The Statistical Side of the NBA - Snubbed!By Kevin Pelton
Jan. 29, 2002
Well, since I did a column on who I felt should be All-Stars just two days ago, it seems only fair to do a brief midday column today on how the actual selections matched up. In the West, the coaches and I differed on the following players:
The Statistical Side of the NBA: Brent Barry, G, Seattle
The Statistical Side of the NBA: Elton Brand, F, LA Clippers
The Statistical Side of the NBA: David Robinson, C, San Antonio
Unsurprisingly, the coaches put more emphasis on players on winning teams than I do. Two of these decisions I can hardly criticize. I honestly took Barry mostly because he's a Sonic, though he and Szczerbiak were essentially a coin flip in my mind. I also have lingering resentment for Wally World since he beat my beloved UW Huskies single-handedly in the 1999 NCAA Tournament. But I digress; given his presence on a winning team, Szczerbiak makes sense. As for Robinson, well the coaches have stretched the rules a little in not picking a backup center, but Stojakovic is a very deserving All-Star in his own right, and I don't think anyone's clamoring to see another appearance of Robinson in the All-Star game.
The snub of Elton Brand has already received some media play (Marc Stein of ESPN.com already has a column complaining about his absence), with good reason. Webber over Brand I can understand, from the standpoint that the All-Star game isn't necessarily about just this season, and Webber is surely a better player. However, Malone over Brand is tougher to defend, and yes, I did pick Malone to make my All-Star team. Brand rates the third best player in the NBA thus far this season by my system (so much for that fear his play would drop off in the Western Conference!) Brand has excellent primary numbers of 19 points and 11 rebounds, while maintaining a 53% shooting percentage from the field, making 75% of about seven free throws a night, and keeping his assist/to ratio over one. If that isn't an All-Star line, I'm afraid I don't know what is.
Malone is not in Brand's class as a rebounder, with two and a half less boards per game in less minutes, and his four more points per game are solely due to being the focal point of the Utah offense. He's shooting just 46% from the field. Don't take this the wrong way -- Malone still delivers the mail night in and night out, is still a great player, and would deserve to start in the East. But he's not a better player at this stage in his career than Brand is at this stage in his.
However, Brand is not the biggest snub revealed today, not by a longshot. Stein's article, unfortunately, did not so much as mention the player who clearly is deserving of being an All-Star, perhaps starting. That player is in the East and is, of course, Cleveland's Andre Miller. I'll get to that in a minute. First, the differences between my picks and the coaches':
The Statistical Side of the NBA: Andre Miller, G, Cleveland
The Statistical Side of the NBA: Elden Campbell, C, Charlotte
The Statistical Side of the NBA: Sam Cassell, G, Milwaukee
I surely understand picking Jason Kidd. I don't necessarily agree with it, but I understand it, and there are some things in life I have to accept. Jason Kidd's popularity is one of them. However, that is no excuse whatsoever for leaving Andre Miller off the team. It's a complete shame that such a talented and versatile young up-and-coming player is not recognized as what he is -- one of the league's best at his position -- almost entirely because he plays in Cleveland for a very bad team. Yes, it's quite possible the Cavs are the NBA's worst team with Miller, but they might not win a game without him.
This is yet another example of the NBA/NBC mentality of selectively marketing who they feel should become stars, instead of leaving that decision on the court. How many times have you seen Miller play this season? I'll confess my only chance to enjoy that privilege was when Miller and his Cavs came to the KeyArena, nearly upsetting the Sonics. Despite the fact that we live in an era of cable and League Pass where fans can watch the Grizzlies and Bulls play for the heck of it, the vast majority of fans have not been at all exposed to Miller this year, and it's no surprise they didn't race to the internet or local stadium to vote for him. But the coaches? They have no excuse. These are supposed to be enlightened people, the definitive experts on the game of basketball as its played at the highest level. And they can't recognize Miller's obvious talents? That's just sad.
I don't want to lump all the media together here, that would be unfair. While Miller may not be on TV, experts have been pushing him for a while. David Aldridge and Peter May of ESPN.com, as well as Marty Burns of CNNSI.com, all had Miller amongst their reserve selections.
And rightly he should be. The coaches only took one point guard in the East despite the absence of one in the starting lineup. Why? So that we could see Alonzo Mourning? I admire and respect Mourning's courage in coming back from a life-threatening illness to be a very good NBA player, but he hasn't been an All-Star this season. If we're going to use the bad team comment against Miller, it has to go against double against Mourning, who has the luxury Miller doesn't, several talented teammates.
There have been rumors that Tracy McGrady may miss the game to rest a nagging injury. If he does, hopefully Miller will in the end be where he belongs in Philadelphia. But that doesn't excuse the coaches' ignorance and poor decision-making, and it deserves to be made an issue to the same extent that David Bell somehow nearly ousting Cal Ripken, Jr. from the baseball starting lineup was last summer.
As for the other pick, no real complaint; O'Neal is deserving, and it doesn't surprise me that Cassell isn't real popular with the fans. I feel a little sadness for Elden Campbell, who ought to have been able to make one All-Star appearance in his career, but that's life.
When he's not covering the Seattle SuperSonics for SonicsCentral.com or BskBALL.com, Kevin Pelton is crunching statistics for his weekly column at ProSportsWriters.net. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.