Rudy was Snubbed!

Every year, hundreds of basketball commentators, writers, and fans discuss the deserving NBA players left out of All-Star honors. Unfortunately, the All-Star vote (with 50% of the vote coming from fans) routinely appears to be more of a popularity contest and a selection of stars from big-market teams. This year provides a perfect case. Klay Thompson of the world champion Golden State Warriors and popular star Russell Westbrook were both selected over another player who was more deserving.

There are many ways to evaluate the performance of an NBA player, but the tried and true method has been Dean Oliver’s offensive and defensive ratings. This is the number of points produced and points allowed per 100 possessions respectively, while the player is on the court. USG% is another key factor which shows us the level of player involvement on the floor. It is the rate that a player finishes an offensive play while he is in action.  Thus, it is harder for a player with higher usage to achieve high efficiency.  Therefore, we should reward players who are the most efficient while still carrying a high usage rate. Usage Value Wins (inspired by Oliver’s concept) can be defined as

UVA = (ORtg12.5*82*USG)/[100*(ORtg12.5 + DRtg12.5)]

Here are the UVW ranks of the 2019 Western Conference All-Stars who will take to the court in “our backyard”: Charlotte, NC.

Player UVW NBA Rank
James Harden 23.28 2
Anthony Davis 21.72 3
Paul George 20.31 5
Stephen Curry 20.13 7
Nikola Jokic 19.28 9
LeBron James 18.74 10
Kevin Durant 18.69 11
Damian Lillard 17.92 12
Karl Anthony-Towns 17.40 14
LaMarcus Aldridge 15.36 18
Russell Westbrook 13.40 30
Klay Thompson 8.89 89

Klay Thompson’s contribution does not warrant All-Star consideration, judging by his -3 difference between his offensive and defensive rating, even on a top-level team. Russell Westbrook only had a +2 difference but with a USG% of over 30. And then there is one player with a massive +32 difference, even with a modest 17.4 USG%. His TS% is outstanding at 67.5, and he leads his team with a 22.2 total rebound %. Let’s see this player in the rankings.

Player UVW NBA Rank
James Harden 23.28 2
Anthony Davis 21.72 3
Paul George 20.31 5
Stephen Curry 20.13 7
Nikola Jokic 19.28 9
LeBron James 18.74 10
Kevin Durant 18.69 11
Damian Lillard 17.92 12
Karl Anthony-Towns 17.40 14
LaMarcus Aldridge 15.36 18
Mystery Player 13.84 25
Russell Westbrook 13.40 30
Klay Thompson 8.89 89

As you can see, he creams Klay Thompson and narrowly beats out Russell Westbrook. Who is this mystery player? His name is Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz. The team is just the 7th seed in the West and the 4th smallest NBA market in the league. Gobert is extraordinarily deserving of an All-Star spot but still did not get the nod. And the fans were not the only ones upset: Gobert was emotional in a recent press conference after he learned he didn’t make the cut. Players have pride in making the All-Star teams. Denying a player who obviously put in the effort to be there is truly disappointing. We all know that the NBA is an analytics-driven league. Should we give more votes to the analytics honchos in the future? Unfortunately, the NBA is most importantly a star-driven league, and the stars will nearly always have first priority in this premier showcase of basketball talent.  

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