The last time the All-Star Game had guard teammates starting for a conference, it was Earl Monroe and Walt Frazier from the New York Knickerbockers in 1975. Those Knicks, as a fine 30 for 30 by Michael Rappaport informs me, were one of the greatest teams in the history of the Association. Monroe and Frazier were two all-time greats playing on basketball's biggest stage. These are facts, set in stone.
Here's another fact for you: Kyle Lowry (22.0 points per game) and DeMar DeRozan (21.4 points per game) currently lead Eastern Conference guards in scoring. It's a narrow margin for the Raptors' pair, with Isaiah Thomas nipping at their heels, but it's all the ammunition I need to ask this question -- can DeRozan and Lowry become the first guard teammates in 41 years to start an NBA All-Star Game?
There are a few things we need to consider to talk ourselves into this. Let's start with looking at the system.
In the NBA, fan voting determines who the five starters will be. The most traditional method of voting is through NBA.com, where users fill out a ballot of two guards and three forwards for each conference.
I won't mince words: if you vote through NBA.com and proliferate that method, you're putting a nail in Lowrozan's coffin. You see, requiring NBA fans to vote for both guard spots at the same time makes it difficult for teammates to get in. There's a historical preference for spreading the love around, as NBA fans generally want to see a "dream game" featuring five players who have never worked together before.
When making that dream game, many fans also lean on players they know well -- guys with shoe deals or veterans with legacies. It's why Kobe "Basketball Equivalent of Quicksand" Bryant will surely get voted in for the West. In the East, you're dealing with big brand players like Dwyane Wade and John Wall.
Given the system in play, Lowrozan would do better if more fans vote for individual players using the new mobile methods, separate from the full ballot process. These allow votes through text, tweet, Facebook post, and Instagram for one player at a time. Voting individually swings influence toward the size/passion of a player's fanbase, which is really why Lowry got in last year. Raptors fans voted just for Lowry and they voted for him often.
So yeah, vote mobile. And when your friends ask you why you keep voting, you can give them some of DeRozan and Lowry's numbers vs. the competition.
Listen, folks. I know you and you know me. We're all Raptors fans here, we can be honest with each other. We all like Kyle Lowry better than DeMar DeRozan. It's why Lowry got over 800,000 votes last year and DeRozan got under 150,000 in 2014. We prefer the guy who's playing his ass off to the guy taking midrange pull-ups. That's why I'm making the relatively safe assumption that Lowry will be the shoo-in to get more votes. If we have to choose between our children, Lowry is getting rescued and DeRozan is drowning.
So let's make this about how DeRozan stacks up against competition for that second All-Star guard spot. For my money, I've got four players that pose the biggest threat: John Wall (he's popular, but mediocre this year), Dwyane Wade (he's really popular, but even more mediocre this year), Jimmy Butler (he's damn good), and Bradley Beal (someone has to carry the Wizards).
Here's the basic numbers on those five.
In scoring, DeRozan tops them all. He's shooting a low field goal percentage (42.2%), but it's right there with the popular Wade (43.7%) and Wall (42.1%). His assist rate is the highest among the shooting guards (omitting Wall). He gets to the line more often than anyone. In numbers that the common NBA fan can relate to, DeRozan looks pretty darn good on paper. You can make an argument that Jimmy Butler is doing more across the board, but damn if DeMar isn't right there.
Going into analytics, Butler starts to look a little better.
His win share is the highest, he's the most impactful on defense, and has the best true shooting percentage by a fair margin. For the nerdy among us, a Lowry/Butler backcourt is fair and just. That brings us to...
The Popularity Contest
Of course, this isn't a polling of Synergy employees. These are real fans voting, and like people with "Kobe Forever" in their Twitter bio, this won't be decided by analytics beyond "who did the best shots and dunks". With that in mind, look at what DeRozan did!
Also, consider the craziness of Raptors fans. Last year, with a little encouragement from Matt Devlin and ex-Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Lowry amassed 805,290 votes. Imagine what would've happened if Justin Bieber had known the rules? It was all barely enough to topple Wade but it was enough. With more awareness of the All-Star Game, given it's on home court, is it unreasonable to expect more votes for Raptors players?
Last year, Wall got the most votes among East guards with 886,368. He's been downright bad most of the year though and the Wizards have been unimpressive. There's still lots of time for that to change before voting opens later in the month (and continues into February), but in the here and now, it doesn't look good for Wall repeating that type of draw.
Two million votes. To truly make this thing a safe bet, we need one million votes each for Lowry and DeRozan. That's one out of every 17 Canadians sending a tweet that says Kyle Lowry #NBABallot and another tweet that says DeMar DeRozan #NBABallot. Heck, if we can round up the obsessive people, we can get one out of every 170 Canadians to send 20 tweets in one day.
Am I talking myself into the possibility of this happening? Sure! Am I talking you into it too? I don't know! If you feel convinced, go ahead and print this article off and post it on the bulletin board at your office. It sounds crazy, but there are actual arguments to be made for a Lowry/DeRozan starting pair in the 2016 NBA All-Star Game.
What are your thoughts on the whole matter?