Kevin C. Cox
The Hawks will be without an All-Star as the Eastern Conference reserves were announced this evening and neither Josh Smith nor Al Horford's names were called, and really, that shouldn't come as a shock.
The All-Star reserves were announced earlier this evening and in the Eastern Conference Paul George, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, Kyrie Irving, Tyson Chandler, Chris Bosh, and Jrue Holliday got the nod to join Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Kevin Garnett on the roster. This means that many potentially deserving players were left out (most notably Brook Lopez) including the Hawks' Josh Smith and Al Horford. While Hawks fans will want to believe that these two were snubbed, however when one examines the All-Star arguments for our two talented big men and then compares them to those that got in, it really shouldn't come as any shock.
First, we'll begin with two-time All-Star Al Horford. Al has had another very solid season averaging 15.6 ppg and 9.8 rpg. His per 36 numbers are slightly below that (15.7 and 9.5) and he has not been quite as efficient as he was in his two previous All-Star trips shooting 52.8% from the field and has a 53.9 TS% (FG%/TS% were 55.1/59.4 and 55.7/58.7 in his 2 AS seasons). Al's PER is also just 18.2 (19.4 and 20.7 in his 2 AS seasons) and his WS/48 are down to .139 (opposed to .183 and .179). Al does have 21 double doubles this year (Hawks are 15-6 in those games) and has begun to return to his normal, All-Star caliber self in recent games. While Al has been very good for the Hawks this year, two factors really hurt his chances. First, the poor shooting stretch he went through earlier in the year (that I documented...extensively). Second, the removal of the center position from the ballot allowed for more power forwards and small forwards to make the squad rather than the previously required two centers, which hurts Al because his numbers just don't stack up to some of the more prolific scoring wing players.
Josh Smith's All-Star case suffered a major hit when he was suspended for the Nets game on January 16th. Being that the reserves are voted on by the coaches, nothing makes coaches more wary of a player than an incident in practice between a player and coach that leads to a suspension (see: Cousins, DeMarcus). That incident may have been the final blow to a relatively weak case for Smoove. His numbers are down from last year and he is averaging 16.7 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 3.9 apg, 1.3 spg, and 2.3 bpg. Those are solid numbers, but not necessarily "All-Star numbers." Josh's case really hinged on the fact that he'd been snubbed in the past, most notably last season when he was putting up great numbers while carrying the entire frontcourt load in Al's absence. However, Josh had a stretch of underwhelming performances in January (the last 9 games before votes were due he averaged 14.2 ppg and 8.1 rpg), followed by a suspension, which derailed any realistic hopes of an All-Star selection. Also, Josh is putting up an extremely inefficient season for those that are fans of the advanced stats. His PER is a pedestrian 17.2, his TS% (48.0) and eFG% (46.9) are very weak, and he's not rebounding the ball at a high-level (13.8 TRB%). He's been great defensively, but as we've seen in the past (Tyson Chandler before this year) and even this year (Marc Gasol), defense won't get you to the All-Star game.
Their numbers, whether the "old-school" basic numbers (ppg/rpg/FG%) or their advanced numbers (PER/TS%/eFG%) didn't match up favorably to the other reserves, and their recent slide into the sixth spot in the East made it easier to justify not having a Hawks player in the game. When we throw away the ridiculous-ness of the fan vote (aka, Kevin Garnett) we're left with Al and Josh battling Paul George, Chris Bosh, Tyson Chandler, Joakim Noah, and Luol Deng for the frontcourt spots open (Kyrie and Jrue were more deserving anyway).
George is carrying the offensive load for the third-seeded Pacers right now in the absence of Danny Granger. He's averaging 17.3 ppg,7.8 rpg, has a TS% of 52.7, and has a PER of 17.4. While his numbers are very similar to Josh and Al's, he gets the nod as the lone Pacers representative (although I think West deserved the nod) because, no matter what you think, coaches care about rewarding winning teams. That is also how we get Noah and Deng. These two have been the catalysts for the Bulls great play despite being without Derrick Rose.
Noah is the exception to the rule of "defense is ignored" mainly because he's the best defender on the best defensive team in the NBA. He averages 12.2 ppg and 10.9 rpg, his PER is just 16.9, and his percentages don't jump off the page, but he already has 3.2 DWS (Josh has 2.5) and Noah is also a ferocious rebounder and the undisputed emotional leader of the Bulls (that counts). Deng is the biggest head-scratcher of the bunch because his basic numbers don't say "All-Star" and neither do the advanced stats. He averages 17.4 ppg and 6.4 rpg while shooting 44.2% from the field. His PER is barely league average at 15.2 and he has 2.1 DWS (fewer than Josh and just 0.1 better than Al). Deng's choice is the biggest surprise and one could argue he's least deserving, but even then, Josh and Al aren't the next in line (see: Lopez, Brook).
Chris Bosh is also a slight surprise, but his reputation and his efficiency put him in ahead of the Hawks' duo. He averages 17.3 ppg and 7.2 rpg along with shooting a toasty 54.3% from the field. Bosh has a PER of 21, a TS% of 60.6, and an eFG% of 55.2 which makes him one of the most efficient stretch bigs in the league. Finally, we get Tyson Chandler. His selection can be attributed to three things. First, solid play. He averages 12.2 ppg and 11 rpg and does so at an excruciatingly efficient rate. He shoots 67.4% from the field (same as his eFG%), has a TS% of 69.7, and has a PER of 21.4. Second, it's a make-up for a snub last year when he won DPOY (this will happen to Marc Gasol next year). Finally, he's the second best Knick and, no matter what you think, winning matters and coaches will reward the best teams by putting two players in (or 3 if you're MIA; unless you're the Pacers, then you get one and like it).
So there it is folks. We will watch an All-Star game come and go with no Hawk in sight, and really, that should come as no shock and shouldn't offend anyone (though I know it will and ya'll will tell me why in the comments).
But, hey, maybe we get a couple guys healthy over the break. I'd take that.