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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.