Are the coaches better voters than the fans?

As always our numbers come from the great NBA Geek.

When it comes to the All-Star games the fans get a free pass for bad voting. The argument goes that the fans should get to vote in who they want to see. As such, production and proper basketball need not be requirements. The coaches pick the reserves and their job is to use their nuanced basketball knowledge to pick the most deserving players. How did they do?

I took a look at all players with at least 25+ MPG and at least 20 games so far this season. I then looked at their per minute production using Wins Produced (WP48) via NBA Geek to see how good the players the coaches picked were, as well as their rank. For reference 0.100 is average and 0.200 qualifies as “star” level.

The coaches picked measured by performance

West Reserves based on performance
Player Team WP48 WP48 Position Rank
Steve Nash Phoenix 0.280 1
Tony Parker San Antonio 0.120 25
Russell Westbrook OKC 0.091 31
Kevin Love Minnesota 0.261 3
LaMarcus Aldridge Portland 0.162 16
Dirk Nowitzki Dallas 0.054 39
Marc Gasol Memphis 0.182 9
East Reserves based on performance
Player Team WP48 WP48 Position Rank
Deron Williams New Jersey 0.042 43
Andre Iguodala Philadelphia 0.267 2
Paul Pierce Boston 0.196 10
Luol Deng Chicago 0.152 20
Chris Bosh Miami 0.110 27
Joe Johnson Atlanta 0.103 30
Roy Hibbert Indiana 0.154 11

It’s hard to give the coaches that much credit. With a total of 14 picks they only managed to hit 5 players in the top 10 for their respective categories. What’s more they picked three below average players in Dirk, Williams and Westbrook. A common belief is that because coaches have been around the game they get the little things that make players good. Is it possible they are susceptible to other factors? Let’s take a look!

Another look at the coaches selections

West Reserves by Points and Team Performance
Player PPG PPG team Rank Team Team record Team Playoff Rank
 Deron Williams 20.9 1 New Jersey 8-19 11th
 Joe Johnson 18.6 1 Atlanta 17-9 5th
 Paul Pierce 18.4 1 Boston 14-11 7th
 Luol Deng 16.0 2 Chicago 22-6 1st
 Andre Iguodala 13.0 3 Philadelphia 18-8 3rd
 Chris Bosh 19.2 3 Miami 19-7 2nd
 Roy Hibbert 13.6 2 Indiana 17-8 4th
West Reserves by Points and Team Performance
Player PPG PPG team Rank Team Team record Team Playoff Rank
Russell Westbrook 22.7 2 OKC 20-6 1st
Tony Parker 18.9 1 San Antonio 18-9 2nd
Steve Nash 17.2 1 Phoenix 11-15 12th
Kevin Love 25.0 1 Minnesota 13-13 10th
LaMarcus Aldridge 23.3 1 Portland 14-12 9th
Dirk Nowitzki 17.6 1 Dallas 15-11 5th
Marc Gasol 15.0 2 Memphis 13-13 10th

Let’s break down the coaches secret formula.

 Coaches like winners

Out East all but one of our players (we’ll get to Williams in a second) are on winning teams that currently would make the playoffs. Out West all but one of our players (we’ll get to Nash in a second too!) are on teams with records at or above 0.500. In short, our coaches seem to think to be an All-Star you must be on a team that stands a shot at making the playoffs.

Coaches like points

Almost all of our players lead their teams in points per game. Only three of our players weren’t the top scorer available for their team (don’t forget, fans like scorers too). The only position the coaches don’t seem to really care about a player being the top scorer is center. Of course Hibbert and Gasol are the second best scorer and top rebounder on their team. So as an All-Star you can be the second scoring option if you’re the top boarder.

Coaches like themselves

As mentioned, only Nash and Deron are on teams that look like they’re going nowhere fast in the playoff race. Williams does score a lot of points (although not in a good way), so we kind of get the pick. Still, both of these players stand out. Until we consider that both of these players have been All-Star picks before. What’s more they’ve been picked by the coaches. Williams was an All-Star reserve the last two years. Nash was a reserve in 2002, 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2008. It turns out we are more likely to think a decision is good if we’ve made it before! A player’s bad record or low points might dissuade a coach from picking a good player. That is unless, they look back and see they’ve said that player was good in the past.

Progress

For the most part the coaches picked the top scorer on a winning team. This isn’t the worst heuristic but given the pedestal coaches are placed on, I’d expect more. I will say that Andre Iguodala was picked and this is progress. Picking Iguodala means coaches may just listen to their own rhetoric about what it takes to win. Of course Joe Johnson and Deron Williams were picked as well so I wouldn’t expect a revolution just yet.

-Dre

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