First-Time All-Stars: Western Conference
By Jay Cipoletti
When the 63rd NBA All-Star Game tips off on Sunday night, six players will make their debut in the midseason showcase, three from each conference. We take a look at the numbers to see how these players have earned their trip to New Orleans, starting with the Western Conference.
The only first-time All-Star selected to start in this year's game, Curry has managed to improve his game through his first five years in the League, despite taking on an increased role in the Warriors' offense each year.
Curry enters the All-Star break shooting 55.6% eFG, a mark second only to the 58.3% eFG he posted in the 2011-12 season. The stark difference between the two seasons is his Usage Rate. In the 2011-12 season, his 23.5% Usage Rate was above only his rookie season rate of 21.8%.
This season, serving as the primary shot creator as well as shot taker, Curry is being used on 28.2% of the Warriors possessions. In addition to maintaining his shooting proficiency despite taking a higher volume of shots (career high 7.9 3s per 36 minutes), Curry's 8.6 assists per 36 minutes is well above his career average of 6.7.
And he is taking care of the ball too -- his 2.21 A/TO ratio thus far is the second highest of his career, behind only last year's 2.24. Only his Eastern Conference counterpart Kyrie Irving boasts higher A/TO and Usage Rates (2.34 A/TO; 28.8% Usage).
That is a tried and true All-Star formula -- maintain an elite level of play while substantially increasing Usage Rate.
You can look at Davis through the traditional big man stat lens and his All Star selection makes perfect sense. Being one of only five 20/10 guys in the League (20.5 pts, 10.1 rebs) is certainly worthy of selection.
It still takes a backseat to what he is doing on the defensive end. Davis is averaging 3.1 blocks in 35.9 minutes per game. Opposing teams are averaging 2.8 made field goals on 6.1 attempts at the rim when Davis is defending it. Davis is blocking more shots than teams are making at the rim against him.
Most elite rim protectors will face a shot in close every 3.5 minutes or so. Surprisingly, Roy Hibbert faces one every 3.1 minutes of court time; Andre Drummond faces one every 3.88 minutes. Tim Duncan, Andrew Bogut, Serge Ibaka, DeAndre Jordan, John Henson and Dwight Howard all fall within that range. This year, Anthony Davis has faced a shot at the rim every 5.89 minutes.
Lillard has followed up his Rookie of the Year campaign by fine tuning what was already a very efficient game. While taking and making nearly an identical number of shots as he did this time last year, Lillard has increased his per game scoring average from 19.0 to 20.7 by taking and making more 3s as a percentage of total FGAs, where he can take full advantage of his lethal step back jumper.
Of players scoring at least 6.0 pts per game on pull-up jumpers, Lillard ranks fifth in FG% at 40.9%. The result is a shot chart with plenty of green in the primary ball screen shot zones -- Above the Break 3s and the "Cradle" just inside the arc on either side.
While Lillard struggles to finish well on his rim attacks, he has increased his FT Rate from 0.249 his rookie year to 0.320 this season, well above the NBA Average of 0.282. When Lillard draws foul shots, it may as well be a layup. He shoots 88.4% from the foul line, tops among players attempting at least five FTs per game.