The East is where things were apparently a bit different. As expected, the coaches went with veterans Joe Johnson and Paul Pierce, leaders on contending teams. The selection of Derrick Rose was a bit more surprising, but Rose has played at an All-Star level in the month of January, his slow start was apparently largely due to injury and Rose is a second-year player on the rise. It’s hard to get worked up over his inclusion.
While each of the choices may be reasonable individually, they added up to one omission that appears to truly deserve one of my least favorite words in the English language, the overused “snub.” (Each year, approximately 850 players are “snubbed” for the All-Star Game, according to at least one media report. And yes, I do know there are fewer players than that in the league.) Atlanta’s Josh Smith has been, by WARP, one of the top 10 players in the NBA. If not quite that good, Smith rates well by all the other individual metrics (he’s 16th in EWA, John Hollinger’s equivalent PER over replacement). The Hawks, one of the league’s better teams, have been 10.8 points better per 100 possessions with Smith on the floor, and his adjusted plus-minus for this season ranks 18th in the league.
Basically, it’s hard to make the argument that Smith has not been one of the league’s best 20 or so players, and certainly one of the 12 best in the Eastern Conference. The usual explanations don’t seem to apply here. It’s not exactly like Smith an obscure favorite of statistical analysts or a star on a losing ballclub (Eric Freeman points out at The Dagger that, since Charlotte and Chicago won last night, every All-Star is from a team with a record at .500 or better). We’re talking about the third-leading scorer and second-leading rebounder on an elite team that is sending two other players (Johnson and Al Horford) to Dallas. Smith was surely hurt to some extent by the voting format–Johnson and Rose probably split the backup guard votes that didn’t go to Rajon Rondo, while he most likely only appeared on ballots in the utility spots. Beyond that, however, I just don’t get this at all.