The 2020 NBA Rising Stars rosters were announced on Friday with a list of who's who of the league's talented first and second-year players selected to participate in the game.
While Canadian fans can find joy in the record number of Canadians to make the team, Raptor fans may have been left scratching their heads with their rookie guard Terence Davis omitted from the showcase.
Now Davis isn't yet a household name beyond hardcore NBA fans and it would be easy to see how he would get left off in a popularity contest...but this isn't that. The league's assistant coaches selected the Rising Stars roster with all 30 franchise submitting one ballot per staff.
They each had to choose four frontcourt players, four guards and two wildcards. The Raptors staff could not vote for their own players so Davis was at the mercy of the 29 other coaching staffs - he simply didn't get enough votes.
Ask 10 Raptors fans and more than half of them will tell you the team doesn't get the respect it deserves outside of its home country. It's a stance many Raptors fans decided to take over the years, but is Davis's exclusion from the Rising Stars roster that? Is the league overlooking what Davis has brought to the table for the 34-14 Raptors? Is this another case of a showcase game littered with big names with a greater emphasis on style instead of substance?
Let's take a look.
Real Plus-Minus is a stat that attempts to quantify on a per-possession basis how much a player contributes to his team's overall play and it takes into account both offence and defence. Essentially, it's a stat that says "good things happen when this dude is on the floor." Or conversely, "bad things happen when this dude is on the floor." It's not about the potential of a player. It's not about the raw counting stats. Admittedly it's also far from perfect and there are flaws. But generally speaking it, for the most part, passes the smell test. There were 10 rookies selected to the Rising Stars Game.
Presenting the 2020 #NBARisingStars rosters at #NBAAllStar pic.twitter.com/Zc8fknNfiT- 2020 NBA All-Star (@NBAAllStar) January 31, 2020
Here is where each of them ranks across the league out of a pool of 471 players.
- Zion Williamson, 65th
- Brandon Clarke, 78th
- Ja Morant, 93rd
- Kendrick Nunn, 95th
- P.J. Washington, 245th
- Nickeil Alexander-Walker, 298th
- Tyler Herro, 403rd
- RJ Barrett, 421st
- Eric Paschall, 457th
- Rui Hachimura, 461st
Not seen above? Terence Davis - the same Terence Davis who ranks 8th... 8th(!!!)... in the entire league NBA... for a team currently second in the Eastern Conference.
Simply put the Raptors have benefitted by having Davis on the floor this season. Looking past his season averages which don't immediately jump off the page, he's been a net positive any time Nick Nurse has him on the floor.
Good things seem to happen when he's on the floor. Is that a by-product of his teammates playing well? Some of it. Is he responsible for all of it? Definitely not.
But it's impossible to ignore the positive impact he has on a nightly basis for a team that - let's remind you again - currently ranks second in the Eastern Conference.
- With Davis on the court, the Raptors are outscoring teams by 13.6 points per 100 possessions. With him off the court, they are plus-2.1 pts per 100 possessions.
- That on/off difference of +11.5 is BY FAR the best of any Raptor (next best: Marc Gasol at +8.7)
- He's come off the bench in every game except one. January 8 at Charlotte… Where Davis finished with 23 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. He was +20 in a game where the Raptors had to come from behind to force overtime and win by two.
- He's scored 12 or more points in 12 games this season. The Raptors are 12-0 in those games.
- 15 rookies have taken at least 100 3s this season. Davis's 39.6 3-pt FG percentage ranks third behind only P.J. Washington (40.1) and Cameron Johnson (39.8).
- Only four rookies over the last two decades have averaged 20 points, 10 rebounds and five assists per 100 possessions: Luka Doncic, Ben Simmons, Nikola Jokic and Blake Griffin.
Davis this season? 20.8 points, 9.8 rebounds, 5.4 assists per 100.
And in the era of load management, only one Raptors player has appeared in every game this season - you guessed it, Terence Davis.
Let's be clear here let's not take anything anyway from the 20 players who've initially made the Rising Stars roster, they're all having exceptional years in their own right.
But in the era where the eye test just doesn't do it anymore, maybe we should start digging a little deeper when selecting these teams.
We're not saying the assistant coaches didn't do their due diligence this season or in the past, but we certainly haven't gotten to the point yet where the advanced metrics alone can help tip the scales in favour of deserving candidates.
And who knows maybe we'll never get there, but that's a debate for another time.
On Friday Davis expected to receive the good news that he had been recognized amongst the league's best rookies and sophomores. Many Raptors fans expected it too. That didn't happen.
But that shouldn't take away from the season Davis has had thus far and perhaps this could serve as a little extra motivation.
A motivated undrafted Raptor point guard ready to prove the league wrong and make a name for himself?
Toronto fans have seen this before, they know how it plays out.
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