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February 2015

The Non-Star All-Star

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Adam Silver has been pretty busy over the past couple of weeks as the general manager of the All-Star teams. Injuries to Kobe Bryant and Blake Griffin allowed Silver to bestow all-star honors upon DeMarcus Cousins and Damian Lillard, two players that were very deserving of a spot on the team, and once Dwyane Wade was officially ruled out for this weekend’s festivities, Silver was back to work finding someone to take his place.

I don’t think anyone would have minded if Silver decided to add another Western Conference player to the game instead of honoring another borderline candidate in the East, but he did have a couple of decent names to consider before he landed on the final deserving all-star in the East: Kyle Korver.

The 33-year old Korver will make his first career all-star game appearance after an absolutely stunning start to the season on the best team in the East, yet his selection isn’t exactly a crowd-pleaser. Korver’s main competition for the final spot, Milwaukee’s Brandon Knight and Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic, offer more in the way of per game stats and all-star-y arsenals than Korver, which had some wondering why neither of those young guns made the cut.

Vucevic is an advanced stats wonder with an all-star caliber PER (his 22.17 PER ranks 4th against centers behind Cousins, Marc Gasol and… Whiteside!). He averages 19.4 points and 11.2 rebounds per game for the Magic, shoots 54% from the field, utilizes a pretty nice post game for a big man in 2015 and looks to be a franchise caliber player for a Magic team with a lot of potential. He’s also someone compiling stats on a bad team and one of the worst defensive bigs in the league; of big men that face at least five shots at the rim per game, Vucevic allows the second highest percentage in the league at 57.4%.

He’s a good young player that is inching closer to the 20-10 threshold that generally tends to denote that you are pretty talented, but Vucevic’s defensive issues and lack of team success make him the clear outsider here.

The Knight-Korver debate is a little more contentious. Knight is having a career season in his fourth year in the league, blossoming into an above average lead guard under Jason Kidd’s leadership. Knight is averaging 18 points, five assists and four rebounds a game on 43%/41%/89% splits and he’s been a big reason that the Bucks have gone from having the worst record in the league last season (I totally forgot that Larry Drew managed to have his team playing worse than the 76ers last year) to within arm’s length of home court advantage in the East.

There’s a problem, though, and it’s a pretty glaring one. According to, the Bucks merely tread water when Knight is on the floor; Milwaukee scores 100.2 points per 100 possessions and allow 100.7 points per 100 possessions when Knight is in the game. What’s worse: When Knight has been off the court, the Bucks have compiled a net rating of +9.3 points per 100 possessions, easily the best (or worst in this case) off-the-court net rating of anyone on the team. So, using these numbers, one could deduce that Knight is not exactly a positive presence for the Bucks, in spite of his commendable individual stats. The Bucks score and defend better at their best rates when Knight isn’t in the game and they are the definition of average when he’s on the court. Does that sound like an all-star to you?

Look at these same numbers for the Hawks and there isn’t a question about which player has an “all-star” impact. When Korver is on the floor, the Hawks score 112 points per 100 possessions, which would lead the league over the course of a whole season (the Clippers currently lead the league with an offensive rating of 110.6), and they have a net rating of +11.6 points per 100 possessions. When Korver is off the floor, the Hawks score 98.2 points per 100 possessions and have a net rating of -2.1 points per 100 possessions.

So, to recap: Korver on the floor = best offense and No. 2 net rating in the league; Korver off the floor = the Hawks score a tad more efficiently than the Charlotte Hornets, who have the second worst offense in basketball, and possess a net rating of a fringe contender in the East.

That’s a pretty monumental individual impact for someone on a team that is heralded and praised for its lack of reliance on a star player. Truth be told, the Hawks wouldn’t be anywhere near where they are now without Korver. Sure, he may lack the ability to score one-on-one or to break down a defense on the dribble, but even though those things are easier to notice, they aren’t the only skills that can bend defenses.

Korver is such a remarkably accurate shooter that his mere presence on the floor boost the efficiency of the Hawks offense tenfold, and the fact that he is currently on pace for perhaps the greatest shooting season ever – Korver would be the second player in NBA history to put up a 50/50/90 season (Steve Kerr did it first in 1995-96) – doesn’t hurt either.

This is a player that is shooting 53% from three on six attempts from deep a game, which is absolutely unbelievable when you consider that a lot of his looks are as contested. In fact, per’s SportVu data, Korver is shooting 45% from three when he is guarded tightly this season, which by itself would be the third best three-point percentage in the league.

Korver may not fit the typical all-star mold of a ball-dominant high-flyer whose game is constantly immortalized on Vine, but it’s tough to argue that his impact isn’t on par with that of the very best players in the league, and that makes him an incredibly deserving all-star.

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