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Saturday, February 08, 2014

Anthony Davis Replaces Injured Kobe Bryant on West All-Star Roster

NBA fans gave Kobe Bryant a career achievement award of sorts by selecting him as a Western Conference All-Star starter but injuries have limited Bryant to just six games this season and will keep him off of the court indefinitely; new NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has selected New Orleans Pelicans power forward/center Anthony Davis as Bryant's All-Star replacement. West Coach Scott Brooks will decide which All-Star reserve will take Bryant's starting spot.

My Western Conference All-Star selections included two players not ultimately honored by the coaches, San Antonio's Tim Duncan and Golden State's David Lee. I still think that Duncan deserves recognition for being the primary post presence at both ends of the court for one of the West's top two teams and I am still impressed by Lee's overall performance for the Warriors. It is worth noting that Davis has missed eight games so far, while Lee has only missed two and Duncan, despite his advanced age (in basketball years), has missed just four games.

Although I do not think that I was wrong to tap Duncan and Lee, upon further reflection I can understand why Silver believes that Davis is the most worthy choice: the Pelicans are mired near the bottom of the West with a 22-27 record but Davis has been outstanding individually, ranking first in the NBA in blocked shots (3.2 bpg) while also averaging 20.7 ppg, 10.4 rpg and 1.5 spg. Davis has bulked up this season after being overpowered physically as a rookie and he has improved his statistics across the board.

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posted by David Friedman @ 3:58 PM

11 comments

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11 Comments:

At Sunday, February 09, 2014 4:03:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Meanwhile, Goran Dragic continues to outplay every guard that WAS picked, most recently by dropping 34 (on 13 shots!) and 10 on Curry's Warriors. But no, the oft-injured big man for a team 5 games under .500 clearly deserves it more than the 20 PPG scorer leading all guards in TS% while captaining a playoff team missing its second best player.

Dragic's having a better year than literally every other guard currently on the roster (Paul's been injured, Curry's team is dramatically underachieving, and Lillard & Parker are one-way players backed up by ludicrously stacked supporting casts who STILL don't match his numbers. Harden's an overrated volume scorer), and yet is ignored. I get that part of it is exposure, but its still ludicrous how little anything besides star power is valued for these things; not only does Dragic have superior numbers to most of the selected All-Stars, but he's a significantly better defender than at least four of them (Curry, Harden, Parker, Lillard). Boggles the mind.

On the other side of the fence, on what planet does Joe Johnson deserve to be an All-Star this season? Or Derozan? Shouldn't that have been Lowry and maybe Stephenson?

 
At Sunday, February 09, 2014 10:12:00 PM, Anonymous Boyer said...

Silver didn't even make the pick. He had someone else do it. Dragic's a nice story, and maybe deserves it over Parker, but that would be about it. Davis is arguably a top 5 player in the league so far this season. It was very dumb to leave him off the list. Look at who Davis is playing with, absolutely awful players around him. Love has much more help, and his team is barely better than the Pelicans. Dragic is clearly not better than Curry or Harden. He's a small guard, and might be decent defensively, but nothing that special. Now, over Paul? Absolutely, but the fans picked him, and if healthy, Paul is certainly better.

 
At Monday, February 10, 2014 1:22:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Boyer:

Out of curiosity, what makes you say Harden or Curry is better than Dragic? Dragic scores more efficiently than either, plays much better defense than either, and has much less help than either (there are no Dwight Howards or Andre Igoudalas on the Suns). Curry, at least, is a defensible pick with his higher assist numbers, but Harden gets fewer assists with more turnovers, does less defensively, and while he does score a little over three more points he does it a lower efficiency with more shots and turnovers. This is particularly silly when you make the point that Davis has "bad" help, though of course Eric Gordon when healthy is better than anybody else on Phoenix except maybe Bledsoe, and Anderson and Evans are both at least as good as Channing Frye and PJ Tucker.

I understand that Harden is all of 2 inches taller than Dragic, yet Dragic has much better results guarding opposing 2s (which he does when Bledsoe is healthy) than Harden does at his alleged natural position.

Also, as good as Curry is, if he's so much better than Dragic than why is his team neck and neck with Dragic's in the standings? Surely you don't suggest that Dragic's supporting cast of Plumlee, Frye, Green, Bledsoe, and Tucker is superior to Lee, Bogut, Thompson, Barnes, and Igoudala?

Finally, you neglected to mention Lillard. He does put up .4 more points per game, though he does it on 9% lower shooting and in two more minutes per game while producing half as many steal and blowing his defensive assignment every third play. He also records fewer assists and shoots worse by every metric. The only rationale that makes any sense for putting LIllard over Dragic would be the same rationale that got Parker in, that a good team needs All Star representation, but then Aldridge is also on the roster (and much much more of a factor than Lillard on either end of the court).

So, you know, I fail to see how any of those guys, but especially Lillard and Harden, are CLEARLY better than a guy who leads all guards in TS%, has a bunch of career bench-warmers sitting in the 6th seed in the hyper-competitive West (fun fact: Dragic is the only one of their top 7 players who was a starter last season), and is the only player besides Lebron currently averaging at least 20 PPG, 6 APG, and 50% shooting. He's also the captain of the only team to go 2-0 against the league best Pacers this season. Beyond the stat sheet, you should watch a Suns game sometime; almost everything the Suns accomplish on offense comes from Dragic, regardless of whether or not he actually scores/assists on the play; 9/10 times, he's what breaks down the defense to create the play that scores.

One more note: you say he's "not that special" defensively, but he tends to win his matchup basically every night, regardless of whether he's assigned to the opposing team's PG or SG. There are certainly a few starting PGs who are better defenders than he is (Conley, Bledsoe), but it's a much shorter list than you seem to think. And half the game is spent playing defense.

 
At Monday, February 10, 2014 1:27:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Additionally, you claimed the fans picked Paul; this is not the case. They picked Curry and Kobe. Paul was chosen by the (assistant) coaches. He IS the one guard on the roster who's probably better than Dragic (although this season it's gotten a lot closer), but he's played, what, half the season so far?

 
At Monday, February 10, 2014 9:42:00 AM, Anonymous boyer said...

You might want to recheck some of your facts there anonymous.

Have you seen some of the Pelicans' starting lineups? Absolutely atrocious. And Anderson has barely played. Dragic is doing great for himself, but he's still not really a star. His team is very deep, much deeper than the other teams you mentioned. And I was comparing the wolves to the pelicans, btw.

If it was only efficiency, then Iverson, etc., would never have made the AS team. Dragic is a PG, while Harden is SG, and Dragic barely averages more assists than him. Actually, Dragic's TS% is not that much better than Harden's. Curry's is slightly below Harden's, and Parker's is much worse. Harden is top SG in league, and a bigtime scorer and playmaker. But, it comes down to whether Dragic deserves it over Parker or Lillard. Lillard is super clutch. I could see Dragic making it over either one of them, but I'd have to agree with him being left out. He'd make the East AS team in a heartbeat.

I wasn't concerned in picking apart each of your words. Dragic has a case, and while the coaches don't necessarily get everything right, they did a good job and don't agree with you about Dragic. Parker/Duncan get a lot of love since their teams are well coached and very deep and talented; thus, they have good records, though their impacts on the game aren't as much as the other AS.

To Dragic's credit, he picked it up after Bledsoe went down, but Bledsoe was the man before that. Before that and for half the season, still good, but not as much. These last few games were after voting. If voting was done right now, he might make it. Harden, Curry, and Davis are no-brain picks for AS, that's mostly what I was saying. Your beef shouldn't be with them. Dragic is doing well, but let's see what he does for the rest of this year.

Remember that Kobe's 06 and 07 teams were barely over .500 and couldn't make it out of the first round. So, your argument of Dragic not having much help in a loaded west again, doesn't hold much weight. Those were historically special seasons in NBA history. Dragic is a borderline AS. He's been a top 24 player in the league, unfortunately, 20 of those players play in the west.

You're right about Paul, though. The coaches messed up there. Actually, that's who you should be complaining about that most. He's missed almost 20 games, forget these other guys.

 
At Monday, February 10, 2014 11:20:00 AM, Anonymous boyer said...

Also, you're making Dragic sound like an MVP candidate. The way you to talk about him, he sounds better than Nash ever was, especially with the supposed lack of help Dragic has. While Nash didn't deserve any MVPs, Dragic is no Nash, yet at least. Dragic is in his 6th season, rarely do guys improve this much after 6 years. He's been basically a role player up until now. I think now, he should be over Parker probably, but when voting came out, no.

Lillard's stats are basically the same as last year, but he has certainly improved a lot. Portland wasn't a good team last year, and now they're a legit contender, and the main reason for that is Lillard's improvement.

Harden is a big-time scorer and playmaker, who scores efficiently, these are very hard to find. While he's far away from being as good as Kobe, which pretty much everyone is, he's shooting much more efficiently as a #1 option than Kobe ever has.

Defense is hard to measure. While Dragic might be better defensively than some of these other guys, he's not as good and they're not as bad as you make them out to be. A great defender can be on a miserably bad defensive team, and vice versa. Defense is more of a team concept than individually. And offense is much more important than defense. How many AS teams have guys like Battier or Bowen made? While guys like Melo are there every year, and rightfully so.

Dragic is top 20 player right now, but he's in the wrong conference. Joe Johnson was a bad choice, but the other guys you mentioned aren't having AS caliber years, so they don't really have much of a gripe.

 
At Monday, February 10, 2014 1:15:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems our biggest disagreements are the value of defense & efficiency. I personally think defense is chronically undervalued, despite the fact that almost every NBA Champ over the last 40 years has been a very good to great defensive team. Lillard, Harden, and Parker are traffic cones on defense; Curry is about one step better. Dragic, meanwhile, tends to bother his assignment into lower shooting %, and rarely blows a switch or assignment; he's also capable of guarding two positions. Note that he was originally drafted by the Suns specifically because he was the one guy in Eurobasket who seemed to be able to guard Tony Parker.

As for efficiency, mentioning Iverson doesn't really persuade me; outside of 2001 his teams were mostly mediocre to terrible, and a big reason for that was their reliance on a volume scorer. As the owner of the blog has pointed out, for all Harden's alleged superstar status, he made a pretty minor impact on Houston's record last year; there's a reason for that.

Also, I don't see how 6.1 assists is only "slightly" more than 3.5 (it's 43% more, which I'd consider a lot, seeing how Harden only scores about 14% more and we're making a big deal out of that; incidentally, Dragic's 2.5 assists are worth more on the scoreboard than Hardne's 3.2 points, especially on a 3-heavy team like Phoenix), especially considering Harden's higher usage rate and the fact that Harden gets to pass to a high-percentage finisher like Dwight Howard while Dragic's inside man in offensive non-entity Miles Plumlee.

It's also disingenuous to claim Dragic is "just" a Point Guard, as he played Shooting Guard when Bledsoe was healthy, a little over half of the season, which incidentally is part of why his assists numbers are "only" around 6 a game or so . It's also silly to claim Bledsoe was "the man" during that stretch, as the Suns posted a roughly +12 +-per game with Dragic on the court and Bledsoe on the bench and a -4 with Bledsoe on the court and Dragic on the bench (with both playing there were around +3). Bledsoe is a very nice player and clearly the Suns' second best guy, but he's indecisive on offense and often passes up a great shot for a mediocre one, or an easy pass for a doomed one. There shouldn't be any question who their top talent is.

Claiming Lillard should get in by virtue of "Clutchness" isn't really supported by the numbers. While Lillard is shooting a whopping 2.7% better than Dragic in clutch situations this season, that's only good for 17th amongst guards (Dragic is 22nd). Neither is exactly dominant under those circumstances, though Lillard's win percentage is a bit better… though that's more likely a product of playing with a much stronger supporting cast than it is the product of that 2.7% difference in shooting percentage, which amounts to probably one more made basket for Lillard so far on his 50 attempts.

Continued below due to character count...

 
At Monday, February 10, 2014 1:15:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Continued from above...

I blame the star-driven marketing of the NBA. The Suns have played only once on National TV so far this season, while Harden/Lillard/Curry have been omnipresent. Dragic is a gangly white kid who doesn't often dunk & can't interview well, so it's not surprising that he doesn't get TV time, but it's a disappointing that he misses out on the All-Star game when he's clearly done a lot more for his team than Lillard/Parker/Harden (one way players who are the second best member of ensemble casts) or Paul (injured). It's especially annoying when the inclusion of Parker/Lillard is allegedly a function of record, yet Davis (who's team stinks and whose supporting cast isn't much, if any, worse than Dragic's) is tabbed to play. Interestingly, the Suns are the ONLY playoff team without AS representation, despite the fact that Dragic's supporting cast is pretty clearly inferior to that of every other All-Star, including lower-ranked representatives Nowitzki and Curry (though Curry was picked by the fans and deserves to be there over Parker/Paul/Harden/Lillard/Davis anyways).

It's also pretty clear that we're not going to persuade each other; your arguments seem to be built around star power and raw scoring numbers, which I can't disprove so much as dispute the relevance of; mine are built around efficiency, defense, and relative level of talent around them, which you choose to dismiss out of hand. I'm not sure I see the relevance of the Kobe comparison (pretty sure he made the AS team both those years, as well as the playoffs, while dragging a mediocre supporting cast), but I really do feel strongly that among Western playoff teams, the Suns have by far the weakest 2nd through 5th best players, a vulnerability compounded by the frequent absence of number 2 option Eric Bledsoe.

 
At Monday, February 10, 2014 7:17:00 PM, Blogger Monessi said...

Regarding the Nash comparison, which wasn't posted when I replied to your previous comments (moderation queue, I'd wager):

The comparison's not as far fetched as you think. Nash was a better shooter and passer, for sure, but he also had a much better supporting cast (Amare, Marion, and Dragic himself at various points), and had seasons where his team's record (up to this point) wasn't as good as this one. Nash is probably the most potent offensive force in NBA history (all his teammates shoot career highs, he leads the league in assists, and he shoots 50/40/90 for the league's #1 offense season after season), but his complete inability to contribute on defense is a major reason the Suns never broke through (all the crap from 07 is another reason).

Dragic, while not quite the shooter or passer, has a weaker team posting a comparable record, which I'd credit chiefly to his defensive skill and his ability to pick his spots (almost every game Dragic will take over at least one quarter; when he takes over two, they generally win), as well as a slightly better collective defense.

Dragic also appears to have Nash's knack for bringing the best out of his teammates, as Plumlee, Tucker, Green, both Morris twins, and Frye are all having career years with Dragic captaining the offense; though part of that credit certainly belongs to Hornacek.

Moral of the story, while Dragic isn't an MVP candidate, he's absolutely an All-Star. Right now, thanks to injuries, he might be the best Point Guard in the league. Statistically, he is, though I don't believe stats are the be-all end-all. Regardless, ranking him behind Parker or Lillard is pretty hard to defend with much credibility (unless you want to through their stellar supporting casts under the bus), and he's much closer to Curry than people realize. Again, this is likely a function of exposure as much as anything, but it's still sad.

 
At Monday, February 10, 2014 8:26:00 PM, Blogger Jordan Ikeda said...

@Boyer,

I'd say Portland is a better team this year because Aldridge is playing like a quasi-MVP. They added Lopez (for Hickson), who at least tries to play defense. Wes Matthews is having a career year, which has given the team a legit tertiary scoring option, which has moved Batum down to a much more comfortable fourth option where he is thriving as a fill-in-the-gaps guy. And the Blazers have a much improved bench compared to last season's mess. So, the contributions of Lillard are a distant sixth on the reasons behind the Blazers resurgence. I don't think he's worthy of an all-star selection over Dragic based on production.

@anonymous,

I agree with you that Dragic is deserving of an All-Star nod over guys like Harden and Lillard this season.

That said, a few things. The game is being played in NO, so selecting Davis was a no brainer.

Most all-star selections are a two year process. See Curry as an example, Lillard too. You could argue that both those guys deserved to make it last year. But there have been a few too many all-star selections that look bad in retrospect. The two-year process largely eliminates these outliers.

Dragic repeats this year (or close to it) next season, he's likely to make it.

Also, Parker is not a traffic cone on defense. He's greatly improved himself in that area over the past few years. I'd actually say he's one of the better starting point guards defensively. Not a shutdown guy at all, but plays to his strengths, stays in front of his man, and most importantly, tries.

 
At Sunday, February 23, 2014 4:36:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree that Dragic is a very good player and that he got snubbed for the all star team. On the other hand, I don't agree that he's better than Lillard, CP3, Curry, or Tony Parker. I think he's definitely better than Harden, who I still think is the most overrated player in the NBA right now. Dragic is very efficient but he doesn't score in volume as much as someone like Curry. Plus if you watched Dragic play against the Heat, the best perimeter and pick and roll defense in the league, they forced him to give up the ball and shut him down completely. He did have a great performance against the Pacers so I don't think he's awful against great defense but what the Heat did to him was telling.

 

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