Tuesday, January 22, 2013

BDD's All-Bench All-Stars

JaVale McGee poses with the All-Bench All-Star mascot. (via JaVale)

NBA All-Star voting concluded last week and, no matter your opinion on the process, the starting line-ups have been decided and announced. The East and West rosters are littered with the usual names. LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, and so on and so forth.

But what about the little guys? ("Little" being relative to league-wide acknowledgement and not stature, since these are professional athletes and all.) Here at BDD, we try to champion the overlooked and under-appreciated. With that in mind, I dwelled on the following question: what would All-Star rosters look like if they were comprised only of bench players? Maybe more important, though, is which reserves would get their chance to be starters.

The criteria for selecting BDD's All-Bench All-Star team starters required players to have been substitutes for at least 50 percent of their respective teams' games. The eyeball test was taken into account and from there, standard and advanced statistics were analyzed to find deserving candidates, though some looked to be obvious selections. Since fan voting did not delineate from the "guard-guard-forward-forward-center" designations under this year's new "back court" and "front court" format, we differentiated each member of the squad by normal position. Sorry if this rocks your world too much, but without further ado, here are the inaugural BDD All-Bench All-Stars, complete with short explanations for their inclusion.

Eastern Conference

PG: Ramon Sessions, Charlotte Bobcats - Sessions is averaging 14.2 points and 4.0 assists per game. He's not being pressed to be a major play-maker with the presence of Kemba Walker, and although his team is not thriving with a 10-30 record, Sessions has found a bit of sanctuary in Charlotte after a rough-and-tumble time with the Los Angeles Lakers last year.

SG: J.R. Smith, New York Knicks - Part of All-Star Weekend's allure is that is offers plenty of opportunities for highlights, and Smith has supplied those in spades this season whether he's hitting buzzer-beaters or making improbable dunks. His resume was solidified by the fact that he's averaging more points (24.8 per game) than any player who has come of the bench for any number of games in 2012-13, aside from John Wall. It didn't hurt that he has highest efficiency rating (15.2) of any eligible player, according to NBA.com's statistics.

SF: Mike Dunleavy, Milwaukee Bucks - For a team with two ball-dominant guards, Dunleavy's presence is an invaluable asset for the Bucks, so much so that he is on two of Milwaukee's three most winningest line-ups. Given ample opportunities to spot-up, Dunleavy is currently shooting the best percentage of his career (.438) from behind the arc. His Win Shares per 48 minutes boosted significantly during his first season with the franchise and he's on pace to top that this year. Dunleavy's success may be due partially to the Bucks' offensive system, but he could find his shots in this hypothetical game playing alongside assist magician a guard like J.R. Smith.

PF: Amir Johnson, Toronto Raptors - Here's something crazy: the Raptors gain a net of 14.4 points per 100 possessions when Johnson steps onto the hardwood. The 6'9" forward is part of 11 of Toronto's top 20 five-man units. Of those units, only three have winning percentages of 50 or below. Without getting into individual stats, that should say something. Loudly. It didn't hurt his chances of selection that he's averaging 12.9 points, 9.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.4 blocks per 36 minutes. Maybe head coach Dwane Casey should think about nudging Johnson's 25.1 minutes of nightly play up a bit.

C:  Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons - The Pistons employ Drummond in three line-ups that make opponents avoid the paint, choosing to take more than 70 percent of their shots further from the rim rather than approach the rookie center. Through 40 games, Drummond has logged a blazing .209 WS/48, putting him slightly behind Tony Parker for seventh in the NBA. It's a small sample size, but he could carry on his teammate Greg Monroe's legacy of actually playing defense on the All-Star court.

Western Conference

PG: Eric Bledsoe, Los Angeles Clippers - Golden State's Jarrett Jack could have stolen this spot with better per-game stats, but closer inspection shows that Bledsoe is more productive per 36 minutes. His "Mini-LeBron" nickname and status as heir to the best-blocking-guard-since-Dwyane Wade throne is warranted with 1.3 blocks per 36 and his defensive work extends to 3.0 steals and 5.6 rebounds per 36 (compared to Jack's zero blocks and one steal). Jack's true shooting and effective field goals percentages are better, but prorated to starter's minutes, Bledsoe is better. Add 5.1 assists per 36 and that's a body of work that gets him the nod.

SG: Jamal Crawford, Los Angeles Clippers / Kevin Martin, Oklahoma City Thunder - For all the hype around the season Crawford's having in Los Angeles (and make no mistake, he's playing phenomenal ball) and James Harden's leadership that's led him to an All-Star game, Kevin Martin is having his own quietly fantastic season playing in the film surrounding Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook highlights. He's averaging 1.5 points and 0.1 steals less per game than Crawford's 16.5 ppg and 1.1 spg while nabbing more boards and committing fewer turnovers. Martin's .161 WS/48 dwarfs Crawford's above-average .125. Martin is surely benefiting from the attention paid to his team's stars, a la Dunleavy in Milwaukee, and that is allowing him to be efficient from the field (.442 field goal percentage, .431 three-point percentage). The Thunder are +3.8 net points per possession with Martin on the court while the Clippers are +5.0 with Crawford in the line-up. Statistically, Martin deserves this spot, but stylistically, Crawford's crossovers and array of ankle-breaking moves are the things All-Star viewers relish.

SF: Matt Barnes, Los Angeles Clippers - For all the talking Barnes does on the court and as much as that may irk some people, he's putting in the work to back it up this year. He is putting up career numbers in points, blocks and steals while nearly matching his career high for assists per game, as well. Barnes' WS/48 of .184 is nearly double the league average of .100, which leads all but 17 players in the league and second only to Chris Paul on the Clippers.

PF: Ryan Anderson, New Orleans Hornets -Barely sneaking in (and narrowly edging out Golden State's Carl Landry) with 23 games off the bench, Anderson continues to be what everyone knew him to be during his breakout season in Orlando. Shooting a sub-.400 percentage from three isn't exactly what was expected of him, but the threat of leaving Anderson open allows him to assist seven percent of his team's field goals when he's in the game, plus he's putting up 18.9 points per 36 minutes and cleaning the glass (Anderson's grabbing 17.2 percent of available defensive rebounds).

C: JaVale McGee, Denver Nuggets - A) McGee's beginning to capitalize on the potential that made Wizards fans salivate when the franchise drafted him, posting the best WS/48 (.154) mark of his career, due in part to averaging 19 points and 3.6 blocks per 36 minutes. B) He's shooting 100 percent from three-point land this season (1-1, baby! Shout out to Lamar Odom's defense!) C) There's plenty of room for a personality like Pierre's in a lightweight affair like an All-Star game.

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