How does Kobe measure up to some of the worst All-stars of the past 15 years?
When Kobe Bryant was announced as a Western Conference starter in the 2016 All-Star Game, there was an inevitable backlash from those who felt Kobe had not earned his spot on the roster this season. Meanwhile, others (including Kevin Durant and Adam Silver) feel that Kobe’s legacy and impact on the game of basketball are more than enough reason for him to start.
Whether or not you believe Kobe deserves to be an All-Star depends on how you view the All-Star Game (ASG) itself. Some feel that the ASG is strictly for the entertainment of the fans, and if the fans want to see Kobe, then case closed.
Others point to the fact that All-Star appearances can be used in making the case for a player’s Hall of Fame candidacy after he’s retired. If the number of All-Star selections actually factors into legacy decisions, then maybe player performance (and not popularity) should be the sole determinant. If on-court production and success were the only elements taken into account, it’s safe to say that Kobe would be sitting this one out.
Either way, Kobe’s selection to this upcoming weekend’s game poses an interesting question: Where does Kobe rank among the worst All-Stars of the 21st century? This subject has been explored numerous times (i.e. here, here, and here), but each of these lists contain the same flaws.
For one, they fail to account for player injuries. Often, Yao Ming will get cited as the worst ASG selection because injuries limited him to just five games during the 2010-11 season. Yao’s international popularity was so strong that he was voted into the ASG anyway. This is a boring cop out. The true “worst” All-Stars should have earned it by their poor play on the floor, not while in a suit on the bench.
Another flaw many of these lists have is that they rely too much on hindsight in terms of how a player’s career panned out. For example, Steve Francis‘ 2004 All-Star appearance is often viewed critically because that was the year that he began to fail to live up to expectations. In reality though, Francis was struggling to adjust to his new coach Jeff Van Gundy, and you could still make the case that he was the most important player on that playoff-bound Rockets team.
The final problem with most of these lists is they are too subjective. We now have too many advanced metrics at our disposal to keep saying that two-time All-star Brad Miller was a joke, just because his game doesn’t pass the eye test.
For these reasons, this list has the following stipulations/considerations (warning: skip to ranking if you bore easily):
1) All-Stars must have played in at least 75% of their team’s games to qualify (at least 62 games).
2) Win-Shares, Value Over Replacement Player (VORP), and PER are used in tandem with the player’s traditional statistics, and their team’s winning percentage to come up with a more objective, though ultimately still subjective, list of players.
3) Since Win-Shares and VORP are cumulative stats, the lock-out shortened 2011-12 season is not taken into account—none of those All-Stars were particularly egregious anyway.
4) All statistics are based on a player’s full season performance, even though All-Star voting happens roughly halfway through the season. The assumption is that a player’s full season statistics are indicative of his midseason performance.
5) In total, there are 324 All-Star seasons from 2000-01 through 2014-15 considered for this list.
Now that we’re through with the semantics, let’s dive in at number ten.
10) Tony Parker (2013-14)
No guard has played fewer minutes per game while still being named an All-Star since 2000-01
Fifth-worst VORP out of 324 All-Stars
14th-fewest Win Shares
When it was announced in 2014 that Parker would be a reserve for the West, multiple ESPN analysts cited him as the biggest surprise. This selection had more to do with the fact that the eventual champion Spurs were playing at such a high level, and they needed a token All-Star. Kawhi Leonard had not made the leap yet, and Duncan was also on on his normal minutes restriction. Although Parker led the team in points per game, he was ninth on his team in VORP and fourth in Win Shares, despite having the highest Usage Rate. Tony Parker deserved a number of his All-Star appearances, but this spot was rightly Tim Duncan‘s.
9) Jermaine O’Neal (2006-07)
- Sixth-fewest Win Shares
- 13th-worst VORP
- Third-worst field goal percentage on two-pointers among big men (centers and power forwards)
Frankly, this sub-.500 Pacers team didn’t need and All-Star, but the East was hurting for talent this year. It’s no wonder the West drubbed the East 153-132.
8) Latrell Sprewell (2000-01)
- Fourth-worst PER
- Ninth-fewest Win Shares
- Seventh-worst True Shooting percentage among guards
Most lists would probably point to Antonio Davis as the worst All-Star of this year, but statistically, it was “Spree.” Though Sprewell was the flashiest player for this post-Ewing Knicks team, he would end the season fifth on his own team in Win Shares behind Marcus Camby, Kurt Thomas, Allan Houston, and Glen Rice. Spree’s inefficiency is what stands out most about this All-Star pick.
7) Jamaal Magloire (2003-04)
- Second-worst VORP
- 15th-worst PER
- Seventh on his own team in Box Plus Minus
Many lists rank Magloire even further down, and it’s a fair position. The .500 New Orleans Hornets somehow managed to get TWO different All-Stars this season in Baron Davis and Jamaal Magloire. Magloire was arguably the third best power forward on his own team after David West and P.J. Brown. The only thing keeping Magloire afloat is his (relatively) hefty number of Win Shares, not to mention that he actually led the East with 19 points and 8 rebounds!
6) Antawn Jamison (2004-05)
- Third-worst VORP
- 12th fewest Win Shares
Jamison’s numbers in his 2004-05 campaign really just felt like empty calories. Granted, the team did go on to overachieve, but the success was largely due Gilbert Arenas, Larry Hughes, and strong interior defense from Brendan Haywood and Michael Ruffin. In fact, the numbers support Jamison’s reputation as a sieve, as he ranked 12th on his team in Defensive Box Plus Minus.
5) Roy Hibbert (2013-14)
- Worst PER of any All-Star
- Sixth-worst VORP
- 11th-fewest Win Shares
Hibbert’s astonishingly low field goal percentage and rebounds per game contribute to his place on the list. This Pacers team was still able to win, despite his overstated efforts in the middle.
4) Antoine Walker (2002-03)
- Second-fewest Win Shares
Third-worst field goal percentage
Walker’s notorious reputation as a shot-jacker rang particularly true this season. Fellow All-Star Paul Pierce was unquestionably the most important cog for this Celtics team. Walker ranked seventh on his own team in Win Shares, showing his contributions were ultimately just for show.
3) Zydrunas Ilgauskas (2002-03)
- Worst Team Winning Percentage
- Fourth-worst VORP
- Eighth-fewest Win Shares
Why the 17-win Cleveland Cavaliers warranted an All-Star this season is beyond comprehension. It’s not like “Z” was putting up gaudy numbers for this abominable team either. It’s not a case of “good stats, bad team” so much as it’s “fair stats, awful team.” This one’s truly a head scratcher.
2) Joe Johnson (2010-11 + 2013-14)
- Fifth and seventh-fewest Win Shares
- Sixth and tenth-worst PER
- Seventh and eighth-worst VORP
Joe Johnson had two equally-terrible season, both resulting in All-Star appearances. The stats above show his 2010-11 campaign, where he led the Hawks to a middling 44 wins. “Seven-time All-Star Joe Johnson” remains one of the more baffling phrases of our time.
1) Chris Kaman (2009-10)
- Worst VORP
- Fewest Win Shares
- 13th-worst PER
I think we all knew it would come to this. Not only did Kaman rank worst in both VORP and Win Shares, but he did so on a 32-win Clippers team that had just seen their prized Rookie, Blake Griffin, go down for the season with an injury. It’s hard to imagine how Clippers fans felt when they thought they were getting a full season of Blake Griffin, and instead they got this:
Upon analyzing Kobe’s numbers, it becomes evident that if he continues his level of play from the first ~60% of the season, then he will join the ranks of these players. His -0.1 VORP and his -0.5 Win Shares would be the second-worst and worst ranks, respectively. However, despite his horrendous numbers, Kobe has begun to turn it around in the last month. He’s beginning to show more flashes of his old self. Regardless, he has earned this right, and there’s no question that he should be starting in his final All-Star game.
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