Rashard Lewis and Jameer Nelson are heading to Phoenix to represent the Orlando Magic and the Eastern Conference in the 2009 All-Star Game, but do they deserve to go?
Less than 24 hours have passed since the All-Star reserves were announced, and as expected, many debates have started in trying to determine which players deserved a roster spot, which players got snubbed, etc.
One of the top stories in the aftermath of all the hoopla & news is that the Orlando Magic led the NBA with three All-Star bids (Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis, Jameer Nelson), a franchise-most for Orlando. Arguments have begun, questioning whether the Magic, indeed, deserve to have three players sent to Phoenix. One of the main inquiries is whether or not Lewis and/or Nelson truly deserved the honor of being named an All-Star.
The answer is yes, and here's why.
Looking closely into the numbers, both Lewis & Nelson compare favorably to fellow All-Star hopefuls and representatives, specifically in the Eastern Conference.
I'm going to keep the comparisons simple for the purpose of this post.
Exhibit A: Rashard Lewis
I decided to compare Lewis to another All-Star player, Paul Pierce, from the Boston Celtics. If you enlarge the image beneath in a separate tab or window, you'll notice that Lewis' & Pierce's statistics are nearly identical across the board.
In case those stats aren't enough, Lewis' WARP (5.7) matches closely to Pierce's WARP (5.3). More numbers - Lewis is first on the Magic in net plus/minus per 100 possessions. Plus, despite popular belief, 'Shard isn't just a one-dimensional player. His defense is vastly underrated, especially given he's playing out of position.
Exhibit B: Jameer Nelson
I decided to compare Nelson to two point guards that competed with him for a reserve guard spot on the East roster - Rajon Rondo, from the Boston Celtics, & Mo Williams, from the Cleveland Cavaliers. As you can see below, Nelson out-rates both Rondo and Williams in a plethora of statistical categories. However, in the case of Rondo, both he & Nelson are neck and neck numbers-wise, a fact further fueled when comparing Rondo's WARP (7.5) to Nelson's WARP (5.5).
For Nelson & Rondo, it's a true toss-up between the two statistically but for Williams, he is a distant third nearly across the board and not much of a factor in this comparison.
Talks of Rondo being an All-Star snub are valid, but the same can't be said for Williams. A good player, no doubt, but not someone worthy of consideration for a roster spot in Phoenix (though Cleveland's Ben Wallace would disagree).
Both Lewis & Nelson, as you can see, earned their respective All-Star bids. Are there other players in the Eastern Conference that could have garnered a roster spot over either Lewis and/or Nelson? Sure, and their inclusion would have been warranted. But that doesn't make either Lewis or Nelson less deserving of the honor they received (two experts would agree with that sentiment).