As I was explaining my rationale for balancing this season's play and past performance in picking my All-Stars on Monday, it occurred to me that I already had a tool designed for this very purpose. My in-season SCHOENE projections, used earlier this year for a series of columns, project out performance over the remainder of the schedule by combining performance to date and the preseason projections.
At this point, performance in the current season makes up about a quarter of the future projection for most players. However, because the final projected stat line also includes performance to date, in practice right now the season-long projections are about 50-50 between 2011-12 play and prior expectations. That sounds about right to me for selecting All-Stars, and the results I found were largely sensible.
For the purpose of this column, I strictly used projected total WARP and picked full rosters, including starters. Let's take a look.
G Chris Paul (20.5 WARP projected)
G Kobe Bryant (19.0)
F Kevin Durant (22.6)
F Kevin Love (23.3)
C Andrew Bynum (15.0)
Lots of agreement between WARP's picks and the actual starters as voted by fans. The only exception is power forward. Even many fans who voted for Blake Griffin would, I suspect, concede that Kevin Love is the superior player at this point. Love is second in the league in WARP and is projected to maintain that lofty position all season. He's firmly established himself as a superstar. However, Griffin is an All-Star in his own right and is certainly more fun to watch in an All-Star setting. I can't really question fans picking Griffin.
G Russell Westbrook (17.1)
G James Harden (13.7)
F Pau Gasol (16.0)
F Blake Griffin (15.8)
C Marc Gasol (13.6)
U Paul Millsap (13.8)
U LaMarcus Aldridge (13.7)
Aside from the Griffin-Love swap, the numbers agree with six of my seven picks for reserves in the Western Conference. The exception is Pau Gasol, who actually scores third among all forwards. Gasol's decline this season has been somewhat overstated; he's still an efficient offensive player who contributes defensively and on the glass. He also had a big projected advantage over Paul Millsap and LaMarcus Aldridge. Aldridge's projection was conservative entering this season because his 2010-11 performance was out of line with his career to date. I'm convinced by the last two seasons that Aldridge's current level of play is permanent; SCHOENE is a tad more skeptical, though it still makes him an All-Star.
My missing pick, Kyle Lowry, has much in common with Aldridge: All-Star-type play over the last season and a half, before which he was a reserve. At 13.2 projected WARP, Lowry rates as the first alternate ahead of Steve Nash (12.3).
What of Dirk Nowitzki? He projects to just 8.9 WARP, putting him out of the All-Star discussion. There are some complicating factors here. Nowitzki has come out poorly by WARP in recent seasons because he spaces the floor with long twos rather than the threes the system credits. His low minutes total also limits his WARP projection. However, SCHOENE pegged Nowitzki for a decline entering this season because of his age. Consider me somewhat more skeptical than my man John Hollinger that Nowitzki will look like a sure All-Star by April.
G Derrick Rose (17.8)
G Dwyane Wade (19.0)
F LeBron James (29.5)
F Ryan Anderson (15.7)
C Dwight Howard (23.0)
Here, too, fans and the numbers agree on four out of five picks. In this case, Carmelo Anthony (10.6 WARP) wouldn't be all that close to making SCHOENE's team. Usually, Anthony is an All-Star-caliber player. This season, he's both played relatively poorly and missed time due to injury. It's difficult to make the argument that Anthony is an All-Star on merit. As usual, WARP hearts Ryan Anderson
G Brandon Jennings (14.0)
G Rajon Rondo (13.3)
F Andre Iguodala (14.4)
F Paul Pierce (14.0)
C Greg Monroe (13.7)
U Danny Granger (13.4)
U Josh Smith (13.0)
While the numbers matched up pretty closely with my picks in the West, they differ on four spots in the East. (That number includes Danny Granger, who was ineligible for my team as a member of the Pacers.) SCHOENE projected a breakout season for Brandon Jennings and is therefore even more bullish on his candidacy. For the other guard spot, Rajon Rondo gets the nod over Deron Williams (11.2) and Joe Johnson (10.1). Both veteran guards were expected to decline, which explains why they miss out here. In fact, both end up behind Louis Williams (11.4).
At center, Greg Monroe has the advantage over Tyson Chandler (9.2) in terms of individual statistics. Including Chandler's pessimistic projection only increases the margin. I'm still a tad dubious about Monroe as a help defender in the paint. Not only are the Pistons 29th in Defensive Rating, they allow more points with Monroe on the floor. That doesn't sound like an All-Star center to me.
I've championed Josh Smith for a spot on the All-Star team in the past, and he gets the slight edge here for the last spot over Chris Bosh (12.5), who was picked as a starter by both Hollinger and Zach Lowe, two of the writers I most respect.
Kevin Pelton is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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