Gregg Popovich may not seem like someone who would spend much time fussing over the details of something as relatively meaningless as the All-Star Game, but contrary to our expectations, he revealed before the Milwaukee game that he and his staff do spend time every year debating the merits of different candidates before sending their list of the seven worthy reserves for each conference.
"Yeah, we sit and we vote and we argue ‘This guy?' ‘No, he's terrible, no he's better, no this guy did this,'" Popovich confirmed. "We sit and we argue. We argue out everything."
So what criteria does Pop look for in an All-Star?
"How important they are to the team, what kind of contributions they make to their teams," he said. "You look at everybody's stats, but that doesn't really decide it. We make sure to see to who did not send us a humiliating package of propaganda, so we cross them off the list right away."
That last part was partly a joke, I think. What else do Pop and his coaches look for? Do they get deep into analytics or advance stats like real plus-minus?
"No, we don't look at plus-minus," Popovich said. "We look at what contributions they've made to their teams, just by watching them play and that kind of thing. Analytics is something you can use for your own team and it's a factor in deciding some things, but not for an All-Star Game."
What about games missed, does he factor that in?
"Sure, if he hadn't been there very much, sure he gets a lot less consideration," Popovich said, so let's cross off Kevin Durant, who's played all of 20 games so far (seven fewer than Kawhi Leonard, by the way).
Finally, do wins and losses matter? Does a guy deserve to be on an All-Star if he's on a bad team?
"That's a part of it," Popovich stated. "If it's a horrible team and someone's got numbers you might look at a somebody on a really good team who has lesser numbers but he's impacted it and played a lot of minutes, so it's a little bit subjective."
Alright, so cross off DeMarcus Cousins.
Armed with all that information, and knowing that they're not allowed to vote for their own players, here's my guess of who Pop and his staff voted for in the West:
James Harden to replace Kobe Bryant in the starting lineup, not because they really wanted to, but because it was a no-brainer.
Klay Thompson and Draymond Green from the Warriors. Golden State's record is so ridiculous that the Warriors probably deserve three All-Stars, even in the stacked West, and Green is a prime Defensive Player of the Year candidate.
Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge from the Blazers. Easy picks there.
Russell Westbrook from the Thunder, but not Durant, who simply hasn't played enough.
And for my last pick I'll guess Dirk Nowitzki, because it has to be another forward, the Spurs respect him tremendously, and the Mavs should be represented by somebody.
As for who I think is actually going to make the team, replace Nowitzki with Tim Duncan, replace Conley with Chris Paul, and sadly replace Green with Durant. Green and Conley are more deserving, but it's still a popularity contest for the most part.
Meanwhile, for something completely different, here's a tip of the hat to Manu Ginobili, who's repeated his title as HoopsHype.com's "Tweeter of the Year." You can watch a video of him talking about the honor here.