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Friday, May 13, 2011

Analysis of the All-NBA Team Voting

The NBA annually selects a 15 member All-NBA Team divided into three five man squads--and almost every year the selections don't quite add up, both literally (in terms of vote totals) and figuratively (I previously offered my take on discrepancies in the 2009 and 2007 editions of the All-NBA Team).

This year's First Team is not controversial (Dwight Howard, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, Kobe Bryant), though for the second straight year the media chose Durant while I would have selected Dirk Nowitzki. The Second Team consists of Nowitzki, Pau Gasol, Amare Stoudemire, Dwyane Wade and Russell Westbrook, while LaMarcus Aldridge, Zach Randolph, Al Horford, Manu Ginobili and Chris Paul earned Third Team honors. In addition to the Nowitzki-Durant swap, my All-NBA Team included Aldridge on the Second Team and listed Gasol as the Third Team center; I chose Tony Parker instead of Ginobili as a Third Team guard and my Third Team forwards were Blake Griffin and Kevin Love.

Unless there is a typographical error on the official NBA press release, this year the 119 media members on the selection panel combined for 120 First Team votes at center, 237 First Team votes at forward and 240 First Team votes at guard. The only guards who received First Team votes were Rose, Bryant and Wade--none of whom should be listed at any other position (though Bryant occasionally plays small forward)--so it is difficult to understand why there were two "extra" guard votes (119 media members voting for two First Team guard slots should produce 238 First Team votes, not 240). The discrepancy at center and forward is easier to explain; Stoudemire clearly received one First Team vote as a center and one as a forward. However, there is no logical explanation for how 119 voters combined for 597 total First Team votes (the total should be 595).

A funny "old school" story about the blurred distinction between center and power forward happened back in the 1970s when the 6-7, wide bodied Wes Unseld was the Bullets' nominal center while the 6-9, agile Elvin Hayes (a collegiate center) was the Bullets' nominal power forward; Hayes told a reporter that the Bullets needed better play from the center position but when the reporter repeated that remark to Unseld he retorted that Hayes should know because Hayes is the team's center! However, the Bullets were somewhat unusual--most "old school" teams had a clearly defined center and a clearly defined power forward. A few years ago, Shaquille O'Neal called himself "LCL" (the "Last Center Left") and he was prophetic to some degree. Howard is one of the few legitimate back to the basket, traditional centers; most NBA big men are hybrids whose skill sets/body types represent a blurring of the line between center (historically the biggest player on the team and someone who operated predominantly in the paint) and power forward (historically the second biggest player on the team and someone who could rebound in the paint but also step out to shoot the 15 foot jump shot). Players like Gasol, Stoudemire and Tim Duncan often are the de facto centers for their respective teams yet they are more mobile than traditional centers and they face the basket on offense more frequently than most traditional centers used to do.

The strange thing about this year's All-NBA Team is that Horford received designation as the Third Team center even though he is essentially a power forward and even though the Hawks' best lineup this season (as seen during the playoffs) shifted him to power forward. Why honor Horford when Griffin and Love clearly had better seasons? Both Griffin (22.5 ppg, 12.1 rpg, 3.8 apg) and Love (20.2 ppg, a league-leading 15.2 rpg, 2.5 apg) put up significantly better numbers than Horford (15.3 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 3.5 apg) so it makes no sense to use a tenuous positional designation as an excuse to put Horford on the team. By placing Gasol at Third Team center I gave Aldridge his just due as a Second Team forward (Aldridge is clearly Portland's franchise player, while Gasol is clearly the Lakers' second option) while also creating room for Griffin and Love to be on the team. Although a good case can be made to put Randolph on the team, Griffin and Love were more productive than Randolph during the regular season--and, even though playoff performance has no bearing on a regular season honor, it should be noted that despite the attention Randolph has received for his postseason production he is shooting just .439 from the field so far in the playoffs, well below his .503 regular season field goal percentage. Randolph and Horford received 67 and 62 points respectively in the voting (scored on a 5-3-1 basis), while Love received 48 (fourth best among players who did not make the cut, trailing Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Carmelo Anthony) and Griffin received 36.

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posted by David Friedman @ 1:31 PM



At Friday, May 13, 2011 4:11:00 PM, Anonymous boyer said...

I've definitely seen some irate people over Kobe on 1st team and Wade on 2nd team. I saw an article a few weeks ago, that they guy had Kobe on 3rd team. I'm pretty sure that guy was only using stats for his argument, can't remember where I saw that. I just don't understand a lot of this. The voting is really weird. I'm glad all the voting for everything isn't done completely by the media. The fans(AS game) get some say, and the coaches get some say(all-defense) and the GMs have their polls of who they think is the best regarding different things in the game.

What happened to all your latest comments on your previous 2 articles? Some of them have seemed to have disappeared.

At Saturday, May 14, 2011 1:35:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Kobe is still a better player than Wade; even the media members--who get a lot of things wrong--realize that.

Blogger was down for about 20 hours and in order to get it running again they had to reset everyone's site to how it had been before the outage. In theory, the deleted posts and the deleted comments are supposed to be restored but that is out of my hands.


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