Lance Stephenson, Anthony Davis among those with cases to be first-time NBA All-Stars


(Photo by Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

On Thursday, the rosters for the NBA All-Star Game were completed with the selection of the 10 total reserves for the East and West teams.

Since each year’s starters are decided by a popular vote among the fans, most of the scrutiny regarding the rosters focuses on the reserves, who are chosen by each team’s coaching staff. This year, the coaches are Indiana’s Frank Vogel and Oklahoma City’s Scott Brooks by virtue of their teams holding the best record in each conference through the first half of the season.

Household names such as Houston’s Dwight Howard and Miami’s Chris Bosh made for easy selections, but a number of smaller market stars have made strong cases with their play.

Here are three players from each conference who, according to the advanced statistical categories on NBA.com/stats entering Wednesday’s games, have made a case to be selected to their first all-star game. Of the six players, only Washington’s John Wall made the cut for this year’s roster:

EASTERN CONFERENCE
G John Wall, Washington
Last season, Wall never entered the all-star conversation after missing the first 33 games with a knee injury. Now healthy and with a new contract under his belt, the fourth-year player has demonstrated his evolution with improved point guard and shooting skills.
As the NBA’s leader in time of possession per game at 37.1 minutes, Wall is making his teammates better with 8.5 assists and 1.9 secondary (or hockey) assists per game while averaging a career-high 19.8 points. When Wall isn’t on the floor, the Wizards’ production drops greatly as they score 12.5 points less per 100 possessions. What’s more, he’s made 53 three-pointers, which is already four more than he made in his first three seasons combined.

G Lance Stephenson, Indiana
As a teammate of MVP candidate Paul George, it’s easy for Stephenson to get overlooked. But the fourth-year player’s impact on the team with the NBA’s best record is undeniable when analyzing the stats. Among guards, Stephenson ranks first in rebounds with 7.1 per game and when he is on the court, Indiana’s effective field goal percentage (placing a higher value on three-pointers) increases from 47 to 51.1 percent.
Stephenson also adds to George’s value by maintaining the Pacers’ high level of play when George is on the bench. With Stephenson as the primary ball handler, his percentage of the team’s points (24.9), free throw attempts (23.5) and rebounds (47.6) rises, as does his usage percentage, with 24.5 percent of the plays ending with the ball in his hands.

G Kyle Lowry, Toronto
Few picked Toronto to be leading the Atlantic Division at this point in the season, especially after trading Rudy Gay last month. But since the Dec. 8 trade, the Raptors have gone 18-9 and Lowry is a big reason why. In that span, Toronto’s offense has averaged five fewer points per 100 possessions when Lowry is on the bench. He also anchors the Raptors’ three-point shooting, making 34.7 percent of their treys, and ranks seventh in the league in total assists with 342.
All of these skills were on display in Wednesday’s win against Orlando, when Lowry erupted for 33 points (including six three-pointers), 11 rebounds and seven assists.

WESTERN CONFERENCE
F DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento
Though his basic stats speak for themselves with career-high averages of 22.6 points and 11.5 rebounds, Cousins’s value to the Kings is easy to miss due to the team’s losing record. Out of players with a minimum of 25 games, Cousins leads the league in usage rate with 33 percent and pulls down 40.6 percent of his team’s rebounds.

F Anthony Davis, New Orleans
The second-year player has blossomed into one of the league’s best defensive players with his blend of length and quickness. Along with averaging 3.3 blocks per game, he’s recording 1.5 steals per contest, making him the only player to do so while averaging more than two blocks. Davis also has the league’s sixth-highest efficiency rating, which measures a player’s overall contribution to his team.
Though New Orleans sits at the bottom of the Southwest Conference, its record likely would be even worse without Davis. When he’s on the bench, the Pelicans’ net rating (difference between offensive and defensive efficiency) drops from 0 to -3.7. What’s more, opponents shoot just 44.7 percent at the rim against Davis.

G Goran Dragic, Phoenix
The surprising Suns, who held the sixth-best record in the West as of Wednesday, have Dragic to credit for much of their success. When Dragic is on the floor, Phoenix’s offensive rating rises 9.6 points and the team’s average number of turnovers per 100 possessions drops from 17.3 to 14.3.
His play has also allowed the Suns to operate at a high tempo. Dragic finishes well at the rim, shooting 64.5 percent on shots within five feet, and his team benefits, with 10.3 of Phoenix’s points coming off of Dragic’s drives, which ranks fifth-best in the league.

BY THE NUMBERS
30
Years David Stern served as NBA commissioner before stepping down on Saturday, making him the longest-tenured professional sports commissioner in history. Stern, 71, is credited with guiding the league’s rise to prominence in that time, which featured the arrival of Michael Jordan, the creation of seven new teams and the league’s first exhibition game outside of North America in 1988.

215
Countries and territories that NBA games are televised in today. Stern spearheaded the league’s international growth by creating 14 international online destinations, opening offices in 14 global markets and expanding the number of annual exhibition and regular season games outside of the U.S. to 10 this season.

QUOTABLES
Smart drafting is a wonderful thing. A smart free agent signing is a wonderful thing. Smart trades are a wonderful thing, and that’s a function of management”- David Stern.

“It was the Michael Jordan/Nike phenomenon that really let people see that athletes were OK, and black athletes were OK. Defying a previous wisdom – not only that black athletes wouldn’t sell in white America, but that the NBA as a predominantly black sport could not sell in white America” -David Stern

 

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