Before we get to the question about whether or not Paul Millsap should be an All-Star this year let’s consider a simple question. Why is Millsap not even in consideration? First, Millsap was left off the ballot. Now, Bill Simmons writes an All-Star preview and lists out 22 Western Conference players without mentioning Millsap. I understand that he might not be a shoe-in All-Star for a lot of reasons. Does the 4th best team need two All Stars? (Deron Williams is a definite All-Star, and I would challenge anyone to disagree with that statement.) Do his stats really measure up? I think it is a discussion that needs to be had and thankfully for the loyal readers of this blog I’m up for the challenge.
Let’s review the 12 forwards that were listed ahead of Millsap in Simmons All-Star game article. Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Pau Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, Tim Duncan, LaMarcus Aldridge, Lamar Odom, Zach Randolph and Luis Scola. One thing that most of those players have in common (exceptions are Duncan, Gasol and Odom) is that they score a lot of points. In fact if you look at just points per game then it is pretty clear why Millsap was left off the list of potential All-Stars. The 17.2 points per game that Millsap is averaging doesn’t imply All-Star forward.
However, if you look at advanced stats then the case can be made that Millsap should be in consideration. You still might come down on the side that he shouldn’t be an All-Star, but at least you will include him in the conversation. Below are the advanced stats for those 12 players with the stats worse than Millsap’s highlighted in red:
Here is a summary of the above:
- Paul Millsap does two things incredibly well that most people probably either don’t realize or discount. He is really good at stealing the ball (2.1 STL %) and not turning the ball over (9.3% TOV). Those numbers ranked 1st and 2nd respectively out of the twelve highlighted forwards.
- Millsap also has really good shooting percentages. His effective field goal percentage of 54% is only behind Odom and Nowitzki among the forwards.
- Millsap also is an underrated defender. While, it is hard to quantify defensive impact (for example how do you judge defensive rotations?) you can look at his steal percentage and his block percentage of 2.1%and realize that if nothing else Millsap is an active defensive player.
- Overall this translates into a pretty good Win Shares and Win Shares per 48 minutes. Out of the twelve forwards he comes in at 7th in Win Shares and 6th in Win Shares per 48 minutes.
That being written, I would move the following players behind Millsap in the Western Conference forward All-Star queue:
- Luis Scola- I hope this was another joke by Simmons like his Greg Oden line. The only thing Scola has over Millsap is rebounds, assists and usage %. The first two are only minor differences though.
- Carmelo Anthony- An overrated scorer with bad advanced numbers, who also just happens to have played 15% less minutes than Millsap.
- Zach Randolph- This is closer than the first two, but still I think Millsap is a better player. Randolph shoots a worse percentage and has an absolutely dreadful assist percentage of 7.6% compared to Millsap’s 12%.
- LaMarcus Aldridge- Millsap shoots better, rebounds better, passes better, steals better and turns the ball over less. How is this even close? Alridge has played a ton of minutes and blocks a few more shots, but that shouldn’t make up for the fact that Millsap is a much better player. Even Alridge’s points per 36 minutes is only 1.5 more than Millsap’s 18.1, so you can’t really point to scoring as that big of difference.
- Blake Griffin- This might surprise people who only watch Sportscenter highlights because Griffin is a regular on the Top 10, but his numbers aren’t very far off from Millsap. Griffin gets the lead in PER because of his strong PPG and rebounding numbers. Millsap gets the lead in WS/48 minutes because of his better shooting efficiency numbers. I am fine if you want to put Griffin ahead of Millsap, but it isn’t as easy as one of Griffin’s slam dunks.
After that I would concede the argument to Duncan (great player on the best team), Odom (his numbers surprised me as well), Durant, Nowitzki, Love and Gasol. That would place six forwards on the roster. If we filled in the guards with Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Manu Ginoboli, Russell Westbrook and Deron Williams that would leave one open spot. If you are following my train of thought then you might realize that the 12th man on the 2011 Western Conference All-Star team should be Paul Millsap.