Is the East really lacking top guards?

Over at TrueHoop, Ethan Sherwood Strauss -- originator of the term "Yay Points!" -- wonders where all the East All-Star have guards gone:

Of the top seven point guards in PER right now, seven hail from out West. Of the top seven shooting guards in PER right now, the only East entrant is Arron Afflalo, who leads all other 2s at 22.08.

Arron Afflalo?

Yes, the 28 year-old Orlando Magic guard has arguably been the best backcourt player in the East this season. But with apologies to Mr. Afflalo, that's more a reflection of the East's bleakness than anything else. The Heat and Pacers are great. The Bulls are improving, and the Hawks are acceptable. No one else has a winning record. Roughly a quarter of the way to the All-Star break, those other teams have mainly served as a compelling advertisement for college basketball.

Does this story change if we use Wins Produced?

Not really. Most of the top guards play in the Western Conference, and that is true whether we use total wins or WP48 to evaluate them. Here are the top guards by conference [Editor's note: none of the figures discussed below include games played on or after November 21st]:

  Top Guards
    West East
Wins Top 10 6 4
  Top 15 11 4
  Top 20 14 6
  Top 25 17 8
WP48 Top 10 7 3
  Top 15 10 5
  Top 20 12 8
  Top 25 16 9

As you can see, most of the top guards play in the West. Maybe the results would be different if we looked point guards and shooting guards separately?

  Top PGs   Top SGs
    West East     West East
Wins Top 10 7 3 Wins Top 10 7 3
Top 15 11 4 Top 15 9 6
Top 20 15 5 Top 20 12 8
Top 25 16 9 Top 25 15 10
WP48 Top 10 8 2 WP48 Top 10 6 4
Top 15 12 3 Top 15 8 7
Top 20 15 5 Top 20 10 10
Top 25 16 9 Top 25 13 12

In terms of total wins, the story is largely the same whether we look at point guards or shooting guards. But when we look at WP48, the difference between the two conferences is very small. Which means that -- if we're talking about the most efficient guards -- the gap between West and East is largely driven by the poor performance of Eastern Conference point guards.

As of November 20th, Eastern Conference teams have a collective 76-95 record, compared to a collective 97-78 record for Western Conference teams. Poor point guard play is certainly part of the reason for the discrepancy, but poor teams tend to have unproductive players at multiple positions, so we shouldn't lay all of the blame for the East's woes on its point guards.

It's also still early in the season: only 42 NBA players have hit the 400 minute mark. So perhaps this story will change as the season progresses.  Regardless, through the first 10-14 games of the season, Eastern PGs have performed quite poorly compared to their Western counterparts.