Josh Smith deserves the All-Star game. In fact, he deserves it more than even Al Horford and Joe Johnson, the Hawks that made it. I could make a perfectly well reasoned argument for Josh Smith making it and Joe Johnson staying home. Such an argument would include some advanced measures like Win Shares (basically measured by offensive and defensive efficiency while on the court), On/Off numbers, Adjusted +/-, TS%, and PER. Josh Smith has an edge, in some cases a sizeable edge, over JJ in all of these.
But I'm not going to make that case. Despite the fact that I'd love to see much less Iso-Joe and lot more offense run through the front court, in terms of the team context, Joe Johnson is nearly as important as Josh Smith (some of you might think that should be the other way around, but I'm convinced I've got it right). For a team that literally has no offensive concept and a coaching staff that doesn't "give a s**t about offense," Joe Johnson's shot creation is more valuable than the numbers can easily grasp. This doesn't mean I love the Fourth Quarter Joe Show, but I do understand that this team as constructed does require some isolation to create offense.
Additionally, I have targets of opportunity that are much more fun, and easier to make a case against. Now, let me quickly talk about fan voting. The All-Star game is an exhibition, just a bit of fun mid-season entertainment that is essentially a fan-fest; the idea being that fans want to see the league's best players on the floor competing together/against each other. Unfortunately, the most popular players in the league aren't necessarily the best. Allen Iverson's inclusion on the roster makes me want to vomit noisily the corner. Unfortunately, the guard with the third most votes was Vince Carter, who's not exactly an inspired choice either (putting Raymond Felton on the All-Star team would have be a coup). But one guy who was voted on, Kevin Garnett, directly interfered with Josh Smith's chances to be on the roster. Shame on all the fans who voted for him while he was hurt.
Little more needs to be said about Garnett. Besides the fact that he's missed 11 games, this has been his least impressive season since he was a 19 year old rookie. You don't even need to look beyond basic numbers to see that Josh Smith deserves to be on the team ahead of him. But we can hate the Celtics for his inclusion.
Kevin Pelton (hat tip: Hoopinion) at basketball-prospectus names Josh Smith as his primary snub. In fact, he'll go even farther than I will, calling Josh Smith one of the top 10 players in the NBA. You should also check out his link to his All-Star team, where he chooses and defends his selection of Al Horford.
The case I'm actually going to make here is the case against Paul Pierce. Here's a quick snapshot
Numbers courtesy of basketball-reference.com.
So you can see, Paul Pierce scores more often, but contributes less in every other basketball aspect. Remember back when Josh Smith was just a kid with raw tools and limited basketball skills? He's a more complete basketball player than Paul Pierce.
But hey, there's a lot more to look at. I've always been a fan of on/off court efficiency numbers. The Hawks are a ridonculous (I'm finding ridonculous to be less than satisfactory-I'll accept suggestions for new words in the comments) 17.8 points per 100 possessions better with Josh Smith on the floor than off. The Celtics are a "meh" +2.2 with Pierce. Keep in mind, these numbers are entirely contextual from team to team, but that difference is staggering. In terms of Adjusted +/- numbers, which account for level of competition, have Josh Smith ranked 16th, while Paul Pierce is...well, he's not in the top 40.
Oh, and if you're a fan of PER (I'm not, really, but it has it has its uses): Paul Pierce has a decent 19.0. Josh Smith has a star-level 22.0 PER. While Paul Pierce does one thing very well-score, and score efficiently-it's tough to build an argument based solely on that for his All-Star inclusion. It would be like making a case for 2006-07 Josh Childress earning an All-Star berth (disclaimer: this may not be exactly the same).
Beyond that, Josh Smith is exactly the type of player that All-Star games are made for. The man is at his best when he's making highlight dunks and swatting away shots. The skills that make him a great basketball player just happen to line up exactly with what gets fans most excited. If he's not in your Top 5 List for most exciting NBA players, you should throw that list out. I doubt there's anyone in the league who does a better job at running down fast breaks and picking up blocks from behind. There's almost no one who can sky higher for the alley-oop, and throw it down with the same authority. In fact, let me revise my first sentence. The All-Star game deserves Josh Smith.