"Who belongs in the All-Star Game?"
It sounds so simple, but it's a more complex question than you think. Is it the 12 most valuable players so far this season? The 12 players who played the best when they were available? The 12 who contributed the most to winning teams?
That's what makes choosing a team so difficult -- the criteria is far from ironclad. But alas, it's time to make my picks, so I need something to fall back on. Here's what I always go back to: It's a game played for the fans so they can see the best players in the game.
"Best" in this case is hazily defined. I look at it in the big-picture kind of way -- not necessarily who is having the best season, although that's certainly important, but who are the best players, period. That, in turn produces a series of criteria for being on the team:
1. Small injuries don't matter. If Player A is better than Player B but missed 12 games in December with an ankle sprain, I don't care -- he's still better, he's still the one that belongs in a game designed to showcase the best players, and he's still the All-Star. With this rule comes two exceptions: (1) If it's part of a larger pattern of injuries for a given player, and (2) if the player missed such an insanely large chunk of the season that he can't possibly be chosen -- like Elton Brand, for an obvious example.
2. History matters. If Player A and Player B are having comparable seasons, but Player A is playing way better than he ever has before while Player B has played at this level the past three seasons, I'm taking Player B every time.
3. .500 is not a magical All-Star maker. Unlike the coaches, I'm not automatically rejecting players from teams with losing records. Check out the marginal All-Star players from the past few seasons and you'll find a big chunk of them were on teams that were just a game or two over .500 when the teams were named … but almost none of them were on teams that were a couple games under that threshold. Of course, there is essentially no difference between 15-17 and 17-15 at this point in the season, but tell that to the people doing the voting.
4. Seriously, is this one of the 12 best players in the conference? You'd be amazed at how often people bypass this little crosscheck, which is how people like Dale Davis and Wally Szczerbiak have made the team in years past. Always a good rule of thumb to have in your back pocket.
Additionally, let me tell you about the one rule I definitely won't be using. Known as either The Parliament Argument or The Electoral College Argument, fans and columnists the world over reflexively use this one every year, and it drives me crazy.
What I mean is people will say, "Since Boston has the best record they have to have three All-Stars" or "Portland has to have representation on the All-Star team," like we're talking about an important block of voters or something. But we should be talking about the actual players instead of how many All-Stars their constituencies deserve or how a certain team needs representation.
OK, now that we've got that out of the way, it's time to name an actual team. I'll start in the East, where despite what you see on the news there are actually 15 franchises and not two.
To start, let's begin by filling out the five-man All-Star ballot as if I had the only vote. Or as if I were a nation of 1.2 billion people that could collectively outvote everyone else. Whichever one works for you:
Point Guard: Chauncey Billups, Detroit
This is pretty much a slam dunk. Billups is the only point guard in the East to average at least 30 minutes a game and rank in the top 50 in player efficiency rating (PER); he's ninth overall at 24.18.
He's the best player on the second-best team in basketball, his third straight season with a PER of at least 21, and his defense is nearly as valuable as his offense. Of course, in the real balloting he's nowhere close, so he'll have to be named as a sub.
Shooting Guard: Dwyane Wade, Miami
I have some misgivings about this one, because Wade clearly hasn't been himself at the offensive end this season, and because he's pretty much been a sieve on D.
But when I look at my criteria, Wade is a shoo-in. Is he one of the 12 best players in the East? Of course he is. Has he played at this level before? Duh.
Besides, who else is worthy of starting here? The next best shooting guard in the East is who? Maybe Richard Hamilton or Michael Redd? Nobody in their right mind would take either over Wade. Even in his diminished state, Wade is 12th in PER, easily the best among the East's shooting guards.
Center: Dwight Howard, Orlando
There is only one center in the East averaging at least 30 minutes a game and ranking in the top 50 in PER. That's Howard, who ranks seventh, is shooting 60.2 percent from the floor, and is the unquestioned centerpiece of the conference's third-best team.
He's as strong on D as on offense, too, making him a double no-brainer.
Small Forward: LeBron James, Cavaliers
He leads the league in PER, just as he did two years earlier. And in the season in between he carried a team on his back to the conference title.
James is on his way to a historic season with his averages of 29.2/7.7/7.3; needless to say, no other small forward in the East comes close to him.
Power Forward: Kevin Garnett, Celtics
I just want to point out how inane all the things written about him in Minnesota the past several years now seem. Yes, clearly it was Garnett's fault that the team couldn't get over the hump; a better man could have turned Marko Jaric and Mark Blount into champions.
Anyway, all Garnett has done in Boston is put his new team on pace for a record win total after they won 24 games the previous season. He ranks fourth in PER and if you took a vote for Defensive Player of the Year and MVP today, he'd probably win both.
According to All-Star rules, coaches must select two guards, two forwards and a center as the first five reserves. Then the final two spots can be filled in whatever way they deem necessary.
An important caveat to that rule is that coaches may put a player at a different position than he plays regularly for his own team, if it makes sense and is most advantageous to the conference's All-Star squad.
In other words, just because there's only one good center in the East doesn't mean I have to vote in another center who sucks.
Backup center: Chris Bosh, Raptors
Of course, Bosh should be an All-Star based on his hilarious YouTube video alone; better yet, he has the stats to back it up.
According to 82games.com, Bosh has played more than three-quarters of his minutes in the middle this season. While you can debate who is Toronto's "centre" when Bosh and Kris Humphries are paired, the 82games.com data shows it's not really much of a stretch to list him here -- even if you consider Humphries the 5 in that alignment, nearly half Bosh's minutes have come in the pivot.
As far as his All-Star bona fides go, Bosh is an easy call. He ranks seventh among Eastern Conference players in PER despite a series of nagging injuries, and this is the third straight year he's played at this level.
Backup forward No. 1: Paul Pierce, Celtics
Pierce's offensive numbers are plenty good, but they don't really separate him from a few other forwards under consideration here (Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison, Josh Smith, Richard Jefferson, etc.).
What puts him several notches above is his defense. He's embraced the role of being the No. 1 perimeter defender for big stretches on the league's top defensive team, making him one of the game's top two-way players this season. He passes all the other tests with flying colors, of course, as he's long been regarded as one of the East's best players, so Pierce zooms in.
Backup forward No. 2: Caron Butler, Wizards
Butler made the team a year ago, but this is easily the best he's ever played. Averaging career highs of 22.2 points, 4.6 assists, 50.4-percent shooting, and 41.4 percent on 3-pointers, he's kept the Wizards north of .500 despite the absence of high-scoring guard Gilbert Arenas.
While he might be over his head at the moment, it's not like it's a close call between him and the next guy on the list. Butler ranks sixth among Eastern Conference players in PER, and is doing it while averaging over 40 minutes a game. He'd have to cool off considerably just to make the comparison between he and the other forwards interesting.
Backup guard No. 1: Jose Calderon, Raptors
This is probably going to shock some people, so I'll just go ahead and say it: Calderon, right now, is the third-best guard in the East.
Go ahead and laugh. Get it out of your system.
Done? Good. Now let's look at the numbers. Calderon ranks fourth among Eastern Conference guards in PER; he's a millimeter behind T.J. Ford, who is out indefinitely, and of course trails Wade and Billups.
But he's way ahead of the others. Vince Carter, Richard Hamilton and Michael Redd are eating his dust, and no other point guard in the East rates in the top 50 in PER. (If you're looking for Jason Kidd, by the way, there's more on him below.)
You might think Calderon's numbers are so good because he's been beating up on second-teamers for half the season. Actually, no: His PER has gone up since Ford went out and now is as high as it's been all season. In his 20 games as a starter, he's averaging 13.5 points, 9.9 assists, and shooting 50.0 percent from the field. The other overlooked part is that he's making only 1.5 turnovers per game.
Let me repeat that for emphasis: 9.9 assists. 1.5 turnovers.
That's amazing. To show you how amazing, let's look at a stat I keep called "pure point rating." I created it to replace assist-turnover ratio, which tends to reward point guards who never penetrate. Pure point rating produces more valid ratings of a player's ability as a distributor by rewarding production instead of just making a ratio. (If you're curious, the formula is: Pure Point = (100* ((Assists * 2/3) - Turnovers))/Minutes.)
So … care to guess who's first in pure point ratio this season? Hint: it's not Steve Nash or Chris Paul. It's Calderon, by a fair amount.
Pure Point Rating leaders
Player Ast/40 min TO/40 min Pure Point Rating
Jose Calderon 11.2 1.8 14.11
Steve Nash 14.3 4.2 13.25
Chris Paul 11.0 2.7 11.47
Brevin Knight 7.9 1.7 8.96
Jason Kidd 11.3 4.0 8.94
*Through Sunday's games
No, he's not the scoring threat that Nash or Paul are, but Calderon is insanely efficient at running the offense and makes his shots, and that makes him a far more valuable player than people realize.
As for my arguments about preferring players who have established this level of performance, Calderon has a far better case than you might think. He played fantastic last season too and had the biggest PER jump in the league, though the voters chose to pretend he didn't exist in the Most Improved Player voting.
In fact, Calderon's 2006-07 PER ranked eighth among NBA point guards, and sixth among all guards in the East. To use one All-Star competitor as an example, his mark last season was not only better than Richard Hamilton's, it would have been the best mark of Hamilton's career.
So Calderon has been better than anyone else at his position except Billups, and his performance history suggests it's either not a fluke or a very small one. He's on a team with only one other viable scorer and, thanks to his skillful playmaking, has them in the top half of the league in offensive efficiency.
So if, after all this, you think he isn't an All-Star, I have only one question. Other than saying, "He's just not what I think of when I think of an All-Star," what case is there for Jose Calderon not to be an All-Star this year?
Backup guard No. 2: Richard Hamilton, Pistons
I've run out of players who actually deserve to be on the team, but because this is the East we still have three spots left to fill. If life were fair we'd take the three players that are going to get screwed out West, tack them on to the end of the East roster, and call it good.
Instead, we'll spend the next several minutes sorting out questions like "Who's played worse defense, Michael Redd or Antawn Jamison?" and "Who is more likely to spend the night inexplicably settling for jump shots, Vince Carter or Josh Smith?"
Since Detroit has played so well, Electoral College proponents will make the case for Hamilton right here, but I can get there with more solid reasoning. Redd and Carter have slightly stronger statistical resumes -- both have better numbers in previous seasons and Redd has a superior PER this season. But I'll go with Hamilton by a whisker because he's been more durable than Carter and defended better than both (especially Redd), and the PER differences between the three are fairly small.
Extra Reserve No. 1: Josh Smith, Hawks
This one is a little hairy. For one, Smith isn't generally perceived as the best player on the Hawks; Joe Johnson is. That's not just from opponents, that's from coaches and teammates too. So part of me wonders if I'm violating my own rule here.
But Johnson is mired in a horrible shooting slump and is at just 40.8 percent from the field, while Smith has taken another step forward in his fourth pro season. So the other part of me wonders if this situation will look a lot different in hindsight, and if Smith is taking over as Atlanta's top weapon. What's undeniable is that Smith has been Atlanta's most effective player in the first half of the season, and his improvement is a major reason the Hawks are no longer a laughingstock.
As far as Smith's own merits, let's weigh him against the competition. Besides Smith, there are only four players in the top 50 in PER who average at least 30 minutes that I haven't already nominated: Antawn Jamison, Michael Redd, Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson.
All but Redd take a back seat to Smith in PER, and Smith has more defensive value than all of them. Admittedly, PER already takes much of that into account since his East-leading 3.2 blocks per game are part of the equation, but he's also making fewer mistakes. And the emergence of a better supporting cast has allowed us to see what a factor he can be as a weak-side specialist, similar to the way Denver uses Marcus Camby. The Hawks are in the top half of the league in defensive efficiency for the first time in eons, and Smith's blocks have been a huge part.
Additionally, while Smith has never played this well before, it doesn't seem out of line to say that this is his current ability level. He's 22 and has improved his numbers every year, and his output this season isn't much different from what he did the final two months of last season. And while I joked above about his settling for jumpers, the truth is he's doing it a lot less than he used to, and averaging seven free throw attempts a game as a result -- that's one of the big reasons he's playing better. So it's Smith by a nose here.
Extra Reserve No. 2 -- Also Known as "Sorry, Jason Kidd took your spot": Antawn Jamison, Wizards
Right now Jason Kidd leads the fan voting at guard along with Wade, and the only guy close enough to have a reasonable chance of surpassing him is Ray Allen. While both are generally perceived as big-time stars, each has seen his numbers take a big hit this season.
Kidd has produced so many triple-doubles that a lot of people mistakenly think he's playing as well as ever, but this just isn't true. The dude won't shoot the ball anymore and rarely makes the ones he takes. He's at 36.5 percent from the floor and has lost more than two points off his 40-minute scoring average.
At the same time, he's seen a massive spike in his turnover ratio, forking it over on 14.3 percent of his possessions. Folks, that's plain terrible. Among point guards who have played at least 500 minutes, only two have a worse turnover ratio than Kidd. Scroll down to the bottom of this page to see what I mean -- it's a bunch of bad point guards and Jason Kidd. Weird, huh?
That's why despite his brilliance in the rebound and assist categories his PER is 16.91, well down from his standard of each of the past four seasons and well short of what's typically expected from an All-Star. Look at the player instead of The Legend, people -- he's still good, but he's not one of the 12 best players in the East anymore.
As for Allen, spare me the Electoral College argument. He's having his worst season as a pro and has no business being in New Orleans, 29-3 or not. His PER is behind Kidd's, and unlike Kidd he's basically a DH who has almost no defensive value.
So that leaves Jamison, Redd, Carter and Jefferson -- the four remaining East players with a PER in the top 50 who average at least 30 minutes per game. Of the four, Jefferson can't quite hang with this crowd -- even with a PER that's just a whisker short of his career best, he's more than a point shy of the others.
Thus, we're down to Jamison, Redd and Carter. Redd has the best statistical track record and the best PER, but his defense is deficient even by the standards of this list. Jamison has played the most minutes and been the most stabilizing influence, while Carter has a strong track record and has played very well after a slow start.
Really, you can't go wrong with either player (or, should I say, you can't go right -- we're talking about spot No. 12 on the East roster, and I'm not sure any of these guys could nab spot No. 20 out West). But I'll go with Jamison, because he's been so durable and consistent and ranks essentially right with the others in PER. Also, if we're giving brownie points for intangibles, I think his locker room influence has meant more in Washington than Redd's or, certainly, Carter's.
And this is an important spot, even if you allow that Kidd or Allen will win the fan voting, because inevitably one of the 12 players above is likely to be injured and miss the game. At that point, Jamison would be the replacement.
We've got the East All-Stars out of the way, so now it's time for the West -- a task that seems harder but is in many ways easier than picking the other conference. Sure, there are several worthy snubs out West, whereas in the East we had the opposite problem. But this year's Western squad almost builds itself until you get down to the final spot or two.
For those who missed it, I went over my All-Star criteria in the opening section of my East column. As with that conference, we'll start things off by picking a starting five as if I were filling out a ballot.
Point guard: Chris Paul, Hornets
Some may stump for Steve Nash based on the idea that he has proved he can play at this level and Paul hasn't. But the truth is that Nash has never played quite this well. Paul would be the hands-down choice for Western Conference MVP if you handed out ballots today. He ranks second in the league in player efficiency rating (PER), first in steals, third in assists and pure point rating (see my Jose Calderon comment in the East All-Stars); Paul has his Hornets at a stunning 23-11, just a game behind Nash's Suns despite a much less imposing supporting cast.
Even if you're a skeptic and think Paul is playing over his head, consider that his PERs the past two seasons nearly matched those of Nash (Paul: 22.14 and 22.00; Nash: 23.29 and 23.87) and that he's now outplayed Nash head-to-head twice. There are a ton of great point guards in the league right now, but for this season the debate about which one is the best is pretty one-sided.
Shooting guard: Kobe Bryant, Lakers
Another fairly obvious choice, the Kobester is actually having a slightly down year by his own lofty standards, with his PER ranking "only" 10th and a scoring average that's down nearly five points from last season. On the other hand, for a scoring guard, he's been pretty darn good defensively, and his team isn't exactly suffering from his diminished output -- L.A. has surprised many with a 21-11 start despite a tough schedule.
Besides, based on past performance, this is probably more like the floor for Bryant than the ceiling. All told, that makes him a far better pick here than the other assorted off guards (Allen Iverson, Manu Ginobili, Brandon Roy, Tracy McGrady) up for consideration.
Center: Amare Stoudemire, Suns
Chide him for his periodic defensive lapses if you will, but there's no question that Stoudemire is a devastating offensive force. He ranks third in the NBA in PER and is shooting a ridiculous 58.3 percent from the field. Usually players who shoot that well are doing it with few attempts, but Stoudemire is pumping in 27.9 points per 40 minutes.
Even while averaging only 31.4 minutes per game due to frequent foul trouble, there's no question that he has been the West's most proficient center this season. In fact, his numbers are almost an exact replica of his 2004-05 stats suggesting he's finally back to his pre-microfracture self.
Power forward: Tim Duncan, Spurs
Now that he's a forward on the ballot, we can check the box for both Duncan and Stoudemire in the starting lineup. While some may dispute his position, there's no question that Duncan is one of the five best players in the West.
He ranks eighth in the NBA in PER, and while one other West forward (Utah's Carlos Boozer) is slightly ahead of him, the glaring defensive disparity between the two more than makes up the difference.
Small forward: Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks
Yes, I'm cheating here. Dirk is mobile enough to play the 3, especially in a game like this one, and the West is overloaded with great power forwards. Additionally, we have a bit of a shortage of qualified small forwards this year, which I'll delve into further in a moment.
Nowitzki hasn't been up to his usual MVP self so far this season, but his recent play and previous track record suggest to me that it's more of a short-term blip than a new reality. Besides, it's not like he turned into Jason Collins -- even with the early slump, Nowitzki is 11th in the league in PER.
Backup Center: Yao Ming, Rockets
Believe it or not, Yao isn't second among Western Conference centers in PER -- Al Jefferson of Minnesota is 0.20 ahead of him. Of course, Yao has four times as many wins as Jefferson and has been far more consistent with his defensive effort, so we take his candidacy a little more seriously. Though having an off-year by his own standards, shooting a career-worst 48.7 percent, Yao remains a dominant post player and an All-Star shoo-in. Not that it matters since the fans vote him in every year, and will do it again this season.
While we're on the topic, I've heard rumblings about other centers -- Marcus Camby, Tyson Chandler and Chris Kaman -- making the squad. But none of them stack up against the big boys yet. Camby is dominant on D and the boards but has essentially taken a powder on offense (seriously -- 8.9 points a game for the league's fastest-paced team? And he's not even shooting a high percentage). Chandler's offense hasn't been much better, and Kaman, though one of the league's most improved players, remains far too mistake-prone to hang with the West's elite.
Actually, the No. 3 center out West right now is probably Andrew Bynum, who has put up an impressive 21.82 PER in 28.9 minutes per game for the Lakers. It's a tough crowd out West so it will take more than that to earn him a spot, but don't be shocked if he's on the West roster a year from now in Phoenix. Now, back to our regularly scheduled program …
Backup guard No. 1: Steve Nash, Suns
Chris Paul has taken some of his thunder this season, but Nash has been the gold standard for point guard play for half a decade now and even at 33, only Paul outranks him in PER among Western Conference point guards. Throw in that he's the orchestrator for the league's most efficient offense, and that coming into 2007-08 his teams had led the league in offensive efficiency for six straight seasons, and he's a slam dunk choice.
But my favorite Nash stat is his unbelievable 63.9 true shooting percentage. Nash is hitting 51.1 percent from the field, 45.5 percent on 3s and 89.1 percent from the line, which makes it the fourth straight year that he's hit at least 50 percent from the field, 43 percent on 3s and 88 percent at the line. He's had a true shooting percentage (TS%) of 60-plus in all four seasons. Yes, the passing is brilliant, but the part everyone forgets is that this guy is the best shooter in the game.
Backup guard No. 2: Manu Ginobili, Spurs
Ginobili is the game's least recognized superstar. He finished ninth in the league in PER last season and is fifth this season -- yes, fifth in the entire NBA. His per-40-minute numbers are staggering: 26.4 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 5.7 assists; per minute he creates nearly as many shots as Kobe and converts a higher percentage. He's no longer just a slasher, hitting 39.3 percent on 3-pointers after making 39.6 percent a year ago, and he's also a good defensive player.
But he plays 29 minutes a game, and a lot of people look at a scoring average in the high teens and think he's a complementary player. No, no, no, no, no. Ginobili is a total freak who could get huge numbers in a different system. Coming off the bench in a small market, his contribution is vastly underestimated.
Backup forward No. 1: Carlos Boozer, Jazz
Boozer is an overpowering force in the paint with a sweet mid-range jump shot, an almost impossible combination to defend. He's shooting 55.1 percent and ranks sixth in the league in PER, plus he's been insanely good on the glass. Jazz fans might like to see a little more D from Booz, but otherwise there's little reason for complaint. Relative to the other forwards we can consider here (Al Jefferson, Josh Howard, Shawn Marion) he's an easy pick.
Backup forward No. 2 -- also known as "Sorry, Carmelo Anthony took your spot": Shawn Marion, Suns
It hasn't been a good year for small forwards in the West. Marion, a natural small forward in theory though no longer one in practice, hasn't quite been up to his usual standard this season. Nor has Anthony -- they're 30th and 38th, respectively, in PER, after both made the All-Star team a year ago. If you consider T-Mac a small forward, he's been shelved too.
I suppose we could take yet another power forward, but the pickings have become surprisingly slim there too -- Al Jefferson has the numbers but not the D, David West hasn't quite been the equal of Marion and Howard at either end, Pau Gasol is having an off year, and Elton Brand is out indefinitely. The fact is, the West has become a guard-heavy conference.
That leaves us with Dallas' Josh Howard and Marion in a virtual dead heat for the final forward spot. Between the two I'll split hairs and take Marion. Why? Consider that this is Marion's worst PER in the past four seasons, while it's a career high for Howard, and that Howard is still barely ahead of him. In other words, it seems more likely to me that Marion will play better from here and Howard will play worse than the opposite, so if you held a gun to my head and asked "who's better?" I'd be forced to say Marion.
This will upset Electoral College proponents who feel it's more fair to have two Mavs and two Suns than three Suns and one Mav. But remember, the All-Star Game is about players, not teams.
Of course, Howard's inclusion is entirely theoretical unless his Mavs teammate Dirk Nowitzki can surpass Anthony in the fan voting. 'Melo is second among Western Conference forwards right now and though his play doesn't merit inclusion at this point, he'd effectively usurp a spot from Howard -- with so many good guards, four forwards is probably the limit out West.
Extra reserve No. 1 -- Baron Davis, Warriors
Choosing the final two spots out West is a virtually impossible task. Going by PER, the finalists are Al Jefferson (22.60) Allen Iverson (22.12), Tony Parker (22.08), Bynum (21.82) Davis (21.44), McGrady (21.40), Howard (20.70), Deron Williams (20.18) and Brandon Roy (20.00).
We can eliminate three of them right away. Bynum only plays 28.9 minutes a night, McGrady has missed a bunch of games and does this every season, and Jefferson's D isn't nearly as far along as his offense.
Great. Now we're down to six players for two spots. But if you really start splitting hairs, Davis comes out the best of this group. For starters, there's no question at all that he's the best defensive player of the bunch.
Second, he's been shockingly durable this season, playing every game while averaging nearly 40 minutes a contest. Throw in that he's already proven he can play at this high level -- actually he's been far better, as Mavs fans will attest -- and he become as easy a pick as you can make this late in the process.
Extra reserve No. 2 -- also known as "Hopefully at least half those 1.2 billion people know T-Mac is hurt": Allen Iverson, Nuggets
McGrady is second in the fan voting for Western Conference guards at the moment, which would rob a more deserving player of a spot. However, Iverson and Nash are just over 100,000 votes behind McGrady in the balloting, and his recent injury may send a lot more votes their way.
If so, that leaves us with Iverson, Parker, Howard, Roy, and Williams to consider for the final spot on the team. If you play the "which one of these is not like the others" game, Iverson immediately moves to the forefront based on the sheer volume of his contribution. He's leading the league in minutes at a whopping 41.4 per game; that he can do this while playing at altitude for the league's fastest-paced team is staggering.
And he's playing well, too, with his numbers rebounding from last year's post-trade dip and approaching the ones he put up in his final two seasons in Philly. That's helped keep the Nuggies to first in the Northwest Division despite a rash of injuries, and gives him a leg up on the four other deserving candidates from this conference.
In case of injury: Tony Parker Spurs. Inevitably, one of the above players will be injured or otherwise unable to take part in the All-Star Game. If so, Parker is the top name on my list for subs. In truth he's had an All-Star caliber season himself, and just ends up getting hosed because there are so many good guards out West. If this were the East he'd be a no-brainer of a pick. Instead he, Howard, Williams and Roy are on the outside looking in. Them's the breaks.