So, Andrew Wiggins was voted an All-Star by the fans. This vote raised some eyebrows because Wiggins’ All-Star status is pretty debatable. Let’s do a moderate dive into how crazy this choice is. Here are two facts that we should consider before really expressing an opinion: (a) the All-Star game is fan driven and if the fans want Wiggins, then so be it and (b) most fans really don’t care too much about an exhibition game played at moderate intensity anyway. So, you won’t find me particularly irked by this result, even if I disagree with it. Having said that, let’s dig in to the nitty gritty of whether this choice is objectively bad…
How good has Wiggins been this season?
Pretty good. In a career low in minutes per game (31.7), Wiggins has put up 18.2 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2.1 apg on a career high .584 TS% ( he was at .527% coming into this year). Wiggins spent years as a high-volume and lower efficiency offensive players in Minnesota and his advanced stats this year are the best of career high but not overwhelming: 16.7 PER, .141 WS48, 1.7 BPM, 1.4 VORP. For reference, his solid VORP ranks is tied for 40th in NBA.
The issue is that it’s not clear that he’s even the second or third best player on his own team. While Wiggins has played more minutes than most of his teammates, some others have been in his ballpark in terms of productivity. Here are the Warriors’ advanced stats leaders at the forward slots:
-Wiggins: 16.7 PER, .141 WS48, 1.7 BPM, 1.4 VORP
-Draymond Green: 15.1 PER, .151 WS48, 4.0 BPM, 1.5 VORP
-Otto Porter: 17.0 PER, .195 WS48, 4.5 BPM, 1.5 VORP
-Andre Iguodala: 12.8 PER, .144 WS48, 3.3 BPM, 0.7 VORP
Porter’s numbers are better but his hot season is bit fluky and done in only 22 mpg any way. Iggy is also having a great season in short stints. They aren’t really viable All-Star options but we can see that GS has had some really great performances from all sorts of places.
Still, the real issue is taking Wiggins over Draymond. Draymond missed 12 games but his overall numbers are a good deal better and the Warriors are 9-7 when Green does not play. Putting aside the numbers, Green clearly is the most important defensive player on the team. It’s pretty evident that Green merits the starting nod over Wiggins.
What is the best argument for Wiggins?
Well, the argument rests on positional scarcity. The current All-Star ballot permits fans to vote for three forwards/centers from each conference. There are plenty of players better than Wiggins in the west that fit that category. He’s already sharing the starting position with LeBron James and Nikola Jokic. Some of the better players not voted in, besides Green, are big men like Rudy Gobert or Karl-Anthony Towns or players labeled as guards on the ballot (Luka Doncic and Devin Booker). The other usual better options have been injured most of the year too (Anthony Davis and Paul George).
If we assume LBJ is a power forward and the fans don’t want to play two centers in Gobert/Towns with Jokic, then Wiggins is really next on the available small forward list in the west. He’s not better than Mikal Bridges but it’s close enough that choosing Wiggins over Bridges is not ridiculous. I would have chosen a frontcourt of LBJ, Green, and Jokic but there is a cognizable defense for Wiggins’ election.
Is Wiggins the worst starting All-Star ever?
Not even close. There are tons of starters who ended up with a lower full season VORP than Wiggins has put up so far. In fact, quite a few popular pros were voted in when they were not playing well. Ralph Sampson in 1986-87, Allen Iverson in 2009-10, and Kobe Bryant in 2013-14 were all injured and not really playing well. We found ten players, since 1979-80, who started despite negative BPMs:
-1979-80: John Drew, -0.3
-1981-82: Isiah Thomas, -0.8
-1982-83: Maurice Lucas, -0.3
-1984-85: George Gervin, -0.3
-1985-86: Moses Malone, -0.1
-1989-90: AC Green, -0.6
-1993-94: BJ Armstrong, -0.1
-1994-95: Latrell Sprewell, -1.2
-2000-01: Antonio Davis, -1.1
-2015-16: Kobe Bryant, -1.6
Some of these guys were better than BPM would indicate or started because of positional scarcity or huge popularity. We won’t recap all the bad fan votes but our rundown can be found here. Suffice it to say, Wiggins’ pick wasn’t perfect but was within the bounds of reason, even if we are skeptical that he’ll ever make another team. Either way, he should enjoy the ride this year.