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Thursday, July 24, 2014

System Guys And All Star Games

Over the past few years the change in David Lee’s game has been unmistakable. Since his rookie year he’s nearly doubled his volume scoring, going from 11.0 to 18.9 pts/36. In that course of time Lee’s reputation among the mainstream has changed as well. He’s gone from a garbage man who could only score by put-backs, to a system guy that succeeds only due to the style of play. With Lee up for consideration as an All Star this year, the knock on him is that D’Antoni’s offense is inflating his stats.

And I agree.

You have to take context into view when making these kinds of decisions. Hence why the fans, using their own keen sense of observation, almost voted in Tracy McGrady. T-Mac certainly hasn’t benefited from his coach this year, and in fact the team has gone out of their way to prevent McGrady from being an All Star. When you account for that, McGrady is a shoe to represent the West. Similarly in the East, Iverson had to leave his first team (Memphis) and hook on with Philly to get a starting role to make the All Star team. Anyone good enough for start for the 15-28 Sixers is surely not getting help from their team’s style of play.

But I feel as if there’s still some unfinished work with regards to ridding “system guys” from the All Star team. The league’s premiere system guy, Kobe Bryant, will be making his 12th mid-season appearance. The Lakers’ method of getting some of the league’s best talent makes Bryant look much better than he actually is. They even hired the NBA’s greatest “system coach”, Phil Jackson, who inflates his coaching record by using the league’s best players to win multiple championships.

Another guy that’s getting a free pass is LeBron James. James is leading the league in points per game, but that’s because the Cavs run a system where they let him shoot whenever he wants. James averages 20.1 shots per game, and only one other Cavalier takes more than 8.1. First in the league in field goal attempts per game, is of course the aforementioned Kobe Bryant with 22.9. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that LeBron and Kobe are going to have their stats amplified with that kind of offense.

So I’m with the mainstream on this one. No “system guys” on the All Star team. Sorry Kobe, LeBron, David, you don’t get my vote. Let’s go T-Mac & AI!

31 comments on “System Guys And All Star Games

  1. Nick C.

    You made me do a double take with the “and I agree.” I still think if wasn’t pigmentally challenged after four years we would not be having this coversation. He would be an all star no questions asked.

  2. Thomas B.

    Right about when I got the kobe part I realized what you were doing. Before that I was thinking “dear god I have to call him and talk him off the ledge. The stress has finally got to him.”
    Point well taken. The concept of System guys is a fallacy. one the nba supports by continuing to base awards on raw data. Advance stats are a better option in most cases.

  3. Brian Cronin

    In all seriousness, though, do you think Lee makes it this year?

    To wit, you have to figure Josh Smith, Gerald Wallace and Chris Bosh are going to be ahead of Lee, right?

    So who does Lee have to “beat out” for the final spot?

  4. BK

    Brian, those are all good names, but they’re forwards. If Lee gets in, it will probably be as a center, which means he would have to beat out Al Horford. (yes, I’m not crazy about the artificial positional designations either, but they help Lee in this case)

  5. Brian Cronin

    I thought that the coaches weren’t bound by the ballot designations when it came to their votes. I mean, yeah, they have to vote for a center, but I think they have leeway in who they determine is a center, and with that in mind, they’d then vote for Bosh as the back-up center (coaches have to have some leeway, because Chris Kaman and Zach Randolph weren’t even on the ballot!).

  6. Brian Cronin

    Yeah, found the rule (it was in Marc Stein’s write-up on his picks for the All-Star reserves).

    Coaches are invited by the league to vote for reserves at the position “most advantageous for the All-Star team” and “not necessarily the one he plays most often during the season.”

    So with that in mind, Bosh is the clear choice for center.

  7. DS

    “So who does Lee have to ‘beat out’ for the final spot?”

    Certainly Joe Johnson gets in ahead of him, one of Rondo or Pierce. Jamison, Stephen Jackson, Paul Pierce and Derrick Rose could also get the slot. Man, the East sucks.

    **AI (like KG) doesn’t have great stats this year but he’s a mega star who is just past their prime (the Ozzie Smith phenomenon). Generally, fans just vote in the 10 most famous players. Except that Twilight Zone year when BJ Armstong, Derrick Coleman, Kenny Anderson started alongside Pippen and Shaq. So we keep Antawn Jamison out of the game? Who gives a shit? As Mookie Blaylock, Jamal Magloire, Anthony Mason, Antonio Davis, Michael Adams, Dana Barros, Moe Williams and Tyrone Hill will tell you the problem isn’t that there are too few spots on the East’s roster.

  8. BK

    Brian, I think we were thinking the same thing, but from different angles. (I also saw Stein’s writeup as well as an older Hollinger piece explaining the selection process) I assumed Bosh would be a “forward”, Lee a “center” and players like Wallace and Smith would be the “wild cards” that coaches have leeway on. Either way, the positional flexibility of the modern game makes this all a bit artificial.

    DS, I suppose Derrick Rose could sneak in because he’s had some decent games lately, but I hope not, because he doesn’t deserve it.

  9. Brian Cronin

    I think Stein’s right that Bosh will be “the” center.

    That doesn’t mean Lee won’t make the All Star team, of course, but if he makes it, it’ll have to be as a “wild card.”

  10. DS

    Brian, agreed.

    Plus, looking down the line of potential All-Stars it seems like a coach will not be limited by the fact that they need to select 2 guards, forwards, wild cards, and 1 center. Out of any combo of Bosh, J. Smith, G. Wallace, Pierce, R. Allen, Rondo, J. Johnson, C. Butler, Jamison, Granger, Rondo, Horford, Deng, Jennings I think you can get any combo of 7 in that you like and still meet the criteria for selecting positions.

    In some years, I think the coaches force the effort to get a true, 6-11/7 foot, back-to-the-basket center.

  11. DS

    Also, it’s not exactly apples to apples but whether Lee makes the team is prob. somewhat of a gauge of his perceived value amongst Eastern Conf. coaches, which is important as he is becoming a free agent.

    If he does make it, you can’t tell me that his value doesn’t go up a tiny bit amongst one or two GM’s in the NBA. Trades and signings are occasionally made to make a certain impression on fans (who value All-Star appearances).

    Prediction: Gallo wins MVP of Rookie Game and the 3-Point Contest.

  12. jaddddd1

    It’s a travesty if Lee isn’t on the team. The changes in his game just from last year to this year are astounding. He went from a guy the Knicks didn’t think was worth a multi-year deal to far and away one of the best players in the East. He’s got the 15-18 foot jumper looking almost automatic, is going to the basket with more frequency and tenacity, and has improved both his passing and defense.

  13. Frank O.

    You know, while he’s a bit snarky, Jeff Van Gundy made a valid point the other day that players from terrible teams don’t deserve to make the All Star team.
    As much as I love the way Lee has played, he has shown serious improvement in several aspects of his game, he still plays on a team that is prone to truly terrible basketball.
    If system guys shouldn’t get into the All Star game, I think good guys on really terrible teams should be eliminated too.

    Great players can make a bad team good.
    They also can make mediocre teams (see the Cavs) into very good teams.
    Great players make good teams great.

    I think in Lee’s case, he’s a good player, but he hasn’t, as of yet, been able to elevate the Knicks…

  14. Brian Cronin

    Yeah, just like how Kevin Garnett helped the T-Wolves make the playoffs his last three seasons there.

    Or maybe KG was just a great player when the T-Wolves made the Western Conference finals in the 2003-04 season, but then stopped being a great player when they missed the playoffs the next three seasons then went back to being a great player when he joined the Celtics and they won the title in 2007-08.

    Or maybe all players, great, good or bad, should be judged on their own accomplishments and not their team’s.

  15. Frank O.

    MLB makes certain that at least one player from every team, no matter how bad, is in the All Star game.
    Often it is a necessary rule because those bad teams often would not field a player worthy of going…

    But I can be convinced one way or the other.

    I think the 50 pt loss really turned me negative…

  16. Frank O.

    On point guards, btw, Hahn had an interesting twitter note asking if Sessions, in hindsight, would have been worth paying $16 mill over three years…
    His TS% is 50 and his eFG% is 45.7 playing 21 minutes per. Better than Duhon on both counts, but not by a ton.
    He’s shooting 45% from the field per 36, but a horrible, Duhon-in-a-slump-esque 14.3% from 3 pt.
    Duhon’s overall shooting percentage is worse, but his 3 pt shooting is far better.

    He’s getting 4.9 assists and 1.3 steals per 36 in his back-up role.
    Duhon gets 6.6 assists and 1 steal per 36.

    I suspect Sessions numbers would get a boost in D’Antoni’s system, but not as much as in the past because he’s really slowed the Knicks pace.

    But given the cap issue in 2010, I’m pretty okay that Walsh didn’t sign Sessions. It’s not clear that he would have been clear-cut better than Duhon…

  17. Brian Cronin

    Honestly, I’d expand the rosters to 15 guys. Baseball has expanded its roster to 32 guys, for crying out loud! Basketball can’t go to 15? Heck, 15 is the current roster for basketball teams (granted, with three inactive, but still)!

    I think the 50 pt loss really turned me negative…

    That’s certainly understandable.

  18. Brian Cronin

    Not 15-man rosters for the regular games, just for the All-Star Game, like how baseball expands their roster for the All-Star Game.

    There’s certainly enough talent in either conference to add three more All-Stars while still having everyone on the team be “deserving” of the honor.

  19. Mike Kurylo Post author

    “Honestly, I’d expand the rosters to 15 guys. Baseball has expanded its roster to 32 guys, for crying out loud! Basketball can’t go to 15? Heck, 15 is the current roster for basketball teams (granted, with three inactive, but still)!”

    Why? NBA coaches are too conservative with their lineups anyway. Expanding to 15 means 3 more guys will be sitting around doing nothing. I’m really shocked that no team has decided to get 2-3 lock down defenders and use them for a single defensive possession. The NBA’s version of the LOOGY.

  20. Z

    “I’m really shocked that no team has decided to get 2-3 lock down defenders and use them for a single defensive possession.”

    Mike– that’s a really interesting point, and I’m not sure if I’ve read a piece about it by you here or not. You may be onto something, though. (To Continue Brian’s analogy) Baseball uses their excess roster spots on situational guys to bring in at “winning time”– either a glove man up the middle, or an outfielder with a strong arm, or a Lenny Harris type pinch hitter. You are right that in the NBA the end of the bench is filled with practice filler that never really gets to contribute to actual games.

    Why basketball doesn’t round out a roster with situational players seems foolish, now that you’ve made me think about it. In fact, it would seem that there are very few “situational” situations in basketball, if you look at the way coaches run their rotations. They all want to have their “best” players on the court at the end, regardless of the skill that is needed. Other than putting good 3 point shooters in when you’re down by three with >3 seconds, or putting in a guy with a lot of fouls to hack a guy like Shaq, there really is no variance in player rotation outside of foul trouble and injury. It seems it would be a simple and cheap shift to make, to find players who can do one thing really, really well and tuck them away, for the moment they can help you win.

  21. Brian Cronin

    It is an interesting point, but do note that as I said before, I was only referring to expanding to 15 guys for the All-Star Game, the way baseball goes from 26 to 32 for the All-Star Game.

  22. The Honorable Cock Jowles

    “I’m really shocked that no team has decided to get 2-3 lock down defenders and use them for a single defensive possession.”

    Given the satirical tone of the article (which I, embarrassingly, did not pick up until my second reading), I can’t be sure if this is a legitimate statement or another tongue-in-cheek one.

    If a defender can make such a significant impact on a single possession, shouldn’t he play the entire game?

    Otherwise, it’s just situational play for the sake of situational play. Also, if there is a measurable impact that a group of players can have on a single defensive possession, what would suggest that those players wouldn’t have that same impact on multiple possessions?

  23. d-mar

    A little off topic, I was listening to the great and powerful one (aka Francesa) give his take on Gallo, and it’s obvious he hasn’t watched him play all season. He kept referring to him as a “catch and shoot” player, and when callers tried to compare him to Glen Rice, Detlef Schrempf and Kiki, among others, his take was that he’s not as good as those guys, for instance, “Schrempf could put it on the floor”. I love when he has authoritative opinions on stuff he knows nothing about – I’d like to know how many blocked shots those guys had in their entire careers.

  24. TDM

    Mike –

    Great point regarding system guys. One wonders how DLee’s stats would look if he had a usage rate as high as Kobe or LBJ.

    http://www.basketball-reference.com/play-index/pcm_finder.cgi?request=1&sum=0&p1=bryanko01&y1=2010&p2=jamesle01&y2=2010&p3=leeda02&y3=2010

    I love JVG, but have to disagree regarding precluding players from losing teams from being all-stars. As of today’s date 13 of the 30 teams have a losing record, and several are right at the .500 point. What would you do with a player like Bosh, who’s team is only 1 game over .500?

    Side note: if anyone is interested in seeing another example of how James Dolan has the bizarro midas touch (i.e. every he touches turns to shite), see here:
    http://www.observer.com/2010/media/after-three-months-only-35-subscriptions-newsdays-web-site

  25. Brian Cronin

    Yeah, wow, d-mar, Gallo is actually one block away from beating the career season high for either Rice or Schrempf (he will also beat Kiki’s high, but it’ll take a little bit longer this year)!

    And the crazy thing is that it is clear that Gallo could be sooo much better than he is right now.

  26. Z-man

    “I heard some one say that NBA talent is already too diluted”
    I think NBA talent is as plentiful than ever, thanks to foreign players, but the game has changed. Sometimes I wish that the court would be made wider by 6 feet and the 3-point line moved out another 2 feet. Would love to see players not settle for 3-point attempt as often as they do, especially big men. Not that I want a return to the post-it-up-every-time-downcourt days of the Ewing era, but soon teams will be shooting more 3′s than 2′s (Knicks have broken 40 3-pt attempts already.) To me, that’s not basketball.

  27. Ted Nelson

    Al Horford is a tough guy to leave off the team. I think he’s the best player on the Hawks. Joe Johnson probably makes it since he scores 20 ppg, but I might take both Horford and Smith over him.

    I usually couldn’t really care less about the All-Star game (or awards either), but I’m definitely rooting for Lee.

    “Out of any combo of Bosh, J. Smith, G. Wallace, Pierce, R. Allen, Rondo, J. Johnson, C. Butler, Jamison, Granger, Rondo, Horford, Deng, Jennings I think you can get any combo of 7 in that you like and still meet the criteria for selecting positions.”

    What’s your criteria, the biggest names and highest played players are All-Stars? Butler has been absolutely Chris Duhon level bad this season. He’s not one of the top 5 players on one of the worst teams in the East. Ray Allen doesn’t have a leg to stand on: Rondo and Pierce are both way better. Jamison has carried a bad team and has an All-Star rep, but I think Lee is clearly more deserving this season. Jennings is a joke for the All-Star game. So is Deng. Granger’s missed 1/2 the season and I would say he’s clearly less deserving than Lee, but doubt coaches see it that way.

    Gerald Wallace has a very good case and probably makes it. Between Smith, Johnson, and Horford at least 2 probably make it. Pierce and Rondo probably. Bosh definitely. I think Lee is legitimately right on the bubble. One or two injuries and he should be in.

    “If system guys shouldn’t get into the All Star game, I think good guys on really terrible teams should be eliminated too.”

    The Knicks aren’t terrible. They’re two spots out of the playoffs, a legitimate playoff contender. After a truly terrible start they’ve been good. I do think it is harder for a guy on a bad team to make it, but I don’t think a rule is needed.
    I do not agree with your statements about great players making teams good all by themselves. Far from it. I am with Brian on his KG comparison. Did Kobe have an off year when the Lakers fell out of the playoffs and suddenly re-find himself when they got better talent around him?

    “I’m really shocked that no team has decided to get 2-3 lock down defenders and use them for a single defensive possession.”

    The All-Star game is a show-case for the best overall players, it’s not about winning the game.

  28. Ted Nelson

    “I do not agree with your statements about great players making teams good all by themselves.”

    I am not trying to say that David Lee is a GREAT player, just to be clear. I don’t think he’s borderline 1st Team All-NBA, just borderline All-Star. That can be about the equivalent of being 6th Team All-NBA, or even 7th with some injuries to All-Stars ahead of you.

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