Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - It is now time for the 2015 edition of the Vince McMahon "No Chance" All-Stars, a showcase for those enjoying great seasons, yet not great enough to merit honest consideration for a roster spot in the NBA All-Star Game.
The rules are simple. For the sake of the column, we will assume the starting lineups, as voted (and pretty well must I say) by the fans' remains. The conference coaches vote for the reserves with the formula of two backcourt players, three frontcourt players and two wild-card, any-position players.
These players selected in this column are not under real consideration for a spot on their respective conference's All-Star team. The reasons vary as does their closeness to making the actual game in New York.
Most of these gentlemen miss out on a spot because of how the real All-Stars are chosen. Winning teams send more players to the game, thus, this list comprises quite a few names from losing teams. The other type of player is the "slightly better than a role player for a great team."
Anyway, the 14 men mentioned below represent the 2015 Vince McMahon No Chance All-Stars.
WESTERN CONFERENCE "NO CHANCE" BACKCOURT
TY LAWSON, Denver Nuggets; TYREKE EVANS, New Orleans Pelicans
Lawson shares the NBA lead in assists at 10 per game. He's scoring 17.0 points per game, which is less than a point off his career-best campaign. Lawson's sin is two-fold. First, the Nuggets stink. There's no way to justify a roster spot for a Denver player unless that statistical season was frightening. Ten assists a night is awesome, but not enough. Secondly, think very quickly about the Western Conference backcourt situation. Did you do it? There are going to be guards out west who don't make the team with better cases than Lawson. That's why I created this.
Evans' scoring is up almost three points per game and he's done a lot of heavy lifting while Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday and Eric Gordon have all missed time. Evans has played the hybrid role to perfection for a team in legitimate position to make the playoffs. He is fifth in assists among non-point guards and the four chaps ahead of him are all going to Madison Square Garden.
WESTERN CONFERENCE "NO CHANCE" FRONTCOURT
DEANDRE JORDAN, Los Angeles Clippers; DRAYMOND GREEN, Golden State Warriors; GORDON HAYWARD, Utah Jazz
Do you know who leads the NBA in rebounding? Do you know who leads the NBA in field-goal percentage? Do you know who is second in the NBA in blocked shots? Same guy - DeAndre Jordan. Those are ridiculous rankings and the numbers are insane as well. Rebounding - 13.4 per game. Field-goal percentage - 72.1 percent. Blocked shots - 2.36 per game. And, for you analytics nerds, Jordan is the only player in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive rating. Massive, massive production. However, for all of these tremendous numbers, the Clippers are just 18th in opponents' scoring and 20th in opponents' field-goal percentage. So Jordan is the anchor of the defense, but it's just not a great defense. The Clippers are getting two All-Stars and three is too many for the sixth-best team in the Western Conference, thus costing Jordan a spot.
If Green made the actual roster, his inclusion would give me the most delight. He's the epitome of what the All-Star game should be showcasing. Green is a team winner. His all-around game and emergence has allowed the Warriors to do different things than seasons past, namely on the defensive side. Green's length, size and athleticism make switching so easy for Golden State. Green is first in the league in defensive rating and defensive win shares. His stat line is impressive, while not overwhelming - 11.5 points, 7.9 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.4 blocked shots per game. The Warriors are the best team, so let's get as many as we can into the game.
Hayward's Jazz aren't good, but they're inching there. Hayward upped his scoring average to 19 ppg this season. His other numbers are down a bit, but all shooting percentages climbed from last season. Hayward has become one of the best offensive small forwards in a league dominated by great wing players.
WESTERN CONFERENCE "NO CHANCE" WILD CARDS
DERRICK FAVORS, Utah Jazz; TREVOR ARIZA, Houston Rockets
A wonderful month of January gave Favors one of these final spots. In his last eight games, Favors is averaging nearly 16.3 ppg and 10.3 rpg while shooting 55.6 percent from the floor. He is one of nine players averaging at least 16 ppg and 8.5 rpg. Favors isn't quite there yet, but his major big-man stats (scoring, rebounding, field-goal percentage) are all trending up for the third consecutive season.
Ariza's production has tailed off as the season has progressed, but the Rockets were 23rd in opponents' scoring last season and are now 11th. Ariza is a stud defender and he gets the most credit for Houston's improvement on that side of the ball. His offensive numbers have declined some this season, but that's expected when you play with The Beard and Superman. Ariza is an impact guy. He's exactly what I'm looking for in a "No Chance" All-Star.
EASTERN CONFERENCE "NO CHANCE" BACKCOURT
KEMBA WALKER, Charlotte Hornets; KYLE KORVER, Atlanta Hawks
Walker was the impetus for this column three years ago. He's closest to making the All-Star team as he's ever been. Walker averages 19.2 ppg and 5.4 apg. His scoring is up from last season when the Hornets were a playoff team and his assists are down. Walker's doing a lot to remind the coaches about his worth. Over his last six games, Walker has averaged 29.8 ppg and Charlotte has gone 5-1.
Korver has by far the most interesting case for this All-Star team. Can he ride the Atlanta Hawks' wave to Madison Square Garden? The Detroit Pistons sent four players when they were dominant earlier this century and other teams didn't offer much potential candidates. Will the Hawks? (Yes, spoiler alert, I think the Hawks get three All-Star nods). Korver leads the NBA in 3-point shooting at a crazy 53.6 percent clip. He shoots 51.5 percent from the floor and 92 percent from the foul line. Plus, according to Basketball Reference, Korver shoots 68.8 percent from long range in fourth quarters and overtimes this season. There's another formula calculated by Basketball Reference that shows Korver is the best "clutch" shooter in the league based on percentages in fourth quarters and overtime, not just from 3-point range. If he keeps his current pace, he'll join Steve Kerr as the only players in league history to shoot over 50 percent from the floor, 50 percent from beyond the arc and 90 percent from the free-throw line. And Kerr did it in role-player bench minutes while Korver is a starter. There are great backcourt candidates in the Eastern Conference outside presumptive starters John Wall and Dwyane Wade. Korver won't crack the reserve list, but he deserves a serious debate.
EASTERN CONFERENCE "NO CHANCE" FRONTCOURT
NIKOLA VUCEVIC, Orlando Magic; ANDRE DRUMMOND, Detroit Pistons; KEVIN LOVE, Cleveland Cavaliers
Full disclosure - I think Vucevic is the closest player on this list to making the real version. He's averaging 18.8 ppg and 11 rebounds, which is eighth- best in the NBA. Vucevic's 24 double-doubles this season tie him for the league lead. The Eastern Conference doesn't have great choices in the reserve frontcourt situation. Vucevic could crack that group, but he probably won't since the Magic are slightly less than average. At some point, the NBA should start rewarding players with great numbers like this and avoid selecting the same, boring crop. (Oddly enough, this season I have a member of the old boring crop as one of my reserves.)
The Detroit Pistons are surging and only 1 1/2 games out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Greg Monroe has been playing well. Brandon Jennings has been a revelation. But, Drummond has been consistently stout all season. He's second in the league in rebounding, 10th in blocked shots, first in offensive rebounding percentage, sixth in defensive rating and eighth in defensive win shares. Drummond is one of the best defensive big men in the league. He's in the middle of a renaissance in the Motor City.
Love brings about a very fascinating discussion. The Cavs have underachieved considerably, despite their winning streak of late. LeBron James is going to start. Maybe the point guard is going, too. Do the Cavs warrant three choices? If the Hawks, who are 12 games ahead of Cleveland in the standings, only get two All-Stars, how can Love make this team? Politics at its finest, but Love is statistically in decline. Numbers-wise, Love is having a very good campaign, just not as great as other seasons he went to the All-Star game. Love's averaging 17.6 ppg and 10.4 rpg. Both his 3-point and field-goal shooting are down, but there aren't many averaging a double-double and Love is one of them. For example, Love's numbers dominate Al Horford's. Yet, Horford is probably going to New York because of where the Hawks are in the standings. Personal numbers vs. team success. That philosophical battle always rears its ugly head around this time.
EASTERN CONFERENCE "NO CHANCE" WILD CARDS
BRANDON KNIGHT, Milwaukee Bucks; BRADLEY BEAL, Washington Wizards
The Milwaukee Bucks are the sixth seed right now in the Eastern Conference. They have a winning record and no one really near All-Star contention. Knight is their leading scorer and best player. He has won them games late, and deserves to hear his name mentioned a little in the possibility of making the team. He won't. But, Knight is a "No Chance" All-Star.
Beal is fourth in 3-point shooting and has emerged as a potential elite two guard. He and Wall could become the best backcourt in the league. This pick, however, was not easy. There really isn't anyone left in the Eastern Conference. Toronto and Washington will each have one representative and that seemed low based on the standings. I took the best available player from either team. DeMar DeRozan missed too many games. Marcin Gortat got a look, but in the end, Beal is the final wild card because there are simply not enough All-Star-caliber players in the Eastern Conference.