04/11/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Thinking Person's NBA All-Star Picks

Now that the Super Bowl is over, the next big sports event is the NBA All-Star Game. We believe that selection to the All-Star team should be based on how a player helps his team win. In 2000 my colleague Jeff Sagarin and I developed the Adjusted +/- Rating system for basketball players. Basically for every minute of the season we look at who is on the court and how the score of the game changes. After adjusting for who you play with and against, we come up with an Adjusted +/- Rating for a player. For example, currently we rate LeBron James as a +21 Points Rating, +19 Offense Rating, and -2 Defense Rating. This means that if LeBron replaced an average NBA player for 48 minutes we estimate that his team would perform 21 points better. If LeBron replaced an average offensive player his team would score 19 points more per game, and if LeBron replaced an average NBA defender his team would give up 2 fewer points per game.

Based on our Adjusted +/- Ratings let's unveil our All-Star selections. I restricted consideration to players who have played at least 30 minutes per game.

Western Conference

Centers: Marc Gasol and Chris Kaman
Forwards: Kevin Durant, Dirk Nowitzki, Nene, Tim Duncan and Shawn Marion
Guards: Steve Nash, Andre Miller, Kobe Bryant, Deron Williams and Chris Paul

Eastern Conference

Centers: Dwight Howard and Brendan Haywood
Forwards: LeBron James, Josh Smith, Luol Deng, Gerald Wallace and Chris Bosh
Guards: Dwayne Wade, Jamaal Crawford, Ray Allen, Lou Williams and Rajon Rondo

Here's an explanation of some of our "surprising" picks:

  • Marc Gasol (-14 defense rating), Chris Kaman (-13 defense rating), Brendan Haywood (-16 defense rating) and Shawn Marion (-7 defense rating) are great defenders. A player with a -10 Defense rating helps a team as much (maybe more) than a player with a +10 Offense Rating. Even the sophisticated fan has trouble spotting good defenders. By looking at how a team's points allowed changes based on who is playing we can easily spot these great defenders.
  • Carmelo Anthony is overrated and Nene is underrated. Being a top scorer does not make you an All-Star. Denver has played great in Melo's absence. Nene's +10 Points rating shows that Nene is a major contributor to the Nugget's success.
  • Andre Miller's great point guard play (+10 Points Rating, +10 Offense Rating) has been a key to Portland's ability to withstand their onslaught of injuries.
  • The Hawks are having a great season and Joe Johnson and Al Horford were selected to the All-Star team. This year Johnson (+9 Defense Rating) has played poor defense and we believe Jamaal Crawford (+10 Points rating and probable Sixth Man of the Year) deserves Johnson's slot. We also believe Josh Smith (+10 points rating) has been much more of a key for the Hawks than Al Horford.
  • The totally unheralded Lou Williams of the 76ers has played very well. When he is on the court the lowly 76ers have actually outscored their opponents.
  • All season Luol Deng (+10 Points Rating) has keyed the Bulls success.

Enjoy the All Star weekend. All the activities are great fun to watch!