All-Star Game Quick Thoughts

1. All-Star Game Stat Trend Update: Adam Silver’s attempts to tweak the All-Star Weekend make sense.  The game is beyond stale and this point.  It is harder and harder to care about this showcase when the effort on defense does not meet the basic baseline of caring.  Two years ago, we reviewed the All-Star stats and documented the steady decline in defense (which wasn’t so hot years ago but is now putrid), as well the rise in the three-point shot attempts.

Well, the 2018-19 All-Star game didn’t help either trend.  The overall scoring numbers weren’t quite as high as a few years ago but the 178-164 final score was pretty close to the high end.  In addition, the threeattempts are starting to get out of control.  Before 2018-19, the previous high in threes taken in an All-Star game was 80 by the West in 2015-16 (the second most was the 2014-15 East at 68).  Last season, Team LeBron shattered the record, taking 90 threes (and making 35), while Team Giannis shot 27-77.

It’s not that the teams are chucking at a terrible efficiency clip.  It’s about players being wide open most of the time.  When Steph Curry hits contested threes in bunches while being guarded very hard by a defender, it is exciting to watch.  When Curry can just sit there and take open threes all day, it is less fun.  This is reflected in the decline in viewership for the All-Star game, which tied for the lowest Rating share for a game since 1990 (tied with 2009-10 and 2007-08 games).  It’s tough to simulate the intensity of a regular game in an exhibition but it’s clear that more tweaks need to be made.

2.  All-Star Three-Point Chuckers: The temptation to hoist up threes is great during this game.  Who are the worst offenders?  We picked up the worst three-point shooters each game since the three-point line was enacted.  The “worst” is not necessarily the lowest percentage but the player(s) who took a high volume and missed most of them:

-1979-80: No one worse than 0-2

-1980-81:  No one worse than 0-1

-1981-82:  No one worse than 0-1

-1982-83: No one worse than 0-1

-1983-84: No one worse than 0-2

-1984-85:  No one worse than 0-2

-1985-86:  No one worse than 0-2

-1986-87:  Larry Bird 0-3

-1987-88:  Mark Aguirre 1-3

-1988-89:  Mark Price 1-4

-1989-90:  No one worse than 0-2

-1990-91:  No one worse than 0-2

-1991-92:  Mark Price 1-3

-1992-93:  Terry Porter 1-5

-1993-94:  John Starks 1-3

-1994-95:  Dan Majerle 2-7

-1995-96:  John Stockton 0-7

-1996-97:  Gary Payton 1-5

-1997-98:  Eddie Jones 0-7

-1998-99:  No game

-1999-00:  Ray Allen 1-6, Reggie Miller 1-6

-2000-01:  Ray Allen 1-7

-2001-02:  Paul Pierce 1-6

-2002-03:  Paul Pierce 0-5

-2003-04:  Tracy McGrady 1-6, Baron Davis 1-6

-2004-05:  Tracy McGrady 0-4

-2005-06:  Ray Allen 0-7

-2006-07:  Gilbert Arenas 2-7

-2007-08: Chauncey Billups 0-6, LeBron James 2-7

-2008-09:  Paul Pierce 1-5

-2009-10: LeBron James 1-6

-2010-11:  Ray Allen 2-7, Kobe Bryant 2-7

-2011-12:  Dirk Nowitzki 1-5

-2012-13:  Luol Deng 1-5

-2013-14:  LeBron James 0-7, Steph Curry 2-11

-2014-15: Carmelo Anthony 2-13, Kyle Lowry 2-11, Klay Thompson 1-9

-2015-16: Kevin Durant 1-8, Klay Thompson 3-10

-2016-17: Paul George 0-7, Kevin Durant 2-8

-2017-18: James Harden 2-13, Steph Curry 3-11

-2018-19:  Steph Curry 4-17, Russell Westbrook 1-8, LeBron James 1-8

First, as a side note, I was surprised to see Ray Allen, Reggie Miller, Mark Price, and Kevin Durant, who fit the pure shooter mold, make it on the list multiple times.  But there are also quite a few volume guys on the list (Baron Davis, Kobe, Gilbert Arenas).

Turning to the meat of the data, we see that evolution of the three-point shot is reflected in the All-Star game.  Barely any threes were taken in the beginning.  Paul Westphal had the audacity to take and miss two three-pointer in the 1979-80 game (gasp!).  After that, no one felt comfortable to miss more than two threes in the game until Larry Bird in 1986-87.

The first real clunker game from three was, surprisingly, John Stockton in 1995-96 (0-7).  Stockton was always a great and efficient shooter but, for some reason, he was feeling his oats that day.  A few other players over the next two decades had similar bad shooting nights.  Steph Curry, however, was the game changer.  Before Curry, there seemed to be a tacit understanding that you would stop shooting once you hit about 0-7 range from three.  In 2013-14, he felt comfortable enough to go 2-11.  Then, the next season, Carmelo eclipsed him to go 2-13 (which Harden would match in 2017-18).  Last season, Curry took it to the next level.  He shot 4-17, which is a better efficiency than 2-13, but it takes cojones to keep shooting 17 times with that many misses in an All-Star game.

3.  2 Cents on Final Slot:  Who deserved the slot vacated by Dame Lillard’s injury?  Again, I don’t really care who was chosen but let’s review the relative merits of the candidates.  The NBA chose Devin Booker and he was a perfectly reasonable choice.  There was not much separating Booker, though, from Bradley Beal or DeMar DeRozan (we are assuming that Lillard had to be replaced with another guard, as Andre Drummond and Nikola Vucevic had arguments as well).   As to the two guards, here’s the tale of the tape:

-Booker:  35.9 mpg, 26.4 ppg, .625 TS%, 4.2 rpg, 6.3 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.3 bpg, 3.9 topg, 20.6 PER, 5.5 WS, .141 WS/48, 1.8 BPM, 1.8 VORP

-Beal: 35.5 mpg, 29.1 ppg, .573 TS%, 4.4 rpg, 6.2 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.4 bpg, 3.2 topg, 22.6 PER, 3.9 WS, .116 WS/48, 1.9 BPM, 1.6 VORP

-DeRozan, 34.3 mpg, 23.0 ppg, .604 TS%, 5.7 rpg, 5.2 apg, 1.1 spg, 0.2 bpg, 2.5 topg, 22.0 PER, 5.6 WS, .151 WS/48, 1.5 BPM, 1.6 VORP

The three players are in a virtual dead heat.  Beal can be nipped out of the race because he has played about six fewer games due to injuries.  Between Booker and DeRozan, it’s hard to separate them.  DeRozan, has an edge in WS and PER but slightly less VORP.  So, how do you do this?  Do you reward the slightly better team (Spurs)?  Hard to do so when both team is so blah.  Do you reward the newbie who hasn’t made a team (Booker)?   I see the appeal of that argument but it cuts both ways, DeRozan’s longer history of success could support his selection.  Ultimately, the tie is broken by which player is more watchable to the masses, which is Booker but the process feels quite random in this case.

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