2023 NBA All-Star: Joel Embiid Biggest Starter Nudge; Anthony Davis had a strong case against Zion Williamson

The 2023 NBA All-Star starters were announced Thursday night, and of course a few players looking at bankrolls have a legitimate beef. First, here are the starters, chosen using a weighted system where fan vote accounted for 50 percent and media and player vote for 25 percent each.

Now let’s move on to the starter snubs, starting with the most obvious ones.

It’s not an honest snub unless you can say who should be replaced and in that case Embiid deserves to start from Anteokounmpo. The media and players agreed and voted Embiid third among frontcourt players behind Tatum and Durant, but Embiid finished fourth in the fan vote where Giannis finished first. That was the difference.

I get the argument that fans are the lifeblood of the league and they should see who they want to see in the All-Star Game, but they got that wrong. Embiid scores more than Antetokounmpo with a far better shot percentage.

Embiid is in the top 5 in many catch-all metrics, in the top 10 in all, and trails only Jokic in PER. Giannis, meanwhile, barely surpasses Embiid on Defensive Win Shares and Defensive Box Plus/Minus while earning 14th place in VORP, 18th place in OBPM, 26th place in RAPTOR WAR, 27th place in Win Shares and 46th place in .place in OWS occupied.

Those last few numbers reflect Giannis’ continued shortcomings on the half-court, particularly as a perimeter creator. Giannis is incredible, of course, but this season reminds us that he’s still a more flawed player than his status as arguably the best player in the world suggests.

Although Embiid has to cover James Harden and Tyrese Maxey in backcourt, Embiid has Philly’s defense ranked 7th in the league according to Cleaning The Glass. Take Harden off the field and Embiid has Philly with a 104.4 defensive rating that would easily rank as the best in the league.

Giannis’ offense doesn’t look nearly as good, either on paper or to the eye. His midrange shooting is way down, and if you put him on the court without Jrue Holiday, the Bucks will become a neutral team with a low-range offensive rating, according to CTG. All in all, Giannis is in command of an offense that CTG ranks 23rd overall and in halfcourt.

Look, we’re splitting hairs here. Both Embiid and Antetokounmpo are front runners in the grocery chain. But Embiid is having a better year, even factoring in Khris Middleton’s absence. He should be higher than Giannis in the MVP race, and with all due respect to the fans, he should start in the All-Star Game.

Davis averages 27.2 points, 12.1 rebounds and 2.2 blocks with a 65.9 true shoot. Those first three numbers trump Zion Williamson’s marks – the rebounds and blocks significantly. The TS percentages are almost identical.

With Davis on the ground, the Lakers have the best defensive rating in the league, per CTG, of no other elite defensemen. Zion has gotten better defensively, but he’s far more a product of a good New Orleans defense than a standout in his own right during Davis is the defense of the Lakers. There was a stretch when Davis was the league’s top player that season. You can’t say that about Williamson.

Why wasn’t Davis made a starter? Quite simply, he hasn’t played enough – only 29 games. That would be a valid argument when we’re talking about the next player on this list, Domantas Sabonis, who has played all but two games for the Kings, but Zion himself has only played 33 games. Playing four more games shouldn’t make Zion a starter if Davis was the better player.

Domantas Sabonis

Sabonis was an absolute stallion for the Kings. A Nikola Jokic Light, he’s a brute in the post but also the offensive focal point of a second-tier Kings offense that’s falling 10 points per 100 possessions, according to CTG. Want to guess how many players are averaging at least 18 points, 12 rebounds, and seven boards this season? one. Sabonis.

As mentioned above, Sabonis has also played 45 games against Zion’s 33, and that doesn’t add up to two more weeks that Williamson will miss. The Kings have a three-game advantage over the Pels in the loss column coming into play on Thursday. Sabonis ranks ahead of Williamson in VORP, BPM, DBPM, OBPM, WS, OWS, DWS and Total RAPTOR and RAPTOR WAR.

So what was the problem? Zion is a flashier name and scores more, and fans suck for both. Zion received the fourth most fan votes off the forecourt; Sabonis finished ninth. Zion was great when he was on the pitch, but given the gap in games played, Sabonis deserved that starting spot.

Haliburton is the guard for the Eastern Conference Sabonis. He’s been great all season but he’s not the big name. Seven guards got more fan votes and he finished sixth in player voting.

Donovan Mitchell is a no-brainer, and Kyrie Irving is more than worthy. But if anyone has a legitimate problem with Irving, it’s Haliburton, who leads the league in assist percentage and is second to James Harden in assists per game despite not dominating the ball; Irving’s 29.1 usage rate ranks 19th in the league, while Haliburton’s 23.7 ranks 82nd.

Haliburton is also a better shooter than Irving at 40 percent from 3 to nearly eight tries per game with a slightly higher number of true shots. Again, I have no problem with Irving being a starter. He was really good. But if Haliburton had won the bid, I wouldn’t have objected either. It’s a borderline snub. Definitely worth mentioning in this post.

https://www.cbssports.com/nba/news/2023-nba-all-star-joel-embiid-biggest-starter-snub-anthony-davis-had-a-strong-case-over-zion-williamson/ 2023 NBA All-Star: Joel Embiid Biggest Starter Nudge; Anthony Davis had a strong case against Zion Williamson

Chris Estrada

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