Six players were first-time All-Star selections in 2015. Framed in a historical context there were a lot of unusual aspects to these players becoming All-Stars that I found interesting. Let's look at where the new All-Stars were drafted, and the expectations we had for them based on their early years in the NBA:
DeMarcus Cousins (drafted 5th in 2010) Cousins finally made an All-Star team, and his selection, judged historically, is certainly the least surprising of the six first-time selections. I always make a big deal out of rookie PER (future All-Star big men usually have a PER of 15+ as rookies, and future All-Star guards/small forwards usually have a PER of at least 13.) Cousins' PER was only 14.6 as a rookie, and while he did not miss the big man PER benchmark by much, it's nonetheless surprising because his PER has been over 20 every season since then. Everybody thought Cousins would become an All-Star if his head was in the right place, so him finally making the team is expected.
Klay Thompson (drafted 11th in 2011) Thompson's vastly improved play this season is one of the main reasons Golden State has gone from being a good team to a great one. Thompson, drafted in 2011, is the first player drafted in the early teens to become an All-Star since Kobe Bryant, Peja Stojakovic and Steve Nash - all who were drafted way back in 1996. That's pretty amazing, and very relevant to consider when it comes to NBA drafting methodology.
The drop-off in talent immediately after pick #10 has been very significant since the 1997 Draft. While the 9th and 10th picks have yielded a bounty of future All-Stars, the picks immediately after have produced no All-Star players except Thompson:
Pick #9: Seven different All-Stars drafted there since 1997
Pick #10: Six different All-Stars drafted there since 1997
Pick #11: One All-Star drafted there since 1997
Pick #12: Zero All-Stars drafted there since 1997
Pick #13: Zero All-Stars drafted there since 1997
Pick #14: Zero All-Stars drafted there since 1997
Pick #15: Zero All-Stars drafted there since 1997
So do not let anyone tell you that there is no difference between the 10th pick and 12th pick in a NBA Draft; recent history indicates there is a huge difference. Top-10 picks are much more important than a pick anywhere else in the draft, and late lottery picks are generally overvalued.
Jeff Teague (drafted 19th in 2009) Teague has progressively gotten better every year in the league, and now he's brilliantly orchestrating a fantastic Hawks team. What's interesting is how inauspiciously Teague began his career. His 11.0 rookie PER is very low for a future All-Star, and his gradual ascent was impossible to see coming. Since 1992, Mo Williams and Steve Nash were the only two eventual All-Star point guards who posted a lower rookie PER than Teague. I think projecting a young point guard's long-term potential is probably harder than any other position, and Teague provides testament to that.
Kyle Lowry (drafted 24th in 2006) The strangest thing about Lowry's star turn is his unusual career path, a story of persistence which was well-documented by Jonathan Abrams last September. It's odd to be selected as an All-Star starter after being mainly under the radar for nine years. Statistically, Lowry always put up promising numbers, although few could have guessed he would ever achieve as much success as he has. Lowry was selected 24th in the 2006 Draft; Rajon Rondo was picked 21st that same year.
Jimmy Butler (drafted 30th in 2011) Like Thompson, Butler unexpectedly greatly improved this season. He becomes the third 30th pick to make the All-Star Game drafted since 2001 (Gilbert Arenas and David Lee are the other two.) As we know, late first round and early second round picks quite often provide teams with cheap, quality talent. Still, even in this day and age, many NBA front offices refuse to take this part of the draft as seriously as they should, which is ridiculous. The Josh Huestis debacle last year was just the latest example of how superficially many teams view this underrated part of the draft.
Butler was solid upon his arrival to the NBA, although his 12.5 PER in 359 rookie minutes fell slightly below the PER benchmark. What has been shocking this year is his offensive development - before he recently got injured, Butler was the best player on a good Bulls team. He's a fascinating player to watch going forward. Will this end up being his best statistical season, or is this dominance something we should expect from him over the next half decade? Regardless of that answer, Butler is deserving of a max contract this summer.
Kyle Korver (drafted 51st in 2003) Korver's selection, from a historical perspective, is the craziest of the six. A guy drafted 51st overall, going on his twelfth year in the league, is not supposed to become an All-Star. But he has, and it's an amazing story. Korver is having his best year in an ideal situation for his talents. He has shattered all expectations one could have placed upon him given where he was drafted, and his early pro career. He had only a 10.1 PER as a rookie.
Again, it's incredible Korver reached a crescendo like this. Players picked at the end of the second round, and undrafted free agents, obviously have the most difficult time sticking around the league, let alone becoming a dominant force in it. When it happens, the player deserves a lot of praise. Some critics thought Korver was not deserving of his All-Star selection, but that should not take away from the fact that he has had an incredibly illustrious NBA career given where he was drafted.