The vote to determine the All-Star starters typically ends up being a popularity contest. Whether it be Bryant from the past 3 years or Wade in 2016, the ten players who line up for the tip-off are usually not all there off merit. This should be acceptable. Since the power lies in the hands of the fans, no selection should be deemed as incorrect. However, with the legitimacy of careers and more importantly, player’s potential maximum earnings being determined by one’s number of all-star selections, there absolutely should be a more rigid process in deciphering who the 10 esteemed players are. We will see how effective the new process of allowing the media and players to chime in is. In the meantime, here’s my crack at the most deserving for the Eastern Conference.
This is an absolute lock; Lowry has been the best guard in the East. Toronto is +15.6 per 100 possessions with him on the court as opposed to him off it, which is hands down the best mark for the Raptors. For perspective, that value for James is +15.7. This sort of an impact is also exemplified by the fact that Lowry is in 2 of the 5 best lineups to have been on the court for 100 or more minutes. The Lowry + bench unit (Joseph, Ross, Patterson, & Nogueira) is +23.2, and the Lowry, DeRozan, Carroll, Patterson, & Valanciunas lineup is +26.4.
Lowry is the engine, and his pull-up 3 point shooting is the fuel. Out of players who have participated in 15 or more games and have attempted 1.5 or more pull up 3s per game, Lowry is 3rd at 42.3%. This exemplifies why Lowry has the highest true shooting percentage among PGs, higher than Curry, Paul, Thomas, etc. And he maintains this efficiency at enormous volume: he possesses the highest percentage for all players with at least 2.6 pull up 3PA.This forces the defense to precariously pull their big man 25 feet away from the rim. Lowry exploits this with his tremendous ability to drive, as he’s 14th in drives per game, ahead of the likes of Irving, Butler, and Antetokounmpo. With the defense collapsed, Lowry exhibits his first class passing ability. The aforementioned lineups have respective assist rates of 57.1% and 58.7%. Comparatively, Toronto, as a team, possesses an assist rate of 47.9%!!
Lastly, Lowry’s malleable, which is why he’s an ideal complement to DeRozan. He’s shooting 48.8% on catch and shoot 3s, which is the best mark for players who have played 20 games and has 2 or more attempts. It’s a shame that Lowry’s currently 6th among guards; he’s a starter.
This was the most challenging decision among the ten spots. Ultimately, it came down to Wall or Thomas. Irving’s lack of playmaking and defending and DeRozan’s deficient 3 point shooting and playmaking took them out of the running. Wall had a compelling argument. He’s converting 55.7% off drives, which would rank him 9th among players with 3 drives and 2 FGA. Washington’s +13.4 per 100 possessions better with Wall on the court than when he’s off it. He’s an otherworldly playmaker with the league’s 4th best assist rate.
However, Thomas’ play has been nothing short of brilliant, especially in the 4th quarter where he’s been scorching the nets. Thomas’ colossal 10.1 points in the final frame is the best mark in the last TWENTY-ONE years. His individual prosperity directly translates to team success, as the Celtics possess the 3rd highest net rating in the 4th and the 4th most potent offense in the clutch (defined as a score difference of 5 or under with 5 or less minutes to go).
What allows Thomas to be dynamite not only in the 4th but throughout is his remarkable efficiency. At 61.6% true shooting, Thomas ranks 4th among PGs. If there is a blemish on Thomas’ record, it’s his effectiveness off drives and near the rim, which are at a mortal 54.3% and 50% respectively. However, he compensates for this by his ability to earn a trip to the charity stripe. Despite his small stature, his fearlessness allows him to manufacture an astounding 13.2 drives per game (2nd in the NBA). This aids him in generating a 4th-leading 3.2 FTA/game off such penetration.
Further rectification comes from Thomas being a threat at both the pull up and catch and shoot 3. He’s nailing 38.2% on the former (8th among qualified guards) and 38.7% on the latter. However, Thomas’ most effective shot is also the most analytically shunned one, as he converts a cool 50% from mid range, which would place him at 5th in the entire NBA.
By all means the former last overall pick of the draft is a scoring guard. Nonetheless, Thomas has a higher assist percentage than all his competitors for this spot aside from Wall: Irving, DeRozan, Walker, and even Lowry. Thomas has exhibited a deep comprehension of how the defense shifts to combat his innate ability to foray in the paint and has frequently found the open man.
It’s going to take some innovative scheming to ensure that Thomas doesn’t get exploited defensively by the likes of James, DeRozan, and Antetokounmpo. But he absolutely should one of the 10.
I’m going to keep this short and sweet. The best player in the game has upped his potency around the rim, with his efficiency metrics swimming back in the 70%+ pool. Furthermore, he has reverted to his Miami days with regards to his 3-point shooting, which makes him virtually unguardable. With defenders unable to lend LeBron with airspace, more help is required, which has resulted in a career high in assist rate. This is phenomenal for a guy in his 13th year in the league with as many miles under his belt as he has.
Once LeBron enters the waning years of his illustrious career, IF he does, Giannis will usurp him as the pillar of versatility. The Greek Freak is an absolute monster in transition, with his gazelle like strides propelling him through any meek opposition with the courage to stand in his way. He’s successful on 67.3% on his attempts in the open court and is sent to the free throw line 29.5% of the time, which would rank him 4th. His efficiency shines through in general in the restricted area with a 66.2% mark.
Aside from his jaw-dropping slams in transition, his post up game helps pad that value, as he’s converting a whopping 52.1% of his attempts, good for 6th in the league. Giannis relies on his ferocious ability to enter the paint whenever he pleases and his potency around the basket, as illustrated by his 8.1 drives per game and the fact that 50% of his FGA is from the restricted area.
He pairs his capability to force the defense to bend at his will with his outstanding court vision to be one of the best non-guard passers. Parker, Monroe, Henson, Teletovic, and Terry all become drastically better shooters when Antetokounmpo is setting them up. Most impressively, Giannis’ able to harness his passing ability from a myriad of positions: as the pick and roll ball handler, as the roll man, from the post, and in transition.
His adaptability transfers to the other side of the floor. Opponents convert a low 45.5% around the rim with Antetokounmpo looming, a mark superior than that of Jordan and Howard. Giannis is also able to switch on the perimeter and has shown a strong grasp of pick and roll help defense. With him on the floor, MIL is allowing a sturdy 103.8 pts per 100 possession, which place them at 8th. Without him, they relinquish a ghastly 109.2, which would drag them down to 26th.
Antetokounmpo’s accomplishing this with a below average mid range shot and a non-existent 3 point shot. This certainly won’t be the last time the Greek Freak will be an all-star starter.
With Butler being the most potent floor spacer in Chicago’s starting lineup, their offense has flopped, and resultantly, so has the team. However, this shouldn’t inhibit Butler from finding himself on the All-Star starting lineup. With all the conversation revolving around who will be the leader of the Bulls, it is indubitably Butler. The Bulls are +13.8 pts per 100 possession better with Butler on the court. To put that in perspective, the next best is Mirotic, at +3.3!
Butler makes a living at the FT line, averaging 9.7 free throws per game, good for 3rd in the NBA. Albeit not incredibly efficient on any particular spot on the floor, this elevates several of his metrics, such as his true shooting percentage, which is at 59%. For example, Butler’s generates 0.96 points per possession as the pick and roll ball handler and leads the league by drawing a foul on 20.9% of the time. In the same vein, nobody bests Butler at FTA off drives. A vital factor is Butler’s ability to manufacture 9.1 drives per game by utilizing his strength and advanced footwork to create avenues to the rim.
A la Thomas, Butler’s also a stone-cold killer in the 4th, producing a 6th best 7.2 points per game. What aids him in this regard is his shot creation and ability to knock tough shots. 60.2% of Butler’s FGA are unassisted. Additionally, he’s successful on an astounding 45% of his attempts when the closest defender is 0-2 away from Butler. When you pair all of this with his solid defense and playmaking, Butler should round out the Eastern Conference All-Star Starters.