2015 NBA All-Star Game: Which Conference Has the Best Roster?
NBA All-Star weekend is chugging along with some serious momentum going into the actual game on Sunday.
The new "U.S. versus the World" format of the Rising Stars Challenge made us all care a little more about the exhibition, and Rookie of the Year frontrunner Andrew Wiggins walked away with the MVP trophy. On All-Star Saturday Night, Team Bosh pulled off a three-peat in the Shooting Stars competition, Patrick Beverley dribbled around his adversaries in the Skills Competition, Stephen Curry made it rain in the Three-Point Shootout, and Zach LaVine reminded us why we all loved the dunk contest in the first place.
As for the actual All-Star game on Sunday, the main thing that stands out going into the exhibition is the imbalance in talent between the two rosters. The Western Conference's superiority over the Eastern Conference in general is no secret in the NBA. In recent years, we've seen teams with excellent records in the West miss the playoffs, while teams under .500 get in pretty easily out East. The concern has grown so prominent, in fact, that NBA commissioner Adam Silver discussed playoff reformatting in his annual All-Star weekend address on Saturday.
A large reason for that disparity is the glut of talent that just ends up landing in the Western Conference. Some people cite free agency and players' chasing greener pastures on America's west coast for the gap, but it's worth noting that there are more players on the West roster (7) representing the team that drafted them than there are on the East team (6). Regardless of the reason for the lopsidedness of the conferences, it's interesting to analyze just how far apart the collections of their biggest stars -- the All-Star teams -- actually are.
Using nERD as a Comparison Point
There's no perfect way to measure talent and say that one player is better than another, without delving into a variety of factors and subjectively assigning those factors some kind of weight. To avoid the long and drawn out process of deciding how much more important shooting efficiency is than defensive prowess and the like, we'll use our in-house stat, nERD, to do that work for us (similarly to how we compared Team U.S. to Team World for the Rising Stars Challenge).
nERD is an all-encompassing metric that factors in various parts of how a player performs in a basketball game on both ends of the floor, with a discerning eye on efficiency. In fact, some of the more efficient players in the game -- guys you might not even consider "stars" in the traditional sense -- can do really well in nERD. On the other hand, some All-Stars fall short (just see our Eastern and Western Conference nERD-Star teams for proof).
The final number spat out by the calculation is meant to estimate how many games above or below .500 a league-average team would finish an 82-game NBA season with the player in question as one of its starters and gauges how well (or poorly) a given player is performing during a particular season and how positively (or negatively) he's impacting his team's performance.
So, how do the teams stack up based on how each individual player is performing in nERD so far in 2014-15?
Eastern Conference All-Stars
Western Conference All-Stars
|LaMarcus Aldridge||Trail Blazers||7.7|
|Damian Lillard||Trail Blazers||11.4|
As expected, nERD says the Western Conference All-Star Team is better than the Eastern Conference equivalent. Far better.
The West squad has a full 40-point advantage over the East, which is essentially the equivalent of two James Hardens (the top nERD performer from either). The East team has an average nERD of 7.1 (a Draymond Green-level player), while the West comes in at a whopping 10.4 (a Marc Gasol-esque figure). Considering only nine NBA players have registered a double-digit nERD thus far this season, having a team average that number is pretty incredible.
The West squad contains five of the top-10 nERDs in the league (Harden, Curry, Chris Paul, Damian Lillard, and Marc Gasol), while the East has just one (Jimmy Butler). What's more, had Anthony Davis (a league-leading nERD of 21.2) played in the game instead of resting his injured shoulder, they would've had six. If Davis and Blake Griffin (8.1) had both managed to suit up for the game, the absolute chasm between the West and East nERD scores would've been even wider. Yikes.
Of course, once the ball goes up in this single-game exhibition, most of these numbers will go out the proverbial window for 48 minutes. Just because the West has a far deeper team than the East doesn't mean that the bright lights of Madison Square Garden won't awaken the beast that is LeBron James, or perhaps even muster a final magical performance out of hometown hero Carmelo Anthony before his inevitable shutdown. The East could certainly pull this out when all is said and done.
Which team do you think will win tonight? Let us know in the comment section below.