The NBA All-Star Weekend has long been rumored to be the greatest party in sports. Not that I’ve ever been. Mostly the parties I go to involve “World of Warcraft”-themed Monopoly and gourmet cherry sodas, but I’ve “heard” the weekend is non-stop fun and parties.
As the clock ticks down on the final seconds on another All-Star game filled with big dunks, insane shots, and absolutely no defense, you can excuse the All-Stars on the court if their minds are somewhere else. Like that party they went too on Saturday night. Or on the second half of the NBA season and how they can help their teams push forward.
After the All-star game, most teams have approximately 30 games left in the second half of the season. Playoff pushes are coming and the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Miami Heat of the league are solidifying their championship contender status.
In order to accomplish this, they are going to need their All-Stars to play like All-Stars.
The question I’m looking to answer here is how well do All-Stars play in the second half of the season? Are All-Stars better in the first half of the season or does the pressure of the ensuing playoffs push these players’ games to the next level? What does history tell us about how well Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, or Carmelo Anthony will play after their All-Star selection?
In probably the most involved study I’ve done yet for Sporting Charts, I attempt to answers these questions and a few more.
How Does Performance Compare Pre- and Post- All-Star Game?
First, I compiled the statistics from every NBA All-Star over the last five years and divided them into pre-All-Star and post-All-Star numbers. Then, I figured out the average minutes, points, rebounds, assists, field goal percentage, three-point percentage for every All-Star combined, pre All-Star Game and post All-Star Game.
*Quick Note: There were few anomalies in the numbers I had to account for. A few players hurt themselves very early during the second half of the season, therefore rendering their numbers moot, ie Amare Stoudemire in 2009. I took his post-ASG numbers out of the compiled stats. In addition, many big men didn’t attempt or attempted very few three pointers. These numbers are also not included in the final statistics.
Here are those findings:
As you can see, every statistic went down post All-Star Game, save for field goal percentage. The drops in numbers, though, are minimal.
It would seem logical the drop in per game averages can be accounted for by a drop in minutes per game, which the difference of .722 is approximately 43 seconds less game time.
So, why would All-Stars, on average, play 43 seconds less a game in the second half of the season than the first? Well, a reason could be that since All-Stars tend to be selected from good teams, teams in favorable playoff position, that at the end of the season, these teams try to rest their best players more for the playoffs.
Now that we’ve seen how, on average, All-Stars in the second half season tend play a little less and, therefore, affecting their per game averages, we can move onto how individual players fare pre and post All-Star Game.
Of the 120 All-Stars over the last five years, 48 saw their minutes increase during second half of the year. The highest increase was for Dwight Howard in 2011, when he played over three more minutes on a per game average post All-Star Game.
The highest decrease belonged to Allen Iverson in 2009, when his minutes dropped by an astounding eleven and half minutes in the second half of the season. 2009 was the year Iverson washed out of the league and was voted into the All-Star Game solely on reputation.
The second biggest decrease was for Ray Allen in 2008, his first year with the Celtics. He played nearly six and half minutes less in the second half of the season, to preserve him for the playoffs. Well, it worked. The Celtics won the NBA championship that season and Allen hit nearly forty percent of his three pointers during the playoffs.
Of the 120 All-Stars, only 52 increased their scoring average in the second half of the season.
Dwayne Wade in 2009 had the highest increase in points per game, going from 28.3 to a tremendous 33.9. All that extra scoring by Wade in 2009 was needed for the Heat even to make the playoffs. But he couldn’t do it by himself, as the Heat lost in the first round of the playoffs that year. Two seasons later, Wade wouldn’t need to lead the Heat by himself. He would have Lebron James and Chris Bosh to help him.
The last interesting note I will point out from these findings is the fact that Dirk Nitowski owns three of the top four second half three point percentage increases (in 2010, 2008, and 2012). This seems to be more attributed to the fact that Dirk Nowitski was so awful shooting three pointers in the first half of these seasons that he only needed to revert to his career average of .398 to get this distinction.
A Look Ahead To The 2012-2013 All-Stars
The last part of my analysis focuses on what we can expect from this year’s All-Stars during the second half of the season. Who’s more likely to see their scoring go up? Who’s more likely to shoot better? And who’s more likely to see their number go down?
Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade seem to be the best bets for players that will improve in the second half of the season. Both of their scoring improved by over a point in the past during the second half of the season. Plus, Paul’s assists went up by nearly an extra assist a game and Wade’s three-point percentage leaped up by nearly .08 (or he made an extra eight percent of his three pointers he took).
As for the player most likely to see their numbers decrease, Blake Griffin seems to be the best bet. While he’s only played in two All-Star Games prior to this year and therefore it’s a smaller sample size, his numbers have decreased each year after the All-Star Game. His scoring, on average, decreased by over a point per game, while his rebounding dropped by 1.3 rebounds a game.
As for Lebron James’s statistics pre and post All-Star Game appearance, they’ve been constantly awesome. His scoring and shooting numbers were nearly identical in the first and second halves of the season. His rebounding and assists rates actually went up in the second half of the season, though marginally.
Overall, the conclusions we can draw from these numbers is that All-Stars tend to play pretty close to the level they exhibited in the first half of the season in the second half of the season. The top 24 players in the league half way through the season usually remain the top 24 players in the league when the season is over. Most experts have said that Lebron James was the best player in the league pre this year’s All-Star Game in Houston.
If I were a betting man (which I am), I would say it’s going to remain that way.