What about Dame? The biggest NBA All-Star snubs of the past three years

By Brendan Kent

I’ll start with a full disclosure: I’m a biased Oregonian who believes that the Lillard-McCollum 2020 ticket is America’s best hope for a brighter tomorrow. That being said, I think a number of neutrals would agree that Dame has recently been unfairly excluded from the NBA All-Star Game. And as for C.J….

ASG snubs are an inevitable product of limited spots and, increasingly, a concentration of talent in a Western Conference that is allocated just as many All-Stars as the NBA’s Triple-A league, officially called the “Eastern Conference.” But just who the biggest snubs are is up for debate. Bleacher Report picked its top five from 2017:

My purpose here was to identify the statistically biggest snubs for the past three ASGs. With data from Basketball Reference, I created a logistic regression model to estimate the probability that an NBA player will be an All-Star based on basic box-score statistics put up by the player from all games through January of the NBA season. The predictors included were offensive rebounds, defensive rebounds, assists, blocks, personal fouls, points, and plus/minus, all on a per-game basis.

For each of the past three ASGs (2017, 2016, and 2015), I trained the model on data from the previous five seasons, so the estimated All-Star probabilities for the 2017 ASG are based on a model fit on data from the 2011/12 season through the 2015/16 season, and the probabilities for the 2016 ASG are based on a model fit on data from the 2010/11 season through the 2014/15 season.

The model is meant to answer the question: based on Player X’s box score statistics through January, what is the probability that he will make the All-Star team? This is not to say that players with high estimated All-Star probabilities should make the team or deserve to make the team—I’ll leave it to you to decide on what grounds potential All-Stars should be judged—rather that they’ve performed at a level similar to players that have made the team in the recent past. Theoretically, the player with the highest All-Star probability in a given season that didn’t make the team can be crowned “The Biggest Snub.”

And one last note: if a player was not initially chosen to the All-Star team, but was ultimately a replacement player for the game, he is listed as an All-Star. For example, in 2017, Melo replaced the injured Kevin Love and is, therefore, listed as having been an All-Star in that year. Those who were ultimately replaced, like Love, are also listed as All-Stars.

That said, here are the results…

By these All-Star probability estimates, Chris Paul was the biggest snub in 2017, with Karl-Anthony Towns, Blake Griffin, and Lillard close behind. Griffin, for his part, was out with an injury leading up to and during the selection process. The most “unlikely” All-Stars by this model were Carmelo Anthony (the replacement for Love) and DeAndre Jordan.

Griffin and Lillard were major snubs in 2016 as well, with the highest estimated All-Star probabilities among non-All-Stars in that year. Kobe was by far the most “unlikely” All-Star (he’s not visible on this list because he didn’t make the 5% probability cutoff).

In 2015, DeMarcus Cousins made the All-Star team as Kobe Bryant’s replacement. Had he not been named a replacement, he would’ve been the biggest snub that year. Lillard would have come in second on the snub-list, had he not also been named as a replacement, in his case for Griffin. With Cousins and Lillard out the running, the biggest snub of 2015 was Zach Randolph. Kobe was also the most unlikely All-Star in this year.

It should come as no surprise that the biggest All-Star snubs over the last three years came out of the stacked Western Conference. And with additional movement west by the likes of Melo, Paul George, and Jimmy Butler, we should expect more of the same when this season’s All-Stars are announced in early 2018. Am I hopeful of seeing Dame at the ASG in February? Not very, but at least Dame tends use the snubs as fuel…

Be on the lookout for the 2018 edition of the biggest snub list when the teams are announced early next year.

Editors Note: If you would like to reach out to Brendan about this post, feel free to reach out to him at brendankent@college.harvard.edu.

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