The starters for this year’s NBA All-Star game were announced last weekend, and of course with that comes some controversy about certain players starting over others. One big example of this is Paul George being chosen to start this year over players like Anthony Davis. This week we will debate who was more deserving to be named the starter for All-Star Weekend, George or Davis?
Conner Gilson: Without a doubt Anthony Davis deserved to be named a starter in this year’s All-Star Game. I understand that George is having a career year but the numbers that Davis puts up on a nightly basis are unmatched. Davis currently ranks in the top 10 in almost every major stat including second in scoring (29.3), fourth in rebounds (13.3), second in blocks (2.56), and tied for 10th in steals (1.71).
Davis is a monster on both ends of the court and even currently leads the league in Player Efficiency Rating (PER), which measures a player’s per minute rating by summing up all a player's positive accomplishments, subtracting the negative accomplishments, and returning a per-minute rating of a player's performance. George isn’t found on that list until 18th showing not only that Davis puts up better numbers, but that he also does it more efficiently and effectively. The value Davis brings to the Pelicans, while not entirely shown in their record, is insurmountable and more than deserving of a starting spot in the All-Star Game.
Sean Janos: I think the voters got this one right. Davis and George are each the star players on their respective teams this season, and while Davis’ stats are indeed more impressive, George is on a team that currently sits at third in the frightening Western Conference. Davis’ Pelicans are all the way down at third to last. The disparity between the two teams is quite large, while the gap between George and Davis statistically is much smaller. George scores 27 points per game with eight rebounds, which isn’t bad considering Steven Adams and Russell Westbrook account for 21 of OKC’s rebounds every game. Davis blocks two more shots than George per game, but George is second in the NBA in steals (2.31). Both players are receiving All-Defensive First Team consideration, so let’s call their defenses a push.
We’ve seen players put up gaudy, but empty stats on losing teams before, just look at George’s teammate Westbrook’s 2016-17 MVP season. In Westbrook’s final season without George, he averaged a triple double for the first time since Oscar Robertson. However, the Thunder were only the sixth seed and were bounced in the first round 4-1. High usage guys that fill the box score aren’t usually the same guys that win a lot. Big stats on bad teams are nice and all, but the best players can win games.
Gilson: All fair points, but it is interesting that you bring up Westbrook in comparison to Davis this year. Sure it didn’t lead the success one might expect, but in the end Westbrook was named MVP of the league, and it is nearly impossible for the MVP of a league to not be chosen to start in the All-Star game. Of course Davis’ stats can be seen as empty or not having much of an impact, but you cannot fight the fact that the career numbers he is putting up across the board have more than earned him at least a starting spot in the game that is meant to showcase the most talented players in the league
Also I wouldn’t quite call the two players’ defenses as a push. What George has been able to do this season in terms of steals is incredible and he has solidified himself as a top perimeter defender in the league, but I would still give the overall defensive edge to The Brow. Davis is averaging 2.6 blocks for the second season in a row and continues to be one of if not the best defender near the rim in the entire league. But along with this, Davis is averaging a career high in steals and leads all big men in the category. The difference between the two player’s steals are minimal while Davis averaging two more blocks per game gives him the definite edge.
Janos: Steals and blocks are dated metrics used to measure a defender’s impact. Westbrook leads the league in steals, and though his defense has improved this season, he still isn’t considered one of the league’s premier defenders. Brook Lopez is sixth in the league in blocks per game (2.08), but the Bucks struggle to play him at the end of game because he’s still a defensive liability. I’m certainly not making this point to discredit Davis’ defensive ability, but rather to rationalize the difference in blocks between the two players. Davis is a rim protector, George operates on the perimeter.
Speaking of perimeter defenders, Davis has Jrue Holiday, who is a reigning member of the All-Defensive First Team. Holiday is averaging 21.2 points, 8.1 assists and 4.9 rebounds per game shooting 48.1 percent from the field. Add his elite perimeter defense, and Holiday looks like New Orleans’ second star. Compare that to OKC’s second star, Westbrook, who while averaging a triple double, is also having one of the worst shooting seasons we’ve ever seen. He’s shooting 41 percent on 20 shot attempts per game, and 24.7 percent on 4.7 three point attempts per game. He also turns the ball over 4.5 times per game, compared to Holiday’s 3.3. Plus, his defense is nowhere near the same level as Holiday’s. While OKC’s roster goes deeper than New Orleans’, Davis isn’t alone on his team. He has a legitimate second star, and yet his team is 13th in the West. George’s second star literally just gives the ball to the other team many, many times per game, and yet he’s played well enough to overcome that and lead his team to third in the conference.