 WS, 0.187 WS/48
It took the world a long time to accept that the Phoenix Suns had legitimately become a good basketball team. Now it's taking a similarly long time to accept that Goran Dragic has become one of the league's elite guards.
Even though he doesn't have much recognition as a household name, Dragic deserves to be an All-Star. And even though he plays in a Western Conference that's absolutely loaded with quality guards, Dragic still deserves to be an All-Star.
Six point guards in the West have created more points per game via assists, but few have coupled those distributing tendencies with elite scoring contributions. The Dragon is averaging 19.4 points per game, and he's doing so while posting a 59.3 true shooting percentage.
Not only is he shooting nearly 50 percent from the field, but he's also drilling triples with consistency and providing quality additions from the charity stripe.
When you add it all up, Dragic ranks No. 10 in offensive win shares (Chris Paul, Damian Lillard and Stephen Curry are the only Western Conference guards ahead of him), No. 14 in total win shares (Paul, Curry and James Harden are ahead) and No. 10 in win shares per 48 minutes (just CP3 and Curry are ahead).
That last number is the most important one, because it takes minutes played out of the equation. That's bad when guys are spending minimal time on the court, but it's a valid adjustment here because Dragic spends 34.8 minutes per game with his rear end separated from the pine.
With CP3 injured and ruled ineligible (read the intro slide for more information), that means that Dragic and Curry are going to hold down the starting spots. Speaking of Curry...
Western Conference Backcourt: Stephen Curry
Team: Golden State Warriors
2013-14 Advanced Stats: 23.1 PER, 58.4 TS%, 113 ORtg, 102 DRtg, 6.9 WS, 0.208 WS/48
You all know that Stephen Curry is a deadly scorer/shooter. So let's just gloss over that, because there are so many other excellent parts to the baby-faced assassin's game.
First, there's the passing.
Only Chris Paul, Kendall Marshall and Ty Lawson create more points per game with assists, which is particularly impressive since Curry is the only one of that bunch who also thrives as a scorer. CP3 and Lawson both score quite often, but the Golden State Warriors floor general is the only one of the four who ranks as a top-20 scorer, and he's No. 6.
But then there are the underrated aspects of Curry's game.
He's emerged as one of the better rebounding guards in the Western Conference, despite his perceived lack of athleticism and size. The Davidson product has tremendous instincts, and they allow him to track the ball off the rim better than many other players.
Additionally, his defense has actually become somewhat respectable under Mark Jackson. On 82games.com, it shows that Curry is holding opposing point guards to a 15.5 PER during the 2013-14 season.
That's quite a bit better than the 16.5 PER he allowed in 2012-13.
Western Conference Frontcourt: Kevin Durant
Team: Oklahoma City Thunder
2013-14 Advanced Stats: 31.1 PER, 64.5 TS%, 125 ORtg, 100 DRtg, 11.8 WS, 0.330 WS/48
No player in the NBA has been better than Kevin Durant during the 2013-14 campaign. Even though the Western Conference has been ridiculously strong, no one has been even remotely close to the level the Durantula has reached, especially since Russell Westbrook went down right after Christmas Day.
Durant leads the NBA in PER, offensive win shares, total win shares and win shares per 48 minutes, so this is a rather obvious selection.
Let's turn it over to LeBron James, courtesy of USA Today's Sam Amick:
He's in a groove. And when you're in a zone like he's in, it (doesn't) matter how much film you watch (as an opponent), you just try to make it tough on him. He's going to make shots. He's going to make contested shots when you're playing great defense on him.
Individually, he can't be stopped by any one on one player. There's nobody that can guard him one on one...Even in his short career, he's one of the greatest scorers in our game.
Not only is Durant scoring at a ridiculous level, but he's also defending better than ever and finally taking the next step as a distributor.
Take a gander at this progression:
That's a ridiculous improvement, especially when tasked with so much responsibility in the scoring column.
Amazingly enough, Durant has become the league's best scorer and a player who contributes in just about every facet of the game.
Western Conference Frontcourt: Kevin Love
Team: Minnesota Timberwolves
2013-14 Advanced Stats: 26.9 PER, 58.6 TS%, 121 ORtg, 102 DRtg, 8.4 WS, 0.261 WS/48
News flash: This Kevin Love guy is really good at rebounding.
He trails only DeAndre Jordan in rebounds per game, and the advanced stats are similarly impressive. Although he may not have the highest offensive rebounding percentage because he spends so much time out on the perimeter, he's fantastic at converting the chances he receives.
Among all 35 players in the NBA who average at least eight boards per contest, only a handful corral a higher percentage of their rebounding chances. Plus, Andre Drummond and Jordan are the only two players who pull down more contested rebounds, which are defined as rebounds gathered while an opponent is within 3.5 feet of the ball.
But Love is excellent at more than just crashing the glass.
Thanks to his versatile array of scoring methods, he can post an efficient 24.9 points per game, which ranks him No. 4 in the entire NBA.
Love has his flaws—he has to be hidden on defense, and he sometimes shoots his team out of the game—but he's still the premier power forward in basketball.
Western Conference Frontcourt: Anthony Davis
Team: New Orleans Pelicans
2013-14 Advanced Stats: 26.2 PER, 57.1 TS%, 117 ORtg, 103 DRtg, 5.5 WS, 0.205 WS/48
LaMarcus Aldridge? Nope.
Blake Griffin? Not even this year.
Dirk Nowitzki? Not quite.
Tim Duncan? Eh.
The final spot in the starting lineup belongs to 20-year-old Anthony Davis, who has emerged as one of the premier two-way players in the Association even though he's only in his second professional season.
Making the New Orleans Pelicans rather excited—they drafted him at No. 1 in the 2012 NBA draft—Davis ranks No. 6 in PER, No. 1 in blocks per game, No. 1 in block percentage, No. 17 in win shares and No. 8 in win shares per 48 minutes.
None of the aforementioned players rank above him in the final category.
Davis is also facing 6.3 shots per game at the rim, and he's allowing opponents to make 45.8 percent of their looks in that area. Among the players who are challenged at least six times per contest, he ranks 10th in field-goal percentage allowed.
The Unibrow has become thoroughly dominant on offense and defense. It won't be long before he moves into that Kevin Durant-esque realm of the complete locks.
Western Conference Backcourt Reserves
Here's another impossible task.
Even with Tony Parker getting snubbed from the "biggest snub" section, Kobe Bryant injured all year—save six games—and Chris Paul not gaining entry because of his separated shoulder, there are still too many guards from which to choose. Hell, I have to mention Damian Lillard here because I'd feel terrible if his name didn't appear anywhere on the slide.
But none of those guys are making it, because they've been outplayed by the trio I'm actually selecting.
It's one led by James Harden, whose offensive brilliance more than makes up for his complete indifference on the less-glamorous end of the court.
The Houston Rockets shooting guard is averaging 23.7 points per game, and he's doing so with a 59.3 true shooting percentage. Even with a struggling three-point stroke, Harden is this efficient because he's that good at getting to the charity stripe.
In fact, only Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard and Blake Griffin have attempted more free throws in 2013-14, and the bearded 2-guard has knocked down 84.8 percent of his looks at the line. His game may be depressing to watch at times because he flops around and spends way too much time stopping the flow of play, but it's still effective.
Speaking of effective, how about the game of Isaiah Thomas, who has gone from Mr. Irrelevant to Mr. All-Star Reserve on the Advanced Stats Team in only three years?
Thomas is in the top 20 for both points and assists per game, and only a dozen players in the Association have earned more offensive win shares. His defense leaves something to be desired, but much like with Harden, his offense makes up for it.
Finally, we have Ty Lawson, who has been passing the ball better than ever before.
The Denver Nuggets floor general has created 21.4 points per game with his passing, a mark beaten by only CP3 and Kendall Marshall, neither of whom are eligible here. The former is hurt, and the latter hasn't played enough (or scored enough, for that matter).
Paul and Stephen Curry are the only players in the Western Conference with better assist percentages, and it's not like all Lawson does is pass. He's also averaging 17.9 points per game and shooting 0.49 free throws per field-goal attempt.
To put that in perspective, Durant is taking 0.509 free throws per field-goal attempt, and he's far and away the league leader in shots lofted up from the charity stripe.
Reserves: James Harden, Ty Lawson, Isaiah Thomas
Biggest Snub: Mike Conley
Western Conference Frontcourt Reserves
As if the Western Conference guard selections weren't hard enough already...
Seriously, can't some of this abundance of wealth be shared with the East? It's hard to find enough deserving All-Stars in the weaker conference; it's hard to decide who to snub in the stronger one.
Fortunately, a few of the selections are easy ones.
Blake Griffin, for example, has developed into one heck of an all-around player. Griffin is scoring at an elite rate out of the post, he's still dunking and he's contributing with his jumper more than ever before.
This 25-year-old power forward is legitimately carrying the Los Angeles Clippers offense.
Oh, and the man with the fifth-most win shares in the NBA has become a solid defender under Doc Rivers while continuing to make impressive contributions with his passing skills.
LaMarcus Aldridge is the other shoo-in here, as the Portland Trail Blazers power forward has made massive strides while leading Rip City into great playoff positioning, not that such facts are relevant to my selection process.
The only player who has taken more shots than Kevin Durant during the 2013-14 season, Aldridge has the No. 8 PER in the Association, and only nine players have earned more win shares.
Those are the easy choices.
The rest are a little tougher, because there are a few guys from the San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks and Oklahoma City Thunder who deserve a lot of credit for their contributions this season. But it's time to listen to B/R's Howard Beck and give centers their due.
Boogie has surpassed D12 as the best player at the position, but both are unquestionably elite and contribute in different ways. It's all about offense for Cousins, and defense is the route du jour for Howard.
Different routes, but they both lead to the bench for the Western Conference. And given the depth of elite players in this half of the NBA, that ain't too shabby.
Reserves: LaMarcus Aldridge, DeMarcus Cousins, Blake Griffin, Dwight Howard
Biggest Snub: Dirk Nowitzki