We are in the midst of a generational shift in terms of NBA star power. We can see this by looking at the All-Star rosters. Barring any injury replacements, 2017 has only one player, LeBron James, who is making a double-digit appearance in the game. (This year marks James’s 13th selection.) The veteran old guard is gone: Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, and Kevin Garnett are all retired, and for All-Star purposes, Dirk Nowitzki might as well be. For various reasons, the recent crop of All-Star stalwarts is absent. Chris Bosh might be done. Chris Paul is injured. Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade missed the cut; though Wade would have been in had the voting rules not been changed at the 11th hour.
The last stretch of games featuring only one player with 10 or more selections was 2004-2006. Shaquille O’Neal hit his 11th, 12th, and 13th selections those years. During those three years, 18 different players made their All-Star debuts. That sounds like a lot, but it isn’t actually all that unusual. It’s fairly par for the course, actually. Since 2000, an average of 6 newcomers are selected each year. What is unusual is that this year, only four players were selected for their first game – Giannis Antetokounmpo, Gordon Hayward, DeAndre Jordan, and Kemba Walker.
Adding the long-time vet with the fresh faces takes up five slots. Since 2000, that number has never been that low. This means that there’s a huge stable of stars making up the bulk of those rosters. It’s a fairly unprecedented occurrence, and, throwing in the probable addition of Joel Embiid, it means we should expect to see these rosters remain fairly static over the next few years.
Here’s some more All-Star data to do with and interpret as you will. This breaks down the average number of selections for All-Star starters, for all players, the number of 10+ selection players, and the number of first-time selection players for each game since 2000.
2000: 3.2 – average number of starter selections, 3.71 – average number of all player selections, 2 – 10+ selection players (Karl Malone, John Stockton), 9 (!) – first time selection players (Ray Allen, Vince Carter, Dale Davis, Michael Finley, Allan Houston, Allen Iverson, Glenn Robinson, Jerry Stackhouse, Rasheed Wallace)
2002: 5.2, 4.00, 2 (Michael Jordan, Malone), 10 (!!!) (Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Elton Brand, Baron Davis, Steve Francis, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki, Jermaine O’Neal, Paul Pierce, Wally Szczerbiak, Peja Stojakovic); My spellcheck is either brilliant or terrible, as it flagged zero of those names.
2017: 4.7, 3.67, 1 (James), 4 (Antetokounmpo, Hayward, D. Jordan, Walker)
Totals: 5.67 starter selections, 4.44 all player selections, 2.94 10+ selections, 6.06 first-time selections
- In all but two years, the average number of starter selections has been higher, and usually significantly higher, than the average number of player selections. I should have also broken out the average number of bench selections, but didn’t realize this was such a huge pattern until just now. (It’s 2.93 for 2017, for example.) This says to me that fans love voting for veterans. Or names. It’s probably more about names than who’s earned it or not, but I’m not judging.
- This also means coaches, who vote for the reserves, love giving a new guy the nod.
- Antetekounmpo, Bynum, Carter, Curry, Francis, Iverson, James, Leonard, Lowry, McGrady, Ben Wallace, and Yao earned their first selections via being voted a starter. That’s only 11.4% of them. From 2006-2011, the fans picked no first-timers to start.
- That’s an interesting group of players. They’re all electric offense forces, amazing defensive forces, or Andrew Bynum.
- If there hadn’t been an adjustment to the voting process this year, three first-timers would have started – Giannis, Embiid, and the immortal Zaza Pachulia. 2000 and 2003 were the only years with even two – Carter and Iverson, and Wallace and Yao, respectively.
- Conversely, 29 of the 53 double-digit selections (54.7%) have come from the fans.
- Those double-digit selections aren’t rolling over, either. The 53 selections come from only 14 guys. (38 guys have hit 10+ selections all-time, if you were curious.)
- Of the 105 guys who made their first All-Star team from 2000-2016, 73 (69.5%) of them made at least one more. All-time, 407 players have been on an All-Star team, 280 (68.8%) have been on more than one. I’m not sure why, but this strikes me as odd. I would have expected a lot more one-and-done great seasons from good players, but this seems to be the exception. It happens way more often where a guy breaks through one year and then keeps it going for a little bit. Either that, or he has one great year, followed by a pretty good year with newly-found name cache.
- Just for the hell of it, or for comparison’s sake, whichever you prefer, there have been 99 guys selected to an All-NBA First Team. Sixty of them made more than one, or 60.6%. And 31 guys have been named MVP, with 13 multiple selections (41.9%).
- Ray Allen and Paul Pierce made way more All-Star teams than I thought they did – ten each.
- Technically, Dale Davis and Anthony Mason also made way more All-Star teams than I thought they did – one each.
- 2010 was a very weird year: 14 slots were taken up by either 10+ or first-timers; there were also four injury replacements. When Chris Kaman gets an invite, I feel like we’re entering Pro Bowl territory. (To be fair, Kaman was the 7th best center in terms of PER that year, and the third best in the Western Conference, but neither guy ahead of him, Al Jefferson and Marcus Camby, were selected. And he was named as a replacement for Brandon Roy, so it isn’t like they had to name a true center. Just a weird pick altogether.)
- What the hell was going on from 2000-2002? 28 first-time selections? Were we just guessing?
- If I were going to break these up (and I’m going to), I’d call 2000-2002 “The Last Gasp of the ‘90s,” where the old stars were mostly gone but we couldn’t quite figure out who the new ones were yet. Then 2003-2007 “The Rebuild,” where Shaq was the old guard, Kobe/Duncan/Garnett were starting every year, and a slew of future Hall of Famers were making their first appearances. And then 2008 all the way to 2016 as “The Veteran Supremacy.” I suppose you could split it 2008-2013 with Bryant/Duncan/Garnett/Iverson/Nowitzki as the vets and then 2014-2016 with Bryant/Bosh/James/Wade as the vets. Either way, the roster makeup for that near-decade followed a pretty familiar pattern.
- Here’s how those break down
2000-2002: 4.01, 3.77, 2.00, 9.33
2003-2007: 5.18, 4.01, 1.40, 6.20
2008-2016: 6.58, 4.99, 4.22, 5.33
(2008-2013): 6.78, 4.99, 4.00, 5.33
(2014-2016): 6.17, 5.00, 4.67, 5.33
2017: 4.70, 3.67, 1.00, 4.00
Obviously, I can’t draw any trend lines from a single year, but it’s looking like we’re headed for another “Rebuild” phase. This season could obviously be a blip, but it’s unlikely. There just aren’t that many active players who could shift those averages upward. There are only 20 players in the league right now with five or more selections, and about half of them aren’t likely to make another one. The new voting rules could account for the stark change in the makeup of the starting lineups, but the bench procedure is still the same, and that’s down too. My best guess on the future of the All-Star teams is to look at the 2003-2007 rosters, just with more 3-5 selection type guys instead of first-timers.