Kenyon Martin is the one player on the Bucks who has made an All-Star team. He made it once. Unless you count Jason Kidd, who happened to be on that same team. Also on that team? Michael Redd. That was the last time a Bucks player was named an All-Star. (The box score shows that Steve Francis started for the West and Jamaal Magloire was the leading scorer on the East team. It was pure 2004.)
Here is the thing about that. It was the only time that Redd made the team, but you could make a reasonable case that 2003-04 was only the third-best season of his career.
Compare the numbers, and find that Redd was better in virtually way in 2005-06 than 2003-04. He averaged more points, assists and steals. He played more minutes, shot more often from everywhere, and yet also shot more efficiently from everywhere, with a better field goal percentage, 3-point percentage and free throw percentage. He also had a better PER and more Win Shares. His team had virtually the same record. Redd also was probably better in 2005-06 than 2003-04. However, he had a really good first three months in 2003-04.
If they picked Playoff Teams at the same time they picked All-Star Teams, well, that would suit the Bucks fine. But that would be an odd thing to do, roughly halfway through the season. It is also odd that All-Star Teams are picked at this time … and that we seem to care. Here we are.
Now the Bucks have a new guard who has been really good in the first three months.
Here is the Brandon Knight candidacy.
The Starters (5)
Pau Gasol (F)
LeBron James (F)
Carmelo Anthony (F)
Dwyane Wade (G)
John Wall (G)
According to the votes. Pretty swell voting, people who vote.
Even at his not-best, James is the best player in the conference. Wade ranks behind only James in the East in terms of PER. They both have missed some games, and both of their teams have lost plenty of games, but these two are still brilliant. There are a few point guards who could make a starting case, and Wall leads that group. Gasol scored something like 46 or 93 points against the Bucks the other night, he has the highest PER in the conference of any big man, plays a ton on a significant team, and plays a lot of roles on a significant team. Anthony is the most questionable choice, but he probably deserves to make it as a reserve at least anyway, and we will play by the rules and count him in.
The Easiest Choices (3)
Al Horford (F)
Jimmy Butler (F)
Kyle Lowry (G)
If you are the best player on the Wizards, Hawks, Bulls, or Raptors you probably have a pretty good case. Wall was voted in. But this isn’t that simplistic. These three are probably the next best players, not just the best players on some of the best teams.
On offense, Horford is a screen-setting, spot-up shooting, roll-and-dunking, all-everything, who happens also to be posting career-bests in assist percentage and turnover percentage. On defense, he is showing the best block percentage of his career, and is the man in the middle of a top-six defensive team. Butler, who played three college years and then averaged 2.6 points on middling efficiency as a rookie just a few years ago, is now the leading scorer (an efficient one, too) on a team with Derrick Rose and Pau Gasol. And this Bulls team is so far better on offense than defense. Of course, Butler also rates as a plus defender. Lowry is the top scorer on the most efficient offensive team in the NBA. Few can stay in front of Lowry, fewer can do anything even if they can.
The Remaining Spots (4)
Things are getting difficult.
On the bench, you must choose three forwards, two guards, and two wild cards (guards or forwards). With the three above already in, that leaves us with four more players to choose. More specifically, one forward, one guard, and two wild cards.
The Remaining Candidates (12)
Chris Bosh (F)
Andre Drummond (F)
Al Jefferson (F)
Kevin Love (F)
Paul Millsap (F)
Nikola Vucevic (F)
Kyrie Irving (G)
Brandon Jennings (G)
Brandon Knight (G)
Kyle Korver (G/F)
Jeff Teague (G)
Kemba Walker (G)
Let us eliminate one at a time to trim this down. The first to go is Andre Drummond, who didn’t score more than 14 points in the first three weeks of the season. He is the best offensive rebounder in the game, and came on as the Pistons came on. But come on: He is making less than half of his shots from the field (and at the line), and has a lower PER than Jonas Valanciunas, Mason Plumlee, and teammate Greg Monroe. Next to go is Brandon Jennings, who is still oscillating so extremely in that Brandon Jennings space from very bad to very good and rarely in between.
That leaves 10 remaining players for four spots. Chris Bosh has been very, very good, but not quite good enough to make up for missing eight games already (which amounts to 20 percent of his team games). Kevin Love is a big man shooting 42.9 percent from the field and not playing defense. Jefferson’s field goal percentage and rebounds per minute are at career-lows, and the Bobcats rank 27th in offensive efficiency.
Four spots (one forward, one guard, two wild cards), and we are down to these seven players: Millsap, Vucevic, Irving, Knight, Korver, Teague, Walker. Any of these choices would be fine. I will not be dramatic.
The player that stands out most from that group is Teague. In good ways. He ranks behind only James and Wade in terms of PER in the conference, and he is the maestro of easily the best team in the East (right now, that is). Teague is in. Korver, his teammate, has a chance to become the second ever 50/50/90 player this season (Steve Kerr did it in 1995-96, though fell just short of officially qualifying for all three leader boards). However, does anyone really think he is a top-three player on his own team? Anyway, it is hard to award a spot to someone averaging 13.2 points per game in 33.0 minutes per game, when that someone is above all else, a scorer.
So now we need one forward, one guard, and one wild card. And we need to choose between Millsap, Vucevic, Irving, Knight, and Walker.
Vucevic has slightly better numbers than Millsap, but the seven-footer has one block in the last two weeks, and has missed five games. In terms of productivity and efficiency, this is pretty much the same Millsap we have seen since 2011, but that is a very swell Millsap. He is in.
The Final Cut
So with two roster spots to go and three candidates remaining, this is the roster so far.
That leaves one cut among Irving, Knight, and Walker. Here are some relevant numbers.
On a per-minute basis, Knights ranks first among the three in terms of points, rebounds, assists, steals, and true shooting percentage. That matters. He also rates as the best player on his team, unlike the other two, which wouldn’t feel important if his team also did not have nearly the same record as the Cavaliers and a much better record than the Bobcats. Turnovers favor Walker and hurt Knight, which marks the greatest contrast among three very similar players. Irving narrowly leads in PER.
It will be such a surprise if Knight makes the team. It shouldn’t be such a surprise if Knight makes the team.