The WNBA announced on Wednesday that League President Laurel Richie named Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird and Washington Mystics guard Ivory Latta as injury replacements to the 2014 WNBA All-Star Game in Phoenix. Bird replaces Minnesota Lynx guard Seimone Augustus who is nursing a knee injury. Latta replaces Chicago Sky forward Elena Delle Donne, who is treating Lyme Disease symptoms.
While Richie has the right to pick who she wants and probably has some method for choosing these replacements, I strongly disagree with both Bird's and Latta's selections. Why?
On the surface, these selections were clearly meant to serve two purposes:
1. Bird's and Latta's selections give an "Everyone is a winner" feeling. Before the announcement, the Storm and Mystics were the only teams that didn't have All-Stars, and it just so happens that they have a player now. Neither team is above .500, so I'm not going to complain that neither of these teams will be in the game on Saturday. It doesn't hurt my feelings at least.
2. Bird's and Latta's selections clearly favored giving perennial All-Stars invites to this club if things came to this point. This leaves out other MORE DESERVING candidates, some of whom are younger, up-and-coming stars in the WNBA.
So now, let's get into more detail why Bird and Latta should not be in the game.
Why Sue Bird doesn't deserve it
First, I think I can speak for the rest of the staff here that we love watching Sue Bird making cold blooded shots from three and midrange, especially when the game is on the line.
No one is going to question her resume. Bird is a two-time WNBA Champion, three-time Olympic Gold Medalist, and a multiple time All-WNBA team honoree. She will retire as one of the best three point shooters and playmakers in league history and in my opinion, will be a first ballot Naismith Hall of Fame player.
All-Star honors however, are for part of a single season, NOT for careers.
Bird has averaged a career low in field goal percentage where it has dipped below 40% for the first time in her career. Moving onto more advanced stats, her true and effective field goal percentages have also dropped below 50% and 47.9% respectively for the first time in her career.
Probably the most damning stat is the differential between her offensive and defensive ratings, where they are a career worst 93 and 109 respectively.
And on the 2014 Seattle Storm team, Bird is the ONLY PLAYER with such a BAD RATINGS DIFFERENTIAL, among players who play at least 25 minutes a game. If someone is a stat-o-phile, this implies that Bird is ... (I hate to say it) ... the problem on defense especially. She has the worst defensive rating on the team!
The Seattle Storm's individual player defensive ratings as of July 16, 2014 from Basketball-Reference.com
Before the 2014 season, Bird had a positive differential in these ratings in every season during her career, not to mention that her offensive rating was at least 102 every single season.
Bottom line: Bird has declined this season, once you look at the stats that go beyond the simple ones at WNBA.com.
Meanwhile, Crystal Langhorne, has a positive ratings differential, on a team that is well below .500! Lang has been the Storm's best player so far this year! If someone from Seattle deserved a nod, it's her!
I know, some of you may be wondering if I was ever going to support her again, but she really has been Seattle's best player so far this season! But I digress.
If there is another guard out West who should have received a nod over Bird, it's Penny Taylor of the Phoenix Mercury, who has had similar stats scoring wise, but has been a much more efficient shooter than Bird. The advanced stats then speak for themselves. And even though she's not a guard, I've been high on Tulsa Shock post Courtney Paris, even though the team she plays on is worse than the Storm, at least record-wise.
Why Ivory Latta doesn't deserve it
Just because I support the Mystics doesn't mean that I'm going to blindly say that any player in Monumental Red who makes the All-Star Game deserves it.
Unlike Bird, Latta does not have an awful offensive and defensive rating differential. In her case, there are some other players in the East who just deserve a nod more than she does.
Assuming that a guard has to be a replacement, Tiffany Hayes of the Atlanta Dream has had a much better season statistically, in particular shooting the basketball. Her offensive rating is almost like a video game.
Then Shavonte Zellous of the Indiana Fever has helped shoulder the load while Tamika Catchings has missed most of the season so far. And on top of that, the Fever has had a better year than the Mystics.
But here's another angle to this. Elena Delle Donne is a frontcourt player, while Latta is a guard. If the replacement was going to be another frontcourt player, perhaps Indiana Fever post Erlana Larkins should have received the nod instead. She is averaging a double double this season. Why not give it to her?
But if there was a compelling need to have a Mystics player on the All-Star team just to satisfy their fans, EMMA MEESSEMAN DESERVED IT! She has been the team's best all around player, period!
And it's not because Swish Appeal oohs and aahs about her!
I can excuse fans voting for players who don't deserve to make the game otherwise. And generally speaking, the coaches make good picks. But injury replacements who are veterans and aren't even the best performers on their own teams? Not to mention that they came from teams that would otherwise not have a single All-Star at least in part because they're mediocre at best? Wow!
If the WNBA decides that there must be players from every team in the All-Star Game, then at least be honest and forthcoming about it. That way we won't be so angry about things like this when we know about them.