Henry Abbott and Kevin Pelton made an interesting note about yesterday’s All Star game.
Had a chance to trade emails with Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus during the live blog of the All-Star Game. Kevin rightfully pointed out that naming Mo Williams to replace Chris Bosh was the primary reason the East got mauled inside.
The choice of Williams meant the East entered the game with only two legitimate bigs — Dwight Howard and Kevin Garnett, both of whom were starters. As a result, Rashard Lewis was forced to assume the center spot for long stretches of the game. Lewis has always been a bit challenged defending the post at the PF position, and he certainly doesn’t have the strength or the ability to absorb a beating against opposing 5s. But that’s exactly what he was charged with doing as the backup center on the Eastern squad, and the results were disastrous for the East.
Points in the Paint? West 96, East 58.
Glass? West 51, East 38.
Shaquille O’Neal: 17 points, 8-9 FGs in 11 minutes.
Watching the game I felt the same. It seemed as if the West had free reign in the paint and on the boards. While the East had an edge in aggregate offensive rebounds 13 to 12, the number is skewed by the fact that the East had more opportunities. The East had 59 chances for an offensive rebound, and the West only had 49.
A few weeks ago I advocated for David Lee on the All Star team, but outside of this site I was a minority. When Chris Bosh was injured, he was replaced by Maurice Williams. This substitution was justified from a political standpoint, as Williams is a top performer on one of the league’s best teams.
However from a tactical standpoint, this was a mistake. The East was left with only two players who were capable of playing center: Howard and Garnett. In All Star Games coaches tend to go deep into their benches, meaning that teams need to have plentiful reserves to field a normal five. Without a third center, the West dominated the inside and laughed their way to an easy victory. The knock against Lee is that he was a product of D’Antoni’s system, and excels only because of the style the Knicks play: a fast paced, no defense, guard emphasized game. Of course this is same environment as the All Star Game, so it makes sense that Lee would have excelled there as well. One only has to look back at the 2007 Rookies-Sophomore game for proof.
In the end it doesn’t really matter if the East won or lost. And no one will look back and call Williams’ selection over Lee as the NBA’s worst All Star crime this year (Iverson voted in as a starter was). Ultimately the important thing to learn from this is that players shouldn’t be judged in a vacuum. Different players will have different value depending on the environment. Perhaps in a general sense, Maurice Williams or Rashard Lewis are more deserving of an All Star berth than David Lee. But in last night’s context Lee would have been a better fit.