Starting Lineup: Creating the 2017 All-Star Rosters with Analytics

Russell Westbrook got snubbed from starting in the All-Star game – did analytics possibly weigh into the minds of fans, players and media members that voted? Possibly – let’s see what rosters we can come up with using analytics for the All-Star Game coming up in just a few days.

5 Best Backcourt Options for the Western Conference

James Harden (starter)

The league leader in Win Shares (9.4) and the 5th best PER (28.0) definitely makes you a shoo-in for the All-Star roster and earns you a top roster spot. A league leading 11.6 assists per game is just icing on the cake for the West All-Star team.

Chris Paul (injured)

If it wasn’t due to injuries, CP3 would have been the other starting guard for the West according to the analytics. He would have brought an outstanding three-point shooting percentage (39.5%) to the squad as well as 2.2 steals per game. Alas, he’ll be watching the game away from the arena – I’ll pick out his injury substitution later.

Stephen Curry (starter)

The analytics agree – with Chris Paul not making the team due to injury, Curry is next in line for starter on the West squad, not Mr. Triple-Double. Curry is taking a league-high 9.6 three-pointers per game, but is still making over 40% of them for 24.6 points per game. He’s a better shooter than Westbrook and has a better all around game (13 Net Rating) than RWB, giving him the slight edge as a starter for the All-Star game.

Russell Westbrook

It’s almost a disappointment if he doesn’t put a triple double every night he’s on the court. With a league leading PER (29.5), BPM (13.9) and VORP (6.1), he has a great case for being a starter – but he should still the court plenty, teaming up with former teammates Durant and Harden.

Damian Lillard

The gap between the best of the guards in the West and the rest is quite stark. Lillard is on top of that next teir of guards though, netting him a big consideration on the West roster. He’s putting about two points per game more than Curry but being a slight disappointment on the defensive side (115 Defensive Rating) could hurt his playing time for the All-Star game.

5 Best Backcourt Options for the Eastern Conference

Kyle Lowry (starter)

Lowry is leading the attack for the Raptors this season and he is just one of seven players with 7.0 or more Win Shares. Hard to take his teammate DeMar DeRozan over Lowry as starter on that fact alone from an analytic viewpoint.

Isaiah Thomas (starter)

Analytically, IT2 and Lowry have a great case to start for the East over DeRozan and Kyrie Irving. The points per game between each duo is nearly identical but both Thomas and Lowry have dished out more assists per game and have higher Net Ratings over the starters selected.

Kemba Walker

Walker doesn’t always put up the points the rest of the guards to on the list, but he is the second most efficient shooter on this list for the East (54.4% eFG%). He puts up respectable assists (5.4) and rebounds (4.2) per game for a guard and has a better BPM and VORP than Kyrie Irving.

John Wall

Wall, not Irving, rounds out this list for the East in the backcourt thanks to the third best assists per game (10.2) in the entire league and leads the league in steals per game (2.2), giving the East someone that could play a little defense in the All-Star game if they decide to do so.

DeMar DeRozan

Offensively, DeRozan is tearing up the league with career highs in points, rebounds and steals per game. He’s an All-Star for sure, but I have a hard time accepting he could be a starter with his 111 Defensive Rating. Defense doesn’t matter much in the All-Star game, but his liability on that end hurts his case to be a starter analytically.

5 Best Frontcourt Options for the Western Conference

Kevin Durant (starter)

The MVP in my mind is more than deserving of an All-Star starting spot. His Win Share per 48 is currently at .289, the leading mark in the league and the third highest of his career. I’m not sure if we could ever see Durant get better than past seasons, but he’s showing the sky is the limit for his career.

Kawhi Leonard (starter)

The Claw is another player that you cannot come up with enough accolades for. He’s become the face of the Spurs and just put up a career high 41 points during the Spurs’ overtime victory over the defending champs. Leonard has career highs in points and assists this season, has the best WS/48 mark of his career and is on pace to crush his career high in Win Shares this season.

Rudy Gobert (starter)

Put Gobert’s name on the list of having massive jumps in career highs this season. Gobert is quietly putting the Jazz in the mix in the West. He won’t put up many points per game (just below 13 per) but is leading the league in blocks (2.5 per game) and has the best Defensive Rating in the league at 98. The West needs an enforcer for the game and he fits the bill quite nicely.

Anthony Davis

Davis was selected by fans, media and players to be a starter for the West, but analytics give the edge to Gobert. Davis is no slouch though. While his PER is among the best (28.3), Gobert’s WS, WS/48, BPM, VORP and Net Rating all beat out Davis. If the West can somehow get both on the court at the same time, they could put the East squad in a serious scoring drought.

Nikola Jokic

A rising star from Denver rounds out the frontcourt options for the West. Why not DeAndre Jordan or DeMarcus Cousins? Well, Jordan is a a top-ten player in Offensive and Defensive Rating but doesn’t have a comparable BPM and VORP compared to Jokic. Cousins beats out Jokic in VORP and is comparable in BPM, but has a Net Rating that shows a weak all-around game compared to Jokic. You could give this final spot to many, but Jokic has the edge right now.

5 Best Frontcourt Options for the Eastern Conference

Jimmy Butler (starter)

Butler is ranked in the top-10 of the league in Win Shares, WS/48, BPM and VORP and has one of the best Net Ratings in the league. He’s no Harden or Westbrook but he contributes across the board in all stats and is an easy pick for the All-Star game.

Giannis Antetokounmpo (starter)

I mentioned Antetokounmpo last week in my MVP article and while he’s a contender in that race, he may already have the Most Improved award locked up with his outstanding career year. This allows the East to have some dangerous wing players on the court all at the same time.

LeBron James (starter)

James will be one of the best shooters on the East thanks to a career high best three-point shooting percentage (37.2%) and the second best effective field goal percentage on the East squad (56.7%). The King is dominating as he usually does and has easily earned himself another All Star spot.

Dwight Howard

Howard is quietly having a strong season as he plays for his fourth team of his career. His field goal (63%) percentage is a career high and is turning over the ball less than has in any year since his rookie year. The East will need a force in the middle and Howard will give him that.

Otto Porter

Earning the last frontcourt spot on the East squad is another wing, the Wizards Otto Porter. Porter has the best eFG% (64.1) on the squad and rarely turns the ball over, averaging 0.8 per game. He doesn’t score the greatest in some of the advanced metrics, but his Net Rating allows him to make the East squad.

5 Best Injury Subs/Bench Options for each conference

East Roster Spot #11: Kevin Love

The East does need a little more muscle on the roster and the analytics help him to edge out Hassan Whiteside, though not by much. Love gets about four rebounds per game less than Miami’s big man, but it’s not enough to give Whiteside the bump to the roster. Whiteside’s VORP calculation also makes him look like an average player in the league analytically.

East Roster Spot #12: Kyrie Irving

Staying in Cleveland, the Cavs point guard makes the roster though not as a starter as some fans, players and media may think. He brings to the table 23.8 points per game and a healthy 40.0% three-point shooting percentage, but with other great guards on the East roster, he almost missed the cut.

West Roster Spot #11: DeAndre Jordan

Jordan should still get a nod to the West All-Star squad. He pulls down 13.9 rebounds per game and has a Net Rating that equals Kevin Durant. Expect the West roster to have plenty of depth in the post all game.

West Roster Spot #12: Gordon Hayward

Hayward is averagin over 20 points in the first time in his career. His efficiency (52.9 eFG%) should allow the West’s B team to not skip much of a beat when giving the starters a rest, keeping the pressure on the East.

West Injury Sub: DeMarcus Cousins

If it wasn’t for Chris Paul’s injury, Cousins, at least analytically, probably wouldn’t make the West All-Star squad. He’s been a force all year, averaging 28.0 points per game (another career high on this list) and has a top-10 PER at 26.8. Like Hayward, he will allow the West all kinds of depth to keep up a deadly rotation at all positions.

 

All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference’s Play Index

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