The All-Star Debate

It will be interesting to see what happens when the NBA announces the all-star reserves on TNT tonight. For years, it's often been up to the coaches to clean up the all-star oversights that often occur when fans ignore statistics/team success and vote for a name/reputation over actual production.

The fans essentially got the starters right this season -- Dwight Howard, LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, Dwyane Wade and Allen Iverson in the Eastern Conference; Yao Ming, Tim Duncan, Amare Stoudemire, Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul in the Western Conference -- with the noticeable exceptions being Stoudemire and Iverson.

But when it comes to the coaches, they often vote for the players who have consistently busted them for big performances through the first half of the season. The caveat, most of the time, is that the players they pick usually come from winning teams.

Coaches generally try to reward the players who have had the greatest effect on winning games, regardless of how many points a player scores each night. The trite adage is that all teams, including bad ones, have leading scorers, so why reward a player who accumulates incredible statistics without the pressure of actually having to win a game?

That argument has led to some heated debates over the year and helped eliminate some offensive-minded players from joining the all-star parties. But the coaches sometimes make egregious errors, too. I happen to remember a classic situation -- not too long ago -- when a player with prior all-star credentials put up ridiculous scoring numbers on a playoff-bound team and the coaches still didn't pick him for the midseason classic.


How could the coaches leave me out when I averaged 28 points a game, made the all-star game the year before and was on a team with a winning record? (Photo by Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE via Getty Images)

You might remember him. Yep, Gilbert Arenas.

Back in 2006 -- before he became Agent Zero/Hibachi/Injured -- Arenas was the league's fourth-leading scorer and the Washington Wizards were a .500 team bound for the playoffs in an otherwise mediocre Eastern Conference. NBA Commissioner David Stern had to add Arenas as an injury replacement for Jermaine O'Neal to help Arenas avoid becoming the first player since World B. Free in 1979 to average more than 28 points and not be chosen an all-star.

I remember when I informed Arenas of the slight the day before it was officially announced, and he was crushed. "I didn't realize I was on the bubble," Arenas told me.

And he had a point. Aside from having already made the all-star team the year before putting up huge numbers, the coaches didn't consider him worthy of a free trip to Houston. Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Chris Bosh and Paul Pierce all made the team based on their statistics, even though they were from disappointing teams.

Pierce and Bosh were on teams that were 18-31 and 17-32, respectively, but their additions were based primarily on size and position. In situations where established players experience difficult seasons -- such as Garnett and Allen that season -- coaches usually give them the benefit of the doubt and put them in based on reputation.

Arenas got bumped mostly because several coaches voted for the entire Detroit Pistons starting lineup, which resulted in four Pistons heading to Houston, with guards Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton both making their first all-star appearances. The initial snub upset Arenas, who dubbed himself the East Coast Assassin for the remainder of that season.

This season, the Eastern Conference has just six teams with winning records, making it difficult to select seven reserves without picking at least one player from a lousy team. Caron Butler believes he should be in Phoenix. Antawn Jamison isn't even thinking about it with the Wizards having just nine wins. I'll be interested to see if players without established reputations or previous all-star appearances -- like Indiana's Danny Granger, whose team has the second-fewest wins in the East (18), and New Jersey's Devin Harris, whose team is 20-25 -- are added despite the fact that neither would be in the playoffs if the season ended today.

In the Western Conference, Minnesota forward/center Al Jefferson and Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant are putting up all-star caliber numbers on lottery-bound teams. But they have a greater chance of missing out given their youth and the incredible depth in a conference with nine playoff-caliber teams.

I happen to place a lot of weight on team success and established all-star credentials when it comes to my choices, so that might give you hint about where I'm going this season. My picks are coming soon ...

By Michael Lee |  January 29, 2009; 11:09 AM ET
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Comments

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Such suveys are often defined by the question;i.e., "how long have you been beating your wife"? A better survey would allow you offer several factors in choosing an all star, or, ask better questions, such as "How good would this person be on the first place team"? I like the discussion but do not believe the team's record should be much of a factor. It is a team game but an individual selection. Should Garnett have been an all star on a bad Wolves team. Absolutely yes and Antwaan (Metawn to those who know him and like a little) is the only Wizard who should go.

GAr

Posted by: h20law2000 | January 29, 2009 4:30 PM

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