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Maple Jordan: All-Star Starter
Plus NBL melees, the Sacramento Kings and Cam Reddish.
“It’s Andrew Wiggins time” - Andrew Wiggins
In case you missed it, and I mean, how could you with all the discourse surrounding it, but the NBA All-Star starters were announced the other day.
The rosters? Glad you asked (yes I’m using the Bally Sports Hornets tweet because they have the cleanest and easiest to read graphic).
The OBVIOUS elephant in the room here is Andrew Wiggins being named an All-Star starter. Let’s take a look at his numbers this season.
18.2 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 48.5% FG, 41.4% 3PT, 31.7 minutes
He’s having a pretty good season, and is a key part of the second best record in the Western Conference behind the 40-9 Phoenix Suns, who have zero All-Star starters.
In a vacuum, I don’t personally care that Wiggins is an All-Star. The meaning of being an All-Star has gradually devalued over time to the point where, to use a slur aimed at Giannis Antetokounmpo all those years ago, “all they do is run and jump.”
We’ve also seen an emergence in recent years of “alternative All-Stars.” What I mean by that is guys that are generally a level below the assumed top talent in the league, who overperform for a season and get a vote in because it’s assumed they’ll never make it again.
The classic example is Mike Conley. Conley is one of the most beloved players in the league, but was voted into the All-Star game last year after having season averages of 16.2 points and 6 assists. He’s had four years with higher scoring, and seven years with more assists per game. So why did he get a vote in? Legacy, more than anything, and the narrative of “how is this guy not an All-Star” certainly helped.
Conley had All-Star years, but was never voted in. Last year felt like an equalisation of past wrongs. Andrew Wiggins isn’t quite on that level, but it’s a similar phenomenon.
Look at Devin Booker and Chris Paul for example. Both those guys are having elite seasons statistically and with the requisite team success, but neither was voted in as an All-Star starter. Why? Well a few reasons.
Firstly, the stupid position designations. Both Booker and Paul are backcourt listed, and you couldn’t really begrudge either Stephen Curry or Ja Morant of their All-Star starting berths. Wiggins, however, is listed in the frontcourt, so he’s not competing with them for votes.
This insistence to abide by archaic position designations that have zero relevance to actual basketball gameplay leads more often than not to elite talent being squeezed out in favour of guys that fit their definition of what’s a guard or a forward.
The other reason is us as fans and people in the media love new and different. It’s ingrained in human emotion. By having a great season on a showtime team like the Warriors, it draws eyeballs. Take a look at the voting breakdown below.
It’s not like Wiggins was boosted by a disproportionate fan vote. He got fairly even respect from media and players alike, which carries serious weight. Again, this comes down to being visible and playing on a big market team, that’s on national TV a lot, at the top of the standings, with one of the legends of the sport in Stephen Curry.
If Wiggins was averaging the exact same numbers on this current Minnesota team, a good but not great team, he’d be a fringe All-Star reserve, and that point would be largely argued by the most ardent Wolves fans.
The last point I wanted to make re: Wiggins being voted in as an All-Star starter is who is making these decisions and the repercussions. Bear with me as this may be a bit of a long bow but it’ll make sense I promise.
The NBA has “supermax” deals. These supermax deals are worth 35% of the salary cap and players must meet stringent eligibility criteria. In essence, a player has to have 8 years of NBA service at the end of their current deal, and must be playing for the team that drafted them, or the team that traded for them while they were still on their rookie contract.
If a player meets that first set of basic criteria, then there’s incentive criteria.
Fortunately for any financially-aware Warriors fans, Wiggins fails the first test because the Warriors traded for him after he signed his post-rookie extension with Minnesota. However, had they traded for him during his rookie deal, his path to a supermax becomes a lot clearer.
This is all based on the assumption Wiggins will be named All-NBA this season, and while that might have been a ridiculous concept at the start of the year, think about it now. Having been voted in as a starter, we now have a pretty fair idea of his perception around the league, especially from the media members who make up the voting bloc for awards (Wiggins ranked 6th in Western frontcourt players).
It’s an admittedly long bow with Wiggins, but it does raise the point about future examples where a fan vote could determine a player’s future contract value. I don’t have a perfect solution, and the All-Star is inherently a fan driven spectacle, and while this doesn’t directly impact financial rewards, it does lay groundwork for voters, and voting is heaped in recency bias.
The fans should have a say, and it was Wiggins’ 3rd ranking fan vote that got him over the line compared to guys like Draymond Green and Rudy Gobert, but the longstanding issue of fan vote affecting player compensation should be reviewed by the NBA.
And as a sidenote, read this hilarious story to see how Wiggins dominated the fan vote, through some careful and shrewd Warriors market manipulation (Athletic subscription required).
You may have noticed from the last two editions of The Antisocial Basketballer that there’s been a longform lead story, followed by smaller bites. I think that format works so we’re gonna keep it rolling. On to the rest of the week’s news and thoughts.
Marketing or Melee?
When I was watching the Sydney Kings take on the Perth Wildcats on Sunday afternoon, I certainly did not expect to be greeted with the following scene.
Various replays ensued, trying to find what exactly it was that Dejan Vasiljevic did or said to instigate the reaction, but outside of what appeared to be minor lip service…it didn’t look like much?
Quickly on the incident itself, it was more bizarre than malicious I thought. Considering the Mason Peatling precedent from earlier in the season, I’d be surprised if Hodgson gets more than 1-2 games. Four Sydney Kings players (Jaylen Adams, Xavier Cooks, Jarell Martin and Wani Swaka Lo Buluk) were issued “please explains” as well for various degrees of “engaging in a melee” but if they get anything more than a talking to I’d be flabbergasted.
Anyway, onto the main point I wanted to discuss.
If you scroll through the replies you’ll see sentiments from several indicating that, if the league is going to promote this clip, don’t suspend the players.
It’s a bit of a catch 22 for the league but I somewhat agree with the position. This tweet looks more like engagement hunting than a clip for posterity, and if the league is going to use this in promotional material for sports marketing buzzwords like “passion”, “rivalry” and “feeling”, then penalising the perpetrators seems a little odd.
There was similar sentiment after the Mason Peatling blow to Mitch Creek and it does carry weight. It does seem fairly hypocritical to use the clip on all social channels, watch that sweet sweet engagement roll in, then come out on Monday morning with the company line that “this is not a good look for the league.”
Hodgson should be suspended, as Peatling was before him. Even raising it as a discussion point, something along the lines of “what do you make of this incident?”, or “a melee has broken out in Sydney.” More factual than emotionally charged.
At the end of the day, there is no exact science, and sports have been promoting brawls forever (NRL fans will remember the Brookvale Brawl between Adam Blair and Glenn Stewart). If the NBL subscribe to the “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” theory, I don’t know if there’s much we can expect to change, if indeed we even want that change.
The Sacramento Kings are in the trade rumours for every remotely big name at the upcoming NBA trade deadline. Ben Simmons? Jerami Grant? John Collins? Come on down. It begs the eternal, unanswerable question.
What the hell are the Sacramento Kings doing?
The Kings have drafted three different point guards in the lottery since 2017, in De’Aaron Fox, Tyrese Haliburton and Davion Mitchell. Ironically, the one year they didn’t draft a point guard, they selected Marvin Bagley ahead of /scrolls down the draft/ Trae Young and Luka Doncic. Ouch.
We’ve had conflicting reports about what the Kings are thinking in trade rumours, mainly around star second year guard Haliburton. Earlier reports indicated he was part of a trade offer for Ben Simmons to pair the Australian with Fox (that fit is yuck by the way), while now we’re seeing reports the Kings are building around Fox and Haliburton.
The Kings are a linear narrative. Every year there’s early season hope, followed by one bad run, the scapegoating of someone (usually the head coach), and then you blink and they’re 18-35 with nowhere to go. If anything, this year has proven the Kings need to move on from Fox and go all in on Haliburton.
Haliburton can put up the numbers and lead a team, and while he isn’t the highlight level player Fox is, he’s shown better pure playmaking chops and a consistent outside shot, two things Fox has struggled with over his career so far.
De’Aaron Fox is a great point guard, but we see it time and time again where it’s obvious organisations need to let go for both parties’ sake. The Kings have something in Haliburton, it makes no sense to take the ball out his hands to force a fit that has proven it won’t work.
That’s what made the Ben Simmons rumours so odd, because I can’t imagine a worse fit of two ball handlers than Fox and Simmons. Both are supreme athletes, both can create plays, but the surrounding talent around Simmons (who can’t, and doesn’t, shoot) and Fox (streaky at best) would need to be so specialised to create even the barest amount of space for the pairing to work.
One thing we do know, is Vivek Ranadive won’t die wondering.
Cam Reddish still exists I think?
What was the point in New York trading for Cam Reddish?
Whatever you think of Reddish the player and what his potential as a scorer in the NBA is…the Knicks gave up Kevin Knox and a future first for this man to play a combined 20 minutes in nearly three weeks in New York.
And the funny thing? The Knicks suck. Like, they really really suck.
They’re not a good team in a bunch of close games, they’re regularly getting comfortably lapped by good and average teams alike. Double digit losses to Charlotte and New Orleans? No room for Reddish. Blowout to Milwaukee? Need to see what the vets can provide.
If the Knicks were winning no one would question the strategy, and Thibodeau saying he needed to earn his minutes was met with begrudging acceptance from Knicks fans and national media.
But the Knicks, and I cannot stress this enough, suck.
The Knicks are going in reverse this season, after a strong season last year that now looks like an aberration more than a sign of consistent growth and improvement. The Knicks invested a first round pick in Reddish, not a small price to pay, and with the season going so poorly, it seems so nonsensical to at least see what you have.
Before long, the Knicks will be so far adrift the play in race that Reddish might be playing 25 minutes a night with a bunch of G-Leaguers as New York rests its veterans.
I’ll be recording a new episode of the Beyond The Fence podcast this weekend with Tim Wray, covering All-Star selections, mid season award races, and the NBA futures of Aron Baynes and Joe Ingles.
Subscribe to the show so the episode hits your feeds when it drops.