2018 NBA nERD-Stars: Choosing All-Stars Through Advanced Analytics
This is the second year of the new voting process, which includes input from the players and media in addition to the fans and coaches. The new system continues to work fairly well, considering the fact that we managed to avoid a situation in which the fans would've voted in a 40-year-old, past-his-prime Manu Ginobili had they still had sole control of the starters vote. That said, there were still some pretty noteworthy snubs, and yet again, those snubs have supplied plenty of fuel for debate among pundits and fans.
It's an annual tradition here at numberFire to imagine a world in which the All-Star rosters are determined by advanced analytics rather than any kind of voting at all, with the idea that it might be a way to eliminate the snub talk all together. At the very least, it would be a way to properly appreciate players that play the game efficiently and in a way that's beneficial to their team, rather than just focusing on star appeal.
To do so, we use our proprietary metric, nERD, to select our nERD-Star squads.
If you're unfamiliar with nERD, it's a player rating that measures the total contribution of a player throughout the course of a season, based on his efficiency. Comparable to win shares, this ranking gives an estimate of how many games above or below .500 a league-average team would win over an 82-game season with said player as one of its starters.
For example, James Harden is currently the top player in our NBA Player Power Rankings with a nERD of 10.9. If he played on a team that started four league-average players alongside him, you would expect that team to finish roughly 10 games over .500 (46-36) based on his play so far this season.
For this exercise, we take the standard All-Star rosters for each conference (two starting guards, three starting frontcourt players, two bench guards, three bench frontcourt players, and two wild card selections each) and fill them out using the players with the highest nERD scores.
Without further ado, here are your 2017-18 NBA nERD-Stars (along with a few words on the players who made our team but weren't selected for the real deal, and vice versa).
Eastern Conference nERD-Stars
|Starting Guard||Kyrie Irving||BOS||7.7|
|Starting Guard||DeMar DeRozan||TOR||6.8|
|Starting Frontcourt||Giannis Antetokounmpo||MIL||9.9|
|Starting Frontcourt||LeBron James||CLE||8.0|
|Starting Frontcourt||*Andre Drummond||DET||5.8|
|Bench Guard||Kyle Lowry||TOR||5.0|
|Bench Guard||*Darren Collison||IND||4.3|
|Bench Frontcourt||Al Horford||BOS||5.5|
|Bench Frontcourt||Kevin Love||CLE||5.3|
|Bench Frontcourt||*Enes Kanter||NY||4.8|
|Bench Wild Card||*Jayson Tatum||BOS||4.5|
|Bench Wild Card||Victor Oladipo||IND||4.1|
* Denotes a player who qualifies as a "nERD-Star" but didn't make the actual NBA All-Star Team.
Western Conference nERD-Stars
|Starting Guard||James Harden||HOU||10.9|
|Starting Guard||Stephen Curry||GS||9.1|
|Starting Frontcourt||Anthony Davis||NO||10.4|
|Starting Frontcourt||Karl-Anthony Towns||MIN||9.3|
|Starting Frontcourt||LaMarcus Aldridge||SA||7.4|
|Bench Guard||Jimmy Butler||MIN||7.8|
|Bench Guard||*Chris Paul||HOU||6.4|
|Bench Frontcourt||*Clint Capela||HOU||7.1|
|Bench Frontcourt||Kevin Durant||GS||7.0|
|Bench Frontcourt||*Steven Adams||OKC||6.0|
|Bench Wild Card||Damian Lillard||POR||5.5|
|Bench Wild Card||*DeAndre Jordan||LAC||5.1|
* Denotes a player who qualifies as a "nERD-Star" but didn't make the actual NBA All-Star Team.
nERD-Stars Who Aren't All-Stars
Clint Capela, Houston Rockets
Capela is averaging an impressive 14.5 points, 10.7 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.8 steals, and 1.7 blocks per game, while ranking first in the league in field goal percentage (66.4%) and effective field goal percentage (66.4%), second in true shooting percentage (66.7%) and offensive rating (127.5), fourth in win shares per 48 minutes (.250), and sixth in player efficiency rating (26.0). He's an efficiency All-Star, if nothing else.
Chris Paul, Houston Rockets
CP3 is a nine-time All-Star, but likely missed out this year because he only played in 28 of a possible 45 games for the Rockets. For our purposes, however, his line of 19.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, 8.9 assists, 1.9 steals, and 0.4 blocks per contest, along with a shooting split of 46.0% from the field, 39.6% from deep, and 91.1% from the charity stripe, are enough to get him in. He's not killing it in the cumulative stats due to the time missed, but he's still third in the Association in win shares per 48 minutes (.273), fourth in offensive rating (126.3), fifth in box plus/minus (8.0), and seventh in player efficiency rating (25.6),
Steven Adams, Oklahoma City Thunder
Our metric puts Adams (6.0) over Russell Westbrook (4.9), Paul George (3.6), and Carmelo Anthony (0.8) as the most valuable member on the Thunder, at least when it comes to efficiency. That's what shooting 63.3% from the field, averaging only 1.6 turnovers per contest, and posting a league-leading 17.6% offensive rebound percentage will do for you. On top of a solid raw stat line of 13.7 points, 8.9 rebounds, 1.0 assist, 1.2 steals, and 1.0 block per contest, Adams also ranks 3rd in offensive rating (126.8), 3rd in effective field goal percentage (63.3%), 6th in true shooting percentage (63.7%), and 11th in win shares per 48 minutes (.205).
Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons
Drummond was one of the more notable snubs from this year's All-Star selections, but our metrics tab him as an Eastern Conference starter. On top of his usual 14.3 points, league-leading 15.0 rebounds, 1.5 steals, and 1.2 blocks per game, he's gone from averaging 1.0 assist per contest and shooting 40.6% from the free throw line on his career, to dishing out 3.9 dimes and hitting 62.9% of his freebies this season. He leads the Association in rebound percentage (25.9%), defensive rating (99.1), defensive win shares (3.0), and defensive box plus/minus (5.5), while coming in sixth in box plus/minus (6.9) and fifth in value over replacement player (3.2).
DeAndre Jordan, Los Angeles Clippers
Jordan has done more than just appear in trade rumors this season, he's also managed to average 11.8 points, 14.9 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.5 steals, and 1.0 block per game, while leading the league in offensive rating (127.9), ranking second in field goal percentage (66.1%), effective field goal percentage (66.1%), and total rebound percentage (25.5%), and coming in third in true shooting percentage (66.5%). He was a first-time All-Star last season, and we would've had the three-time All-NBA center in there again this time around.
Enes Kanter, New York Knicks
Kanter's line of 13.6 points, 10.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.5 steals, and 0.5 blocks per game doesn't exactly scream All-Star, but his sterling shooting line of 59.5% from the field and 86.9% from the free throw line makes him a shoo-in for any efficiency-based team. He ranks fourth in field goal percentage, fourth in total rebound percentage (22.3%), and eighth in effective field goal percentage (59.5%).
Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
Tatum is a lock for All-Rookie First Team honors, but wasn't really in the mix for an All-Star selection. He makes our squad, however, thanks to his top-notch, un-rookie-like efficiency. The first-year forward is shooting 48.8% from the field, 44.9% from three, and 81.3% from the line to go with his averages of 13.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.9 steals, and 0.9 blocks per contest. His three-point percentage ranks second in the entire Association, while he also gets it done on the other end, coming in fourth in defensive win shares (2.7) and ninth in defensive rating (101.7).
Darren Collison, Indiana Pacers
Collison might've been one of the last names you were considering as an All-Star, but don't sleep on his very efficient campaign to date. His modest averages of 12.7 points, 2.7 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 1.3 steals, and 0.2 blocks per game don't exactly jump off the page, but his shooting split of 49.9% from the field, 43.5% from long range, and 88.5% from the charity stripe absolutely should. Apart from knocking on the door of the 50-40-90 club, Collison ranks ninth in three-point percentage and fifth in offensive rating (125.5).
All-Stars Who Aren't nERD-Stars
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
The reigning MVP is an obvious All-Star this year with averages of 24.9 points, 9.6 rebounds, a league-leading 10.0 assists, 2.0 steals, and 0.2 blocks per game, but his inefficiency makes him a snub on our Western Conference squad. The shooting split of 43.8% from the field, 30.7% from three, and 70.8% from the line is bad in and of itself, but toss in the high volume of attempts (21.1, 4.4, and 7.1, respectively) and you've got a recipe to fail in nERD. The 4.5 turnovers per contest certainly don't help either.
Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
Green still fills up the box score, averaging 11.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, 7.5 assists, 1.3 steals, and 1.3 blocks per contest, but the 2.8 turnovers and mediocre shooting split of 46.5% from the field, 31.8% from long range, and 77.6% from the free throw line keep him off our team. His 17.3 player efficiency rating and .157 win shares per 48 minutes are decidedly average for an All-Star.
DeMarcus Cousins, New Orleans Pelicans
It makes total sense that a guy averaging 25.6 points, 12.9 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 1.6 steals, and 1.5 blocks per contest would start in an All-Star game, but Boogie Cousins doesn't really come close to making our squad, since he leads the league in turnovers per game (5.0) and has a ho-hum shooting split of 46.9% from the field, 35.5% from deep, and 75.1% from the line at such a high volume (18.3, 6.2, and 8.3 shots per game, respectively).
Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
Embiid is having a killer sophomore season and is a deserving All-Star starter with averages of 23.8 points, 11.0 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 0.6 steals, and 1.9 blocks per contest, but averaging 4.2 turnovers per game won't do you any favors in nERD. His shooting split of 48.8% from the field, 28.6% from three, and 79.3% is decent, but missing nine of a possible 43 games can keep you down the leaderboard in a cumulative stat like nERD if your efficiency isn't on the high end.
Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
Beal is making his first All-Star appearance this year, averaging career highs in points (23.6), rebounds (4.3), and assists (3.7). His shooting split of 45.9% from the field, 36.8% from deep, and 78.5% from the line is a little too middle-of-the-road for our liking, however, especially for someone whose game is predicated on shooting. His 56.4% true shooting percentage and .129 win shares per 48 minutes are simply nothing to write home about.
Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors
Thompson will make his fourth All-Star appearance this year, and deservedly so with averages of 20.4 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.7 steals, and 0.6 blocks per contest, and a shooting split of 48.5% from the field, 44.9% from deep, and 87.0% from the stripe. While it's usually inaccurate shooting or a high turnover rate that keeps real-life All-Stars off our nERD-Star squads, that's simply not the case with Klay. Although he's known as a strong two-way player, Thompson's 110 defensive rating is the worst of the Warriors' regular rotation players, and he gets dinged for that in nERD.
Kristaps Porzingis, New York Knicks
Porzingis is having a breakout season out from under Carmelo Anthony's shadow, averaging 23.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.8 steals, and a league-leading 2.3 blocks per game, and was rightfully rewarded for his efforts by being named to his first All-Star team. He shoots a decent clip from three-point range (38.5%) and the free throw line (80.7%), but the 43.6% mark from the field on 19.1 attempts holds him down in most efficiency metrics like nERD.
John Wall, Washington Wizards
John Wall makes his fifth consecutive All-Star game with averages of 19.3 points, 3.6 rebounds, 9.2 assists, 1.3 steals, and 1.1 blocks, but his lack of efficiency makes him the only player mentioned in this whole piece with a negative nERD. His shooting split of 41.7% from the field, 34.8% from three, and 71.7% from the line is underwhelming and his 3.6 turnovers per game also hurt his cause. If nERD had to pick a Wizard to represent Washington at the All-Star game, it would've been Otto Porter, who wasn't far off from making the Eastern Conference squad with a mark of 3.4.