Stars

All-Star voting started on Nov. 13, 2012 – not even two weeks after the Bucks began their regular season campaign with a road win in Boston. At the time, the Bobcats were 3-3 and gaining steam. Jimmer Fredette owned the fourth best PER in the NBA.

So here is a solution, or at least an idea: Rather than consider how players have performed beginning short of two weeks after the start of the season (fan voting) or inside half a season (coaches select the reserves on Jan. 24), judge them based on how they have played since last year’s All-Star Game.

Starters
Fans chose the starters, as per custom. And they did a pretty good job this time. In the West, they went with Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, and Dwight Howard. In the East, the spots went to Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, and Kevin Garnett.

New rules allowed fans to vote in different ways, including via Twitter by using the #NBABallot hashtag, which was pretty progressive. And even better yet, voters picked two guards and three frontcourt players, eschewing the center requirement. You can only even consider quibbling with two fan selections, and even those are minor. Howard has underwhelmed so far this season, while Garnett is playing the fewest minutes since his rookie season. But these two are both still great players. Nice work, fans.

History
The Bucks have a total of 39 All-Star selections to their franchise name, but none since Michael Redd, who was rewarded for his fine work in 2003-04.

Rules
This year, Brandon Jennings has garnered the most All-Star buzz of anyone on the team. Larry Sanders has certainly earned honorable mention for his fantastic start this season, but the frontcourt situation is a bit more crowded. For that reason, we are going to focus on the stable of backcourt candidates.

Rondo and Wade are smart choices to start. The refreshed rules state that there must be seven All-Star reserves. Each ballot must include two guards, three frontcourt players, and two wild cards. Coaches choose the reserves, and if a coach feels that a player can play more than one position, he is encouraged to vote for that player at the position "most advantageous for the All-Star team," without regard to where the player is listed on the All-Star ballot or how he's listed in box scores.

Candidates
With that in mind, we should target two guards. There could be as many as four, but considering the frontcourt options that is highly unlikely. The first one is a pretty easy choice. Kyrie Irving can even make a case that he should start. After that, there is no obvious second pick. Paul George has played most of the season at small forward, so while I consider him an All-Star, he is not in consideration here.

Remembering that performances are being considered going back to the first game after last season’s All-Star Game, we have (alphabetically) narrowed the field to nine guards: Brandon Jennings, Deron Williams, Jose Calderon, Jrue Holiday, Joe Johnson, J.R. Smith, Louis Williams, Monta Ellis, and Ray Allen.


EASTERN CONFERENCE GUARDS
SINCE 2012 ALL-STAR GAME (2/26/12 - 1/19/13)

NAME

G

MIN

PTS

FG%

3P%

FT%

eFG%

REB

AST

A/TO%

STL

WIN%

B. Jennings

72

35.8

19.1

.418

.347

.829

.475

3.5

5.8

2.41

1.8

.541

D. Williams

61

35.0

17.4

.402

.303

.848

.458

3.1

8.2

2.74

1.1

.514

J. Calderon

61

29.5

10.6

.460

.410

.890

.545

2.4

8.0

4.45

0.8

.377

J. Holiday

67

35.1

16.6

.455

.373

.750

.491

3.8

6.9

2.32

1.5

.477

J. Johnson

68

36.5

18.5

.453

.403

.815

.526

3.4

3.6

1.92

0.8

.602

J.R. Smith

69

30.4

14.9

.407

.346

.790

.470

4.5

2.7

1.85

1.4

.571

L. Williams

69

27.0

14.1

.417

.358

.839

.458

2.3

3.4

2.21

1.0

.521

M. Ellis

68

35.3

18.6

.413

.261

.785

.436

3.5

5.7

1.93

1.6

.544

R. Allen

55

27.8

12.0

.458

.424

.898

.566

3.2

1.7

1.60

1.0

.587


Numbers
Numbers don’t tell the entire story. The only defense-based stat cited in the table is steals, and that is not always a keen way to measure defensive acumen. Also, we regrettably are not working with many advanced offensive stats here, since these splits were captured and totaled manually. And of course each of their cases cannot be summed up in anything close to 90 words, but here we are.

Cases For and Against in 90 Words

Johnson

B. Jennings:

FOR: Leads candidates in games, points, and steals. Only player on the list to rank in the top six in each of the 12 categories. Balances lead scoring duties with low turnover numbers.  Tops the pack in steals. Logs tons of minutes, virtually never misses a game, and team sports a respectable record.

AGAINST: Assist and shooting numbers lag behind a few others on the list.


Williams

D. Williams:

FOR: Dishes out the most assists while typically taking care of the ball, and remains an elite playmaker and pick-and-roll man when on his game. Threatening offensive player who gets to the line. Big guard who is holding opposing point guards to a 13.6 PER this season, via 82games.com.

AGAINST: Lost his shooting touch in this timeframe – ranks last in field goal percentage and ties for second-to-last in eFG%.


Calderon

J. Calderon:

FOR: Earns plenty of pure point guard praise: hyper-efficient passer who easily leads the bunch in assist-to-turnover ratio, tops everyone in assist per minute, and shoots great percentages from everywhere – the field, threes, and free throw line.

AGAINST: Shoots very efficiently, but doesn’t shoot very often. Not a dynamic scorer, rankings last in points per game. Also does not play a lot of minutes compared to others and only started season backing up Kyle Lowry. Also doesn’t help his case that his team rarely wins.


Holiday

J. Holiday:

FOR: Solid numbers across the board – no major weaknesses. Possibly the best defender on the board. Carrying more and more responsibilities without Andre Iguodala in town and Andrew Bynum not yet in action, yet is only getting more efficient. Making a big jump as a slasher and creator this season (doubled assists per game from 4.5 to 9.0).

AGAINST: His rise has unfortunately coincided with his team’s fall. His numbers post-All-Star break last season were good, but not on the level he is reaching this year.


Johnson

Joe Johnson:

FOR: A scorer who scores efficiently. A serious offensive threat just about everywhere on the court, Johnson ranks among the top four here in FG%, 3PT%, and eFG%. Strong defender. Fantastic on-court/off-court splits reflect well on his centrality to success for Nets this season. Also owns the top team winning percentage.

AGAINST: Solid, but not overwhelming in any single area.


smith

J.R. Smith:

FOR: Important part of New York’s early success this season. Eternal three-point threat. Leads the group in rebounds.
AGAINST: For someone known as a shooter and scorer, Smith does not excel in either of these areas compared to the competition. Not a creator or passer either, and doesn’t play the heavy minutes of some of the others here.


williams

L. Williams:

FOR: On a per-minute basis, scores and racks up steals among the best here. An equally nice offensive sparkplug off the bench in both Philadelphia and Atlanta.

AGAINST: Sadly, just tore his ACL and is out for the season. Even before that though, posted relatively underwhelming assist/rebound numbers, and frankly, shooting numbers, compared to this group.


ellis

M. Ellis:

FOR: Boasts some pleasant stats in traditional categories like points, assists, rebounds, and steals. Easily tops the off-guards in assists, though it should be noted that he has not infrequently run the point since arriving in Milwaukee.

AGAINST: Shooting percentages do not stack up favorably against group.


Allen

R. Allen:

FOR: Excellent shooting numbers across the board stand out.

AGAINST: Has played the fewest number of games, and plays the fewest minutes in those games. Shoots incredibly efficiently, but does not take many shots. Not a creator, and simply not as multi-dimensional as in the past.


Conclusion

Okay, so still no clear winner upon further review, though it is easier to narrow the field a bit more.

Calderon’s relatively low minutes on a bad team coupled with his lack of scoring count him out. Smith is foremost a scorer, but is just not all that efficient, and Williams sits in a similar boat. Put painfully simplistically, Allen doesn’t do enough, or do it often enough. Ellis has posted similar numbers to Jennings, but just not quite as good.

That leaves Jennings, Williams, Holiday, and Johnson. Among these four, there is probably room for one – definitely not more than two – after Rondo, Wade, and Irving. And you can’t go so wrong with any of them. In the Nets backcourt, Johnson has been a bit more efficient offensively than teammate Williams – it is difficult to overlook that Williams posted the lowest FG% of the group.

That leaves Jennings, Holiday, and Johnson, and I think that is right. From there, there is not one wrong answer. But there is one right answer.