Blatant 2014 WNBA All-Star snubs were inevitable given some quirky fan voting, but that doesn’t make the biggest omissions any less frustrating for those that were left out.
While the debate about snubs is a ritual that occurs after any player selection of any team in pro sports, whatever disappointment there is about the 2014 WNBA All-Star selections should probably be tempered by the fact that there could be a somewhat unusual number of replacement spots as well.
With Eastern Conference starter Elena Delle Donne and West reserve Seimone Augustus out for the past few weeks as well as East reserve Briann January and West reserve Nneka Ogwumike missing games just last night, there could be as many as four replacement spots available for deserving players.
So the positive way to spin the omission of players who you think deserve spots: who are the top candidates for replacements?
Obviously, folks on Twitter weighed in about the selections almost immediately. Swish Appeal readers have already commented and voted about the matter. And I pre-emptively posted a table of statistics that should make it pretty easy to glean who I think the biggest snubs, er, candidates for replacement spots are.
With some time to think things over, let’s try to bring that together to see who are the players most deserving of a replacement spot.
The top 10 non-All-Stars
First, we’ll begin with the statistics, adding a few to the table I used yesterday:
- MEV (model estimated value): You can find an extended description here, but MEV is different that PER in that it values efficiency over scoring volume.
- True Shooting percentage: To see where players rank among their peers in scoring efficiency.
- Offensive rebounding percentage: To see who the most valuable rebounders are.
- Win Shares: For the MVP race, I gave you WS/48. For this, we just want to know who has done the most to contribute to team wins.
The numbers are as follows, based on the numbers posted yesterday.
Statistics for the top non-All-Stars in the WNBA as of 7/15/14.
When you take those numbers into account in addition to the specific positional battles, it becomes much clearer who should be named as replacements.
The top candidates for replacement spots
This is totally a personal thing, but I really believe players that are the best at something should get spots in the All-Star Game unless they’re otherwise absolutely terrible. And Larkins is arguably the best rebounder in the Eastern Conference.
Larkins actually led the Eastern Conference in total rebounding percentage (18.5%) and was third in offensive rebounding percentage entering last night’s game against the L.A. Sparks and that right there makes her case for inclusion. She ranks first in her conference in true shooting percentage.
That makes her both the best rebounder and most efficient scorer. But calling her the “best” scorer is a bit more difficult.
I actually struggled a bit with Larkins when I was looking over things because her usage rate is low enough that you could say her efficiency is simply a matter of not putting up many shots – she averages just 6 shots per game and makes 4, mostly right around the basket.
The scoring numbers make it easy to see how someone could look at Larkins and see her as a glorified role player. However, that ignores the fact that she has led the team in Tamika Catchings’ injury-absence and improved dramatically as a passer to help keep the Fever in second place. There’s only so much you can dismiss a player doing that much when her team is winning. With everything pointing toward her playing winning basketball and many of the other frontcourt options being woefully inefficient shooters, Larkins definitely deserves a spot in this game.
Hayes’ candidacy as a replacement is less about her standing in the league and more about where she stands among a) guards b) in her conference.
Hayes is the most efficient guard in the Eastern Conference and 10th in the league in 3-point percentage (38.7%) on a team that has been on a desperate search for three point shooting for most of its existence. Although her usage rate (16.77%) isn’t that high – meaning she’s not that involved in an offense with plenty of other weapons – the fact that she gets to the free throw line at an extremely high rate (46.3%) makes her a dangerous scoring option for the Dream. When you throw in that she’s a plus defender and 10th in the league in net plus/minus, her case for inclusion is clear.
She wasn’t the first player I personally thought about as a reserve, but Hayes is a top option when you look at the other perimeter options in the conference – she was arguably the second-best candidate in the conference behind Cappie Pondexter. With Dream teammate Shoni Schimmel taking a starting spot, it made things hard on coaches who justifiably filled the extra player spot with a frontcourt player and opted to included a point guard as a reserve (also justifiable).
But Hayes is really the most deserving guard left off the roster in either conference and the fact that a rookie teammate is part of the reason compounds the feeling that she was snubbed.
In another unfortunate story of intra-teammate snubbing, there’s a solid argument that Courtney Paris should have made the game over Glory Johnson in the Western Conference.
It’s not only that Paris leads the league in rebounding (offensive and total) and has a league-high offensive rating of 124.6, but also that her rebounding efforts are extremely significant to the Shock’s success – as discussed previously, as much as Skylar Diggins’ improvement is important to the Shock, the team’s rebounding has been carrying them this season and Paris is the lead player in that.
I am sympathetic to Pat’s point that a team currently sitting in last place (in the league) shouldn’t have two players in the All-Star Game, but I also think there’s a justification for that (with Paris or Johnson): the Shock are an extremely imbalanced team with their top three players (Skylar Diggins, Paris, and Johnson, in that order) combining for a whopping 82% of the team’s statistical production. I recall critiquing the Seattle Storm a few years back for relying on their starting five for something like 85% of their team’s production – the Shock’s situation is even more extreme.
We can’t really hold those top three responsible for having teammates that just aren’t producing – All-Star bids are individual awards, not much different than MVP awards (which is why saying that the MVP should go to the best player on the best team is a fallacious argument). Winning is certainly part of the equation, but it probably shouldn’t exclude someone from the discussion.
When healthy, Seimone Augustus was certainly among the best guards in the conference and worthy of a reserve spot in the Western Conference. Having missed 7 of her team’s 22 games, that might be a little more murky and there’s a solid argument that Penny Taylor deserved a spot instead.
Pursuant to the discussion above about team success, Taylor’s candidacy is not about the Mercury’s winning percentage so much as how she’s performing on the court – Taylor has the fourth-highest true shooting percentage in the league and the versatility to make herself a vital contributor on a championship contender.
Taylor might not be the obvious choice for an All-Star spot, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a better perimeter player in the conference after Augustus.
If we’re going to include currently injured players in this thing though, it’s really hard to just leave Epiphanny Prince out. Prince has missed 7 of her team’s 21 games, but that’s essentially the same (and actually better than) Augustus’ missed time.
Once you get past the missed time, Prince is clearly the next best guard on the board statistically after Pondexter, Hayes, and Katie Dougla by the standard of any single-number metric. Looking a bit deeper, she’s as efficient a scorer as Douglas or a player like Shavonte Zellous, who also had a case for inclusion. When you add Prince’s efficiency as a ball handler – as discussed in yesterday’s stats post – Prince actually has a strong argument.
Yet all of that depends how you evaluate a player who missed a third of her team’s games – there’s certainly reason to exclude her, but there should be some measure of consistency about it.
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Who do you think should get a spot as a replacement player based on the context of their position in their conference? Vote in the poll below and tell us why you voted that way in the comments.
For more analysis on why each of these players was a worthy choice for the game, check out yesterday’s earlier stats post. For more analysis of the All-Star rosters, check out our 2014 WNBA All-Star Game section.
Poll Who was the biggest snub from the 2014 All-Star Game roster?
- Tiffany Hayes, Atlanta Dream
- Crystal Langhorne, Seattle Storm
- Erlana Larkins, Indiana Fever
- Camille Little, Seattle Storm
- Emma Meesseman, Washington Mystics
- Courtney Paris, Tulsa Shock
- Epiphanny Prince, Chicago Sky
- Penny Taylor, Phoenix Mercury
- Shavonte Zellous, Indiana Fever
- Other (please tell us who in the comments)
83 votes | Results