Picking the NBA Team of the Decade, No All-Stars Allowed

Back in December, the NBA world was bombarded with content about the team of the decade, like it’s somehow profound to decide that LeBron James, Steph Curry, and Kevin Durant are in fact worthy of that distinction. Great, that’s cool, and I’ve read them all despite redundancy. But what about the guys who worked their ass off all decade long and never made it to the All-Star Game? They’re the real heroes, holding the Association together while the stars tear it apart.

Now I’m not planning on taking this position by position, because if one thing was obvious about the 2010’s, it was the revelation and integration of position-less basketball. Back when I was young, John Stockton brought the ball up every damn possession for the Jazz. If you port that team into 2019, Karl Malone and Blue Edwards are definitely running point for some reason. It does look goofy, but it also opens up possibilities that were once, for some reason, taboo in the game. Players are faster and stronger than ever before, and despite height disparity, many bigs can dribble and many little guys can post up.

My main metric class will be stats per 100 possessions, a defining point to assessing the value of a player on a large and small scale. All players will have had to complete at least four (4) full seasons, or 328 games between October 2009 and April 2019. As always, major kudos to the greatest site in the galaxy- Sports-Reference.com for all of this glorious data.

So in lieu of what I said about position-less basketball above, the basic divisions of guard and forward are rather important. In order to give smaller guys and bigger guys their equal respect, I will designate two guards and three forwards per team, with exceptions given for guys who play pretty much everything- think Kawhi Leonard, but then again you won’t be hearing from him as we move on.

First up is the guards. If we take the archetype point guards of the era- Curry (3PM), Chris Paul (Steals), and Russell Westbrook (Rebounds), we’ll notice each one is a distinct outlier in one particular category. Of course, all three, plus their spiritual brother James Harden, were multiple all-stars. Using them as a guideline for what mattered in the era is a nice way to gauge a player’s value.

So let’s start with three-pointers. Never before has the long ball, and not just at the line but often several feet back, been such an important part of the sport. The floor gets spread out nearly to mid-court, which opens up play up in the paint. The weaponry displayed by modern guards is absurd, even in a forward-driven league.

Query Results Table
CritCritCrit Per Per
Rk Player From To G 3PA 3P% 3P
3PA
1J.J. Redick201020196965.5.4154.19.8
2Eric Gordon201020195516.5.3723.710.0
3J.R. Smith201020196225.7.3723.79.9
4Tim Hardaway201420194035.4.3433.510.3
5Wesley Matthews201020197245.6.3823.48.9
6CJ McCollum201420194115.0.4013.38.3
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/16/2019.

Of the guards to take at least 5 threes per game, only six fit our original criteria. None of them should be a surprise, as they’re all well known for their role-playing capabilities. Per 100 possessions, J.J. Redick was the most prolific of the group, culling over 12 points solely on threes. Take a look at CJ McCollum though. Despite shooting just at the fringe of exactly 5 threes per game, his percentage is right behind Redick’s. Still, if we need a shooter in the back court, its hard to argue against J.J.’s production.

Query Results Table
CritCritCritCrit
Rk Player From To G TOV STL STL
1Monta Ellis201020176014.02.51082
2Mike Conley201020196533.22.51027
3Tony Allen201020185382.93.6866
4Darren Collison201020197083.32.0819
5Mario Chalmers201020185643.72.8790
6Thabo Sefolosha201020196221.82.5742
7Raymond Felton201020196523.42.1702
8J.R. Smith201020196222.32.0692
9Brandon Jennings201020185553.72.1679
10Ty Lawson201020175513.62.0636
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/16/2019.

We can see that by sorting by total steals, an almost entirely different group shows up. I added a category for turnovers per 100 possessions, because I feel like if we’re going to discuss a player’s ability to take the ball away, we should note how much they give it away as well. The real outliers when that is considered are Allen, Sefolosha, and Smith, our only returning player. Thabo Sefolosha shows up because he played primarily shooting guard for the first five seasons of the decade. Tony Allen and J.R. Smith each had one season not primarily at a guard position.

Then of course, there are Monta Ellis and Mike Conley. The latter, by virtue of playing the entire decade, had more opportunities for total steals, but still fell short of Ellis. The important thing to factor in to Conley’s consideration is how he broke 1,000 steals for the decade but only turned the ball over 3.2 times per 100P. If we were to drop the criteria for threes to 4 per game, Conley is included on the prior chart, dramatically leading the pack when sorted by steals.

Query Results Table
CritCritCrit
Rk Player From To G 3PA STL
1Mike Conley201020196534.01027
2Wesley Matthews201020197245.6790
3J.R. Smith201020196225.7692
4Brandon Jennings201020185554.8679
5Lou Williams201020196844.6641
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/16/2019.

Then of course, there’s the peculiar stat of rebounds by a primary guard. Over the last few years, we’ve grown accustomed to players like Russell Westbrook and now Luca Doncic padding their resumes but snaring rebounds from players who could do it more easily.

Query Results Table
CritCritCrit Per Per
Rk Player From To G TRB TRB ORB DRB
1Evan Turner201120196868.832401.07.7
2Thabo Sefolosha201020196228.525091.67.0
3Tony Allen201020185388.921563.35.5
4Lance Stephenson201120195089.121241.47.7
5Jeremy Lamb201320194358.815881.37.6
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/16/2019.

I left the division of offensive and defensive rebounds per 100P for perspective. Where everyone is lingering in the 7 defensive boards area, Tony Allen is there, throwing his body into the more difficult scrum of snaring offensive ones. He has OVER TWICE AS MANY offensive rebounds per 100P as the next best guy. It makes his second place finish in overall rebounds per 100P that much more impressive.

For me, the names that are set apart in this discussion are Mike Conley, Tony Allen, J.R. Smith, J.J. Redick, Thabo Sefolosha, and I’ll qualify Wesley Matthews for sliding in on a few different boards above.

A major problem with evaluating players by statistics is that in theory a statistic can tell whatever you want it to tell.

God bless the loons at FS Indiana for this. I treasure it, truly.

I could find a stat that basically proves Player X was the best of the decade, but what really matters is when taken as a whole, how valuable was that particular player? Baseball has WAR, Wins Above Replacement, as a universal metric for evaluation. It’s not perfect, but its about as close to perfect as we can get in the year of our lord 2019.

Basketball has VORP, or Value Over Replacement Player as its “kitchen sink” stat. Once we sort just by that, a few new names appear who were not featured above.

Query Results Table
CritCritCrit TotaTota
Rk Player From To Tm Lg G VORP
TRB GS MP
1Mike Conley20102019MEMNBA65324.9191265121811
2Danny Green20102019TOTNBA62019.9216954415769
3George Hill20102019TOTNBA64918.9209544019201
4Wesley Matthews20102019TOTNBA72417.4224066223579
5Eric Bledsoe20112019TOTNBA57016.8222940815903
6Thabo Sefolosha20102019TOTNBA62213.5250941314869
7Tyreke Evans20102019TOTNBA59412.6272042618242
8Ricky Rubio20122019TOTNBA49812.3209247715370
9Lou Williams20102019TOTNBA68411.8163711018404
10Tony Allen20102018TOTNBA53811.7215636712750
11Darren Collison20102019TOTNBA70811.1188551820796
12J.R. Smith20102019TOTNBA62211.0221427218211
13J.J. Redick20102019TOTNBA69610.9150444719651
14Ty Lawson20102017TOTNBA55110.9150634416088
15Vince Carter20102019TOTNBA70410.6223921316220
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/16/2019.

While Conley is the clear A1 option, Danny Green and George Hill make their case. Lets look at their stats, primarily in those areas we focused on earlier.

Query Results Table
CritCrit Per Per Per Per Per Per Per
Rk Player From To G VORP 3P 3PA ORB DRB TRB STL TOV
2Danny Green2010201962019.93.79.21.25.87.02.02.1
3George Hill2010201964918.92.36.01.04.65.61.72.3
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/16/2019.

While nothing stands out individually, what does is how both players seemed to live just on the fringe of each statistical category of the archetypes. So Green and Hill deserve a spot on the list, having played nearly double the games required and, well, being extremely valuable to their squads. So, we have our guards to choose from:

  • Mike Conley
  • Tony Allen
  • Wesley Matthews
  • J.J. Redick
  • J.R. Smith
  • George Hill
  • Thabo Sefolosha
  • Danny Green

Now, we needs some forwards to pair with them. I’ll be looking at standard forwards as well as prototypical centers for this category, as the “stretch-four” forward has been very common in this era. That archetypes for this are two-way threats like Paul George and Kawhi Leonard as well as powerful big men like Anthony Davis and Dwight Howard. Then, obviously, is LeBron James, who embodied the position-less concept by at times being the floor general and top scoring threat.

A forward’s primary goal, as it has been since the game’s inception, is to score. A million years ago, guards merely moved around and fed the ball inside to a forward or kicked it out to a wing player for a 12-foot jump shot. Now, in the future, centers shoot three pointers and then crash the boards. The objective is to score the points, though, so let’s start there for the forwards.

Query Results Table
CritCritCrit ShooShooShooShooShooShoo
Rk Player From To G PTS
PTS FG% 2P% 3P% eFG% FT% TS%
1Al Jefferson2010201858428.416.1.496.498.163.497.722.522
2Michael Beasley2010201952827.712.2.464.482.342.486.757.518
3Carlos Boozer2010201542927.415.6.506.506.000.506.719.536
4Enes Kanter2012201958327.211.9.541.548.294.545.780.584
5Andrea Bargnani2010201632927.115.6.447.479.334.484.820.528
6Marreese Speights2010201862627.08.0.454.471.358.481.800.526
7Rudy Gay2010201964126.917.9.458.485.346.492.806.538
8Charlie Villanueva2010201638226.48.2.417.478.348.499.741.518
9Hassan Whiteside2011201934326.013.4.574.576.222.575.593.589
10Danilo Gallinari2010201952125.616.4.425.464.374.507.870.588
11Tobias Harris2012201954625.415.4.471.512.364.521.822.562
12Ryan Anderson2010201958125.012.9.424.474.381.526.854.563
13Carl Landry2010201640225.011.3.525.526.308.526.791.586
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/16/2019.

Sorting by players who scored at least 25 points per 100P, we get a class of 13, featuring some names I’d bet you haven’t thought about in a while. Al Jefferson is the leader in that regard. Not shown here for space saving purposes is how he took the most shots per game, with 25 (!!!). Still, if his objective is to score, it makes sense that he’s on the roster. Hassan Whiteside, on the other hand, is at the top of every percentage rank besides free throws, a particular sore spot for big men.

The most insane thing I learned in doing this project is that Rudy Gobert has not been an All-Star. Is there no justice? I could toss him on to the list of forwards without explanation but okay here I’ll go ahead. Here is a comparative list for his career to date.

Similarity to everyone on that list is what you’d want in a career. If that’s not enough, how about his Basketball Reference badge set.

Gobert is on track for the Hall of Fame, and he might just achieve it without an All-Star bid. There are just so many great forwards in the game today. I need to move on, but yes, Gobert is in our finalist group.

Defense, particularly in the paint is vital to a forward’s statistical health. How good is a guy at blocks and boards? That’s an easy indication for traditional centers.

Enter: Serge Ibaka, the once-heralded fourth wheel of Oklahoma City’s Big Three. Now, he’s the only one with a title that did not come after joining a 73-win rival.

Query Results Table
CritCritCrit Per ShooShoo
Rk Player From To G BLK BLK GS MP FG% TS%
1Serge Ibaka201020197532.2162661928.7.514.570
3Rudy Gobert201420194062.289531428.7.629.650
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/12/2020.

Only 2 forwards played at least 350 games in the ’10s and averaged 2.2 blocks per game. Previously noted Rudy Gobert, and Serge. He was the Rock of Gibraltar, a level of consistency that just seems stupid in totality. In fact, of the seven players with at least 1,000 blocks, Serge ranks ahead of them all, and he is also the lone player without an All-Star appearance.

Query Results Table
CritCrit Per
Rk Player From To G BLK BLK
1Serge Ibaka2010201975316262.2
2DeAndre Jordan2010201976612911.7
3Dwight Howard2010201963712371.9
4Anthony Davis2013201946611212.4
5Brook Lopez2010201963510981.7
6Roy Hibbert2010201759210701.8
7Marc Gasol2010201971310681.5
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/12/2020.

One of the names I did not expect to come up in this is Marcin Gortat, but lets look at the table.

Query Results Table
CritCrit TotaTotaTotaTotaTota
Rk Player From To Tm Lg TRB TRB% G ORB DRB BLK
TOV
1DeAndre Jordan20102019TOTNBA865321.77662588606512911094
2Dwight Howard20102019TOTNBA807721.26372198587912371857
3Pau Gasol20102019TOTNBA621817.0642156246569411199
4Andre Drummond20132019DETNBA742424.454226084816845969
5Marcin Gortat20102019TOTNBA610517.473716554450831931
6LaMarcus Aldridge20102019TOTNBA647314.3730198344907801208
7DeMarcus Cousins20112019TOTNBA613118.9565156545666972000
8Kevin Love20102019TOTNBA666319.6576164450192531153
9Zach Randolph20102018TOTNBA600918.0610199240171641174
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/12/2020.

Of forwards with at least 6,000 rebounds, only 5 also had at least 800 blocks in the decade. Add in also having the fewest turnovers in the group, and you might see what I see in Gortat. He is the lone non-All-Star on that table, with many of the others having logged several appearances.

So I feel comfortable in saying that I have six forwards who fit the bill.

  • Al Jefferson
  • Hassan Whiteside
  • Michael Beasley
  • Rudy Gobert
  • Serge Ibaka
  • Marcin Gortat

So now after all of that nonsense, I give you the Fancy Boys Club TEAM OF THE DECADE, NO ALL-STARS ALLOWED

FIRST TEAM

  1. Mike Conley
  2. J.J. Redick
  3. Rudy Gobert
  4. Serge Ibaka
  5. Al Jefferson

SECOND TEAM

  1. Tony Allen
  2. Thabo Sefolosha
  3. Michael Beasley
  4. Hassan Whiteside
  5. Marcin Gortat

So, I guess I’ll just sit back and let you tell me how right I am.

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