Last Thursday after it was officially revealed that Paul George had earned his first NBA All-Star game start, attention immediately turned toward the reserve selection process. Specifically, would any of PG's teammates be joining him and the Pacers' coaching staff in New Orleans?
With every NBA analyst from SB Nation (Mike Prada), CBS Sports (Zach Harper, Royce Young, Matt Moore), Grantland (Zach Lowe), ESPN (Marc Stein), and TNT (Charles Barkley, Shaq, Grant Hill, Kenny Smith) selecting the Pacers' center, early predictions from several of the major media outlets seemed to indicate that Roy Hibbert making his second All-Star appearance as a reserve was as good as a lock. Meanwhile, Lance Stephenson's bid as a first-time All-Star was more of a toss-up amongst the experts. It was even discussed here at Indy Cornrows, if, as Tom Lewis termed it, "Lance being Lance" would end up costing him an All-Star spot. Maintaining that line of thought, prior to Thursday night's game in Indianapolis, Pacers.com writer, Scott Agness relayed the following advice from Frank Vogel:
Frank Vogel said he recently had a conversation with Stephenson about his "dignified celebrations" and whether elite players behave that way— Scott Agness (@ScottAgness) January 30, 2014
Ultimately, while the Pacers were busy tipping off game action against the Phoenix Suns at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, TNT's pregame broadcast was officially revealing the fourteen names that would fill out each conference's All-Star roster.
Per basketball-reference, TNT's announcement marks the first time since the 2002-2003 season that two Pacers have appeared together on the NBA All-Star roster. In '03, it was Metta World Peace (aka Ron Artest) and Jermaine O'Neal. Now, it is Paul George and Roy Hibbert. Had Lance Stephenson joined the duo, it would have been the first time since the 1971-1972 season that three Pacers were selected to the then ABA All-Star team.
In making the team, Roy Hibbert edged out stiff competition from Al Jefferson and Andre Drummond. Of those names listed along with his fellow reserves, Chris Bosh, Joakim Noah, and Paul Millsap, Roy Hibbert posts the lowest field goal percentage at 46% and averages the second lowest points per game (11.8) ahead of only Joakim Noah. As such, it is clear that Hibbert's selection was based more on his behemoth defensive numbers and overall contribution to his team that boasts the East's best record, than necessarily to his offensive impact.
Even so, thus far this season, and for good reason, the Pacers' center is looked upon as the favorite for DPOY. According to basketball reference, Hibbert is currently 1st in the league in terms of defensive rating allowing a stingy 93.1 points per 100 possessions. Add that to the fact that he ranks 3rd in the league in defensive win shares, 2nd in blocks per game (2.5), and allows the lowest opponent field goal percentage at the rim at 41.2% (comparing only those that have played in at least 38 games and average at least 28 minutes per game), all while anchoring the league's best defense, and there is no refuting the fact that Roy Hibbert should, and will, be announced as an All-Star in New Orleans.
Not unlike Lance Stephenson's entertaining creation of his Sir Lancelot video off-the-court, his energy, passion, and production on-the-court also failed to garner him enough attention to earn an All-Star nod. This fact, according to Scott Agness, was much to Born Ready's chagrin:
Moments ago, Stephenson got up from his chair as a few of us walked his way. Didn't look happy. #LookOutTonight— Scott Agness (@ScottAgness) January 30, 2014
Stephenson's snub in favor of John Wall, DeMar DeRozan, and Joe Johnson may imply that the East's rival coaches were not fond of Lance's theatrics. Although each of the above mentioned players all average a higher point total than Born Ready, there is no denying that he has become a nightly triple-double threat averaging 14.2ppg, 7.1rpg, and 5.3apg. According to NBA.com/stats, Lance ranks 10th in the league in terms of rebounds per chance corralling 68.6% of his rebound chances per game. On a nightly basis, when combining his points per game (14.4) and points created by assists per game (12.2), the Pacers' wing is responsible for approximately 27% of the Pacers' offense. Triple-doubles are nice, but they are better when coupled with crippling defense (Stephenson currently ranks 10th in the league in defensive rating and 7th in defensive win shares) and team success. With his stats markedly improved across the board from last season, Stephenson's production on both sides of the ball easily backs-up any argument that Born Ready is perhaps one of the East roster's biggest snubs because, as Sir Lancelot would say, "That boy is cold as ice."
In the end, it seems the Eastern Conference coaches placed greater emphasis on individual production and statistics than overall team success. Undoubtedly, John Wall, DeMar DeRozan, and Joe Johnson were all deserving All-Star candidates . However, without taking anything away from the named reserves' stellar seasons, in a year where the third best team in the East is only three games above .500 (compare that to the West, where if the Dallas Mavericks played in the East they would be in third place with a record of 26-21) it seems that the argument could be made that the coaches erred in refusing to load-up the roster predominantly with members of the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat.
Nevertheless, with two Pacers joining forces with three Heat players, it will be interesting to see if Coach Vogel can get his Eastern Conference roster to put rivalries aside for a night in order to pull out a "W" against the West for the first time since 2010.
In the West, Stephen Curry, Kobe Bryant (out with injury), Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, and Blake Griffin, will be joined by Damian Lillard, Tony Parker, Chris Paul, James Harden, LaMarcus Aldridge, Dirk Nowitzki, and Dwight Howard at the 63rd All-Star game.
Fans will have to wait until after the Pacers wrap-up their game against the Phoenix Suns to get Roy Hibbert's reaction about his upcoming trip to New Orleans.