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NBA All-Star 2017: Western Conference Roster Round-up First 20 games

12 Players and 5 Snubs

NBA: All Star Game Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Okay, so now most teams in the entire NBA have played 20 or so games. That’s almost one fourth of the season. We’ve seen teams win games, and other teams start slow. We’ve also seen a lot of injuries. But more than any of that, we’ve seen some star players shine early on. In order to find our which players deserve* (I know, Lake Show fans, playing in the purple and gold is usually all you need to do to deserve stardom. I get it) the make the Western Conference All-Star team. What I first did was find every player in the conference who currently averages at least 15.0 ppg or 8.0 rpg or 6.0 apg or 1.5 spg or 1.5 bpg. This data set was 52 players large: Dallas Mavericks (Harrison Barnes, J.J. Barea, Wesley Matthews, Deron Williams, Andrew Bogut), Denver Nuggets (Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried), Golden State Warriors (Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson), Houston Rockets (James Harden, Clint Capela, Eric Gordon, Trevor Ariza), Los Angeles Clippers (Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, J.J. Redick), Los Angeles Lakers (Julius Randle, D’Angelo Russell, Lou Williams, Jordan Clarkson), Memphis Grizzlies (Mike Conley, Marc Gasol), Minnesota Timberwolves (Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, Gorgui Dieng, Ricky Rubio), New Orleans Pelicans (Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, Tim Frazier), Oklahoma City Thunder (Russell Westbrook, Victor Oladipo), Phoenix Suns (Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker, T.J. Warren, Tyson Chandler, Alex Len), Portland Trail Blazers (Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Al-Farouq Aminu), Sacramento Kings (DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay), San Antonio Spurs (Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge), and Utah Jazz (Gordon Hayward, George Hill, Rudy Gobert, Rodney Hood). Now, obviously, not all of those guys are going to make it — it’s a 12 player team, after all.

So we needed to cull this list down before we can figure out who really deserves a spot this year.

Bottle-Neck #1: Have to play in at least 65% of your team’s games so far this season

Utah Jazz v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Unless you are Saint Kobe, you can’t be an All-Star without playing games. So this first cut removes Tyson Chandler, D’Angelo Russell (unless the Lakers fan DLoading their way to a starting spot this year), Deron Williams, George Hill, J.J. Barea, Jrue Holiday, and Al-Farouq Aminu.

Bottle-Neck #2: Need to be either great at one thing, or having a good season overall

Houston Rockets v Denver Nuggets Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The way I figured this out was that I took all 52 players, and their per game stats, and put it in a spreadsheet. The players who averaged fewer than 25.0 combined PPG+RPG+APG+SPG+BPG had to go. This means saying buh-bye to Lou Williams, Danilo Gallinari, Rodney Hood, Clint Capela, Eric Gordon, Tim Frazier, Gorgui Dieng, Trevor Ariza, Kenneth Faried, Wesley Matthews, Jordan Clarkson, J.J. Redick, Alex Len, Ricky Rubio, and Andrew Bogut.

I feel for Capela, who is right now blocking 1.9 shots a game. That’s kinda awesome for the guy. But it’s not really “All-Star” worthy. Rockettes teammate Trevor Ariza’s 2.1 spg is kind of hot as well. But again, close but no cigar.

Bottle-Neck #3: Your team has to be playing at least okay, or you have to be great

Taco Bell Skills Challenge 2016 Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

So this one is easy, just get rid of all the players from teams that have a .450 or lower winning percentage this year . . . unless you are having a great year. So we’re saying adios to all the Kings, Pelicans, Nuggets, Timberwolves, Suns, and Mavericks players — except for DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, and Karl-Anthony Towns.

Group by Point Guards, Wingmen and Bigmen:

Los Angeles Clippers v Portland Trail Blazers - Game Three Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images

So now we are left with 22 players, and need to get rid of 10. That should be easy to do, right? RIGHT? Okay, let’s group by what’s going on with these remaining players. The NBA is moving towards a position-less revolution, but I’m not quite ready to abandon at least three archetypes: point guards, wingmen, and bigmen.

  • Point Guards: Russell Westbrook (OKC), Damian Lillard (POR), Stephen Curry (GSW), Chris Paul (LAC)
  • Wingmen: James Harden (HOU), Kevin Durant (GSW), Kawhi Leonard (SAS), Gordon Hayward (UTA), C.J. McCollum (POR), Klay Thompson (GSW), Victor Oladipo (OKC)
  • Bigmen: Anthony Davis (NOP), DeMarcus Cousins (SAC), Karl-Anthony Towns (MIN), Blake Griffin (LAC), Draymond Green (GSW), Marc Gasol (MEM), LaMarcus Aldridge (SAS), DeAndre Jordan (LAC), Julius Randle (LAL), Rudy Gobert (UTA)

The order here is from most cumulative PRASB (PPG+RPG+APG+SPG+BPG) to least, for each grouping. We’ll get to the stats later, but this is just so you can see who is in each group.

Rule of Three:

Los Angeles Clippers v Golden State Warriors Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The team is 12 players. There are three groups of players. The math says that should be four players from each group. That’s not the way the NBA does things anymore, especially not with so many small forwards playing as stretch bigs, and so little difference between a shoot first point guard and a short shooting guard. So let’s start off with the rule of three, pick the best three players from each of the three groups. And that will leave you with three players to fill up the roster with.

Simple, right?

Point Guards: Westbrook, Curry, Paul

  1. Okay, Russell Westbrook is Omega-Westbrook right now. He’s averaging 31.2 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 11.3 apg, 1.4 spg, and 0.4 bpg. He has played in 100% of his team’s games, and his team is winning 60% of their games. The Western Conference All-Star team of 2017 starts and begins with him. Who’s next?
  2. You kind of have to go with Stephen Curry, who is the starting point guard of the best team (by record) in the NBA. Steph has also played in 100% of the games his team has had this year, and they are winning 85% of their games. Also, his 26.9 ppg, 5.7 apg, 4.0 rpg, 1.5 spg, 0.3 bpg isn’t bad at all.
  3. Chris Paul is a shoe-in as well. The Clippers are the third best team in the West, he’s played in 100% of their games this year, and they are winning 76.2% of their games. He’s an assist and 2 points away from being a 20/10 guy. His 2.6 spg are tops out of all 52 players.

Wingmen: Harden, Durant, Leonard

  1. James Harden is averaging 28.3 ppg, 11.8 apg, 7.6 rpg, and 1.3 spg. He’s a better point guard than most of the point guards in the league, but I think he’s still more of a wing player than not. He has powered the Rockets to a 65% winning percentage this season, and played in all 100% of their games this year. No one expected Houston to be the 4th best team in the conference, but here we are.
  2. I’m sorry, but Kevin Durant is averaging 1.6 spg and 1.8 bpg? That’s in addition to his 27.3 ppg, 8.4 rpg, and 4.8 apg levels this year. Plus, he’s perfectly qualified as a PF today (played a whole lot of SG his first season in the NBA back in Seattle, btw). So strange to see this string bean succeed, but he totally has. Playing for the best team in the NBA and in all of their games, nothing to stop him here.
  3. The second best team in the West? The San Antonio Spurs. The best player on that team? Kawhi Leonard who has played in 100% of their games. This isn’t just a “his team is good” pick, mind you. Leonard is averaging 24.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 3.0 apg, 2.1 spg, and 0.5 bpg. Also, this doesn’t show up in box score stats like PPG, RPG, etc, but he’s the best defender out of this group of 52 players. Easily.

Bigmen: Davis, Cousins, Green

  1. If there was no Westbrook, we’d all be only talking about Anthony Davis, who is having a Karl Malone style 30/11 season right now. But he’s filling up the boxscore elsewhere too! He’s averaging 31.5 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 2.3 apg, 1.8 spg, and 2.7 bpg. His Pelicans are having trouble, and they only have 7 wins in 20 tries, but you can’t deny his spot on this team.
  2. And if we’re rewarding bigmen who get big stats on bad teams (think of Kevin Love on the T-Wolves back in the day), we’re going to continue to see DeMarcus Cousins as a Western Conference All-Star. Cousins is averaging 28.7 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 3.2 apg, 1.2 spg, and 1.3 bpg. He’s not terribly efficient compared to some other guys out there, but he plays a lot of minutes on a team that plays fast. So he’ll get his stats. And he’ll get his 2017 All-Star spot as well.
  3. While we have other guys putting up better numbers, the NBA isn’t going to forget their kickmaster general in Draymond Green. Green is doing a lot beyond kicking this year. His GSW teammates can see this. His stats are all-around if not all-star: 10.6 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 7.4 apg, 2.2 spg, and 1.6 bpg. The Dubs are so high up in the standings and the stats that they get three All-Star locks. Steph, KD, and Dray are those locks this year.

So, three spots to fill, who’s left?

NBA: Playoffs-Memphis Grizzlies at Portland Trail Blazers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

The 3-3-3 leaves us with 3 spots to fill. Who are they? Listed in order of higher MPG to least, the thirteen players are: Gordon Hayward, Damian Lillard, Victor Oladipo, Karl-Anthony Towns, C.J. McCollum, Klay Thompson, Marc Gasol, Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge, Mike Conley, DeAndre Jordan, Rudy Gobert, and Julius Randle.

And this is where the fun starts: 10 of these guys have got to go.

Easy Cuts:

  • Julius Randle (27.3 mpg), Randle is playing for an ‘okay’ team, but his 12.6 ppg and 8.7 rpg don’t put him in All-Star territory.
  • Rudy Gobert (31.5 mpg), Gobert is sending back 2.5 shots a night and averaging a double double with 10.6 ppg and 11.0 rpg. In the 80s he’s an All-Star. He’s not in the 2017 era of hyper ball.
  • DeAndre Jordan (31.5 mpg), he’s averaging about two more RPG than Rudy but about one less BPG. The Clippers are winning a lot of games, and are third best in the West. But I don’t think they get three All-Stars this year, unless something happens.
  • Mike Conley (32.2 mpg), he’s injured right now, and not likely to meet that “play in at least 65% of the games your team plays” criterion I put out there. Furthermore, his team is probably going to start losing games more and more and fall from being an “okay” team out there.
  • Marc Gasol (33.2 mpg), I feel bad for dumping both Grizz guys here but I think I have to. We’ve seen Gasol be dominant before. We haven’t seen that from him this season though. With his team being a 11-8 right now they are definitely somewhere between “okay” and “good”. But their team status is not really because he is currently playing like a star, he is averaging (rounding up) 18/5/4/1/2. The blocks and assists are nice for a defensive bigman. But the 5.4 rpg are not.
  • C.J. McCollum (34.5 mpg), C.J. is having a very nice season (rounding up) to 22/4/4/1/1. That’s really, really good. I just don’t know if the Blazers, a .500 team right now, are going to get two All-Stars.
  • Victor Oladipo (35.2 mpg), he plays next to Russell Bestbrook, and they are somehow fighting for home court in the first round right now. And his (rounding up) 18/4/3/1 average is nice, but if we’re saying goodbye to C.J. we have to say goodbye to Vic here too. The Thunder are winning games. But not enough to get two All-Stars as far as I can tell.

The Monty Hall Problem

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How the mighty have fallen
Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Edelman PR

Are you familiar with the “Monty Hall Problem?” If you don’t here’s the Wiki entry for it. The TL;DR version of it is “Statistical Probability + Witchcraft + Superstition = Sometimes a BRAND NEW CAR!” Well, I bring it up because there are three remaining All-Star spots and six players. It’s a one in three problem. And I also bring it up because years later, I am still upset about the Monty Hall Problem and wanted to discuss it in some lose, angry way.

Anyway, the remaining players are (ordered by highest PRASB to lowest): Damian Lillard, Karl-Anthony Towns, Blake Griffin, Gordon Hayward, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Klay Thompson. Each player will get a chance to have the case made for them.

  1. Lillard: Four point guards are necessary in this exhibition today, and while Harden can qualify, I think Lillard deserves it. Portland is only slightly above .500 but he is having a statistically superior season to two point guards who did make the team: Curry and Paul. His 27.8 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 5.5 apg, 1.0 spg, and 0.2 bpg makes him an All-Star. If his team can win a few more games, the coaches will select him as one as well.
  2. Towns: He’s one of the few players in the NBA averaging 20/10 right now. Minny is not winning very frequently, but he’s surely one of the biggest stars in this league to come. Lots of guys get early career All-Star nods for playing on bad teams and getting big numbers. Two examples are DeMarcus Cousins and Kevin Love. Towns’ 22.6 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 2.3 apg, 0.8 spg, and 1.5 bpg make him a conventional choice to be selected as the fourth ‘full-time’ bigman picked.
  3. Griffin: The third best team in the West should have two All-Stars, and Griffin — a former dunk champ and long-time All-Star, has some pull. He’s also putting up some nice numbers, 21.0 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 4.8 apg, 1.2 spg, and 0.6 bpg. He, along with Lillard and Towns, are the only remaining guys who have a cumulative PRASB of 35.0 or greater. However, I don’t think the coaches go with another point guard and two more bigmen in a wing oriented era of basketball.
  4. Hayward: If Utah was winning more games and/or if he was playing in more games (only 71% of all Jazz games so far, lowest on the remaining candidate list), he would have a better shot at this. His 22.8 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 3.8 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.2 bpg averages are nice, but not as nice as some other players. What helps him right now is his streak of 30 point games and his “semi-high” second best average. Not enough assists to seal the deal from the on-set for him — but with the hype the Jazz have had, and the struggles, he’s a huge part of why this team is winning games. He’s been a snub before, but this time I think he’s earned a fair shot.
  5. Aldridge: The Spurs are the second best team in the West. That should mean two All-Stars. And he’s the best candidate right now, even if his 17.6 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 1.6 apg, 0.7 spg, and 1.0 bpg look to be on that Marc Gasol level that we were so quick to dismiss. I’ve never been an LMA fan, so I’m a hater I guess. But the best case for him is the Spurs excellence.
  6. Thompson: The Detroit Pistons. Yes, the Pistons is what I’m starting this off with. The Pistons had four All-Stars one year, Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace, and Ben Wallace. (Tayshaun Prince didn’t make it from that five man group.) The Warriors are good enough, and dominant enough, to make the case that they deserve four All-Stars. After all, Klay is still dropping 20.7 ppg! Right? RIGHT? His “rest of the plate” isn’t that appetizing with 3.6 rpg, 2.2 apg, 0.7 spg, and 0.3 bpg. But his team wins a lot, he’s on TV a lot, and he still scores a lot. And sometimes that’s all that matters.

Of these six I think Lillard and Towns have a lot of momentum going for them.

And then there was one:

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Utah Jazz Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

This is where the rubber hits the road, I guess. There’s one spot left, and four guys still fighting for it. Two bigmen (Griffin and Aldridge) and two wings (Hayward and Thompson). I’m going to lean heavily upon style of play here, and assume that the NBA isn’t going to go with (in the year of Our Lord 2017) an All-Star team that has half of it be possible bigmen (Davis, Cousins, Green, Durant, Towns, and one of Griffin and Aldridge). The Spurs and Clippers both deserve a second All-Star with how well their teams are playing, but I think the powers that be would rather see Towns in there (gotta create those stars and hype them up and market ‘em!) — what I could see is that they announce Blake as an All-Star but he doesn’t play in the game and they replace him with someone else for that final spot. This way the NBA gets to have their cake (Towns as an All-Star as a 2nd year player) and eat it too (Griffin keeps his All-Star streak alive, but they can select a wing player).

I don’t know how this works out for LaMarcus — who isn’t having an All-Star season — but if the Clippers deserve two All-Stars than for sure the Spurs, who have a better record than LAC, do as well. But again, screw LMA. Grab some rebounds.

So this brings it down, in my super biased way where I said goodbye to so many good players, to Gordon Hayward and Klay Thompson. Thompson is, what, the fourth best player on his team? Hayward is the first guy on his. And yet their numbers (and by numbers I mean normal, simple, per game averages that casual fans and assistant coaches who vote on things, pay attention to) are quite similar.

These guys are vastly different kinds of players too, playing in different systems with different roles. Hayward, the alpha dog in Utah, is averaging more ppg (22.8 to 20.7). He’s also killing him on the glass (6.5 rpg to 3.6). While the Dubs score a billion points a night, and play at a super fast pace, we see Hayward winning in assists too (3.8 to 2.2). Gordon also wins in steals (0.9 to 0.7), and the only thing he loses is in block (0.2 to 0.3). But this is all pretty darn close — effectively just scoring two more ppg and beating him on the glass.

But is that enough to get rid of a fourth All-Star for the Warriors? Or does none of it matter because . . .

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Houston Rockets Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Los Angeles Lakers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Utah Jazz Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Lakers fans are going to ruin things anyway?

Final Team:

  • PG: R.Westbrook, S.Curry, C.Paul, D.Lillard
  • Wing: J.Harden, K.Durant, K.Leonard, K.Thompson (*REP*)
  • Big: A.Davis, D.Cousins, D.Green, K-A.Towns, B.Griffin (*INJ*)
NBA: Utah Jazz at Minnesota Timberwolves Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
  • Snubs: G.Hayward, C.J.McCollum, M.Gasol, D.Jordan

I’m a Utah Jazz fan. Even if I want something, or think it is probably going to happen, I’ve learned not to ever vocalize that because then it won’t happen. So, here is the first of many articles that will profess to the cosmos about how Gordon Hayward is not an All-Star. And that Lakers fans and fan voting ruins everything.