Stats Say Allen, Lewis Deserve All-Star Berths
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Feb. 05: Allen, Lewis Take Different Paths to All-Star Game
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Kevin Pelton, SUPERSONICS.COM | February 7, 2006
When Seattle SuperSonics forward Rashard Lewis was chosen for the Western Conference's All-Star team a year ago tomorrow, it was one of the highlights of his NBA career.

"It was more surprise, and I think I just had some type of shock go through my body," Lewis said, recounting his reaction to the news. "The team was excited for me, I was excited, the coaches were excited. It felt like it was some type of celebration yesterday because I made the All-Star team."

WEST STARTERS
Player Team Pos PER
Steve Nash PHO G 22.32
Kobe Bryant LAL G 28.85
Tracy McGrady HOU F 24.29
Tim Duncan SAS F 28.85
Yao Ming HOU C 22.44
While nothing will ever compare to his first selection to the All-Star team, Lewis, along with five-time All-Star teammate Ray Allen, is hoping for a similar reaction Thursday when the NBA announces the reserves for this year's game, to be played in Lewis' hometown of Houston. With coaches selecting seven reserves (ballots were due yesterday), Allen and Lewis are both strong candidates, but neither is a lock, especially without the benefit of the Sonics leading the Northwest Division, as they did last year.

"It would be nice, but at the same time, Iím not going to expect it," Lewis told reporters while the Sonics were in Houston last weekend.

WEST RESERVE CANDIDATES
Player Team Pos PER
Elton Brand LAC F 27.93
Kevin Garnett MIN F 27.31
Dirk Nowitzki DAL F 26.73
Shawn Marion PHO F 22.39
Ray Allen SEA G 22.33
Rashard Lewis SEA F 22.23
Chris Paul NOK G 22.15
Pau Gasol MEM F 22.01
Tony Parker SAS G 21.77
Carmelo Anthony DEN F 21.44
Andrei Kirilenko UTA F 20.59
Mehmet Okur UTA F 20.34
A look at the statistics, however, would favor both Allen and Lewis earning spots (see charts at left, minimum 1,000 minutes).

The 15 Western Conference coaches were instructed to pick seven players - two guards, two forwards, a center and two "utility" players from any position. (They're also not allowed to vote for their own players.) However, the positions are not rigidly defined, as they are on the fan ballots to pick the starters. It's widely expected that many coaches will put a power forward like Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki or Elton Brand of the L.A. Clippers, as center to free up spots for the other and Minnesota's Kevin Garnett at forward.

After that, things get more interesting. Lewis is battling several players, including Phoenix's Shawn Marion, Memphis' Pau Gasol, Denver's Carmelo Anthony and Utah teammates Andrei Kirilenko and Mehmet Okur, for one of the two utility spots. The statistics tend to favor Lewis. By Player Efficiency Rating (PER), developed by John Hollinger of ESPN Insider and the most widely-used player rating, Lewis and Marion should earn the last two spots on coaches' ballots.


"Rashardís an All-Star. I donít know if there is a better small forward. It would be great to have him play."
Jeff Reinking/NBAE/Getty
At guard, Allen's primary competition is New Orleans/Oklahoma City rookie Chris Paul and San Antonio guard Tony Parker. Not only does Allen have the highest PER of this group, he also has the longest track record of success, which should work in his favor. While Allen's 2004-05 campaign was termed a career year by many observers, Allen has statistically been better this season, improving his field-goal percentage (44.4%) and 3-point percentage (38.3%). His scoring average (24.9 ppg, 12th in the NBA) and steals average (1.6 spg) are both the best marks of his career.

Allen has also had a substantial bottom-line impact on the Sonics performance this season. With Allen on the court, the Sonics have been 11.0 points better per 100 possessions, according to 82games.com. Parker has also had a major impact (+9.7 points per 100 possessions), but the Hornets have actually been better without Paul (-4.5 points per 100 possessions). The Sonics lost all three of the games Allen missed earlier this season due to NBA suspension.

Because there are three guards with strong All-Star cases, it's possible they could split the vote and all make it because the utility players are chosen based on total coach votes, not solely votes specifically picking utility players. So while most coaches will probably choose five forwards on their specific ballot, it's very possible that only four forwards make the team, hurting Lewis' chances.

The case for Lewis centers around his rare combination of scoring efficiency and ability to create his own shot. The efficiency is measured with True Shooting Percentage, which looks at how many points a player scores per shooting percentage (divided by two to fit the same scale as traditional field-goal percentage). Lewis' 59.2% mark ranks in the league's top 20. But many of the league's leaders are infrequent shooters like Philadelphia's Andre Iguodala, who averages just 12.0 points per game in as many minutes per game as Lewis, who averages 21.7.

Player Team "Stud"
Manu Ginobili SAS 2.75
Chauncey Billups DET 2.66
Steve Nash PHO 2.55
Kevin Garnett MIN 2.47
LeBron James CLE 2.35
Richard Jefferson NJN 2.32
Rashard Lewis SEA 2.30
Elton Brand LAC 2.29
Zydrunas Ilguaskas CLE 2.27
Paul Pierce BOS 2.25
To account for that, KJR's David Locke modified a Hollinger invention to what he calls "stud percentage" - the number of points a player contributes above or below what an average player would score using the same number of shooting possessions, adjusted to a per-40 minute basis. Lewis ranks in the NBA's top 10 by that measure (see chart at left, minimum 500 minutes).

Lewis dramatically outpaces better known players including Anthony (0.93), Gasol (0.37) and Kirilenko (0.22).

Numbers alone, however, cannot measure the improved consistency Lewis has shown this season and his ability to step up for the Sonics, including scoring 45 points against the Orlando Magic last month after Allen was ejected from the game.

"I think the guy has had a terrific year in the difficult environment and circumstance of what weíve had to go through,Ē Sonics Coach Bob Hill told reporters in Houston. "Rashardís an All-Star. I donít know if there is a better small forward. It would be great to have him play."