How Bad Is Too Bad for Phoenix?

The Washington Wizards (7-27) are 20 games below .500 for the first time since Eddie Jordan's first season in Washington in 2003-04 -- when the team suffered because of injuries to Gilbert Arenas and Larry Hughes and finished 25-57. So the chances of Caron Butler or Antawn Jamison making the NBA all-star team are only slightly better than the team's non-existent playoff chances.


I'd be shocked if we made the all-star team. Me, too. (Photo by Ned Dishman/Getty Images)

The fourth returns for all-star balloting were released yesterday and Boston's Kevin Garnett is barely holding off New Jersey Nets forward Yi Jianlian for the starting Eastern Conference forward spot. With 11 days left to cast ballots, Garnett has 1,375,814 votes -- just 159,466 votes ahead of Jianlian, who wouldn't be in the race if he didn't have the support of a country with 1.3 billion people.

Jianlian getting voted into the All-Star Game would be a traveshamockery of epic proportions, and it would likely ensure that Butler and Jamison have no shot at making the all-star team, even as injury replacements.

Fans don't care about wins and losses when they punch holes through the ballots -- which explains why Dwyane Wade made the all-star team when the Miami Heat was 9-43 at the break last season. But coaches generally like to reward winning, often leaving David Stern naming an injury replacement as the only opening for players from bad teams to make it.

But how bad is too bad for Phoenix? Jamison and Butler's all-star credentials were debated on this blog last month, but I wanted to know the worst teams to ever have all-stars. Wizards PR ace Brian Sereno asked Elias Sports Bureau and it came up with a list that gives the Wizards tandem some hope -- or at least some history to support their otherwise ineffectual efforts this season.

The infamous 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers -- the worst team in NBA history -- actually had a representative at the All Star Game. John Block averaged 17.9 points and 9.2 rebounds for the 76ers, who entered the all-star break with a 4-47 record -- a .078 winning percentage!?! They finished the season 9-73.

Nine all-stars in NBA history have come from teams with fewer than 10 wins at the break. The Wizards are currently on pace to have 11 wins at the all-star break but only eight all-stars have been on teams with a worse winning percentage than Washington's (.206).

Here's the list of the 10 worst team records for all stars at the break ever:

W-LPCT.PLAYERTEAMYEAR
4-47.078John BlockPhiladelphia1972-73
6-44.120John JohnsonCleveland1970-71
6-29.171Neil JohnstonPhiladelphia1952-53
9-43.173Dwyane WadeMiami2007-08
8-36.182Don OhlBaltimore1966-67
10-40.200Zydrunas IlgauskasCleveland2002-03
9-36.200Gail GoodrichPhoenix1968-69
9-36.200Dick Van ArsdalePhoenix1968-69
9-31.225Walt BellamyChicago1961-62
9-31.225Don SunderlageMilwaukee1953-54


Here's another list of the ten worst team records for all stars at the break since 1990-91:

W-LPCT.PLAYERTEAMYEAR
9 - 43.173Dwyane WadeMiami2007-08
10 - 40.200Zydrunas IlgauskasCleveland2002-03
13 - 41.241Tracy McGradyOrlando2003-04
14 - 34.292Vince CarterToronto2002-03
14 - 34.292Dana BarrosPhiladelphia1994-95
14 - 31.311Latrell SprewellGolden State1994-95
15 - 32.319Mitch RichmondSacramento1993-94
15 - 32.319Brad DaughertyCleveland1990-91
16 - 33.326Shareef Abdur-RahimAtlanta2001-02
16 - 33.326Steve FrancisHouston2001-02
16 - 33.326Dikembe MutomboAtlanta2000-01


Elias was unable to separate players who were voted by fans from the ones who were selected by coaches. But if you look at what has occurred since 1990, most of the players that made the All Star Game from awful teams were chosen by the fans, while the others were selected because they were really, really tall. Cleveland's Zydrunas Ilgauskas made the all-star team in 2003, when his team finished with 17 wins (and later won the LeBron James lottery).

The worst record by a non-center who wasn't voted by the fans belongs to Dana Barros, whose Philadephia 76ers were 14-34 at the break in 1995. In that season, Barros averaged 20.6 points, shot 46.4 percent from three-point range and had two unbelievable games -- a 50-point, 8-rebound performance against Houston and a 25-point, 15-assist, 10-rebound triple double against Orlando. Yes, Dana Barros.

Anyway, Jamison and Butler produce at a similar level whether the Wizards are winning or losing. Jamison is averaging 20.9 points and 9.4 rebounds and has 19 double-doubles this season, while Butler is the only player other than LeBron James averaging at least 20 points, six rebounds and four assists. Those are legit, all-star caliber numbers. Their production is almost identical to last season, when Washington finished fifth in the East, so you know they aren't collecting big-time numbers solely because they are on a lousy team. Should they suffer because their supporting cast was weakened by injuries, inexperience and, at times, incompetence?

If you assume that the East will send a starting lineup of Dwight Howard, LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, Allen Iverson and Dwyane Wade, that leaves two guards, two forwards, one center and two wild cards. Jamison and Butler could easily cancel out each other at forward, but what if Butler is pushed as a guard, since he has started six games at that position and will likely play there for the rest of the season.

What Jamison and Butler have in their favor is that they play in the Eastern Conference, which has just six teams with winning records, meaning that some of the seven coach selections will come from losing teams. But again, the question remains: How bad is too bad?


By Michael Lee |  January 9, 2009; 11:14 AM ET
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Comments

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The Wiz won't and shouldn't have any All-Star representation. Butler and Jamison are putting up nice numbers, but the failure of the team to win will and should matter. One of the reasons they got in previously was because the team was having a successful season, more so than most had expected or predicted given the circumstances. Their selection was, in part, recognition of the team's success. What goes around comes around.

At least 3 Eastern teams are having somewhat surprisingly successful years of the type that will likely garner some All-Star love: Orland, Atlanta, and New Jersey. My guess is at least one or two of them will fill the Jamison/Butler void.

Posted by: kalo_rama | January 9, 2009 11:40 AM

Butler and Jamison may have all-star numbers, but they haven't played like all-stars this season. Give the honor to someone else who has posted good numbers, played a complete game (including on the defensive end) and led his teams to wins.

Posted by: disgruntledfan | January 9, 2009 11:44 AM

"Butler and Jamison may have all-star numbers, but they haven't played like all-stars this season."

Exactly.

Butler looks like he doesn't even care on some nights and Jamison has been inconsistent at best.

I don't think many people would argue with the Wiz not sending anyone to Phoenix as they are. This just goes to show the EG was wrong in his assessment back when he fired EJ about how the team was better then the 1-10 record they had.

Also, I am starting to wonder about Caron as of late and why he was traded twice before landing here. As noted above, he looks like doesn't even care some nights. He is turning the ball over more and missing more free throws at the line. Tough juice needs to suck it up.

I understand it's hard to play when you know your team is going nowhere, but it's times like this when a person's true character is shown.

I just think he could be trying harder is all, just like many of the Wizards. Which is why none of the Wizards deserve to be at the All-Star game.

Some of those horrid teams I watched in the 80's and 90's are playing harder then these guys. They truly need a "Larry Brown" type of coach and I hope there is someone out there for next year.

- Ray

Posted by: rmcazz | January 9, 2009 12:01 PM

Seriously, who cares about who gets voted into the all star game anyway? It's a farce and should be seen as such.

I mean, a few years ago, Eddie Jordan was the East coach b/c Les BouleS had the best record, and how did that "coming out party" season turn out?

Posted by: DC_MAN88 | January 9, 2009 12:29 PM

I don't think it is an issue of whether or not Butler is trying, but in what areas he is trying. Too often, Butler tries to be a Kobe-like offensive force, shaking and baking, taking 22 ft. jump shots, trying for steals instead of playing defense.

At his best, Butler is a meat and potatoes guy, scrapping, playing solid defense, grabbing rebounds, loose balls and doing the dirty work. I think many times he forgets who he is and tries to be someone he's not. The absence of Arenas, however, may have forced him to do that at times.

Posted by: disgruntledfan | January 9, 2009 12:55 PM

Oh, I think the numbers aren't lying. Both the Wiz' stars are having the sort of season that can (but often doesn't) land a player in the All-Star game.

Caron Butler is currently at 18th in scoring (fifth among SFs, around 9th among Eastern players). He's ahead of scorers like Jason Terry, OJ Mayo, Rudy Gay, and Paul Pierce. Jamison is a shade ahead of Butler at 16th -- only 2 spots behind Carmelo Anthony.

Not to say, of course, that Antwan is as good as Anthony or Butler is better than Pierce, but they're in roughly the same ballpark. Anthony and Pierce play on teams with much better records, but they didn't always.

Both Butler and Jamison have been inconsistent this season, but that's more often the rule in the NBA rather than the exception. Scorers in particular are vulnerable to off-nights, especially on the road. There are a lot of games where one of the Wiz' stars is on and the other is way off.

You could argue (legitimately) that playing on a weak squad like ours contributes to inflated stats, particularly given the minutes each gets. But you could also argue that it means the other team can focus the defense on Butler or Jamison without having to worry about a strong supporting cast. Both arguments have some merit.

I haven't seen all the games, but the ones I have made me think that Butler and Jamison were playing hard despite the frustration of the losing record. Playing harder than some stars have, in similar situations.

For instance, both Anthony and Pierce at various times in their history.

Posted by: Samson151 | January 9, 2009 12:57 PM

I mean, a few years ago, Eddie Jordan was the East coach b/c Les BouleS had the best record, and how did that "coming out party" season turn out?

Posted by: DC_MAN88 | January 9, 2009 12:29 PM

41-41

Posted by: prescrunk | January 9, 2009 1:26 PM

I don't think either of them deserve to be an All Star this year with the way the team is playing and the level in which they are playing. Yea, they may have put up ALL Star worthy numbers on occasions but I have seen Butler play extremely lousy in the fourth quarter on a number of occasions. And with he and Jamison being leaders of this team, I don't see them really bringing the young guns along. Not like Garnett with his bench in Boston. Nope, they do not deserve a spot and won't get a vote from me.

Posted by: ivyleague | January 9, 2009 1:57 PM

Note To disgrun'lfan: If you're criticizing Caron you can't be watching the same player i'm watching he has improved every aspect of his game since he has been in the league,he can score,plays D and by no means is he "soft" i don't see him "jackin" up shot's on a nightly basis he tries to play within the scheme of the offense but since we don't have a coach who has a scheme then i'd say Caron is playing as well as you can expect.

Posted by: dargregmag | January 9, 2009 2:00 PM

@ disgrundled dan,

first u say Caron tries for steals and doesn't play defense. then u say he plays solid defense. his game is pretty solid. almost too solid 4 les boules imo

Posted by: prescrunk | January 9, 2009 2:11 PM

Didn't the NBA pre-expansion require that each team had at least on player on the All-Starr team back in the day? I might be showing my age or senility, but I tend to recall that approach. So that might knock out the initial analysis.

Butler is the only legit and complete player the wizards have.

I think the NBA will have egg on it's face if the Chinese guy is voted to start.

Posted by: oknow1 | January 9, 2009 2:32 PM

"I mean, a few years ago, Eddie Jordan was the East coach b/c Les BouleS had the best record, and how did that "coming out party" season turn out?

Posted by: DC_MAN88 | January 9, 2009 12:29 PM

41-41

Posted by: prescrunk | January 9, 2009 1:26 PM "

The damning fact that the 41-41 doesn't let on is the team went from being #1 in the conference to #7. Would have been #8 and or eliminated had there been 2 more games in the season.

Posted by: DC_MAN88 | January 9, 2009 7:58 PM

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