Thoughts on the Junior All-Star Game

The All-Star weekend consists of a variety of shows and competitions, and two actual games (involving current NBA players). The first is the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge & Youth Jam, or the NBA’s Junior All-Star game between the “best” players from the rookie and sophomore players. The second game was the real All-Star game, between the “best” players in the league. If I get the chance, I will post comments on the real All-Stars later today. For now, here are a few thoughts on the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge & Youth Jam (still don’t know what that name means).

Let me begin by noting that Jason Chandler at NBA Babble and Win Score quickly posted a comment on this game on Sunday. Although it’s going to be difficult, let me see if I can add a bit to his excellent commentary.

The Junior All-Star game took place on Friday and unfortunately exactly conformed to expectations. The sophomores easily dominated the rookies, winning the game 155-114.

About ten days ago I noted that these two teams were not evenly matched. If the rookies were an actual NBA team we would expect these players to win about six games in an 82 game season. In contrast, the sophomores had a number of productive players and one could expect this team to win about 68 games in an 82 game season. When a really good team faces a really bad team, what happened on Friday night tends to be the result.

Still, even in a blowout, good and bad performances can be found on both teams. To see this point, I calculated each player’s Win Score, adjusted for the position the player played in the game. Here are the results for the rookies:

  • Paul Millsap: 0.304
  • Rudy Gay: 0.303
  • Randy Foye: 0.210
  • Adam Morrison: 0.160
  • Jorge Garbajosa: 0.013
  • Brandon Roy: -0.028
  • Marcus Williams: -0.082
  • Andrea Bargnani: -0.138
  • Jordan Farmer: -0.151

Now this is not Wins Produced per 48 minutes [WP48], where 0.100 is average. This is Win Score per minute adjusted for position played (I need an acronym for this, any suggestions?), which is calculated by subtracting the average Win Score per minute at a player’s position from the player’s per-minute Win Score value. Given the nature of this calculation, positive numbers are above average and negative values tell us the player was below average.

Looking at the above list we see that five rookies were above average in this game, while four were not.

When we look at the sophomores we see a different story.

  • David Lee: 0.952
  • Chris Paul: 0.768
  • Deron Williams: 0.635
  • Raymond Felton: 0.441
  • Monta Ellis: 0.439
  • Luther Head: 0.300
  • Andrew Bogut: -0.003
  • Danny Granger: -0.010

As good as Millsap and Gay played, these players would not have been among the top five on the sophomores. Of course, the sophomores were competing against a much weaker team.

Lee entered the game as the most productive player – on either team – in the first half of the season. In 24 minutes he hit all 14 shots from the field and grabbed 11 rebounds. Not surprisingly he was named the game’s MVP.

A Semi-Bold Prediction

Of course, this is only one game. And as I said, it’s possible for a very bad team to beat a very good team on any given night. Still, this result leads me to make a prediction for next year. The rookies have not won this game since 2002. I predict that in 2008 the rookies will defeat the sophomores. Although I expect some of these rookies to improve between now and next year, I just don’t think that these players will improve enough to defeat a rookie team that might have Greg Oden and Kevin Durant. In fact, I am not sure they will improve enough to defeat a team of rookies that doesn’t have Oden or Durant.

– DJ

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