2015 NBA Western Conference nERD-Stars: Choosing All-Stars Through Advanced Analytics
Yesterday, I explored the subject of constructing NBA All-Star rosters through the use of advanced analytics (in particular, using our in-house metric, nERD). I won't regurgitate the whole explanation here and instead just recommend that you check out yesterday's piece for yourself to get caught up.
Now that you've done that, let's continue by looking at what the Western Conference All-Star team would look like if constructed using our metric.
|Starting Guard||HOU||James Harden||20.8|
|Starting Guard||GS||Stephen Curry||18.5|
|Starting Frontcourt||NO||Anthony Davis||22.4|
|Starting Frontcourt||DAL||*Tyson Chandler||13.4|
|Starting Frontcourt||LAC||*DeAndre Jordan||12.7|
|Bench Guard||LAC||Chris Paul||15.8|
|Bench Guard||GS||Klay Thompson||11.3|
|Bench Frontcourt||MEM||Marc Gasol||10.2|
|Bench Frontcourt||LAC||Blake Griffin||9.4|
|Bench Frontcourt||POR||LaMarcus Aldridge||8.6|
|Bench Wild Card||POR||*Damian Lillard||10.7|
|Bench Wild Card||PHX||*Brandan Wright||8.4|
* Denotes a player who qualifies as a "nERD-Star" but didn't make the actual NBA All-Star Team.
James Harden, Houston Rockets
The coaches named Harden a reserve for this year's All-Star game (his third selection), but our numbers say he should've been the first guard selected for the team and a starter by a country mile. Hopefully Western Conference coach Steve Kerr can give a rival his due and name the Beard as Kobe's injury replacement in the starting lineup. Harden's been considered a superstar for a few years now, but he's reached even greater heights this season with career highs in points (a league-leading 27.0), rebounds (4.8), assists (6.8), steals (2.0), blocks (0.8), and free throw percentage (88.3%). Throw in 45.2% shooting from the field, 38.4% from long range, a league-leading 10.1 win shares, and the fact that he has almost single-handedly dragged the Rockets to a 33-15 record and the third seed in the competitive Western Conference, and Harden becomes not only an obvious All-Star starter, but a leading MVP candidate.
Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Speaking of MVP candidates, Steph Curry is right there with Harden. Curry has led the Warriors to the top record in the Association at 38-8, while averaging 23.0 points, 4.7 rebounds, 8.2 assists, 2.2 steals, and 3.0 triples per game (on 39.4% shooting from deep), while shooting a sterling 48.5% from the field and 91.5% from the charity stripe. He's a league-leader in a wide variety of statistical categories and is a no-brainer for his second All-Star selection, any way you slice it.
Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
This will be the Brow's second All-Star appearance and his first as a starter. Considering how dominant he is at the still shockingly young age of 21, he's likely to be a shoo-in starter for the next decade and beyond. He's our league-leader in nERD at 22.4 and his stat line already conjures up visions of the all-time great centers: 24.6 points, 10.5 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.6 steals, a league-leading 2.8 blocks, 55.4% from the field, and 82.5% from the line. You simply can't look at that without your jaw dropping. His 32.0 player efficiency rating (PER) not only leads the league, but is on pace to be the best mark ever in the history of basketball. Furthermore, his .299 rate of win shares per 48 minutes (WS/48) - which also leads the league for 2014-15 - will place in the top-10 all-time if he keeps it up. Anthony Davis defines All-Star, nERD-Star, etc. and we're all going to run out of superlatives by the time he's 25.
Tyson Chandler, Dallas Mavericks
Chandler's lone All-Star appearance was in 2012-13, and he wasn't really in consideration for a re-up this season, but our numbers have him as the second frontcourt player named to our squad in the Western Conference and a sure-fire starter. Besides, his 10.6 points, 11.9 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per game, to go with 67.6% shooting from the field constitutes what could be the best stat line of his 14-year career (even better than the year he was an All-Star). His combination of offensive efficiency (a league-leading 137.1 offensive rating) and still-effective defense makes him an advanced stat dream.
DeAndre Jordan, Los Angeles Clippers
People don't generally give DJ enough credit for how valuable he is to the Clippers and how much he's responsible for their success, but our numbers have him as a nERD-Star starter with ease. Sure, he only scores 10.4 points per game, but he leads the league in rebounding (13.6 per game) and field goal percentage (73.2%), and comes in second in blocks per game at 2.4. His offensive game is a bit meat and potatoes (dunks and more dunks), but he's second in the league in defensive win shares at 3.0 and is growing into an anchor on that end.
Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
CP3 has been an All-Star the last seven years and nothing has changed to keep him from being there again this year for his eighth selection. 17.7 points, 4.8 rebounds, 9.6 assists, and 1.9 steals per game, to go with 47.4% shooting from the floor, 39.5% from long range, and 87.8% from the line equals All-Star. Simple as that.
Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors
Klay has made every last one of us that swore that he wasn't as good as Kevin Love this summer look silly. He was named to his first All-Star game by the coaches and we whole-heartedly agree with the decision. His 25.1 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.4 steals, and 1.0 block per game all represent career highs, as does his 48.3% shooting from the field and 44.8% from three-point range. That's enough to get him in without even mentioning the NBA record 37-point quarter he recently dropped on all our heads. We take it all back, dude.
Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies
Marc Gasol has been an absolute a beast this season, averaging a career high 18.6 points per game on 49.5% shooting from the floor and 81.1% from the line, while adding 8.2 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 0.9 steals, and 1.7 blocks per contest. He was voted in as a starter by the fans this season for his second career All-Star selection and we wouldn't leave him off our team if you paid us.
Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
Blake's numbers have regressed a bit this season, but 22.6 points (on 50.1% shooting from the floor), 7.6 rebounds, and 5.1 assists per game are not exactly anything to sneeze at. Besides, who doesn't want him at the All-Star game to catch alley-oops? He'll be a lock for years to come.
LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers
LMA deserves an All-Star nod for his grit alone, foregoing thumb surgery to play out the season in order to keep his Trail Blazers' championship hopes alive. It certainly doesn't hurt that he's still managing to average a career high in points per game at 23.8, while chipping in 10.3 boards and 1.1 blocks. He's one of the best power forwards in the game and a nERD-Star through and through.
Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
Dame may be one of the biggest snubs for this year's All-Star game, but he makes our squad pretty easily. 21.7 points, 4.6 rebounds, 6.3 assists, and 1.4 steals per game are All-Star numbers, no doubt, but the Western Conference is simply too loaded to consider anyone a sure thing. Don't worry though, he'll be back.
Brandan Wright, Phoenix Suns
Man, we can't quit you, Brandan Wright. We already named him the king of advanced analytics, so it's only natural that he would make our nERD-Star squad. Wright's been on three different teams this year and is only averaging a mere 7.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks in 17.2 minutes per contest, but his 141 offensive rating would make him the league leader if he had played enough minutes to qualify. His 65.9% shooting mark from the field would also put him at third in the Association. He'll never be a star, but he'll always have fanboys in the analytics community.
Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
KD has missed 26 games this season for three different ailments, but he was still named an All-Star reserve by the coaches because, well, he's Kevin Durant. Our numbers don't back him up, however, as he fell just short of a wild card spot on our team. He's never really found his rhythm this year, seeing dips in most statistical categories, and missing all those games simply adds up (or doesn't...you know what I mean).
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
Westbrook has played like a man possessed this season, averaging career highs in points (24.9), rebounds (6.1), steals (a league-leading 2.3), while throwing in 7.6 assists per contest. That's enough to justify his actual All-Star selection by the coaches, but the lack of efficiency in his 42.4% shooting from the floor (on 20.2 shots per game no less), 26.1% from long range, and 3.7 turnovers per game keeps him off our team.
Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs
Old Man Duncan's All-Star selection this season might be partially a legacy nod, but his 14.5 points, 10.0 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.0 steal, and 1.9 blocks per game to go with 48.5% shooting from the field still makes a strong case for him. It wasn't quite enough for our purposes in the loaded West, though.
DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings
Boogie's first All-Star selection is well deserved, even if it was just as an injury replacement. When you look at his gaudy 23.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.6 steals, and 1.6 blocks per game, it's hard to deny him the right to stand next to the rest of the NBA's best and brightest. For our purposes, however, the 4.3 turnovers per contest and pedestrian (for a near seven-footer) 46.7% shooting from the floor make him hard to justify as a selection. We're tough on efficiency, if you haven't noticed.
Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
Kobe's done for the season and obviously won't play in the All-Star game, despite being voted in by the fans. I'll just leave this right here and say that Kobe's -8.5 nERD would easily land him on our anti-nERD-Stars team, if such a thing were ever put together. 23.3 points per game at age 36 is nice and all, but 37.3% shooting on 20.4 heaves per game certainly isn't.